The Top Ten Products of NAB 2014

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Tue, 04/22/2014 - 12:09 -- Nick Dager

 Photo of the Blackmagic Design booth at NAB 2014 by Robb Cohen.Conversations at the 2014 edition of the National Association of Broadcasters show, held earlier this month in Las Vegas, focused in part on the remarkable number of company mergers that were announced – Quantel and Snell & Wilcox was a standout – but most talk centered on the fact that there were 4K products in seemingly every booth and, everywhere you looked, a surprising number of new cameras, in different shapes and sizes. That several came from unexpected companies only added to the chatter. More complete articles about all of these products can be found elsewhere in the Report but here, briefly and in alphabetical order, are Digital Cinema Report’s Top Ten Products of NAB 2014.

AdobeAdobe QuVIS Wraptor DCP Generator

The Digital Cinema Package is quickly becoming an industry standard for file sharing. Movie theatres, film festivals, post houses, broadcasters and a growing number of other groups rely on DCPs because they deliver consistent quality and are increasingly becoming affordable for a broad range of filmmakers. Adobe’s integration of the QuVIS Wraptor digital cinema package encoder into its Creative Cloud will only serve to broaden that group even further.

When it becomes available later this year (details still to be determined) video content creators will be able to output unencrypted DCPs from Adobe Media Encoder at resolutions up to 2K. Users who need to generate 4K, or stereo 3D content can purchase additional modules. “DCPs offer a unique solution for delivering and storing ultra-high quality content, said Kenbe Goertzen, QuVIS CTO. “We see this integration with Adobe as a significant step toward bringing DCPs beyond theatrical movie distribution and into the mainstream. We believe that over the next 12 months DCPs will be used more and more widely for dailies, independent distribution, archive, and other applications.”

AJA Video SystemsAJA Video Systems Cion

If this tradeshow had one certifiable hit it was most definitely AJA Video Systems new camera, the Cion. The fact that the camera is beautiful is one thing but beneath the great-looking chassis is a tool that was elegantly conceived and executed. The Cion features an ergonomic design and is capable of shooting at 4K/UltraHD and 2K/HD resolutions. AJA pioneered lens-to-post Apple ProRes workflows with the introduction of the Ki Pro product line in 2009 and Cion builds on this achievement by offering in-camera recording directly to the Apple ProRes family of codecs, including 12-bit 444, for pristine image capture.

“Cion represents a new direction for AJA. Bringing this sophisticated camera to market underscores our passion to support filmmakers, broadcasters and content creators,” said Nick Rashby, president, AJA Video Systems. “We are incredibly proud of Cion. We believe that the thoughtfully considered design, along with a powerful feature set, will make it extremely useful and versatile for productions worldwide.” Amen.

Cion will be available this summer for $8,995.

ArriArri Amira

One of the things that make Arri’s Amira especially interesting is that, in many ways, it was designed for a single purpose: documentaries. Since we live in what can only be called a documentary Renaissance, it should be well received. The Amira combines image quality and affordable CFast 2.0 workflows with an ergonomic design optimized for single-operator use and extended shoulder-mounted operation. Ready to pick up and shoot straight out of the camera bag, Amira is hardy enough to take anywhere and features in-camera grading with preloaded looks based on 3D LUTs, as well as 200 fps slow motion.

Amira features the same sensor as the Arri Alexa, recording HD 1080 or 2K pictures that are suitable for any distribution format. With a dynamic range of more than 14 stops, low noise levels, subtle highlight handling, natural color rendering, breathtaking skin tones and speeds of up to 200 fps, Amira will deliver beautiful, life-like images in any situation. 

Amira records Rec 709 or Log C images using ProRes LT, 422, 422HQ or 444 codecs. By recording to in-camera CFast 2.0 flash memory cards with super-quick data rates, the route into post-production is made as simple as possible. CFast 2.0 is an open format, easily accessible to anyone. The Amira is available now for $39,995.

AssimilateAssimilate Scratch with ProRes for Windows

Assimilate the industry’s leading provider of DI and dailies digital workflow tools, announced today new V8 versions of its popular Scratch and Scratch Lab software, allowing users to encode Apple ProRes files on Microsoft Windows 7/8-based PCs. Scratch and Scratch Lab v8 (including ProRes encoding for Windows 7/8) are available immediately. And to make the news even better, Assimilate is now offering Scratch 4K at Scratch 2K prices.

