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NAB 2014 Round-up: A club with 2 ‘k’s, 4K show-stoppers, 6x speed – but it’s A7 heaven for me

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 12:00 AM

With the rigours, revelations and revelry of this year’s NAB still fresh in the mind, WTS Sales Manager Duncan Payne reflects on the array of innovations and surprises showcased in Las Vegas.

Sitting at 30,000 feet returning home from Las Vegas, surrounded by many friendly, if a little weary, faces it seems that NAB has taken its toll on the great and the good of the UK broadcast industry yet again.

This time around, it was a party venue with 2 ‘k’s, and cameras with 4K that were high on the agenda, the new Hakkasan club proving a hit for the customary post-show revelries, while new 4K cameras cropped up in various configurations from some unlikely manufacturers.

CION3 Copy

Hats off to AJA for the surprise announcement of the show. Gasps were audible and whoops inevitable in the early morning dealer meeting as they debuted their new Cion PL mount 4K camera. A packed stand for the entirety of the show confirmed that they had got something very definitely right.

The build quality of the Cion seemed solid, the form factor familiar – and it had the connectivity that you’d hope for in a 4K creative camera. With a release date given in the vaguest terms as “summer” it seems that AJA may have learnt lessons from other non-traditional manufacturers who have overpromised on delivery timescales.

AJA does have an enviable reputation for making kit that reliably does what it claims it can do, so the roll-out of the camera will be worth keeping an eye on. They were already showing some clever applications with their Corvid Ultra processing unit. By lining two 4K cameras up side by side the Corvid Ultra would allow an HD image to be taken from anywhere in the area covered by both cameras, including crossing over between cameras. This functionality is particularly popular in sports coverage for player tracking and off-the-ball incidents, and a relatively low cost point makes this Cion immediately viable.

Varicam _35 

Panasonic, meanwhile, are aiming their new 4K VariCam squarely at the Arri Alexa market, and their new ideas around camera form factor are strikingly clever. They have effectively launched two front ends – a 4K PL-mount version and a 3 x 2/3” CMOS 4K sensors version – both of which dock on to the same recording back end.

This is a neat solution for camera hire companies, freelancers and production companies who find themselves being asked to produce high-end content for traditional TV one day, and ‘shallow depth of field’ content the next. And recording to AVC Ultra mini P2 cards seems like a well thought-out workflow. With Arri still resisting the move to 4K, there will be an intriguing subplot to how the VariCam fares.

The reluctance of film-makers to opt for digital cinema technology rather than film has largely been overcome, in no small part by the Alexa itself, so it will be exciting to see how the Panasonic and the AJA will be adopted. Add into that mix the new Blackmagic 4K offering, the URSA, (see image below) with its focus on upgradability and building everything into the camera, even down to a 10” monitor – though reading other blogs subsequently, there does seem to be some concern over the physical size of the unit.


JVC previewed four 4K cameras in total – though all are a long way off being finished products – and For-A were showing off their 4K high-speed camera, the FT-One, which also looked impressive. Elsewhere, the newly purple Grass Valley gave a technology demonstration of a 4K systems camera, which promises to be an interesting alternative to Sony’s F55/CA-4000 hybrid solution. They also paraded a new LDX ExtremeSpeed camera channel which can produce 6x speed HD pictures. However this only gives 1080i and this speed – or you can get 3x speed operation at 1080P. As you’d expect, this integrates well with their K2 Dyno slo-mo replay system.

Sony seemed a little light on new releases for the broadcast end of the market, though one announcement of note gives an upgrade path for their much-loved F5 camcorder. By returning it to Sony for a new front-end block and global shutter change, you can morph it into an F55. However, with no commencement date and no clues on price, there was something of a sense of anti-climax.

They also revealed a new PDW-850 to replace the popular PDW-700 and PDW-F800 camcorders. I’m all for rationalisation of their extensive product range, but – at an estimated price point between the two current models and with all the features of both camcorders incorporated – the advent of the PDW-850 will surely erode the value of the many PDW-F800s already in the market.   

 PXW-X180 _IO_phantom BR

Sony did grab some attention with their unveiling of the new PXW-X180 camcorder, which boasts a sector-leading 25x zoom lens and is capable of recording full HD XAVC Intra and XAVC Long GOP as well as MPEG 422 50 Mb/s. The camcorder is compatible with SxS PRO+ and SxS-1 memory cards, and, with an appropriate card adaptor, XQD, SDXC and SDHC cards can be also used.

Perhaps the most impressive camera on display though was the little Sony A7s stills camera, with its 4K recording capability. On a dark set at the show the image quality was impressive with little noise. Film-maker, fstopacademy.com founder and longstanding WTS friend Den Lennie test-drove a pre-production model in Japan (see video below) just before NAB and the results were stunning from such a small, low-budget camera.

The other key message from NAB was that of compatibility and collaboration. While NewTek themselves had one of the larger stands and won the best stand award for their Supergirl with Super Powers presentation, there were many manufacturers who were eager to show just how well they work with both the TriCaster and 3Play ranges.

With TriCaster firmly established as the leading live production tool in the market, the clamour to be labelled as an associated product was noticeable. proMAX were showing their Platform storage device, which can act as a seamless archive for storing productions once they are finished. Another TriCaster-compatible manufacturer keen to show off their wares were Vitec (the one that’s pronounced Vee-Teck, as opposed to the tripod people). A quick demo of Proxsys, their ingest and asset management tool, was enough to show that it was pretty smooth and straightforward.

 3Play -440.HR

NewTek themselves had some nice software upgrades – free of charge, too – to their current TriCaster range. They also introduced a new 3Play 440 mid-level replay system, and are offering a significant price-down on their entry level 425 system.

And following on the collaboration theme, Sony presented a codec upgrade option for the PMW-F5 and F55. This new board will add both Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD.

TVU Networks were showcasing an enhanced product range to their video-over-mobile-phone-network solutions, with a 1U box for OB vehicle applications. Their software advances also caught the eye, in particular a GPS tracking device which makes it easier to locate clips in the video piece.

 Panasonic -BT-4LH310

With the spotlight firmly on the 4K cameras, it would be easy to forget that were a number of new monitors also clamouring for the attention of the NAB multitudes. Sony had a prototype BVM-X300 on show – which should be viewed as progress since this model has been limited to a dark room appearance at the two previous big shows. I’d expect a shipping date some time around September’s IBC show in Amsterdam. Panasonic had their 30” 4K screen on show too and having had both screens in a side-by-side shoot-out at our Soho offices recently, the Panasonic could be a popular model.

Also on show was the new TV Logic LUM-300A 30” monitor. The first one has been sold to the BBC no less, and the image quality looked great. It can show 4K 60P on 4 BNC cables, or 4K 30P on 2 BNC cables.   

Notably, 3D seemed to be the black sheep of the broadcast world, with little talk of it at NAB. However, I did find a great pair of Cinemizer OLED glasses from Zeiss which, while making one look like an extra from Star Trek: The Next Generation, succeeded in taking a viewfinder feed from a camera, effectively making the glasses act as the viewfinder. It was a novel idea. The glasses would receive any feed in via a small cable, and I watched Avatar in 3D for a couple of minutes playing from an iPhone at pretty good resolution. I’m not sure about the viewfinder application but the flight home would have passed far quicker had I managed to smuggle a pair out of the show. 

Missed Duncan at NAB? Don’t worry, you can speak to him and our expert sales team about these products or any other from our range of 90-plus suppliers by calling +44 (0)20 7871 0700 or by emailing us.


Sales Manager, Duncan Payne jumping out a plane in Las Vegas

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