The Top Products of NAB 2008

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Tue, 05/13/2008 - 20:00 -- Nick Dager

The 2008 National Association of Broadcasters convention was held in Las Vegas last month and hosted more than 100 000 attendees who saw an overwhelming assortment of technology. Here are the six products that we found the most interesting and noteworthy. Sony F35 Camera For quite some time now the Hollywood motion picture production community has been calling for a consistent 4K workflow from acquisition through post-production and exhibition. Cameras are a key part of that equation and Sony addressed the issue at this show. A bit sooner than expected the company unveiled the widely anticipated F35 camera system its newest addition to the CineAlta line and the follow up to the successful F23. The F35 features a 35mm CCD image sensor 10-bit 4:4:4 recording and a PL mount. “The F35 complements the F23 with both addressing very distinct production environments and applications ” said Rob Willox director of Sony Electronics’ content creation group. “We realize that many customers prefer a 35mm large-format sensor while others want the 2/3-inch sensor size of the F23. As with all our camera technologies we want to give end users their choice of production tools.” The new camera incorporates many of the F23’s ergonomics and “film-style” design elements. For example Sony’s SRW-1 digital recorder will dock directly to the top or to the tail of the new system eliminating the need for cumbersome cable handling between the camera and recorder. The camera body will also be compatible with a variety of film camera accessories including bridge plates matte boxes and follow focus units. The F35 adds several new features many the direct result of feedback from production professionals. Dynamic range is extended to from 700 percent to 800 percent and an improved signal-to-noise ratio allows users to obtain more “quiet” black even during dark scenes. It can capture RGB 4:4:4 1080/50P content making it ideal for RGB composition of visual-effects work. Its variable frame rate capability allows users to capture and record images from one fps to 50fps. The depth of field on the new camera is equal to that of a film camera and can easily be made shallower or deeper. The adoption of a PL mount enables the F35 to use the vast majority of existing 35mm motion picture camera optics including specialty lenses such as fish eye swing shift and baby periscope. Pre-set S-log Gamma delivers wide latitude retaining details of sunlit areas and shadows as well as maintaining tonal gradation of night sky scenes. The F35 camera will be available late 2008 with suggested list pricing to be announced. Codex Digital Portable Field Recorder The Codex Portable features cutting-edge design and is packed with today’s most advanced technology. It is the first lightweight disk recorder to record from HD to 4K at cinema quality – and to seamlessly deliver the material to any post-production workflow. It can record from Sony ARRI Panavision Panasonic Thomson and Dalsa cameras among many others. As a rugged self-contained unit no larger than a toaster the Portable can be used for ‘run and gun’ production and be carried anywhere – around a set up a mountain or into a field. However the Codex Portable also creates new opportunities for multi-camera production. Using visually loss less compression it has the ability to record from two 4:4:4 cameras simultaneously – either independently for A and B camera shoots or locked together for 3D stereo projects. It is also the first to record from four 4:2:2 cameras simultaneously and six synchronized Codex Portables can act as a 24-track video 48-track audio-recorder – enough to record an entire concert sporting event or TV drama. Cinematographer Geoff Boyle who was given an early preview of the Codex Portable said “Occasionally a product comes along that is just so right that you don’t know what to say about it except… ‘Yes’. But the Codex Portable isn’t just a recorder it is part of a well-thought-out system that eases workflow from the camera to post-production.” The Codex Portable is the first portable disk-recorder to handle all formats up to 4K at cinema-quality and the first to handle both video and data-mode cameras. Recording is made to hot-swappable shock-mounted RAID or Solid-State DiskPacks that can hold up to three hours of continuous recording at the system’s highest quality – the first portable recorder (disk or tape) to offer such capability and capacity. The compression method used is a high bit-rate version of JPEG2000. When used in the field the Codex Portable delivers immediate full-frame playback and review of footage on a daylight-readable touchscreen. A unique feature is a secure wireless system which enables instant shot logging or remote control of the system from any networked computer or PDA. The Codex Portable even features a special “Mutter Track” microphone input which allows the user to add comments during a take for shot logging and notes. The Codex Portable is priced at $44 500. Codex Digital expects to ship the first production-ready units in June. JVC MR-HD200U Media Recorder At the lower end of the production spectrum independent filmmakers have been intrigued by the possibilities of tapeless production but have been turned off by the high cost of solid state media. At this NAB JVC addressed that need with a media recorder that can work with non-proprietary media. JVC says the unit brings the media cost-per-minute to within the range of Beta SP tape. The MR-HD200U is JVC’s new camera-mounted media recorder that attaches directly to any of JVC's ProHD 200 Series camcorders. The compact unit records on non-proprietary Secure Digital High Capacity solid state memory and can be permanently attached to JVC's ProHD cameras. A single 16GB SDHC memory card can store 1.6 hours in the 720p mode and approximately 1.2 hours in 1080i mode. The unit also features a built-in hard disk drive for extended recording times of up to 10 hours. Recorded image is the same HD broadcast quality whether recording on solid state memory or the hard disk drive. All recording is done in a swappable module that can be detached from the camera. The MR-HD200 records natively in a choice of QuickTime (.mov) format or as MPEG2 transport stream files (.m2t). By recording files in an editing-friendly native format post-production can begin without file conversion transcoding and rewrapping. The interchangeable module can be easily detached from the camera for editing from the built-in HDD. When using Apple's Final Cut Pro editing can be done directly from the drive module eliminating the time consuming process of transferring files into the computer. The MR-HD200 is expected to be available in the fourth quarter of this year. Cine-tal Color Processor for Dolby 3D The biggest buzz in moviemaking today is 3D but to date there have been few production tools aimed specifically and helping a producer work in 3D. To fill part of that need Cine-tal Systems announced that it has developed customized image processing technology for Dolby Laboratories that facilitates the playback of 3D movies using a Dolby 3D Digital Cinema process while they are in production. The technology