NAB 2015: Notes from a small island

Because some things, such as large volcanic explosions and trade shows, are best observed from a couple of thousand miles away…

Quite a few people at the Avid press conference on Saturday remarked that it seemed to be slightly light on news and very much slanted towards investors. Come Monday morning, when news of the company’s purchase of Orad broke, we suddenly knew why: the company is borrowing $100m to underwrite the purchase, which for anyone is a not inconsiderable amount of money. For a company only recently allowed back on the Nasdaq, it’s possibly even more. And, since you ask, shares are up, but not by anything really significant.

4K production seems to have gotten a significant boost with the launch of the Sony HDC-4300. Sony made much of it being the world’s first camera to use three 2/3-inch 4K image sensors, while the OB providers of the world will have paid more attention to the fact that it supports the same B4-mount lenses as well as the same control surfaces as the company’s ubiquitous HDC-2000 series cameras. Slot it in to an stablished production workflow and go.

Another tradeshow, another revolutionary camera from Blackmagic. This is really getting dull now. But if the AJA CION made waves, then the URSA MINI has a potential hurricane at its back, dropping the company’s URSA into a smaller mount form factor that can even be shoulder mounted using the optional kit. More to the point, pricing starts at $2995.

Oh, and the company has 38 new products at the show. One almost wonders if they’re overcompensating.

High Dynamic Range is, of course, the real game-changing elephant in the room. Well, at NAB it went from nebulous future to 2015 deployment, with the announcement that US smart TV manufacturer VIZIO will become the first set manufacturer to ship Dolby Vision-powered units with the debut later this year of its new Reference Series. These are fully specced enough not to be cheap — even for the entry level 65” model, the step above that is 120” since you ask — but this is the start, you feel, of something big, especially when you fold in the two other companies involved with this launch: Warner Bros. and the Walmart-powered on demand service VUDU.

Will Dolby Vision become the de facto HDR standard? It might just. Something needs to…

Sorry, back to Blackmagic briefly. One thing I really liked here about the new URSA was the inbuilt gyroscope that records positional data. And if we liked it, then the world’s VFX departments will go gaga over it!

Interestingly, while Blackmagic is adding more and more editing functionality to its DaVinci Resolve grading package, so Adobe is going the other way and adding more and more colouring functionality to its Premiere Pro. Nearly twenty years after the launch of Softimage DS, it looks like the idea of the all in one finishing package isn’t quite dead yet.

Adobe seems to be going great guns in the broadcast space, a new link up with the Aframe guys for one offering broadcast-grade cloud-based editing. Avid, meanwhile, is now giving away Media Composer for free in an interesting extension of its newly zealous freemium business plan. All of which helps it seem a long time since 20111 and Apple’s last appearance in the hallowed halls of the LVCC to launch FCP X. Back then it was, if not the market leader, the one with all the momentum behind it. Amazing the damage one release can do really…

One technology we really like the look of up here is LiveU’s new MultiPoint, which the company bills as a “second-generation internal and cross-organisation IP video distribution service.” Add it to the company’s LiveU cloud distribution server and you can send video with what the company refers to as ‘minimal delay’ up to 100 destinations simultaneously. Now that could save some satellite fees.

Awful working name award of the show goes to Adobe’s Project Candy. It’s a great idea — take a pic of a scene with your smartphone and it will extract colour and lumicance information and then let you apply it elsewhere in the Adobe ecosystem as a Look — but Candy? No, non and a thousand times no. Reminds us of the time that Ford came up with the Probe..

There was a decent amount of 8K stuff at the show, with Quantel one of the usual suspects in the field (even so, it’s realtime 8K 60p operation is impressive – take a bow Pablo Rio). Hitachi and Ikegami both had cameras developed in conjunction with NHK, as the broadcaster pushes ahead with its 2020 Olympic in Super Hi_vision plans. Ikegami’s was a good illustration of progress in the field too: it’s 9kg head and 30kg CCU all being 10x smaller than its first generation 8K unit.