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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Post NAB Ennui

NAB last week was a little bit of a let down. On the surface there were some cool new bits of kit being shown but some of the things with huge buzz turned out to be not so buzz worthy.

Let's start with the bright spot. NewTek, as always, showed up with guns blazing. For the TriCaster Pro Line they announced a pretty big upgrade across the line with an even bigger boost to the TriCaster 410 which now will come with the Isocorder function. I'll detail the upgrade in a upcoming post.

NewTek's big news was on the instant replay front with the all new 3Play 440. It's a 4 input version of the top of the line 4800 and both models get major feature boosts like overlay capabilities and macros. The 3Play 425 remains in the line but has had it's price reduced to $10k (without a controller). This is a game changer for high schools who could never afford real instant replay.

3Play 440
Elsewhere on the show floor it was the year of the drone or maybe the 4k year. I didn't actually see any drones with 4k cameras but I bet there was one somewhere! 4k is definitely the Next-Big-Thing for high end productions but I'm not sure it's going to have a lot of impact for those doing standard TV and web productions for a while.

If 4k is good 6k or even 8k must be better. Red was showing there new 6k cameras but had to resort to IMAX to show their demo footage. Which points out a major problem with these beyond ultraHD formats--how are you going to deliver? I didn't even look closely at the 8k stuff.

Now a drone is something that I could see owning. Get those helicopter shots on the cheap. Beware the FAA doesn't allow drones to be used for commercial purposes so you may need to fly literally under the radar.

The aforementioned buzz surrounded the release of cameras by, well, everyone and their brother. Grass Valley showed their new LDX series cameras in standard speed, high speed and robotic variants. Priced between $60k and $100k these are all but irrelevant for the typical TriCaster user. And Red as usual has there various high-res offerings which are great for digital cinematography but impractical for live production.
Black Magic Designs Studio Camera
Blackmagic Designs had the biggest camera news with the announcement of their new Studio series of HD and 4K cameras. The Studio Camera HD starts at $2000 (without lens). It features SDI and fiber outputs and an integrated 10 inch viewfinder. Aimed squarely at live production this could eventually be a category killer.

Right now the big hang-up is the lack of appropriate lenses for live production. The Studio cams have a Micro 4/3 lens mount which is basically a still camera standard. What you really want for live production is a lens with a servo controlled zoom but there are no servo controlled Micro 4/3 lenses at this time. The Lanc control port on the camera may be able to zoom some Micro 4/3 lenses. But I think a lens good for sports production may be hard to find and is going to cost at least $1000.

You can add a Micro 4/3 to B4 adapter and use a standard ENG lens. The B4 mount is the broadcast standard but be aware you are looking at $10k+  lenses at that point. The camera doesn't have power outputs or any other integration with a B4 lens so again you'll be depending on the third party market for solutions. There are also technical issues with the size of the Studio camera's imager vs. B4 lenses that you'll have to deal with to prevent vignetting.

I'm sure that the market will solve the lens problem in time but I think I'd give the BMD Studio Camera a pass for a while at least.

Keep a look out for an in depth look at the New TriCaster and 3Play updates coming up.