This was a big year for DCS at NAB, not just because of the size of the convention, with over 65K attendees, but because we marked a major milestone for our organization. Of course, it was nice to see NAB coming back after the pandemic, but the big deal for us was celebrating our 20 year anniversary. We held a party on the show floor with libations courtesy of ARRI.
For a brief retrospective of our activities, (20 years compressed down to 3 minutes,) check out this fun musical montage that our Editor Christopher Knell prepared to show during the party: https://vimeo.com/816390228
In keeping with a long held tradition, allow me to now curate our coverage and point out some of the most interesting technology we discovered at the show. There is certainly a lot to report on, from innovations in lighting, cameras, new lenses, camera support, and accessories to collaborative workflows, text-based editing, and virtual production. However, I’m going to start with advancements in a technology that we used for the second year to cover the convention, namely Camera-to-Cloud.
We used Adobe’s Frame.io Camera-to-Cloud workflow with the Teradek Prism Mobile which can work with a variety of cameras, (this year we used an FX6 courtesy of Sony.) As soon as our Cinematographer, Cameron Cannon, cut the camera, it would start uploading to the Frame.io website and our Editor would have access to the file in his Adobe Premiere timeline within minutes. Importantly, he could quickly QC the footage and confirm that we could move on to the next interview. Our interview Producer, David Mahlmann, who was with us on the show floor, could also view the latest takes and finished pieces with the Frame.io app on his mobile device even as we were shooting new interviews: (no stopping to playback off the camera.)
The ease of review would have saved us great pain had we had the ability a few years back when one of our SD cards failed and we lost several interviews that we had to try and reshoot while still keeping our very tight schedule. The ability to access, QC, and approve the edited pieces via Frame.io was also crucial since our Editor was working so quickly, making it easy to miss issues like the spelling of names in the lower thirds.
Charlene Mathers, who was monitoring nearby, was able to check and approve the finished pieces which could then be published to Vimeo directly from the Frame.io server, while Meghan Mathers, holding down the fort back home at DCS World Headquarters in Studio City, would add descriptions. I’m proud to say that the finished interviews were streaming from our website in record time, usually within an hour or two after we shot them.
Even though these systems may have been first developed to send proxies, the quality of the HD we sent to the cloud was far more than adequate for our purposes. We also recorded 4K UHD on the camera, for back up and archive, and it would be relatively easy to conform, but as of yet, we have not found it necessary to use. Although we get a little more efficient every year, the major upgrade at this NAB was using the Teradek Prism Mobile which is basically a Teradek Cube combined with a modem that can access both WiFi and cellular, including “Bonded Cellular.” It finds the best upload path and uses that even if it has to combine different cellular providers. The data is recorded on the Teradek Prism device and begins the upload as soon as the camera is cut. If there is any interruption in the transmission, it simply picks up where it left off until the complete file is uploaded.
Although the process is the same as last year, the hardware has been greatly improved ergonomically. Instead of a separate Teradek Cube taking our camera feed and sending the signal via a delicate and awkwardly placed ethernet connector to a large Sclera cellular transmitter, the Prism Mobile packs everything into a tiny box that conveniently sandwiches between the camera and battery and connects via a single SDI cable.
Fujifilm’s Electronic Imaging division was showing a system where the transmission device is built into a handgrip that attaches to the bottom of their new mirrorless cameras, thus unifying the devices and allowing control through the camera menus. It can send still and motion images over WiFi, which is great if you have a strong enough signal, because the bonded cellular data rates are pretty pricey. We considered using it for our coverage of NAB, but felt more confident using the bonded cellular system as we did last year. Especially since were were able to take advantage of the hardware update from Teradek.
In the short time since NAB, Teradek has announced their own solution to the challenges of getting reliable cellular connections. They just released “Teradek Data,” which will act much like the bonded cellular we used successfully to cover the last two NAB conventions, but with even more flexibility. Teradek Data will use multiple carriers in one eSIM card to circumvent issues of data throttling and data caps, or the need to have different plans for different SIMs. Broadcasters and content creators will be able to buy buckets of data in advance and the plan will allow users with multiple devices to share that data across their entire fleet pooling data buckets for much greater versatility.
Another major area of technological advancement we witnessed was with LED lighting. Rosco, LiteGear, Fiilex, Lightpanels, Dedolight, FOMEX, Nanlite, and BB&S all showed great new instruments in a variety of configurations that can be finely tuned for best color. Meanwhile, ARRI, DoPchoice, and TRP, (formerly The Rag Place,) were demonstrating a variety of light modifiers.
