NAB Show 2015 Features 4K, IP, Drones

Technology more affordable than ever
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Attendees gather around the entrance to the Central Hall just before the exhibition floor opens on Monday morning.

The 2015 NAB Show sprawled over four massive exhibition halls and had more than 1,700 exhibitors, stretching the limits of what any one person can see in the 31 hours the show floor was open. In fact, if you needed to do detailed research, you could have spent half that time just at the camera vendors or scouring the booths of camera support and accessory manufacturers.

There’s so much to cover, so let’s just dive in.

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Bjorn Estlund of Pac-12 Networks checks out a Canon XC10 4K camcorder.

There was big action this year at the NAB with cameras, specifically 4K cameras. Nearly all new camera announcements are for 4K cameras, from high-end cinema-targeted models to affordable cameras that fit government budgets. One example is the Canon XC10, which has a one-inch 4K sensor and a built-in 10x zoom lens. It has two onboard memory slots for an SD card and a CFast card (an advanced version of Compact Flash memory) that allows recording of 4:2:2 4K and HD video at bitrates up to 305 Mbps. Equally impressive will be its $2,500 list price when it becomes available in June.

Blackmagic Design continues to surprise NAB attendees with new cameras and new versions of existing cameras. Based on the premise that 4K is not enough, Blackmagic now has a 4.6K sensor for its Ursa single-sensor digital film cameras. The 4.6K sensor is Super 35-sized and features resolution of 4,608 x 2,592 pixels at 120 frames per second. The company also claims 15 stops of dynamic range for images comparable to traditional 35mm film.

The Ursa is now available in two sizes, with the original large unit that has a 10-inch flip-out display and the Ursa Mini that has a five-inch flip-out display. The Ursa Mini comes with the 4.6K sensor and will retail for $3,000 when it becomes available in June. As fantastic as that price seems, Blackmagic will tell you that you need to add significant accessories to make the camera usable, including a lens and storage products.

Panasonic had its new HC-X1000 4K camera at the show. Reviewed in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of Government Video, it has a built-in 20x lens and two SD card slots.

Panasonic also debuted the AG-DVX200 4K large-sensor (micro four-thirds) handheld camcorder, which includes features such as 4K/60p recording, a built-in 13x optical zoom lens and a V-Log L gamma curve with 12 stops of contrast latitude. The company additionally announced a firmware upgrade for its popular 4K-capable Lumix GH4 micro four-thirds camera.

JVC had several camera announcements as well, showing three new models that target a variety of workflows: the GY-LS300 Super 35mm camcorder, GY-HM200 streaming camcorder and GY-HM170 compact camcorder. The GY-LS300 is targeted at cinematographers, documentarians and broadcast production departments, and it features a 4K Super 35 CMOS sensor and micro four-thirds lens mount.

The GY-HM200 is aimed at ENG, corporate and government applications, featuring a 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS chip and built-in 12x zoom lens. It delivers 4K and 4:2:2 full HD at 50 Mbps, and it includes a built-in HD streaming engine with Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connectivity.

The third new JVC camera is the GY-HM170, which is similar to the GY-HM200, but without the streaming capability. The GY-HM170 also lacks the XLR audio inputs that its larger siblings have.

There were many new camera products from several other manufacturers, including three-chip image sensor 4K cameras from Sony, Grass Valley and Hitachi. Actually, the Hitachi SK-UHD4000 camera uses *four* “super-sampled” 2K sensors to achieve its 4K output.

Ikegami, AJA, Red, Arri, Nikon, GoPro and others all had fascinating cameras for a wide range of shooting needs and styles, so be sure you look up any of your favorites for full details.

DRONES

Another big area of interest at NAB Show 2015 was camera support, which includes all those items used to hold a camera to get the shot you want. Perhaps the hottest camera support product at the show was drones, which were everywhere on the floor and impossible to ignore.

As with other product categories, drones come in many shapes, sizes and price-points.

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Karsten Carlson of Quadrocopter shows off the Freefly Hexacopter (left) to Alan Guthrie, Tom Oja and Stan Carter (left to right) from the Educational Media Foundation.

One of the large ones was the Hexacopter CineStar 6 ARF Professional by Freefly Systems, which can carry larger cameras for serious video and cinema production. One of the new developments this year is improved programmability enable the unit to repeat exactly the same flight path to enable multiple takes.

