NAB 2011 - WRAP UP
Time flies. Been back for over a week and just now finding the time to sit down and sort through all this stuff. This was my first year at the show and if there's anything I learned, you have to have a solid plan of attack before you get there because there's just no possible way for a couple of people to cover it all. I was there for 3 full days and I didn't even make it to the North Hall. I feel like we barely even glossed over the stuff I was most interested in. Next year will be a little different ;)
As I mentioned - there were some strong themes for 2011.
High Quality Indie priced equipment and accessories
Small Solid State Recorders
4K Cameras and Displays
For me, the 3D wares were of most interest. Now that I have a nice, passive 3DTV my borderline obsession with stereo imaging has only been further cemented. This stuff is just cool. It never gets old for me so my number one priority at the show was to see what kinds of solutions equipment and software vendors had been working on. Needless to say, tons of new ideas and concepts have been implemented in upcoming equipment ranging from forehead slappingly useful to just plain bizarre.
For now, I'll just share some thoughts and photos. I did shoot some interviews notably with Stefan Weiss, creator of the Weisscam system and Sebastian Cramer, the developer of the Screen Plane 3D Beamsplitter Rig, one of the coolest new products I saw at the show. I'll save those for next time.
Here's one of the most interesting things I saw and not something that I've seen covered on other blogs. Straight out of Blade Runner - The Sensics 3D Virtual Reality Monitoring System.
That's me in the pilot seat. It's a very strange feeling as you pan the camera around. A little disorienting to be honest.
They didn't have a lot of information on this at their booth. They basically just gave us a demonstation and let us try it out. I wanted to get an interview but when I came back on Wednesday, they were gone. Very mysterious! This company does a lot of miltary contracting and their primary business is virtual reality for training purposes. It seems like this 3D monitoring system is just something they're toying with. I must say though, while it was a little awkward to work with, it was pretty cool and I think with some refinement could actually be pretty useful.
The left and right eye images from the rig are piped directly into the corresponding goggle so you really get a strong sense of the stereo you're creating. I don't know how useful it is for operating though because you obviously can only see what the lenses are seeing. It's a little wacky but was very interesting nonetheless.
Here's another one of my fav's, and in my opinion one of the most ingenious and promising new 3D acquistion systems - the Phantom 65 Z3D - a result of collaboration between Abel Cine Tech, Vision Research, and Zepar Optics.
Have you seen a professional 3D rig this small? It's a perfect size. The sensor in the Phantom 65 is about the size of a credit card so the Zepar twin lens puts 2x 2k rasters on it side by side. And because it's Phantom, it's one of the cleanest most high quality raw codecs out there which can also go up to 300 fps. Awesome on so many levels.
This is a Parallel Rig meaning you can't toe in the lenses to change the convergence plane like with a beamsplitter rig. If I recall though, there was something in the preview system that allowed for pixel shifting the video output to create convergence. Maybe I got that wrong. I think my brain was already at the saturation point when the system was explained to me.
There is a small amount of inter-ocular adjustment that can be done in the lens system but I don't have those numbers in front of me. Because you're limited in what you can do with the I/O and Convergence, the system's hardware control system gives you a "3D Safety Window" similar to the the Pansonic 3D-A1 and other fixed-lens 3D camcorders. You set your IO and Depth Budget on the hand unit and it tells you the maximum foreground and background distances you must keep your scene within to not create parallax violations.
The Zepar lenses come in a nice set of 20mm T4, 24mm T4, 28mm T4, 35mm T2.8, 50 T2.8, 75 T3.6, 100mm T5.6.
Synced Focus, Iris, and I/O are built into the lens and all parameters are controlled wirelessly with the hand unit. So cool I can't stand it.
Because of the small size and low weight of the Z3D it's ideal for Steadi, handheld, and location work where a smaller footprint is required. With careful stereography I'm convinced the Z3D could be used under most circumstances. I'm super intrigued with it and am hoping to get more hands-on time in the near future.
This is my favorite new beamslitter rig, the Screen Plane Production Rig -
I spoke to the guy behind it, Sebastain Cramer, at length and he was kind enough to share some thoughts on camera about some of the unique functionality of the rig. Saving that for another time but what really impressed me is the speed of setup and the flexible configurations.
At a glance -
The mirror box pops right off and can only fit on one way. I've used the ET rigs a lot so that's my point of reference. They're sturdy and reliable but one of my biggest gripes is that mirror box. It's a bitch to get it on and off and I've found that if it isn't properly seated, one more point of misalignment is easily created. The Screen Plane makes the mirror much easier and faster to work with.
Tilt axis on the rig. Check out their site for a better explantion but this feature is just awesome. To tilt up or down, you don't need to do it on the head, you can do it right on the rig. With this you can easily point straight up or down and it's a very strong locking system. He demo-ed for us in the interview which I'll have online soon.
Parallel or Converence Mode - You cando convergence by toeing-in with motors like a typical beamsplitter or you can shoot in parallel and preview convergence with some very smart software. I don't have a photo of the control unit, though I remember taking one ;( but what this system allows you to do is shoot the cameras and in parallel, send the video taps through a signal processing box and then pixel shifts the rasters to create a convergence preview on-set. It's completely non-destructive so the final convergence point is then determined in post production. There is a strong argument out there to shoot in parallel and converge in post and this rig makes doing this much easier. However if toeing-in on-set is favorable or required for say 3D Broadcast, a convergence motor module is avalable. The signal processor can also output a 1080 side by side over SDI for 3D daliies. The system as a whole is very well designed and executed. If I was doing a project requiring a fully functional beamsplitter, this would be my rig of choice.