which will be deployed under the name Cine-tal Color Processor for Dolby 3D is aimed at movie studios and other producers of stereoscopic 3D films using a Dolby 3D Digital Cinema process for post production operations such as color grading and screenings. The system employs Dolby’s advanced color processing for playback of any 3D-source material that has not yet been packaged into a Digital Cinema Package. Cine-tal’s solution ensures color accuracy in 3D playback so that the playback image matches Dolby 3D Digital Cinema systems used in theaters. “Dolby believes it is important to provide technology that delivers content exactly as the artist intended so the audience can enjoy what the creators experienced while they were in production ” said David Gray vice president worldwide production services Dolby Laboratories. “We are excited to be working with Cine-tal Systems on the Dolby 3D Color Processor which brings Dolby 3D to the post-production facilities.” “This technology will come as a welcome advance to everyone involved in making 3D movies using Dolby 3D Digital Cinema ” said Cine-tal president and CEO Rob Carroll. “Producers can review conformed 3D material from any source just as they would if they were producing a conventional 2D film. It also allows producers to review their work confident that what they see is what they will get when the film is shown in theaters.” The Dolby 3D Color Processor is based on image processing technology incorporated into Cine-tal’s display systems including its Cinemage digital monitor. The technology is already in use by a major motion picture studio in Hollywood and at Dolby Laboratories’ facility in Burbank. “Cine-tal is very pleased that Dolby chose to work with us to develop this solution ” said Carroll. “We are always eager to work with technology leaders to create solutions for professional markets either through an OEM relationship or directly through the Cine-tal brand.” Cine-tal Davio For the first time we are naming two products from the same company to the list of Top Products from the show. The lines between production and post-production have become increasingly blurred in recent years and the end result is that different kinds of productions often call for different kinds of tools. Now there is a software-based system designed to bring some flexibility to the production environment. Cine-tal launched an all-new portable HD video and DI processing system dubbed Davio. Davio is conceived as a smaller lower-cost alternative to the company’s eL 1000. The device is highly configurable so that it can be applied to wide array of production post-production and broadcast workflows. It is also scalable. Multiple Davio s can be combined to handle complex tasks or to keep pace with the growing demands of the user. “We received a lot of requests from our customers for an image processing device that was flexible portable affordable and easy to use ” said Cine-tal Systems CTO and vice president of engineering Peter Polit. “It is based on the same award-winning technology as the eL 1000 and our Cinemage precision monitors and we expect it to be embraced by an even wider range of users.” Davio is a versatile solution for video signal processing needs in a single cost effective platform. Inside the Davio hardware is a programmable image processing architecture designed with the power needed for 3Gb/s SDI and HDMI 1.3 image data. The Davio hardware is coupled the Davio software library creating solutions that meet the most basic to the most complex video processing needs for production post production distribution and exhibition. Davio is an innovative approach to the constant change and expansion of video processing needs. The Davio software library provides a diverse set of image processing tools that expand and adapt with changes in workflow color space and image monitoring. The Davio software library provides tools for: Display calibration & emulation Color pipeline management 3D Stereo Processing Still Store Frame markers graticules and cages\ Future Davio software library development includes tools for: Image comparison tools Test signal generator HD to SD Conversion Frame Rate conversion Format Conversion Metadata encode / decode Video and Audio Delay Bug Inserter Monitoring EDID Toolkit Davio library packages are managed with a software application running on a Windows or Mac personal computer. Library packages are loaded into the Davio hardware through a USB connection network connection or with a Compact Flash Card. Library packages also contain user options or controls that can be configured prior to loading the hardware. Users can create multiple CF cards with different library functions loaded on them and change the function of Davio as needed. This makes it possible to re-configure the function of Davio easily as you transition from stage to stage in a workflow environment. “The control interface is very intuitive ” Polit said. “It’s designed to be used by virtually anyone from a broadcast technician to artists in a post-production environment.” Polit added that the device’s true power is revealed when several units are combined in a single workflow. “You can have any number of these devices sitting next to each other in an image processing chain with each one performing a different set of functions ” he said. “Because they are configurable over a network the workflow can be changed very quickly to perform different tasks simply by applying a library package.” Thomson FilmLight Software-Based Telecine Controller Finally a congratulatory nod to an industry first. Thomson and FilmLight teamed up for a demonstration in which FilmLight’s Baselight color grading system controlled a Thomson Grass Valley Spirit system as a telecine controller. It was the first time that a software-based color corrector had fully controlled a telecine system. The development has broad implications for all post-production workflows that include a color-grading component but it promises to have a particularly strong impact on post for high-end commercials. The demonstration involved a Baselight HD connected to a Spirit 4K scanner. The technology incorporated into version 3.3 of FilmLight’s Baselight software can be employed with any Baselight system and with any model of the Thomson Grass Valley Spirit product line including Spirit HD Spirit 2K Spirit 4K the Shadow telecine and the classic Spirit DataCine. “This demonstration is the result of a breakthrough effort by Thomson and FilmLight and is a moment of great significance for the post-production industry ” said Steve Chapman FilmLight director. “It marks the point when software-based color grading has not only caught up to but in fact has surpassed hardware-based grading. It shows that the future belongs to software solutions exemplified by Baselight.” “Today’s post-production industry is changing rapidly and a telecine or film scanner has to integrate perfectly into the wider workflow to make it a productive and profitable workhorse said Jeff Rosica senior vice president of Thomson’s Broadcast and Professional Solutions within the Systems division. “By integrating our products with other equipment rather than demanding further investments we are helping our customers innovate and stay competitive.”