Thursday, April 26, 2012

SMPTE New England Meeting Report - NAB Panel

Thursday’s SMPTE-NE meeting at WBZ Boston was a panel discussion of the new, the exciting and the scary at NAB this year.

The Panel was moderated by co-founder of Avid, Peter Fasciano. and featured Bob Lamm of Broadcast Pix, Willis Peligian of the Willis Group, lighting expert John Gates of Gates Service Group, and Boston Creative Pro User Group’s own Dan Bérubé.

(l to r) Dan, John, Willis, Bob & Peter

Bob noted that the business is becoming more "computerized." IT based companies are talking to broadcast people in terms that are familiar to computer people rather than to video people. He said that “File-based Work Flows” was a popular phrase at the show. He also noted that there were a lot of people from overseas.

He pointed out how inexpensive configuring SD installations has become, and that SD remains a viable - and in some cases the only - solution for a lot of small installations. This is particularly true outside the US. “Most of the people I’ve met are buying HD systems because they think they are going to hold on to them for a while and they don’t want to get something that will be outdated.”

“I do think that we’re having a lot of fun being at the bleeding edge, but a majority of the people have a different goal. They’re not really looking to push the limits so much, they just want to put out an interesting and acceptable program.”

Willis expanded on the IT trend, saying “purpose built technologies that we have grown used to are being replaced by commodity IT technologies. File based workflows are “inevitable,” and Business Process Management will become a bigger part of the industry with broadcast centric companies taking BPM systems and putting a media-centric skin on them, creating a workflow process tracking system for file-based workflows." He mentioned Centrix and Ceiton as examples of this business.

OTT (Over The Top) is a term being used for internet delivered video, and is a key trend. “We have talked for years about how the audience for our products, our media, is being fragmented. We talked about it back in the early 80’s how cable was coming in and stealing broadcast […] and now there is a new industry segment [...] Over The Top, and OTT means, in a very broad brush, internet delivered video.”

He said that DSLR technology and all the gizmos that come with it were big this year, and Thunderbolt also made a strong appearance; though a lot of companies were still only showing prototypes and he thinks it remains to be seen whether it will be a success. “Is this going to be another Firewire? Is it going to die because it doesn’t have the legs? and the answer is 'I don’t know.'”

Finally, he mentioned the possibility of cloud based. collaborative editing taking off, and sited as an example, a company from London,

(l to r) Willis Peligian, Robert Lamm, and Peter Fasciano

John walked through a slide presentation on the many LED lighting options present at the show, saying “it’s not the future, but you can see it from here.” While saying that LED’s are finally ready for prime time, he added “there’s a bunch of crap out there, they’re not all created equal, but there are lights out there that work the way we are used to, that have good output and good color.”

During a discussion of calibrating lights and cameras, he said “the new method is to look at it on the damn camera.”

Interestingly, he said that ARRI spent a year thinking that they could produce a fresnel LED that didn’t need a fan for cooling, but they found that they couldn’t do it. The problem is the heat generated at the LED itself, which has a pretty narrow temperature operating range. "Nobody has found a way to use them in an optical system without a fan."

Dan doesn’t think Thunderbolt is going away any time soon, unless Apple decides to get rid of it!

He referenced a t-shirt he bought;“4K is so 2014.” While excited by the 4K cameras and especially the 4K displays that Canon had at the show - Dan was working the show for Canon - “ I can’t wait until we are all using it, but the fact of the matter is that there's a workflow for that, that you need to have in place to be able to do that. The workflow is something that people need to understand.” When Shane Hurlbut shot The Ticket using the EOS 1D-C, he shot 20 terrabytes of footage on CF cards. When they prepped it for post, it inflated to 40 terrabytes. “That’s not just something you readily have available. It’s not just a stack of Firewire drives..”

Peter said that the color space for 4K is larger than for HD, which is something I hadn’t heard.

Dan talked briefly about the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, “I was totally blown away by the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, I think it took everyone by surprise.”

“There’s still a reason to go to NAB, despite wanting to cut your feet off at the end of the day, because there’s some amazing things.”

Dan Bérubé and John Gates

Some of the other topics covered:

  • There was some discussion about archiving, though apart from cloud solutions, there didn’t seem to be anything particularly new and low-cost available.
  • 3D is dead. Or very close. Most of the panelists didn’t see much of it. Willis said there were very few 3D rigs at the show. He saw the glass-less TV prototypes that Sony showed, but said that after a few minutes it gave him a headache. There was also some discussion of Titanic 3D, and the suggestion that 3D in post may actually be the best way to go to 3D.
  • The Hobbit at 48fps came up breifly, but that wasn't a topic that came out of NAB!
  • Lens costs are starting to be much more significant than camera costs, and this will  be exasperated with 4K. “The irony that I see with the cameras, I can get a large sensor camera with unbelievably good pictures, the price keeps coming down, but the glass, there’s no way to make that same economic model with the glass.” - John. “Buy a lens, get a free camera back with it” - Peter.
  • Connecting devices to the Internet will continue to be important. But just because it has a port doesn't mean it's not using something proprietary Willis warned; make sure that they support web services.
  • Dan and Bob talked at some length about the importance of XML.

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