#NABShow: Day Two at 2014 NAB Show with Debra Kaufman

: By Debra Kaufman

Tuesday was another great day on the NAB 2014 show floor. I started off again at the Teradek booth doing a live streaming broadcast; my guests were Jeff Woods from HP, talking about the DreamColor monitor; Michael Lewis and Patrick Palmer from Adobe, talking about the company’s integrated products from pre-pro through post; and Curtis Clark, ASC, ColorWorks colorist Scott Ostrowsky and ColorWorks Director of Post Production Technologies Mike Whipple talking about the end-to-end 4K production and post workflow. Of course the topics we discussed were all central to the main trends we’re seeing at NAB.

Tomorrow’s Teradek program includes Blackmagic Design President Dan May; MTI Films Product Manager JD Vandenberghe; Bling/SIM Digital workflow producer Arthur Ditner and ITV (International TV) Alliance CEO Allison Dollar. So, tune in to Teradek at 9 am Pacific Time.

New cameras, especially the 4K variety, are the biggest buzz of NAB 2014. Yesterday, I discussed AJA’s 4K Scion camera yesterday, and today I made sure to stop by Blackmagic Design to hear about its new 4K URSA camera. In a conversation with Dan May, he reminded me that Blackmagic Design bought Cintel almost two years ago. One of Cintel’s last telecine’s was URSA, and Blackmagic Design repurposed the name for its new full-sized production camera.  The camera has been in the works for nearly two years, says May. “The concerns were how to make it work for a single or multiple users, to be able to use it on a tripod or shoulder.” Features include Super 35mm sensor, global shutter and 12-stops of dynamic range. Frame rate goes up to 60p, and there is a single cable output to 4K. “This feels like an aspirational product,” says May.

The URSA comes in two lens-mount versions that are part of the sensor package; they are not interchangeable but are upgradeable. The EF-mount version is $6,000 and the PL-mount is $6,500; both are expected to ship in July.

Blackmagic also showed its Studio Camera, an advanced broadcast camera strictly aimed at live production. It includes a 10-inch viewfinder (which some attendees have dubbed “the iPad”), MFT lens, 4-hour battery, built-in talkback, tally indicators, phantom powered XLR microphones. “It’s a unique design but fit to use,” said May. The 2K version is $2,000 and the 4K version is $3,000.

What caught my attention is the Cintel Film Scanner that’s compact enough to hang on a wall or place on a desk and that offers real-time Ultra HD scans. “There’s gold in all those 35mm film cans,” said May. Blackmagic showed the Scanner as a technology demo for the first time, looking for feedback, but it is expected to ship in late 2014 for $30,000.

I stopped in at Avid to speak with Doug Hansel, Senior Manager, Segment & Product Marketing – Pro Video and David Colantuoni, Senior Director, Product Management, Broadcast, Storage and Editors. Avid Everywhere was the top of their discussion list. “Avid Everywhere is about helping all our customers in terms of how content is being consumed:  on demand,” said Hansel, who pointed out that “people are buried in files.” The metadata industry has been slow to adopt standards and processes, he added. “We want to tag metadata more efficiently and tie assets to customers more efficiently. It’s all about monetizing assets.”

The foundation of Avid Everywhere is the Media Central Platform, an open, extensible, and customizable foundation that streamlines and simplifies workflows by tightly integrating all products and services that run on top of it. “We invite everyone – including competitors – to join Media Central Platform,” said Colantuoni. “We’ll be sharing APIs. Avid has taken a leadership position, but members will dictate the direction of the platform.”

As I reported on Day Zero, Autodesk has unveiled Smoke 2015, a brand new version that features timeline FX. “People said Smoke got too complicated too fast,” says Senior Industry Marketing Manager, Professional Video Marc Hamaker. “We’ve re-architected it to be faster, with Action 3D at the timeline level. In the future, there’ll be more capabilities at the timeline level.”

“There will always be a learning curve with Smoke,” he added. “This is professional software and for $200/month, it’s a month-to-month operating expense. Many professionals will need an advanced tool such as Flame, and the barrier of entry is low.”

I also visited Assimilate, where I met with VP of Marketing Steve Bannerman and talked about Scratch, which is often dubbed “a post house in a box,” with capabilities that range from Digital Intermediates to dailies and finishing. Assimilate has just unveiled Scratch and Scratch Lab Version 8, which, says Bannerman, “is the most significant version” in some time. “We have acquired a license to encode ProRes,” he said. “We got Windows client software only, which means a high volume, lower price point, which is where everyone wants to be. We’ve been inundated by people downloading trials.”

“We want to enable the freelance community,” he added. “Our software can be rented by the day, the week, the month or the year. It’s a direct cost that can be billed back to a production, as opposed to an operating cost.”

Assimilate is de-Bayering RED footage in real-time (up to Epic) via GPU only. The company now also supports Blackmagic Design‘s Decklink. “Many Resolve users want to use Scratch on the same machine,” said Bannerman. “This opens up possibilities and answers a pent-up demand.”

