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    NAB 2015 Highlights
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    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    Okay, filmmaking friends. I'm back in Austin, recovering from some genetically-modified flu strain I picked up halfway through the show. But I thought I'd share my highlights from NAB 2015 with you guys.


    So, let's start withÖ


    CAMERAS


    The highlight of the show for me was the Blackmagic Ursa Mini. To pack those features into that form factor, and sell it for under $5K is amazing. To be honest, my company was about to put down on a C300II pre-order, but that changed the moment I saw the Ursa Mini. Thatís not to say that the C300II isnít going to be a great camera. But above a certain price point, certain cameras make more sense than others, and the Ursa Mini ticks off all the boxes we need for a price thatís much easier to deal with.


    Say what you will about BMC being late with shipping and all that, but the products theyíre giving us prove that theyíre listening to what we want.


    Seeing the Panasonic DVX200, even if it was just a pre-production mockup, hit me directly in the feels. I loved shooting with the trusty old DVX100 back in the day, and itís refreshing to see what could be a worthy successor in the works. Like many people, I keep hoping that Panasonic will give us the AF-200. The fact that they havenít yet proves to me that theyíve ceded a certain segment of the market to other players, and just arenít interested in claiming it back. And with all the other cameras we have, thatís fine by me.


    I was pretty amazed by the RED Weapon. As a one-time Epic owner, itís impressive to see the sheer engineering that RED can squeeze into a camera body that size. Again, thereís a point beyond which cameras make no sense to buy. But Iíll certainly keep an eye on what develops with Weapon, as itís a camera that we might rent from time to time as needed.


    What concerns me about RED is that their brand seems to be ďlosing itís wayĒ a bit. Thatís not to say that the products theyíre creating wonít be successful, but when I think back to the early days of RED, and read back through some of Jimís REDUser posts from back in the day, Iím not sure the current RED is the same brand. Weíve gone from the accessible cinema imagery of the RED ONE to the break-the-bank price of Weapon, with recent Dragon adopters left feeling stung. And moving forward, I donít really see an entry point into the RED ecosystem, once Scarlet is end-of-life. Iím not saying there isnít a plan, just that what that plan is doesnít seem entirely clear. And as a brand, I think thatís a problem.


    Beyond the above highlights, I did see the Alexa Mini, the Kinefinity 6K, and a handful of others. But from a price/features standpoint, the Ursa Mini was the clear winner for me.




    LENSES


    Honestly, there wasnít much to see in the way of lenses at NAB. Oh sure, the Cooke Anamorphics are drool-worthy, but really, how many of us are in that market? But there were two things that I found really exciting.


    First, I had a chance to get hands-on with the new Tokina 50-150mm T3 Cine Zoom lens. Itís parfocal, shows little or no breathing, and has really nice out-of-focus areas. For the price (around $5K, I think), itís a real winner.


    I also had a chance to meet with the Veydra lens team. They didnít have a booth at NAB, but I was able to meet up with them at a hotel to look over the Veydra primes, and to chat with them about whatís coming next. I can tell you from holding them that the Veydra lenses are the real deal. Theyíre well-crafted and the movement of the rings feels like youíd expect from a cine lens. Iíd have no issues using them on an indie film shoot, and will probably do just that soon enough.


    Ryan from Veydra did address the ďissueĒ some people are having with a slight lens shift when the lenses are mounted. He said theyíre actively working on a solution for it, and that they were taking the time to make sure they do it right. He definitely sounded confident about it, and committed to supporting the customers whoíve make Veydra such a success already.




    LIGHTING


    Each year I've been going to NAB hoping to find high-quality, high-output fixtures with low price tags. And every year I come away disappointed. This year is a bit different. Now, I don't know when we'll end up with the lights we want at the prices we want, but I think there are great options at so many different price points that it's hard to complain anymore. With great stuff coming from companies like Lowel, Arri, and Mole, weíve got more quality tools now than ever before. Here are a few of the standouts from NAB 2015.


    I missed them on the first day, but made a point to visit the Aputure booth on day two. If youíre looking for high-CRI, battery-powered LEDs at a low price point, theyíre the best thing Iíve seen. The lights themselves are quality-built, and the output is very, very nice. The two new LightStorm models (LS-1 and LS-1/2) are going to sell like gangbusters. They seem to be exactly what so many people have been asking for. The only drawback I can see is that theyíre only available in daylight/5600k versions. But hey, thatís nothing a sheet of gel canít fix.


    Remote-Phosphor technology powers the lights from Cineo, and the lights they had on the show floor were absolutely amazing. The TruColorHS packs over twice the output of a 2K incandescent fixture into a sleek form factor. Changing color temperature is as easy as swapping out front panels. Their MatchStix and MatchBox lights are perfect for lighting in tricky places, or for travel. Remote-phosphor lights are definitely a bit more expensive than traditional LEDs, but their output is much greater, and the quality of the light they offer just looks more pleasing to the eye.


    The LiteGear folks were showing off their LED LiteMat line of products. Theyíre lightweight, flexible LED panels that can be used in a variety of situations, from lighting an interview to lighting the interior of a car. Theyíve got good output, and nice color rendering.


