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NAB: More K, less D, must-sees and the best party in town

Tuesday, April 01, 2014 12:00 AM

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With all eyes on Las Vegas for NAB Show 2014, WTS Broadcast’s Sales Manager Duncan Payne gives his assessment of who will be the star of the show.

NAB 2014 brings fresh impetus to a year already full of optimism. Confidence seems high, with many oft-deferred buying decisions at last being signed off.

My suspicion is that, with no recent game-changing kit announcements, production companies and freelancers have the peace of mind to commit to a technology knowing it is established and has an acceptable shelf life.

Whilst there is an unquenchable desire from manufacturers to bring us more K and less D, the drive to 4K feels more measured than the frantic rush to 3D just a couple of years ago.

Of course there will be new launches, and the Panasonic Varicam announcements are interesting. It has always struck me as odd that the reversal in market dominance – with Sony leading the way in Europe and Panasonic favoured in the US – is so extreme.

The original 2002 Varicam was a game-changer with widespread adoption in the UK, from documentary makers in particular, and TV production generally. This success has never quite been replicated in the mainstream market place, except when there has been extensive technical testing from the broadcasters. SKY Sports News and Reuters spring to mind, where the workflow benefits and image quality of the Panasonic offering has often won out over the ubiquitous Sony counterpart.     

The theory behind the two new Varicam variants is clever, appealing to hire companies, freelancers and production companies alike who don’t know if the next job will be shot ‘large sensor’ or traditional three-sensor ‘TV’ style.

Varicam 35 Copy

The Varicam 35 utilises a new Panasonic super 35mm MOS sensor for 4096 x 2160 (17:9) 4K image capture on a PL mount., while for traditional TV work the Varicam HS has three 1920 x 1080p MOS imagers. Key features include real-time high frame rate and off-speed recording to 240fps in 1080p (using AVC-Ultra), plus the ability to ramp/change frame rates during recording. Both claim an impressive 14+ stops of dynamic range.

With one recorder but two camera front ends, simply swap the front to suit the job. It’s an NAB must-see – though the forums suggest we won’t witness a launch until later in the year.

TC8000-group -set -small

NewTek seem to be flavour of the month still, with so many small broadcast, tertiary education and corporate clients looking to get professional content to the outside world. At WTS, we have seen great demand across the TriCaster range, from the entry level TC40 to the hugely impressive flagship TC-8000. Demand has created an availability shortage, and WTS were lucky to pre-order good stocks, including (at the time of writing) an ex-demo TC-8000 – as common as hen’s teeth.

Recent updates mean the 400 series, 800 series and 8000 all now boast feature sets including mix effects and animation buffers. So we’re unlikely to see any new models launched at NAB, but the 3Play instant replay range has not been updated as recently and innovators like NewTek are unlikely to let a major show go by without an announcement or two.

A number of products have sprung up around NewTek that provide auxiliary functionality. Ensemble Design's small switcher adds to the number of possible inputs, while proMAX is developing a plug-in to add additional storage capability through some clever integration software.

Meanwhile, Sony are heading for 4K nirvana, with pre-show buzz centring on new developments in video over IP. This is certain to be interesting, with one of the main barriers to 4K adoption remaining content distribution at the high data rates required. As with SD to HD and digital to analogue, the race is on to solve this problem quickest and smartest.

LDXCamera Left .1920x 1080.Vid Res

Grass Valley are pushing hard on Sony’s heels with their smart thinking behind the LDX range of studio cameras. Their understanding that a camera is a computer with a lens on the front cleverly makes camera channels more flexible than ever. A temporary software upgrade turns an entry-level 1080i unit into a 1080p unit for as long as you need it.

GY-HM850 (with Shadow)

JVC’s first 50Mbps ProHD shoulder mount camcorders, the GY-HM850 and GY-HM890, are also their first significant product announcement since their ‘big win’ with the BBC adoption of the GY-HM650 – and the specs seem impressive. Twelve-bit processing, F12 (50Hz) sensitivity, and with a built-in streaming engine, FTP and GSM connectivity allows live HD transmission directly from the camera without additional encoding hardware. The GY-HM890 is compatible with a range of studio components making it a versatile studio or multi-cam field production camera – and there’s a great 0% finance sweetener, too.

AJA are always popular at show times, and not only because they host the best party of the week. A complete lock-down on new product information means they either have nothing to announce, or, more likely, a plethora of new developments are on the way.

If you're going to NAB and would like to talk to Duncan or one of our team about how we can help you deliver your vision, why not call 020 7871 0700 or email to arrange a meeting.

This article also appears in the latest edition of Regional Film & Video and appears on 4rfv.co.uk

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