by Tim McGahan ACS
Sometimes the planets just align and my visit to NAB 2011 was one of those times. Having just finished a shoot in the UK the day before NAB started Las Vegas seemed so close, too close, not to take advantage of.
As an NAB virgin there was much to see and be dazzled by. It is an interesting time in our business and there are many suppliers racing to get new products to market.
So the highlights for me…
Panasonic's 150 Inch 4k Plasma was certainly of interest to the insanely rich who are over the high maintenance cost of video projectors. So big, so sharp and an awesome picture.
There was still a buzz around 3d rigs but more of a focus on 3d rigs for Outside Broadcast and sports applications.
On the camera front - Arri was displaying a 120fps Alexa model as well as the square sensor studio Alexa complete with Optical flip over viewfinder.
Red Cinema was all about the Epic with a short demo film being projected in 4k.
However the show stealer was undoubtedly Sony's release of the F65. The 20 mega pixel, 8k sensor with mechanical shutter captures to Sony's SRW Drive at 4k res. Similar in size and look to the F35 this camera will also do high frame rates. The pictures from this camera were very impressive the dynamic range and the cameras native ISO were highlighted in the Sony produced demo film projected at 4k.
On the lower end of the camera market the Sony NX cam with Super 35mm sensor, the Sony F3 and Panasonic AG-AF100 dominated the stands. It seems to be clear that a strong message has been sent and the PL mount lenses are becoming the norm across all price points of cameras with manufacturers offering many more options for lens mounts.
Go pro has done it again with a 3d multiple camera housing and custom software to create a 3d solution under $1k that offers all of the advantages we have come to expect from using small go pro cameras.
NAB was all about the add ons and accessories. Matte boxes, handles, shoulder rigs were on display from many manufacturers, HDMI and SDI electronic viewfinders were big, as were third party HDMI and SDI solid state recorders. Blackmagic released the hyperdeck with 10 bit recording for $345 US and the Ninja and Samurai products have a neat little kit that even offers a medium res monitor with apple pro res recording hdmi or sdi in (unfortunately this won't work for the likes of the 5d as it doesn't output a 'clean' hdmi frame).
There were a few new lens release of interest, Leica had there new t1.4 high end lens set on display, the Cooke Panchro re release as well as new 4k PL mount cine zooms from Canon. Angenieux, Zeiss, and Arri lenses also had a strong presence. It is obviously pretty difficult to demo a lens on a stand at NAB but it will be interesting to shoot with some of these new releases if they make it through to our rental houses.
Panasonic released a new 9 inch monitor that was pretty neat and at a good price point with higher resolution than the previous model with new 3d assist functions. Also on the monitor front was a demonstration of Sony's new O-LED technology. These monitors are aimed at the high end but are truly beautiful, so sharp, so vibrant, very fast response and blacker blacks than we have ever seen in high end CRT grading monitors.
In the lighting space it seems every second stand was booked by an emerging start up Chinese OEM LED lighting manufacture company. These products ranged from average to good in both Litepanel type of panels and high output LED's. My pick was actually the USA manufacturers who have come up with some very good robust LED packages. Arri had on display their new L-series LED Fresnel's, in my humble opinion they are certainly the best quality of light output of any fixture I saw.
The bad news is they are heavy, with a noisy cooling fane or very heavy with the heat sink model and they are expensive. 4 thousand dollars will buy you a fresnel with an output equivalent to a 1k pup in either a tungsten, daylight or colour version. However this is probably a necessary step in the development process.
The long and the short of it is that there are many manufacturers working hard to make our lives as cinematographers better - at the expense of rental companies, who must continually play the upgrading game. Exciting times, exciting gear in the expanding tool chest of the cinematographer.