Scratch and Scratch Lab customers can now use both the OS X and Windows versions of the software. Artists either on-set, or in post-production are guaranteed the highest possible quality and encoding speeds on each platform.

“Apple ProRes has become a de facto format in the industry for feature film, episodic television and documentary production,” said Steve Bannerman vice president of marketing at Assimilate. “Windows users of professional media and entertainment solutions have typically had to rely on substandard encoding solutions. Quality often suffered and render speeds were painfully slow. We are thrilled that Assimilate now delivers best-in-class cross-platform functionality to our customers with officially licensed and certified ProRes, ensuring consistency in workflow and providing an industry-standard deliverable to both Mac and Windows users.”

AutodeskAutodesk Smoke 2015

Autodesk unveiled the latest version of Smoke 2015 offering significant new creative tools and performance enhancements. Smoke 2015 will soon be available as a Desktop Subscription, so customers can access the software on a pay-as-you-go basis for the first time.

“When Autodesk launched the radically redesigned Smoke two years ago at NAB, we made a

commitment to bring high-quality effects to editors in post, video production and corporate branding. And Smoke 2015 delivers on that promise,” said Chris Bradshaw, senior vice president, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. “Smoke 2015 not only features highly-requested new creative tools and improved workflows with industry-standard tools such as Final Cut Pro, but also an even easier and more affordable way for small studios to get started with the software.”

Smoke 2015, a professional video effects and editing tool for Mac-based studios, now features 3D Tracker, a new Timeline FX workflow, added hardware support and optimization for the new Mac Pro running OS X Mavericks and better interoperability with Final Cut Pro X.

Blackmagic DesignBlackmagic Design Ursa

The Blackmagic Ursa is a high-end digital film camera designed to revolutionize workflow on set. Built to handle the ergonomics of large film crews as well as single person use, Ursa has multiple accessories built in, including a massive 10-inch fold out on set monitor, large user upgradable Super 35 global shutter 4K image sensor and internal dual Raw and Apple ProRes recorders.

Because the sensor and lens mount assembly can be changed, customers can choose EF or PL lens mounts, or even a broadcast video sensor with B4 mount, then upgrade the camera in the future. The Blackmagic Ursa EF model will retail for $5,995.

“Our goal when developing the URSA was to build a camera that had all the cooling capacity for higher frame rates, and a large on set monitor as well as built in scopes so you had everything you need built into the camera itself. The problem with spending so much money building in such incredible accessories is that they become outdated as sensor technology moves on. So we designed the ability to upgrade the sensor so customers can simply bolt on a new sensor and turret assembly in the future,” said Grant Petty, CEO, Blackmagic Design, “We think this is a revolution and this upgradable design means we have been able to put a lot more effort into the design of the camera body itself and the quality of the screens, recorders, cooling system and processing power than would normally be offered.”

CanonCanon DP-V3010 4K Reference Display

As motion picture, television and commercial production continue to transition to ever-higher resolution digital video and computer graphic imaging formats, color-grading and post-production professionals increasingly rely on reference displays with exceptional detail, color and gradation accuracy. Canon’s new DP-V3010 4K Reference Display measures 30 inches wide diagonally by 7.4 inches deep to help minimize space requirements and provides a 2000:1 DCI-compliant contrast ratio, uniform brightness, very wide viewing angles in all four directions, internal color calibration and additional advanced features. Designed for use in color-grading, digital intermediate, CGI/animation/visual effects, and editing/finishing suites, as well as digital imaging technician workstations on production stages and on-location, it full-screen 4096 x 2560 resolution with extremely high levels of color accuracy and fidelity.

"We are proud to continue the Canon tradition of providing our customers with complete solution technologies, providing them the option to work within a Canon ecosystem from input through output, and maintain the quality and reliability of our brand," noted Yuichi Ishizuka, executive vice president and general manager, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, Canon U.S.A. "These displays are the result of the enthusiastic response we received to the Canon Cinema EOS System of cameras and lenses, and we look forward to continuing to demonstrate our commitment to these markets with outstanding technology, quality and reliability to help creative professionals deliver and tell the stories as they envision them."

The FoundryThe Foundry Nuke Studio

The Foundry Nuke Studio gives users the ability to do VFX, editorial and finishing in one single application and will be available later this year. This brand new tool extends the existing Nuke product line and draws on The Foundry’s existing powerful compositing, conforming and shot management technology, as well as adding a host of new features and functionality. The resulting combination is a powerful node-based VFX, editorial and finishing studio that’s been designed to empower creative individuals working independently as well as collaborative teams working on quick-turnaround projects in a way that’s previously never been possible.   