It is amazing to think how far we have come, especially in terms of Image-based Lighting for virtual production. The Studio-B&H hosted a group of companies to demonstrate the latest virtual production technology, a key component of which is imaged-based lighting. We shot our interview with Quasar Science’s Tim Kang in a volume set up in the B&H booth. The background was the POV of a car driving down Las Vegas Blvd through the myriad of lighting environments while the surrounding lighting was being driven by the volume illuminating us in the foreground to perfectly match the POV.
Similarly, Kino Flo, in partnership with sister companies Chauvet and Chamsys, showed off their Mimik system where I interviewed Frieder Hochheim sitting in a ferris wheel gondola while the virtual background displayed images as if we were at the Santa Monica Pier Fun Zone. The syncopated lighting being driven by the volume perfectly matched the background, and although at relatively low resolution, you could actually see the images from the volume playing in real time on the surrounding Mimik lights.
Solutions to aid Virtual Production were also part of many other product presentations. ARRI’s Jung-Jin Ahn detailed their new business unit, ARRI Solutions, which is designed to be a virtual production start-to-finish service, concentrating on everything from as little as consulting all the way to building out virtual production stages. Elisabetta Cartoni, granddaughter of the storied company’s founder, presented their new line of encoded heads, the Cartoni E-MAXIMA, which are capable of outputting highly accurate positional data to integrate with lens metadata making it ideal for use in VFX and virtual production. ZEISS’ Tony Wisniewski also emphasized how their Supreme Primes and Supreme Prime Radiance lenses are well suited for VFX and virtual production capture due to their sophisticated metadata collection abilities.
Other notable cine lens technology on display at NAB this year included Fujifilm Optical’s new “Duvo” series, which includes the S35 Duvo 25-1000 (a F2.8-5.0 PL mount cinema box lens), as well as the “Duvo Portable” 24-300, a lighter weight compact hand-holdable zoom similar to the Cabrio series that will be available in early 2024. Meanwhile, Canon is answering the call to serve both S35 and Full Frame users with their Flex line of extremely fast zooms. The Cinematographer can choose to use the pair of lenses as a 20-50mm or 45-145mm covering Full Frame at T2.4, or with the user convertible “Relay Kit” they can swap the rear element for use covering S35 as a 14-35mm and 31.5-95mm at a very fast T1.7 in either PL or EF mount. Similarly adding versatility, Angénieux was showing their new Optima Ultra Compact zoom which can serve as a 21mm-56mm covering Full Frame at T2.9 or it can be easily modified to serve as a 15mm-40mm at T2.2 covering “U35,” (Randy Wedick explains that is a new term to describe coverage larger than regular S35, but shy of Full Frame.)
Speaking of versatility, ARRI’s Art Adams presented their new behind-the-lens Impression Filters which offer cinematographers the ability to get vintage lens looks on a shot-by-shot basis, but still retain the benefits of a modern high performance lens when the filter is removed. Cooke Optics’ Chris D’Anna talked about Cooke’s addition of 4 new focal lengths for their S8 Series (which puts the series now at 11), their new Varotal 19-40mm Zoom lens, and their 1.8 anamorphics. Sigma’s Aaron Norberg showed off their new Contemporary Series 23mm F1.4 DC DN, the 1.7mm F4 DG DN, and the 50 mm F2 DG DN, while Brand Ambassador Graham Sheldon presented their the newest lens in the Sigma Cinema line, the 65mm T1.5.
Camera news includes Blackmagic Design’s latest update to their 12K camera offering an OLPF (optical low pass filter,) for improved performance and they were also proud to announce that the camera is now Netflix approved. In addition, there are firmware updates for the Pocket Cameras allowing features such as vertical 9×16 capture. There were also many firmware updates that Canon’s Ryan Snyder told us about effecting almost all of their Cinema EOS cameras, especially the R5 C. These include a new power saving mode, easier switching between still and motion capture, and the ability to shoot higher resolution single camera VR by mapping two separate 4K images over their 8K sensor with their new 5.2mm dual fisheye lens.
Sean Robinson presented the long list of professional enhancements to their Panasonic Lumix cameras, including an update to the popular S5, coming soon as the S5 Mark II X which will have the ability to output up to 5.8K ProRes 422 HQ files. Sean also showed a great new accessory handle that they helped develop in collaboration with Condor Blue and San Disk that allows a high capacity NVME SSD drive to be inserted into the handle of the GH6 cage; (no more worrying about strapping a drive to the side of the camera.) Speaking of cages, Wooden Camera’s Dominick Aiello presented their new Elite Accessory System specifically designed for ease of use with the Sony Venice and Venice II cameras using the Rialto extension system. 16×9’s James Lee introduced us to the new Octamas SWISScage, designed so that the many parts can be used interchangeably with different cameras and configurations. He also gave an update on the generation 3 Easyrig and new gear bags from ORCA. ARRI’s Tobias Frischmuth presented the latest member of their electronic controls line, the ZMU-4, a wired/wireless Zoom Control which offers many refinements, but is still compatible with their popular Hi-5 controls and other manufacturers’ products.