Weisscam T - I've been a HS-2 user since it came to east coast a few years ago so I was excited to see some actual product from Weisscam's next gen sytem, the appropriately named "T"
I had the pleasure of chatting with Stefan Weiss, the creator of the sytem and he broke down for me how the new system works. Saving that for an upcoming video but to paraphrase - the T is completely modular and is an optical block that can take several different sensors. The first that will be released will a 2/3" size followed by a 2K and 4K. Like the HS-2, the T captures frames to its internal buffer and then outputs raw Bayer sensor data to the new Weisscam Recorder. I also recall that like the HS-2, the T outputs linearized 1080 video as well for traditional workflows.
Weisscam SSD Module fits directly into the recorder. Are we noticing a trend yet?
There are some issues with the current version of Weiss Raw and the lack of support in most widely used post production systems. Those issues have been addressed in the new recorder as several different formats are selectable such as ArriRaw and Uncompressed DPX with metadata. Once again, the finer points are in the interview so I need to get it out asap. Next weekend ;)
Here's some other stuff that grabbed me -
4K Displays. Tons of new 4K LCD's from Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Astro, and other. The image quality is phenomonal on these displays. The 4K footage Sony was screening from the F65 just blew my mind. I've never seen images of that clarity. If there were any naysayers left at this point, anyone who saw that presenation has something to chew on. It's about to become a 4K world and then after that, who knows? Sony has the right idea and I can't tell you how impressed I am with them both as a company and with their people. They are so helpful and freindly and I'm very pleased to have a good relationship with them and am looking forward to continuing to build it.
Wondering when we're going to see a 4K scope?
Sony SRM-L560 4K LCD Monitor
Astro DM-3400 4K LCD Monitor
Auto-Stereoscopic Displays. These were cool but they have a long way to go. The lenticular screen just shows itself too much and the viewing angles are problematic. This technology is in its infancy though and I'm certain that in due time, these will probably be as good as a passive display with polarized glasses. There's something about putting on the glasses though that helps to block out the rest of the world and helps the viewer to focus on the stereo image. I find the experience to be very immersive and with the auto-stereoscopic displays, it's too easy to look around at the rest of the world. It also kind of hurts your eyes after awhile.
3Ality's 3DFusion Auto-Stereoscopic Display
eMotion Auto-Stereo Display. This one was small but probably the easiest to look at.
Phillips version. You can really see the tiny lenticular lenses in this one. It really doesn't work so well yet but the technology is promising.
SinaCAM HDC1-D 2D/3D Optical Block Camera with 2/3" imager. Never seen one tinier and the video demo looked pretty good as well.
The Ikonskop A-Cam DII. We've been hearing about this for years and it's failed to materialize until now. Funky form factor but I've gotta say, the images looked fantastic. With all the options available now, I'm just wondering where in the market a camera like this fits in..
Zacuto Z-Finder. Everyone was showing their own version of these and Zacuto's was hands-down the best. So sharp and comfortable to use. They've really done a fine job with it as they've taken their time bringing it to market. I'm waiting for a version with loop through HD-SDI and False Color. Then I'm sold.
I haven't talked much about post because I kind of skimmed through those booths. There are tons of great new products coming down the pipeline though. Blackmagic Designs had a massive presence this year with probably more new product than anyone but Sony. There's lots of info already online about what they showed but here's something that really grabbed me - Ultra Studio 3D.
Utilizing the ultra fast Thunderbolt connection, this box lets you capture and playback Uncompressed HD, 2K, and 3D right on your laptop.
Also there will soon be a Thuderbolt hardware add-on for the Matrox MXO2. I love that they keep upgrading this thing. They could have sold me a new one by now but instead the box that I've had for 2 years just keeps getting better with new firmware upgrades and now, hardware add-ons.
Lacie Tunderbolt Little Big Disks. To fully utilize Thunderbolt throughput, all disks must be solid state. These are not so they don't come close to touching the full potential but at 500 MB/sec, they're still plenty fast. That means you could download a full 32GB SxS card in less than 30 seconds. I'd take it.
Small fixed lens 3D camcorders with Auto-stereoscopic LCD's. I saw a JVC and a Sony and I suspect there were more that I missed. These would be fun to play around with and the auto-stereo display on the flipout LCD actually works pretty well.
JVC 4K Compact Camcorder Prototypes, code name, "Falconbrid." Nice name.
Here's something else that was quietly introduced - a 4K camera head from Astro Designs, makers of fine broadcast displays.
4K goes out over Optical to Astro 4K recorder -
Nikon Lens Mount. Assuming other options will be available.
Astro 4K Sample Workflow
And some of the more perculiar offerings -
3D-One Fixed Lens Camcorder. I had a hard time getting information on this at their booth. It's an interesting form factor featuring a binocular viewfinder but it didn't really seem to be displaying stereo. This was definitely one of the more "unique" items at the show.
Here's another one - the iSpeed 3, A high speed video camera from Olympus that shoots 720p only and is controlled with this beefy, laptop sized device that mounts on top.
That's all I've got. I'll be putting the videos up hopefully next week. Looking forward to NAB 2012!