I just came back from Broadcast Asia 2012, and had a great time. Like I alluded to in my last post, because of it’s intimate nature, I was able to walk right up and have a demo of the new Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera, get a one on one with Avid, attend the Zacuto 2012 shootout, try out an F65, and cap it off with a nice dinner from Cine-Equipment. I also saw the latest gear from Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Sound Devices, Go-Pro, Assimilate, etc., all in the same day.
The state of the film and video tech industry in 2012? Book it. Done. And my feet didn’t even get sore. I wish more trade shows were like this.
I started out the day with a private demo from Avid about Media Composer 6, and the Isis Shared Storage system. I was pretty up to speed on Media Composer 6 already, as we’re in the middle of deploying it throughout our edit labs now. But I was keenly interested in learning more about the ISIS 5000, as a central shared storage solution for our 35 Avids. The hardware was great, and the support and server control software was intuitive and powerful. It can run off of Ethernet so you don’t have to re-wire your facility. It was perfect in every way except the price, which was around $50,000 for 16TB of storage.
In the back of my mind I was thinking, out of anything you purchase for post-production, what loses it’s value most quickly? Computers. Out of things in computers, what is the component that’s obsoleted most quickly? Hard Disks. I just can’t bring myself to recommend a purchase of $50,000 for a computer and some hard drives, when I know that in five years, I could probably buy the same thing for $5,000. Besides 16TB is not that much these days, especially divided up over the 100 or so users we have. Reluctantly I’ll have to pass, on what is a great piece of gear, but simply out of our market.
On the opposite end of the value-for-money spectrum, I popped over to the Blackmagic Design booth, where they were showing a wide range of products at price points that pretty much defy you to not purchase them. Things we will be picking up from them this year are the Teranex Standards Converter, and some Hyperdeck Studios for internal playback and recording. Resolve version 9 was being demo’d and it looks like a great improvement over the previous version. As I teach a class on color correction, it was nice to see the interface simplified, and the workflow streamlined. I often felt I was spending way to much of our class time teaching students how to set up a project properly, rather than the color correction itself.
Of course, the big star of NAB this year was the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, and I was simply able to walk up and grab the demo unit, and take it for a spin. These were the same models shown at NAB, and didn’t have any additional features enabled. I loved the feel of the camera in your hands, it looked a little “boxy” from the photograph but actually handles quite nicely. It has just the right amount of heft for hand holding. Of course as a cinema camera it’s designed to be part of a rig, on a tripod and on that demo unit we tried out the menu’s and features that we could. The follow focus on the Canon-L glass felt a bit stuttery, but I attribute that to the lens itself, which wasn’t really designed to be geared in the first place.
The menu system seemed intuitive, and I tried out the focus peaking and white balance and other basic functions. The touch panel worked really well, it was pretty fingerprint resistant, and had a decent picture quality to it. I’ve long been annoyed at not having physical buttons on camcorders, but I have to say the screen worked well and was very responsive. I could shoot with this. The on screen metadata entry I found to not be that practical. It is very difficult to type on a vertical screen, and to do the metadata entry between each scene in a meaningful way would probably slow down the shoot dramatically. I’d probably find a way to take notes in the field, and then enter them into the camera metadata once the shoot was complete. All in all though, this very well could be the replacement for a whole slew of medium range video cameras and 16mm film cameras at a fraction of their costs. It should pretty much destroy any DSLR video, for just a bit more money. They promised to get a demo unit in our hands the minute their shipping versions are ready in July.
After that it was on to view the Zacuto Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout 2012, which was an interesting comparison of several of the latest video cameras for digital cinema use. It turns out my pick in the blind test was the Sony F3, followed by the Arri Alexa. Most people were greatly surprised by how well the Panasonic GH2 did in comparison. However it was pointed out that most people will be shooting this $800 camera with some standard micro 4/3 lenses, not the $20,000 lens that was used in the test.
What I took away from the Zacuto shootout was again, that color correction is at least half, if not more than half of the finished image. A good colorist and a good DP can make just about any camera look exceptional. However I did believe there was a huge quality jump once you left the realm of DSLR’s (iphone, gh2, Canon 7d), and got into the first tier of dedicated video cameras (Fs-100, F3, c300, etc.). There was also another quality jump, though not nearly so big once you made the jump into the Alexa/Epic/F65 territory. Within those categories image quality was pretty much identical in HD. I suppose that right now, if I was to buy any of the video cameras in the shootout, I’d be looking at the FS-100 as by far the best bang for the buck. Interestingly, and a bit sadly, actual film film was not a part of this test.
It’s going to be a very interesting year for video and film technology in 2012… I’m just hoping no new formats!