This year I combined my love of Las Vegas and crowds, and attended the NAB Show. I tweeted up a storm during the show, and collected all that noise on Storify — but I also wanted to summarize my impressions here.
Blackmagic Design URSA Mini
When Blackmagic Design announced the URSA at last year’s NAB Show, I joked that they had finally created a “camera-shaped camera” — but that was before I saw one in person. The URSA is a 16+ pound behemoth covered in LCD displays everywhere but where you most need them, unless you’re doing the only thing I’ve ever seen anyone do with one, which is drop it on sticks and shoot at eye level.
This year, Blackmagic showed that three years of making cameras has taught them a few things. The URSA Mini they showed off at this year’s show is truly a mature, smart camera design. I totally want one.
There are more thorough overviews of the camera out there, but here are a few tidbits I picked up at the show:
- The URSA Mini is available with either a 4K sensor or a new 4.6K sensor. The 4K sensor is apparently the same one Blackmagic has used previously, which was criticized. The new sensor promises 15 stops of dynamic range and a global shutter. My opinion is that Blackmagic would have done well to make this the only option.
- The Mini lacks internal ND filers, which is about the only criticism I’ve seen making the rounds, albeit very loudly. When I asked a Blackmagic rep about this, he was very candid with me — he said they simply don’t have the optical expertise to do it well — yet.
- The Mini works with the new Blackmagic EVF that also fits the “maxi” URSA. This EVF is really lovely in person, and I wouldn’t consider buying any URSA without one.
- If you held the Mini at the show, you should know that the production models will be made of magnesium, and therefore lighter than the aluminum show models.
- If I was going to pre-order an URSA Mini today, I’d get the 4.6K model with EF mount, the EVF, the shoulder kit, and the battery plate. All told, that’s about $7K — which is pretty darn reasonable.
- Oh, and don’t forget CFast2 cards.
Canon C300 Mark II
Canon may not be disrupting anything with this $16,000 4K sequel, but I’m sure it’s a solid camera. And hey, it has built-in NDs!
Resolve 12 and Adobe Premiere CC 2015
With the latest release of Premiere and the new Magic Bullet Suite 12, I am finally dropping my long-held stance that the best way to master a film project is to move it from your NLE into a finishing environment such as Adobe After Effects. This means I’m a fan of color grading in the NLE, as you can tell from my latest spate of tutorials.
Both Adobe and Blackmagic Design are supporting this idea by converging their flagship filmmaking products. Adobe added a bunch of color correction tools to their NLE, and Blackmagic is pushing very hard to make an NLE out of their color correction software.
I’m excited about both of these developments. Adobe has essentially done exactly what I recommended back in 2011 when they acquired IRIDAS SpeedGrade. Basic color control should be as intrinsic a part of a video clip as volume control is to an audio clip. Now that Adobe has done that, I’d love to see more support for real color grading workflows in Premiere — things like stillstores, tools for comparing/matching several shots in a sequence, and more advanced masking options, such as the ability to cut one mask with another, as we can in After Effects.
Am I concerned about Premiere shipping with color effects that do some of what Magic Bullet Looks, Colorista, and Film do? Quite simply: no. Red Giant’s tools provide a power and ease-of-use that’s tough to beat, and I relish the opportunity to complement Adobe’s color tools, and even to compete with them in a friendly way. Remember my tips for How to Kick the Tires on a Color Corrector? Keep holding both Red Giant and Adobe to those standards, and we filmmakers will always come out on top.
As for Resolve, my biggest complaint has always been that few working editors I know have luxurious enough schedule or client relationships to lock a cut and move their projects to a dedicated color tool. But if you could start your cut and finish it in Resolve? Now that’s interesting.
There were two disruptively-priced gimbal rigs that caught my eye. The DJI Ronin-M is available now for preorder for only $1,399, and then there’s the Nebula 4000lite, which is tiny, affordable at $769 with a battery, and fun to use — as long as you’re not the one that has to balance it. Its compact design blocks your view of the camera LCD though, so I was very happy to be able to try one out before buying. You might find yourself needing enough additional support gear to push the price into the Ronin territory.
LCD Monitors and Recorders
One of the more confusing things at the show was comparing the various monitoring and recording options. Blackmagic announced the Video Assist 5“ HD LCD that will record 1080p ProRes, for just $495. SmallHD showed their 502 with optional Sidefinder attachment, which costs over twice that and doesn’t record — but supports 3D LUTs, which Blackmagic told me the Video Assist will not. I went to the Atomos booth a few times to try our their monitor/recorder options, but got distracted by their naked ninja lady every time, so I’m of little use to you there, sorry.
Since I first posted about it, I’ve had occasion to use frame.io on a real project, and I already can’t live without it.
Redrock Micro HĀLO
Thank goodness Brian Valente of Redrock Micro never learned to pull focus. He seems to have a personal vendetta against out of focus video. And he was very humble about showing off his latest effort in this holy war, perhaps because some of his previous solutions were slow to materialize. The result of his quiet humility was the best experience of the show for me — the slow, dawning realization that I was seeing something truly transformative.
The HĀLO system is a LIDAR scanner combined with a powered remote lens control system and a wireless focus controller with an LCD touch screen. The LIDAR scanner — the same kind self-driving cars use — recognizes the contours of people, and tracks them, displaying them in a way that will have you reciting your favorite quotes from Aliens.
You can use the tracking dots to assist manual focus pulling. Or you can tap one of the people-dots, and HĀLO will automatically track it. Tap a different person’s dot to instantly rack focus to them — even if they’re out of frame, as the LIDAR scans a very wide field.
HĀLO can be aware of your aperture (possibly even driving it), so it can show your true DOF as a soft glow around the focus radius. And you can also manually focus by dragging that focus radius with your finger. Release, and focus snaps back to the person you were last tracking.
The system requires nothing in front of the camera, and is very compact. It’s as useful as an aide to a professional focus puller as it is to a single shooter who would rather not stress out about keeping sharps on a slow push-in on a moving subject.
The most amazing things about all this is? It actually works. And Redrock Micro intends to make it preposterously affordable.
Red Giant hosted several press events, including a really fun panel with myself, Seth Worley of Red Giant Films, Ryan Connolly of Film Riot, Niko Pueringer and Sam Gorski of Corridor Digital, and the singular Freddie Wong. We had a blast talking about how much Freddie hates slates. Seriously.
And The Rest
This was a really solid NAB Show. Not a lot of frivolous products or trends, and some nice maturations of kit we’ve seen through its awkward toddler stages. I was happy to catch up with friends at the RED booth and wrap my head about their powerful but confusing Weapon upgrade path, and to hold an ALEXA Mini, a camera I expect to see everywhere I go for many years to come.
Do check out my long string of postings from the show floor for many more things I didn’t mention here, including cameras from Kinefinity and Apertus, and a look at my SMPTE socks. And if you want real, solid impressions of the show from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about, you won’t do better than the most recent episode of the RC podcast, featuring Jason Wingrove breifing Mike Seymour on many of the items mentioned here.