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NAB 2013: Wrap-up pictorial


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#1 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 02:06 PM

Once again I'm a short time from being thrown out of the press room for another year, so here's a quick wrap up of things I've seen over the past few days.

 

First, spotted in the wild, our own M. David Mullen, shown shortly after appearing on a panel sponsored by the ASC:

 

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He gathered a larger crowd than either Tom Green or Penn Jilette, who appeared in this lineup of somewhat well-known people on another panel discussion of what I guess we'll have to call disruptive media:

 

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This was sponsored by Newtek and included rather disturbing amounts of mutual agreement that the end was nigh for conventional media and we're doomed to a future of what's rather charitably called user generated content on youtube. While I have no objection to videos of skateboarders being greviously maimed and cats falling over, I'm one of those people who rather likes production values, so I find all this rather disturbing.

 

What's also slightly strange is this:

 

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These are the LED flat panels which are being widely discussed. They didn't know about TLCI (a more accurate colorimetry assessment than CRI) when I asked. They're also not that bright, being a four square foot light source being driven by only 50W of LEDs. Not unusable, or anything, but not exactly a small star in a box, either. And despite their claims of hand-picked consistency, I notice that the four panels in their two-by-two rig actually weren't entirely consistent, with visible output mismatch. Somehow they've managed to get themselves onto the Band Pro stand and they've got all the high end ASCs talking about them, but I don't think there's any reason to believe they have any particularly greater level of technology than anyone else. It's just a TFT backlight without the TFT on the front, and despite their claims to the contrary, until I see a spectrometry done I shall continue to believe that they're subject to exactly the smae white LED limitations as everyone else.

 

By way of comparison, shipping in the next few months is Zacuto's comparable "Plazma Light", which we've seen before at IBC but which certainly does have new technology. To recap briefly, it's a xenon discharge light, which is difficult because xenon emits a different spectrum than the mercury that's used in fluorescent tubes, so making the phosphors is more complicated and hasn't been developed nearly as much. This is interesting as a movie light, but it's also interesting in a wider sense as it would be really, really nice to be able to make xenon fluorescent tubes for more everyday applications too.

 

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Finally, of course, the toast of the show:

 

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Despite a lot of whining from people that you can't tilt (you can, it's externally controlled, they're talking about making it a thumbswitch) this is interesting for several reasons. First, it makes it obvious that the success of things like Steadicam is more due to the gimbal than the arm, which is well known in the field but not quite so well known outside it. This has no stabilizing arm and produces results that're closer to well-operated steadicam than you'd anticipate. They have apparently put it on a Steadicam arm, which makes a certain amount of sense as one of the bugbears of steadicam operating is the maintenance of a level horizon. I think it may make even more sense for UAV (that is, quadrotor) pilots, who have to contend with the necessary and inevitable pitch excursions of the aircraft as it moves around. Only a big quadrotor would accommodate it, though, and it seems unlikely that the technology could be extended sufficiently - at least in a handheld format - to work well with full size production cameras.

 

Now, sadly, I have to go. I'll be in LA for a week if anyone wants to say hi, although I shall probably be asleep for the next seventy-two hours.

 

P

 

PS - The new carpet is almost equally revolting.


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#2 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 02:49 PM

Hi Phil: Thanks again for your NAB reports. Very much appreciated!

 

Maybe I'll attend NAB next year, when I expect things will start getting really interesting.

 

Cheers.


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:24 AM

Maybe I should only attend every other year so that it would be more exciting...

 

I was most looking forward -- as a cinematographer -- to seeing 6K footage from the Red Dragon sensor, with its higher DR, so was extremely let down.  I hope Red does some sort of public demo at their studios when they finally have something to show because it would be nice to have both high resolution and high DR out of one camera, right now only the Sony F65 really comes close.  