“We’ve spent a long time working with a wide range of artists from around the world to properly understand the challenges and requirements of today’s industry,” said Nuke product marketing manager, Philippa Carroll. “We wanted to make a product that can offer artists a new way of working, that meets the needs of fast turnaround production. Nuke Studio lets you do more with Nuke than ever before. We know that artists are under greater and greater pressure to turn around projects faster and that calls for a solution that gives them more power, control, and flexibility than ever before.”

Manios Digital & FilmThe PAGLink Battery from Manios Digital and Film

Some great products impress us by their simplicity and practicality. A case in point is the new PAG Gold Mount (three-stud snap-on) compatible, high-current, PAGlink battery, a replacement for all Anton/Bauer Li-Ion batteries. The new battery was a highlight in the Manios Digital and Film booth.

“PAGlink is the first truly digital linking battery system,” says PAG sales director Nigel Gardiner. “It offers more power, more functional benefits and more technological advances than any other system.” The smaller and lighter PAGlink HC-PL94T Li-Ion battery is compatible with Gold Mount camera plates and Anton/Bauer Li-Ion chargers; there is no need to change either in order to benefit from the many advantages of these new, revolutionary intelligent-linking batteries.   

Two or more PAGlink batteries, in any state of charge, can be linked, combining their capacities and enabling a higher current to be drawn. Up to 12A can be supplied for power hungry camera set-ups with multiple accessories. Individual high-current PAGlink packs are capable of 10A alone. Two linked packs provide longer run-time than two single packs used consecutively. PAGlink also allows batteries to be hot-swapped for continuous power.

PAGlink was designed so that flight-friendly 94 watt-hour battery units can be linked to create a high-capacity Li-Ion power source on location. Linking two HC-PL94T packs creates an 188Wh battery. Although Li-Ion batteries with capacities greater than 160 watt-hours are banned from passenger flights, 94Wh PAGlink batteries—which are UN certified and embody unsurpassed safety features—are allowed in unlimited quantity.

Uniquely, up to four PAGlink batteries can be linked for charging on AB Li-Ion chargers, effectively resulting in a 16-channel unit. That results in less battery swapping and a need for fewer chargers. PAGlink batteries display their individual status during charging. PAGlink allows up to eight batteries to be linked in total for charge or discharge.

RolandDTS Headphone:X

A challenge for sound designers in the field is monitoring the surround audio being captured. The DTS Headphone:X, which Roland was showcasing at NAB 2014, answers that challenge. Through headphones they are able to monitor each channel of a surround image as well as a summed stereo image but not the resultant 3D image. Up until now, to truly hear what was captured in context, they had to wait until they were back in the studio playing the channels through a multi-speaker surround configuration. Now with the advent of DTS Headphone:X, sound designers can turn a pair of headphones into an impressive personal surround system.

The surround recording and monitoring demonstration consists of a Holophone H2-Pro 7.1 Microphone feeding a Roland R-88 8-channel field recorder which in turn is connected via USB to a PC running a plug-in for DTS Headphone:X technology.

Because the Roland R-88 is also an USB audio interface, while it is recording the 7.1 audio data it can simultaneously send all eight channels to a PC for backup recording or in this case, to be further processed using the DTS Headphone:X technology. With an A/B headphone switch, the user can switch between monitoring the individual channels or stereo image on the R-88 or the real-time surround image via DTS Headphone:X.

Honorable Mention – Blackmagic Design Cintel Film Scanner

The rules say that a company can only have one product on this list but, because rules were made to be broken, because eleven’s better and because this was one of the coolest products I saw at the show, I’m also including Blackmagic Designs' Cintel Film Scanner. It belongs on the list for its great design alone but the scanner is also one of the most forward-thinking products at the show. The new Cintel scanner has been designed with an architectural aesthetic and it’s so thin it can even be wall mounted. It features totally redesigned digital servos, high intensity diffuse light source and imaging systems, so you get a real time scanner that scans 35mm and 16mm film up to 30fps in Ultra HD resolution. Now you can use film for post-production or unlock millions of hours of film based content for scanning to Ultra HD masters for the coming world of Ultra HD distribution. And the price is also a winner. At $29,995, this new scanner is well within reach of a broad range of production professionals.