One Look at NAB 2014

Anyone who has attended NAB is familiar with the vast array of gear that is available to inspect, play with, and investigate. It requires some focus, some determination, and plenty of stamina to cover those huge halls in Las Vegas. My interest as a broadcast cameraman was to look primarily at cameras, lighting, recording, editing and data management. Let’s talk a little about cameras.

Last year, the recurring buzzwords were “4K”, “Blackmagic”, and “GoPro” in my experience, and the 2014 NAB show builds on that theme. The established high-end cameras in the broadcast market, Arri Alexa, Sony F55, and RED Epic are still going strong. Depending on the nature of the project, most of us are still shooting at ‘1080’(some still at ‘720’), although archiving in ‘2K’ is common, and everyone is asking, when do we need to go to ‘4K’? Nearly everyone is still using GoPro cameras.

In the coming ‘4K’ world, essentially every manufacturer offers a solution. Sony has 4K options for the PMW-F5, F55, and let’s not forget the more affordable NEX-FS700. RED Dragon looks good, but you’re committed to RED workflow. Blackmagic has the Studio Camera and Cinema Camera, with the best price points, but are they “ready for prime time”? Panasonic is re-introducing the Varicam line with 4K options, JVC showed several interesting cameras, and perhaps the most interesting looking new product in this arena was from AJA, introducing the CION, with a beautiful form factor, on-board SSD recording and lots of options. High end, lots of lens options, and with AJA’s reputation, it’s supposed to be ready “in the fall”.

One other area creating a lot of interest this year at NAB was “wireless” or “streaming” video, since much video delivery is happening on mobile devices or computer screens. Several companies have introduced new ways to accomplish this, such as Livestream’s “Broadcaster”, an attachable little box that mounts on any HDMI capable camera, and streams live via wifi, 3G or 4G cell service. You might want to look at Teradek also, with their “Cube” which is a small camera-top H.264 encoder that can broadcast directly to the Web, point to point over the internet, or directly to iOS devices.

For perspective, I also attended the NAB Creative Master Session, hosted by ICG, featuring Oscar-winning DP-turned Director Wally Pfister and his Director of Photography, Jess Hall, BSC. They discussed the making of the new movie “Transcendence”. What was especially interesting was that this exciting and timely story was shot entirely on film, and even “finalized” on film. The discussion of “digital cinema” and “4K” came up, and both Pfister and Hall feel that they still cannot replicate the imagery of film, particularly the color depth. They both admitted that they enjoyed a certain luxury in using film, and hoped that the film industry can continue into the future. Likewise they admitted that nearly all theaters screen in digital, so a digital delivery also needed to be created.

We are in a time of great flux in creating imagery for broadcast, streaming, mobile devices and even cinema. The good news is that there are more choices than everbefore.

-Rick Nyburg is a contributing writer for broadcastexchange.com, with over 25 years of experience in Film and TV.

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