 

I love the Alexa image to death, I think it's the most "filmic" of all the digital cameras, and I think it's plenty hi-rez for TV work... but for feature work, being someone who always held 35mm anamorphic, VistaVision, 65mm, and IMAX in high regard, I really would love to see a 4K standard for cinema work.  You can always soften the image for artistic reasons, with filters or older lenses (or use an Alexa...  ^_^ )  For right now, with 2K still being the dominant release format for cinema, and HD for the home, the Alexa looks pretty sharp but you know that eventually more and more cinema releases are going to use 4K DCP's.  It's not a big deal of course -- I've seen Alexa footage uprezzed to 4K and it's only slightly softer than Epic and F65 footage on the big screen... as Geoff Boyle has mentioned, it's like shooting Agfa instead of Kodak, and I always loved that Agfa look when done well, but honestly, at some point, ARRI can't keep using an increasingly older sensor in new cameras, it's time to develop a new sensor!  Make it 5K+, Super-35, with a high DR... and then they don't have to change it again until we get beyond the 4K DCP's.  Oh, and get the weight down to something closer to the Sony F55's.

 

Red, on the other hand, once they perfect this 6K Dragon sensor, should work on the camera body side of things -- you shouldn't need an extra module just to get ProRes files alongside R3D's.  The basic brain module should also have a few more outputs. It sounds like they've improved the cooling system though.

 

On the flip side, the other cameras like Canon's should have internal Raw recording or at least an attachable recorder that fits snugly into the body design as it does on the F55 or now finally the Alexa XT.  I know that the C500 has 4K Raw internal recording, though I'm not sure about the mJPEG compression it uses?

 

As for BMCC, I'm wary of the lack of an OLPF, many of the demos I've seen have aliasing artifacts that could be rather distracting on the big screen. Couldn't it have been possible to just design a very weak OLPF at least? For the price, which is amazingly low, the lack of other features isn't very surprising.  The pocket camera looks cool enough to buy on a whim, it's so cheap -- sort of depends on if I want to deal with log or Raw HD footage versus H.264 in my home computer just to get that wonderful wide DR look.


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:41 AM

Lens-wise, the anamorphics coming from Cooke and ARRI/Zeiss are really exciting, I loved the look of the Cooke tests and the short film that ARRI made using the 50mm anamorphic I believe.  The Cooke anamorphics have more of a classic Panavision C-Series or JDC look, the ARRI anamorphics have more of that modern Hawk or Primo look.  Hopefully the slightly larger Red Dragon sensor in 6K ANA mode will come closer to the proportions of 35mm anamorphic (21mm x 18mm) so that there won't be as much of a crop factor, otherwise it looks like your best bet is probably a 4x3 Alexa or 5K ANA mode on an Epic, which are similar in resolution (I think 5K ANA is 3296 x 2700 pixels / 17.8 x 14.6mm?) just a bit higher than ARRIRAW 2.88K -- but within a smaller sensor area so there is a crop factor.


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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:43 AM

The Odyssey 7 monitor / Raw recorder was also cool.


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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 12:16 PM

to the proportions of 35mm anamorphic (21mm x 18mm) so that there won't be as much of a crop factor, otherwise it looks like your best bet is probably a 4x3 Alexa or 5K ANA mode on an Epic, which are similar in resolution (I think 5K ANA is 3296 x 2700 pixels / 17.8 x 14.6mm?) just a bit higher than ARRIRAW 2.88K -- but within a smaller sensor area so there is a crop factor.

 

The 4:3 Alexa is about 4K anamorphic or a little over and I think that's what Arri is pushing at the moment for those who want to do higher resolution type work. Could be a good combination surely?

 

Freya


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 01:03 PM

4x3 Alexa is still 2.88K raw, not 4K, they haven't changed the sensor -- it's always been a 4x3 sensor, it's just that only 16x9 area was enabled in the basic model, new XT models all allow 4x3 to be used so it's just taller than 16x9, not wider.


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#8 Freya Black

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 02:24 PM

The Alexa has a resolution of 2880 x 2160 in 4:3 anamorphic mode.

The Red One has a resolution of 2816 x 2305 in 4K anamorphic mode.

 

I accept what you are saying that 2880x2160 is only 2.88k raw but then surely we then have to say that the 5k epic anamorphic mode is really only 3.2k and only just a bit higher than the Alexa resolution as you imply.

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 12 April 2013 - 02:28 PM.

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