2011 NAB in Review

By now most of you have heard all the really big announcements from this years NAB conference.  I thought I’d do a little review of some of the things that caught my eye. There may even be a few items that you haven’t seen yet.

Panasonic HPX250

This camera is the long awaited update the the HVX200/HPX170 palmcorders. This strictly P2 camera has a 1/3” native 1080 image sensor. The camera is capable a recording in the all the flavors of DVCpro that we’re use to (25, 50, and 100MB) as well as the “Master Quality” AVCIntra. The body style has added a third ring to the lens portion, so in addition to focus and zoom, there is now an iris ring, right where you would expect it to be. Approx. $6000


ARRI L Series LED Fresnel

Arri debuted a new line of fixtures in their ever growing collection of LED lights. The L Series of fresnels are 200w fixtures, offered in Tungsten, Daylight and Color Changing that have a light output comparable to a 1kw. The Color Changer has the ability to be Tungsten or Daylight with adjustments to add or subtract green as needed.  In addition, it’s able to reproduce virtually any color at any saturation level. (very similar to the Zylight). Arri offers two ways to dissipate the heat produced by the LEDs.  The Active system employs a low noise fan that pulls the heat of the chips. Alternatively, there is a passive version which replaces the fan with an aluminum heat sync, which noiselessly dissipates the light’s heat.  All the fixtures are fully dimmable and spotable. These are not your typical kit lights, weighing in at 22lbs for the passive cooling version and 14lbs for the active cooling version. Approx. $3000.

Manfrotto 509 Video Head

 The new 509 head from Manfrotto is the big brother to their 504 head, which was the first to employ their new Bridge Technology.  The 509 has a load capacity of approx. 23lbs and has a unique electronic balancing feature built into the head that signals when the load is accurately balanced.


Bright Shot LED “Par”

A new company on the show room floor was New York based Bright Shot. They were showing off a very bright long throw LED light. This 40lb fixture has an output similar to a 575 HMI par, complete with a set of lenses to control the beam angle (15, 30 & 45 degrees)  In addition to Daylight and Tungsten, it’s capable of producing a full range of colored light. One of the nicest features is the removable control box which is capable of recreating a wide variety of tweak-able lighting effects (fire, candle light, various emergency vehicle beacons and of course user defined patterns)  This version of the light will set you back about $5800, but a smaller version is currently in the works.


FFV SideKick HD

This year, NAB had quite a large selection external digital video recorders. The SideKick HD was among many that record to the edit ready Apple ProRes codec. It stores data on “off the shelf” 2.5” Solid State Drives (SSD) in ProRes 422 and 422 HQ. One of it’s unique UI features is the Jog/Shuttle wheel that aids in the review of media, allowing for fine, frame by frame search or faster forward and reverse viewing. The menu seems very straight forward and easy to navigate. The device has both HD-SDI and HDMI i/o with the ability to come with one and go back out the other.  The one down side is the plastic housing and printed labels on the buttons that don’t seem like they’ll hold up daily use. $2500


Edelkrone Shoulder Mount

One challenge that users of smaller handheld cameras struggle with is being able to operate that camera in a steady, controlled manner, when not on a tripod.  There are a ton of solutions on the market, but a company from Turkey called Edelkrone has a interesting solution. Their camera support for DSLRs and smaller cameras like the AF100 or F3 allow you to mount the camera on your shoulder, using attachable weights and the batteries as counter balance.  While that alone isn’t terrible unique, the rig’s ability to convert into a “two shoulder” mount is.  Thpis very robustly engineered camera support is designed to distribute the weight across both shoulders for added stability and control.  $2000-$3000 depending on accessories.


Birger Engineering – Canon Lens Mount

The wait is almost over for full control of Canon Lenses on the AF100 an FS100.  The Birger mount provides for complete focus and iris control from the camera body. Yes, that does include auto focus.  In addition, Birger will be offering a wireless remote follow focus that promises to offer very accurate, low latency control of the lenses. If that‘s not enough for you, you’ll soon be able to communicate with the lenses via laptop. The laptop can also be used for pulling focus as well as performing lens calibrations and firmware upgrades.


Varavon DSLR Eyepiece

One of the challenges of DSLR eyepieces that attach to the camera’s LCD screen is that it requires the camera to be positioned directly in front of your face. Naturally, that can be a bit awkward when you’re trying to get a low angle shot.  Varavon offers a variety of eyepieces, but I especially like the model that flips the eyecup and back and pops up a mirror at an angle that makes it easy to see the LCD screen.  While it’s not much help in a critical focus situation, It does give you a bit more operating flexibility.


