Sunday, April 25, 2010

The NAB Wrap up

Well, the show is over and the number of changes that we are seeing is occurring at an astonishing rate.  I think we are not that far from the point where digital imagery can supplant film in terms of look, latitude, and dynamic range, not to mention resolution.  Mark my words, there will come a day when content producers will wonder why people were obsessed with the "film look" back in the dawn of the digital image revolution.

The first time I looked at making a film was around 1988.  It was a simple short that had both interiors and exteriors and was about 15 minutes in length.  After doing my research, I determined that my cost to do this was going to be around $33,000.  An amount that far exceeded my fiduciary wherewithal at the time.

A mere ten years later, the landscape had changed so significantly as to reduce this cost by half.  And in another 10 years the cost had come down so low and the quality had gone up so much as to rival the same trends that we have seen in the computer world.

So, with all of that perspective in mind, let's look at what some of the more significant announcements were at NAB that I did not cover in the previous blog post.

DaVinci Resolve

Blackmagic Design's announcement of the pricing of DaVinci Resolve truly exemplifies the type of lower cost / higher quality that I spoke of above.  DaVinci color correction has been the bar to which all others have aspired in this arena.  In the past, this color correction system has been used by all of the big Hollywood studios and the big post houses.  After all, they were the only ones that could afford such a high end tool (some configurations topping $1M in cost).

And now, Black Magic Design is offering DaVinci Resolve in a software only configuration for the Mac for $995.  That's just insane...  Now you won't be doing 2K footage on this platform but you can do HD footage all day long.  Just as a caveat, it does require a control surface.  Also, performance can be increased by the addition of GPU based video cards and Resolve will leverage the additional processing power of the GPUs.

There was a ton of very cool stuff at NAB this year.  I think that this one tops the list.

Arri Alexa

Clearly targeted at the RED ONE, the new Arri digital camera looks to be a real game changer.  Coming in at around $65K with accessories, it is competitive in price to the RED ONE, similarly equipped.  The Alexa is a 2K camera rated at ISO 800.  Admittedly, at these prices, most of the users are renting, but it's still significant in terms of reduced costs.  AWN's blog covered a side by side test of the new RED Mysterium X equipped camera and the Alexa HERE. One of the clear advantages that Arri has here is their infrastructure for professional cameras and their experience in the pro world.  But, at the end of the day, it's the image that matters.  And people are stunned by what they have seen.

I think we can all thank RED for precipitating developments like this.  Competition is good.

LITEPANELS Sola series

LitePanels introduced a set of Fresnel LED lights that look to be pretty incredible.  For me, the Sola 12 is of particular interest.  This is a 2K Fresnel that draws 250 watts of power.  It's also dim-able with no impact on color temp.  That's huge.  You can have 4 of these running off of household current.  This is really nice when you are on a practical set and have no generator.  Most of your typical household circuits are rated at about 2K watts or so.  This is very slick.  Speaking of LitePanels, we have one of their smaller on-cam lights that we use to do things like stuffing a light into a cramped space (We used it recently on a shoot to light the interior of a refrigerator).  The name used for these is Grenade - Because of the similarity of the array of LEDs to an old style "Pineapple" Grenade.  So make sure you don't drop it :)

OK, I am going to stop bending your ear here.  If you want more highlights from the show, be sure and check out FreshDV's coverage of the show.  It's second to none.  But, I will leave you with this lame joke:

Q: How many grips does it take to screw in a light bulb? 
A: Two.  One to hold it and one to hammer it in.

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