I took my annual trek through the Mojave Desert to the Mecca of technology in Las Vegas to attend NAB 2016 - the tradeshow where "content comes to life!" This is where I hone my technical skills and stay on the bleeding edge of technological development for the tools of my industry. At least that’s the official story...it’s also an excuse to meet up socially with friends I have known for years but don’t get to see very often. Yes, it’s old home week, but it’s also an opportunity to meet new people and maintain relationships with manufacturers. And yes, attend some fun industry parties.
But what I mostly do is sit in on software demos for hours on end and learn the new features of new systems.
I’ve been going to NAB for about thirty years now and it has become a permanent fixture on my calendar.
The show is different every year because fads come and go in waves. It used to be camera cranes. You’d look around the convention show floor and it would be bristling with camera cranes. Everybody had one.
Then it was 2K cameras. Then everyone had a 3D rig. Then it was 4K. Then it was HDR.
But NAB 2016 was a little harder to define. It had its share of 4.6K, 5K, and 6K cameras. A lot of new people had new HDR monitors. I saw a lot of 8K display devices. But it was kind of a mixed bag this year.
Here are my show highlights.
1. Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 12.5
The day the show opened, Blackmagic Design released a public beta of their new version of Resolve. This was totally ground breaking for me since most of the new features were to the editing page of their software which I have been using for many years. Ever since Apple suckered us in with Final Cut Studio and a promise of total support, and then spat us out with the introduction of FCP X and announced they were no longer supporting Studio, I have been looking for a one stop shop film finishing editing system.
With the advent of Resolve 12.5, I believe I have found that system. Raw footage in one end and finished DCP out the other, all in one box. No transcoding, no XMLs, no onlining. And with the addition of Fusion 8, their linked VFX software, there is no need to ever leave the workspace. I truly believe Blackmagic are going to be the go to film finishing platform for feature films. At last!
2. SmallHD HDR Monitor
Small HD introduced and won “Best of Show” for their new range of aggressively priced, rugged production monitors. One of them is HDR. I believe they ran them over with a vehicle to demonstrate their ability to withstand the rigors of production! A very welcome addition to the industry. Because of their pricing, I’m looking forward to being able to rent them from my local rental house for a lot less than I am currently paying.
3. Zacuto Gratical Eye SDI EVF
The Gratical Eye micro-OLED EVF also won a “Best of Show” award. This slick, spherical viewfinder is so compact and rugged, that it attaches to any camera in virtually any position. This allows your camera to be balanced for hand-held or any other configuration without a viewfinder coming into the picture with very wide lenses. Nice job guys!
4. Lytro Cinema Camera
The Lytro is one of the most remarkable devices I have ever seen.
About a thousand of us packed into a small meeting hall to watch a scientific demonstration and a short movie which was shot with a camera about the size of two Fiat 500s placed end to end. I don’t really understand the technology, but in essence the camera is able to record information in the Z Axis, meaning that it can record depth information. That depth information can be used to change focus or depth of field in post production.
The other amazing thing it can do is pull mattes from objects without using a greenscreen. It knows the distance that objects are from the camera and is able to isolate them with distance information instead of color information. Astounding! Now if they can just make it one hundred times smaller.
5. The New Age of VR
Finally, Virtual Reality seems to have come of age. I saw my first VR at SIGGRAPH about twenty years ago, and I have not seen it at NAB before. This year there was an entire section in the North Hall devoted to VR. I think VR is a no-brainer for Games, and while I’m still not sure about its application for storytelling, I am very interested in exploring that aspect. With that in mind I set out to see as much VR content and equipment as I possibly could.
The most mind blowing program I saw was HTC VIVE VR system. The resolution is getting really good and you can walk about in 3D space to play with two wands. The game I like the most is Irrational Exuberance and was directed by Ben Vance. It’s mind blowing in its design and interactivity. VR is here to stay and I’m all in!
Well that’s it for now. I’m getting started on a new project, producing and directing a feature film call Lost Fare. Productions Diaries coming soon to the Zacuto Blog!