DedoLight 1×1 LED lights (Tech Pro)

Dedolight, thru it’s value brand Tech Pro, showed off it’s new 1×1 LED lighting fixture.  (Think Lite Panels 1×1 in Plastic housing) I saw three versions – Standard output, High output and Bi-Color.  The High output manages to squeeze twice an many LED into the 1×1 space and claims to be the brightest LED light in it’s class.  The Bi-Color employs alternating rolls for daylight and tungsten balanced LED that are mixed to produce color temps between 3000 and 5500k. All version are fulling dimmable (at least to about 10% before they start getting weird) and have integrated battery mounts for V-Lock and Sony NP style batteries. Standard Output $1100, High Output $1750, and Bi-Color $1985


Cineroid Metal EVF

The latest breed of HD-DSLR and affordable Digital Cinema cameras like the AF100 and F3 really need the addition of a quality EVF (in the right position) for effective shooting.  Cineroid was one of the first out of the gate to offer a solution.  This year they were showing off their new line to Metal EVFs.  These new viewfinders have a much sturdier build quality than the earlier models, with a higher price tag to match. If you are at all like me, you probably have a love hate relationship with HDMI.  The new EVF are being offered in a variety of i/o options.  SDI to SDI, HDMI to HDMI and HDMI to SDI. Available in June $1100 – $1400.


Ikan Poduction Program Manager

Ikan was showing off all manner of camera support, LED lights and monitors, including their newly acquired Cinemáge reference quality monitors.  The one thing that stood out for me was their suite of production apps for mobile devices. The suite consists of 5 integrated apps. Slate, Teleprompter, Cast and Crew Database, Script, and Forms.  By design all the apps work together to share pertinent information from one to the other. So changes made in the Script app can update the Prompter and Slate info, for example.  In addition, multiple devices on the same production can share the same info. So when the PA get the talent to digitally sign a talent release form (including a photo), the PM will see that updated info on her own device.



The guys at Jag35 are working really hard to build very affordable camera accessories for DSLR shooters. This year they were showed off a $900 wireless lens motor system. While still in the prototype state, it was pretty close to finished.  For the Money you get 2 motor and gear assemblies, two battery plates, a wireless receiver, and a wireless transmitter/controller. The system seemed very responsive, but the motors are a bit noisy. I was told that the noise was the trade off to make it affordable.  It might be a deal breaker for me, but I can see how others might not find the noise a problem at all.


Contour HD GPS camera

Contour make a quality, mountable HD camera that compete directly with the GoPro.  Their latest version integrates a GPS system that records GPS data in the metadata of the video, which promises to valuable in countless way. There’s also the ability to send and image to you iPhone and Android to assist with frame when mounting the viewfinderless camera.  Technically, you can review your footage, but at a greatly reduced frame rate (choppy playback). They are of course slapping multiple cameras together to capture some pretty nice 3D footage.


TV-Logic OLED LEM-150

The latest screen technology being shown is OLED. If you crave deep blacks, rich colors, and excellent off axis viewing, then OLED is the answer. Sony had and impressive demo of a studio quality OLED monitor that is way out of most people’s budget.  TV Logic had a very nice 15” OLED field monitor which lived up to all of the promise of OLED.  $6200



Convergent Designs Gemini Uncompressed Digital Video Recorder

Many high end production are looking to skip the camera’s internal codec to capture the best quality that camera can offer.  The Gemini offers that ability and more in a very small package (approx. 1lb).  It records to two 2.5” SSDs (sourced from Convergent Designs), which allows for simultanous recording of a single 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 camera signal to both drives, or two different cameras – one to each drive (very useful for 3D production) and of course continuous recorder from one drive to the next. There is a 5” LCD monitor for viewing the image and menus.  I heard a future firmware update will add scopes and false color.


RED Scarlet Lives

The RED booth was the spectical you would expect it to be, complete with a tattoo artist laying down ink in the camera coral. Of course all the Epic cameras were all the rage, but  was surprised to see the Scarlet.  I was introduced to the 2/3” fixed lens model.  Among all the fancy Red features was there snazy LCD screen that doubles as a touch screen control interface for the camera. The one real curiosity is that fact that the the fixed lens has only one ring which is used for focus, zoom and iris.  You can use the menu to choose which function is active, plus the seems to be a toggle button the handle that allow you to switch between two of the three lens functions.  That oddity aside, The image looked pretty good (although the monitors in their both were pretty crappy).  I’d say it a pretty good alternative to the Panasonic HPX250, but at $12,000, that would be a touch sell.


Atomos Ninja and Samurai

Another player in the DVR field thats been making quite a buzz is Atomos with it’s Ninja HDMI to ProRes Recorder and the soon to arrive Samurai HD-SDI to ProRes recorder. The Samurai was presented strictly under glass, but the larger, high res screen looked pretty good. I got to play with Ninja at bit. The workflow seemed very straight forward.  Hit record, capture your scene, pop out the “off the shelf” 2.5” hard drive (although, the recommend you use a SSD), connect to your computer and the ProRes footage is ready to edit – no transcode required. While the build quality is much better than I expected, I was really disappointed to learn that you can’t really playback from the device to an external monitor.  The best you get is a series for still frames the the LCD as a way to confirm that you got a shot. Ninja $1000 and Samurai $1500.


Chimera for LitePanels

Have you ever needed to take the edge off of a 1×1 or struggled with the multiple shadows  from all those LEDs? Well Chimera has a solution and one with very little light loss. The LED LightBank for 1×1 (there are models for other LED Lights) is a $325 softbox with three densities of diffusion.  Each diffusion panel is made of a high tech holographic film that is able to diffuse the light while still allowing the vast majority of the light to pass thru. In fact, the heaviest panel only reduces the light output by 3/10th of a stop.


I couldn’t cover every thing I saw in the post,
but I do have I lot of picts I’d love to share.