Assimilate also partnered with Bluefish444, HP, AJA, Fusion iO and NVIDIA to create a complete, turnkey 4K system marketed by B&H. “Many people have said they won’t buy a 4K system until it comes down to the price of a 2K system,” said Bannerman. “By aggregating special pricing from all the involved vendors, we’ve created a product whose price range is between $18,000 and $25,000 and is shipping now.”

Scratch Player is a product that Assimilate launched in September. A free player that plays back any format including all raw formats from all cameras, Scratch Player has been downloaded “tens of thousands” of times, said Bannerman.

Speaking of NVIDIA, I met with Senior Product Manager Andrew Page to take a look at some of the new ways that the GPU company is providing solutions for the media and entertainment industry. Among the demonstrations was 4K GPU de-Bayering to Premiere Pro on an HP Z820 with NVIDIA’s Quadro K6000. “All the color processing is live,” said Page. Other workflows with the Quadro K6000 included 4K animation with Maya, again on an HP Z820; and GPU-accelerated final frame rendering with Chaos V-Ray on a Dell Precision T7610, which renders scenes in minutes rather than hours. “This blurs the line between pre-viz and production,” said Page. “It takes virtual production to the next level.”

IRay VCA is NVIDIA’s renderer that has mainly been used for automotive styling but, said Page, VFX professionals are now clamoring to use it. “It doesn’t do fur or hair,” he said. “But it does interactive photorealistic rendering. You can daisy-chain them together to get even more speed and quality.”

I also visited Dutch company Vidigo, which specializes in software-based TV studio automation. The company’s system was recently installed at the ABC station in Philadelphia. At the heart of the company’ system is the VidiGo engine, a fully IT-based engine with control of i/o, audio, video and graphics. The company’s most popular product is VidiGo Toolbox, a scan converter for PC content to air and full Skype integration.

Bluefish444 announced its support for Assimilate Scratch V. 8. “We can now support up to 4K 60p,” said Managing Director Craige Mott. “In an Avid-centric workflow, we can take up to four SDi inputs and encode to Avid‘s DNxHD while simultaneously editing in Media Composer. It’s a bi-directional use of the cards called IngeStore and available on every Bluefish product.”

Mediaproxy unveiled a next generation LogServer suite of products, including redesigned user-interfaces that are similar to industry leading GUIs, resulting in consistency and ease-of-use. The components include LogServer ASI, LogServer IP, TSAnalyzer, and Monwall. XDT showcased its latest version of its flagship product Catapult, a fast and secure software-based data transfer application that works over any existing WAN and LAN network. “We are entering the market as the most cost effective way to do bulk data transfer over any network,” said Managing Director Erik Otto. “Deluxe – with Company 3, EFILM and Method – are all standardized on this.”

Big data was a concern at Hitachi Data Systems, which addressed the increase of data in media workflows. HDS highlighted its various partnerships, including with Adobe, Globosat in Brazil, and Foxtel. HDS also showcased its Hitachi Content Platform and Unified Compute Platform solutions.

Also of interest was a new approach to virtual production from French company SolidAnim. “SolidTravck brings a revolutionary approach to camera tracking and visualization of complex VFX shots, dealing with green screen, compositing, 3D rendering and complex camera moves,” said CEO Isaac Partouche. The highly mobile system can be set up in 15 minutes and instantly tracks any new setup. Comprised of one cable and one survey camera, SolidTrack does not need any visible markers even on a green screen and is compatible with additional external information such as encoders and gyros. On set tracking can be exported in FBX format.

Today I also had some fun hosting a Broadcast Beat video interview with Greg Hirst, Business Development Director of Forbidden, a pioneering cloud editing/post tool that we use at Broadcast Beat. I think you’ll find the interview informative and fascinating.

Wrapping up Day Two’s events, I’d also like to comment that the vibe on the NAB show floor is more positive than it’s been in several years. The industry was hit hard both by the recession and other upheavals. This year, I am sensing that people are more relaxed and upbeat about the industry, a feeling that was confirmed in my conversations with people throughout the day.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is the last big day at the show. Again, I’m going to be visiting quite a number of exhibitors as well as moderating an NAB Cloud Conference panel in which three industry leaders describe real-world cloud applications.


Debra Kaufman has covered entertainment and technology for 25 years, for publications including International Cinematographer, CineMontage, HD Video Pro, Film & Video, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and American Cinematographer among others. She was most recently Associate Editor at Creative COW. She has organized and moderated panels at the HPA Tech Retreat, NAB, CES, NATPE, SIGGRAPH, Produced By, Editor’s Lounge and many other industry trade shows and events. She taught a course on digital visual effects at UCLA Extension for five years, and edited a series on CGI/animation for Focal Press. Her work has also appeared in Wired, The Los Angeles Times, Reuters and The New York Times.
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