Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Las Vegas SuperMeet at NAB

Last night was the Las Vegas SuperMeet, the semi-regular get together of video editors sponsored by various Final Cut Pro user groups; there are over 60 throughout the world. Here are some highlights from the event:

Paul McAniff from Canon talked up their new solid-state camcorders. Noting that some in the crowd at the SuperMeet were probably hoping for bigger sensors, he pointed out that there was still a large market for cameras like the XF300/305 for electronic news gathering and similar tasks. He also noted that there were many issues with going to larger sensors; as one example, the cost of a lens equivalent to the zoom range on the XF models would be very high. He said that there wasn’t going to be a large sensor camcorder “this year,” then quickly added that he was not insinuating that there would be one next year.

He claimed that the 1/3 inch sensors in the XF camcorders had the sensitivity of some competing 1/2 inch sensors. He also said that the lens had no fluorite and very low chromatic aberration. According to Wikipedia, fluorite “has a very low dispersion, so lenses made from it exhibit less chromatic aberration” but the Wikipedia doesn’t explain what the negatives of fluorite are (i.e. why Canon would be talking up the fact that they weren't using it, and Paul didn't explain why either.)

Canon also brought along Alex Buono, a cinematographer at the NBC Saturday Night Live Film Unit. The Film Unit shoots everything that's not live, and they used to use film – which was, he said, insane - but have now transitioned to digital. They first used P2 cameras, and this season they started using DSLRs.

Their workflow is even more compressed than I had imagined; they get scripts on Wednesday, prep on Thursday, and shoot on Friday. This seasons opening was shot 75% on the Canon 5D and 25% on the 7D. The slow-motion shots were made with the 7D, while the 5D was used for some time-lapse material.

He said that the low-light capability of the DSLRs was really important as it enabled them to shoot in available light in New York City. The opening was cut with Final Cut Pro and color corrected in Flame, though for other projects they often use Color.

Alex noted that for the Prius spot they mixed material shot on a RED with material shot on the 5D; “I don't think you'll be able to tell the difference. We couldn't when we were color correcting it.” He suggested that because of the delays required in ingesting RED footage, and the minimal difference in results, there would probably be resistance to using the RED again now that they have become comfortable with the DSLRs.

After talking about how they had used a wheelchair as a dolly for one spot, he was asked about the rigs they use with the camera. He said that things are constantly evolving as new rigs come out; they’d started with a Zacuto, and they also have a rig from Red Rock Micro. DSLRs are great for shooting gorilla style, he said, though they can also be mounted on real dollys.

Adobe CS5
Adobe Senior World Wide Evangelist Jason Levine attempted to spread the love with CS5, "64-bit, pure Cocoa!," and the ability to round trip; export to XML from Final Cut Pro, edit in Premiere, and then go back to Final Cut – “completing the circle of love.”

He demoed the Roto brush in After Effects, which is almost – but not quite – as amazing as Photoshop’s Content Aware fill. He also demoed the latter and it was just as amazing as the first time I saw it.

Angus MacKay from Avid quickly turned it over to Misha Tenenbaum to talk about Avid MediaComposer 5.0. Misha is an editor, producer and script writer, though as he noted, everyone in Hollywood has a script. Praising the Canon 7D because “it’s small, cheap and can fit anywhere” he demoed Avid’s new improved handling for different media formats stored in different locations. I guess that previously everything had to be ingested and stored where MediaComposer wanted to put it, so now a lot of media management time can be saved.

Steve Bayes from Apple had the unenviable task of presenting to a meeting of Final Cut Users at a big trade show with essentially nothing new. So he talked up what third party developers are doing, as well as how third parties are adopting ProRes for their products. My one favorite quote: “Its all in XML. EDLs are so 1990

He mentioned that a number of recent movies were cut in Final Cut (including the Cohen’s brothers A Serious Man) and that most of the Oscar nominated documentaries were edited in Final Cut.)

ARRI showed the Alexa prototype camera (that's the one with the $50,000+ price tag.) Though they didn’t actually show it working, they did show a video that was shot using the camera – a very long segment that seemed to revolve around young men kicking a round ball; clearly this is not an American company.
It behaves like a film camera but shoots like a digital camera

Demoed their color correcting tool DaVinci, so I finally got to see the interface. As I expected, it looked just as confusing as Color. Maybe even more so. Still, it was an impressive demo; particularly the motion tracking.

Tim Dashwood got up and talked about how to do budget 3D. He has a plug-in for Final Cut that can help producing 3D output. There was a lot of material in his talk, so I’m going to put that into a separate post.

Hand Held Hollywood
Finally, Taz Goldstein from Hand Held Hollywood did a quick tour through iPhone/iPad apps for the filmmaker. He started out by asking who had an iPhone, then after seeing all the hands added “Oh my god, who doesn’t?”

He ran through a number of tools, including Minislate HD, which looks like it might do a reasonable job of acting like a real slate, and Rehearsal, an app that lets an actor load in a script, record the other actors parts, and then; rehearse! Once you have mastered your lines, it even blanks them out! It looks pretty good; and it's free!

Talking about script writing apps for the iPhone, he noted that Final Draft is planning an iPad release, and also talked about the ProPrompter Producer, an iPhone prompter. They have an iPad based version coming too, though at $800+ it’s not going to be cheap.

[UPDATE 4/16 12:47PM] corrected Canon model name to XF

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