New at the show was the DJI Phantom 3, a small four-rotor drone that is available in two versions: the 4K Phantom 3 Professional and an HD version called the Phantom 3 Advanced. Both come with their respective cameras and also have a Lightbridge feature that beams back a 720p view to the handheld controller of what the cameras is seeing, from up to 1.2 miles away.

CAMERA SUPPORT

There were many more drones and cameras for drones at the NAB, but the camera support corner of the industry is literally exploding. This is apparently driven by cameras that are getting smaller, even as their capabilities are increasing.

In the past 25 years, we first saw the growth of Steadicam-like body-mounted stabilizers, then similar handheld products that could provide the same function for small lightweight cameras. These are still popular, but they are just one of a multiplying variety of camera support products.

Very popular in the past 10 years have been sliders, which let you smoothly move a camera in-and-out or side-to-side, adding a sense of motion to an otherwise static screen image. These are so popular that they are now common in films, scripted TV series, reality programs, documentaries AND television news.

There were plenty of sliders at NAB Show 2015, in all shapes, sizes and configurations. These included motorized sliders, ones with cranks and other manual motion mechanisms and tripod-mounted tracks with built-in curves. As cameras get smaller and yet more capable, the size and weight of sliders has been keeping track. That leads to some inexpensive professional products that provide a lot of bang for the buck.

One example was at the Varavon booth, where the company’s Slidecam Arc provided a curved one-meter track to add interest to shots. Another was the Kessler Pocket Dolly that has a big flywheel-stabilized crank to allow for smooth camera slides or dollies.

A couple years ago, one of the interesting products was a handle with a gimbal-mounted platform for a camera. This made for interesting moving shots that mimicked the point-of-view of a person or animal. At this year’s NAB, there were more of these devices—and at lower prices.

The first one to make a splash with a gimbal stabilizer was Freefly Systems’ MoVI, which has a couple different models for cameras of different sizes. At the show, DJI (the drone manufacturer) also drew a crowd with its Ronin Gimbal Stabilizer, which it had actually shown a year before. Another crowd pleaser was the Letus Helix Jr., a small and affordable gimbal stabilizer for small and affordable cameras.

MONITORS

Monitors are always among the popular items for government video operations at the NAB. A couple of companies such as Atomos and Blackmagic Design now have small monitors for field shooting that also include recording capability.

Blackmagic’s is called the Video Assist, and it is a portable, all-in-one professional five-inch monitor and video recorder that can be used with any SDI or HDMI camera. It saves files in ProRes and other professional formats, using SD cards as the storage medium.

The Atomos Ninja Blade has a five-inch display and HD recording capability using an HDMI port. It records 10-bit 4:2:2 video in ProRes format on a solid-state hard drive.

LIGHTING

LED lighting has likewise seen major growth in companies displaying at the NAB, with everything from massive studio lights to small and inexpensive on-camera lights. Well-known companies, such as Frezzi, Lowel Light, Videssence and Kino-Flo, competed for lighting attention with newer companies, such as Zylight, AAdynTech and BBS Lighting.

Zylight showed the Newz, a small, punchy on-camera light that can move in its mount to better clear accessories such as on-camera monitors and shotgun microphones. Nila featured the Varsa, an LED light that is equivalent to a 400-Watt HMI, yet draws only 75 Watts.

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Joe Sandoval (left) from the City of Commerce, Calif., shares a laugh with Renee Staul of Belden as she explains the company’s 10GXS (Category 6A) cable.

Of course, all this gear has to be connected and one of the major topics at NAB 2015 was the increasing importance of IP connectivity for television products. In particular, many studio products showed IP connectivity for both control and signal flow, although other vendors on the floor showed 12G-SDI coax cable capability that can handle uncompressed 4K video.

There was a lot to absorb in with regard to IP connectivity, but it was reassuring to know that popular cable manufacturer Belden had an array of cables for any type of signal flow. One new product from Belden is its 10GXS Category 6A cable—perfect for the new world of IP interconnection.

NAB Show 2015 was seemingly endless in its array of exhibitors, sessions and technologies, and you could spend hours researching any one category of products.

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