There seems to be growing demand for live productions to have a cinematic look, and several of our interviews covered solutions for the myriad challenges this can present. ARRI’s Tyler Rocheleau gave us a preview of the latest Trinity Live stabilizer system with several modifications to improve usability for live production. This was also the theme of AbelCine’s presentation where Jeff Lee discussed integrations they are making for cinema camera use in live broadcast environments. Teradek’s Colin McDonald and Jon Landman offered details on how their wireless solutions can help, including use of the Prism Mobile with multiple cameras and updates to the Ranger wireless transmitter now able to send 4.9-6.4 GB with a 5,000 ft range.
Of course, you can’t do live production without good comms, and Riedel’s Wolfgang Fritz informed us about all things new with their Bolero wireless intercom system. It can support up to 250 belt packs, each having six discreet channels, which is great for large crews. Besides serving as a camera intercom, Bolero can also function as a walkie-talkie and even supports Bluetooth to interface with your phone or allow communication with remote collaborators via the web.
IP based production seems to be a growing trend and AJA’s Barry Goch detailed their new Dante AV 4K IP workflow device. It is based on an IP system that is already well established in live audio production and is now able to also transport video channels over IP. AJA also showed tools for managing color in all sorts of workflow scenarios including their new ColorBox, a small but powerful color control device that works to insure color conformity across the entire production and post pipeline. It can also generate frame lines to assure framing conformity. Managing your look all starts with correct on-set monitoring, and SmallHD’s Dave Bredbury, demoed the Smart 5 line of ultra-compact, high-performance, 5-inch touchscreen monitors with direct camera control capability of many popular brands with essential tools for exposure, focus, and framing.
Moving on to Post, our interview with Adobe’s Francis Crossman delved into how the Sensei AI engine can now be utilized for Text-Based editing. Premiere now allows transcription in 17 different languages which can then be searched by typing in words to cut and paste video content much like working on a word doc. Once edited, it can also easily add subtitles. Blackmagic Design’s latest update to Resolve, now out in v18.5, offers many of the same test-based editing features along with AI enabled color correction tools and “Universal Scene Descriptor,” a new feature for Fusion making it easier to integrate with other platforms.
Working across platforms and integrating with others is an increasingly important factor in professional post production. Avid’s Raymond Thompson discussed the many features of Media Composer and alliances with industry partners that are being employed to improve collaborative workflows for motion pictures and television post production. PIX’s Kalif Fuller shared about the integrations they are doing with industry partners Teradek and QTAKE for Camera-2-Cloud and remote collaborative workflows.
Of course data management is a critical aspect of both production and post; CODEX’s Ali Nicholls presented their end-to-end data management solutions from their Compact Drives for on-camera media, to their transfer drives, and their very large Media Vault Edge using lossless High Density Encoding for reduced file sizes and global connectivity to transcode and share data to verified users in the post pipeline. OWC’s Larry O’Connor and Farshid Tabrizi presented all the new updates to OWC products including their “Energize” system to restore and update firmware on flash memory, and OWC’s Sam Mestman described the benefits of their newest, most powerful JELLYFISH storage system.
Meanwhile Cinnafilm’s Curtis Staples described how AI is powering their PixelStrings suite of products. They make all the complex conversion tools they have developed for high-end post facilities available to everyone via the web. Users can upload content, then have it transformed for HDR, Resolution, Frame Rate Conversion, Time Compression, Grain and Noise Reduction, etc., (even sophisticated sound sweeting tools developed with Lucas Sound,) and then download the converted files at a small fraction of what it would cost to have it done at a post house.
Finally, let me tell you about some standout products that didn’t easily fit into previous categories covered. Steve Manios, whose company has recently been acquired by Cartoni demoed the Cartoni Lifto, a motorized platform for up to three PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras with a unique remote-controlled pedestal which can be placed on a tripod, or rolled into place on a dolly and go from elevations of less than 2’ to over 8’, thus eliminating the common problem with PTZ that are usually permanently and immovably installed. Last, but not least, Zack Shannon from Core SWX, (whose batteries powered our camera and lighting throughout NAB,) presented their new block battery, the Renegade, which sports a 777 watt hour battery pack, and its big brother the Renegade XL, which lasts up to 1400 watt hours.
We covered lots of new technology in our streaming booth tour interviews, really too much to cover in this short essay, but you can view all our coverage from the NAB 2023 here:
See you next at Cine Gear Expo!