    All in all, I think weíve finally reached the point where quality lighting tools are available at every budget level. The only limitation is oneís ability as a cinematographer.




    MONITORS


    Obviously everyone was talking about the SmallHD 502 and Sidefinder combination. And if youíre looking for a great combination monitor/EVF, I think the discussion starts and ends here. The interface is easy to navigate, the picture is beautiful, and the removable Sidefinder makes using the whole package a real treat.


    The other standout for me was the Blackmagic Ursa EVF. If youíre looking for a straight-up EVF, this is the one to get. The image has great depth, with nice deep blacks and beautiful colors. Overall itís a better EVF than the SmallHD Sidefinder, but the 502 is a monitor as well. So if you need that flexibility, check out the SmallHD. If all you want is a kick-ass EVF, check out the Blackmagic.


    Another interesting product was the Blackmagic Video Assist. For just under $500, you get a quality monitor for focus, framing, and exposure, you get a ProRes/DNxHD recorder, and you get what may be the easiest menu/control setup on any external recorder.


    I know there were some folks looking for information on 4K monitors. As more and more cameras offer 4K (and above) resolutions, thereís certainly going to be heavy interest in monitoring at higher resolutions. But right now, from what Iíve seen, the 4K monitors that are out there are just not ready for production use. Theyíre either limited in features, or priced to break the bank. Maybe next year weíll see more 4K monitors on the show floor.


    Finally, Sound Devices unveiled their new line of PIX-E recorders. The 5- and 7-inch monitor/recorders offer beautiful IPS touch screens, tools for focus and exposure, and 4K recording, including ProRes 4444. The SpeedDrive media they record to is particularly interesting. Theyíre small SSD drives that plug into the back of the units while recording, but double as USB 3.0 thumb drives for offloading. Like all Sound Devices (now Video Devices) products, theyíre built to more than withstand the rigors of tough on-set life.
    Stephen Mick
    Owner/Creative Director
    Skylark Creative

    weareskylark.com


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    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    SUPPORT


    Itís hard to get too excited about another tripod or slider anymore, but the folks at Libec managed to pique my interest. I stopped by their booth looking for lightweight and small fluid heads, and I noticed the ALX-S8 system. I say ďsystemĒ because while thereís a tripod, a fluid head, and a slider, the best bang for the buck is to get the complete package of all three together for around $900. The whole system is designed to make moving from sticks to slider effortless, and the fluid head is perfect for smaller camera rigs.


    Motion-control systems have grown in popularity in the last few years, but most of them have been a bit complex to set up and felt a bit too tinkertoy for my taste. But I found a cool company from New Zealand called Syrp that makes motion control easy and (dare I say) fun. Their full-size Genie ($749) unit is a pan/tilt/slide controller that can be set up to work with just about any slider (or you can buy one from them). Itís dead-simple to control, and if you just want pan and tilt with a plate you can mount it on a tripod as well. They make a smaller, puck-shaped unit called the Mini ($249) that does pan only. Some great stuff.


    In the same vein, Kesslerís Second Shooter looks like a winner as well. It also does slide, pan and tilt control, and is compact enough to travel with. I think it requires a compatible Kessler slider to work with, but itís a great option for motion control work.


    Itís always fun to stop off at the Matthews booth, just to see a bunch of grip gear all rigged up and ready to go. This year they had the KerriKart, a rolling Dana Dolly platform that looks like it would make quick work of resetting dolly shots. They also had some cool new pieces of gear for car mounts, and some great looking new combo-style stands.




    AUDIO


    Now, Iím not a pro audio guy, so there were probably a lot of great new bits of audio gear on the floor that I didnít notice. But one of them I did notice was, of all things, a mixer bag. Orca Bags have a fantastic line of well-designed production bags for audio recording professionals. Iíve seen sound guys on sets for years working with bags stuffed with mixers, receivers, and other gear. The bags from Orca seem like a dream come true for any audio pro, and look comfortable for twelve-hour days and longer.




    OTHER


    The theme for this yearís NAB should have been ďGame of Drones.Ē Everywhere you looked there was a different company selling multi-copters, gimbals, or both. But only one really stood out as innovative and unique: the 3DR Solo. Apparently 3DR is made up of some folks who used to be with DJI. And the 3DR Solo is built from the ground up to make aerial cinematography easy and intuitive. The controller is smartly-designed, and the Solo streams live video from your GoPro to your iOS or Android device, and/or through an HDMI connection. This makes the whole flying/shooting experience feel more ďconnected.Ē And did I mention itíll sell for less than $1,000?


    It takes something pretty amazing for my wife to get all excited about camera technology. But when we stopped by the Freefly booth, it happened. They were showing off the Mimic, a controller that allows you to control a remote gimbal head with your own movement. Tilt the controller up and the camera looks up. Pan to the side and the camera does the same. Simple. Elegant. Fun. When my wife, whoís never seen a gimbal in her life, smiles when she uses something like the Mimic, itís a good thing.




    FINAL OBSERVATIONS


    Three days on the show floor are grueling, tiring days. For those of you whoíve never been, itís like three shopping malls side-by-side. Itís enormous. And every time I go, I walk in excited about what Iím going to see. And Iím rarely disappointed. This year was no exception.


    But the end of NAB also brings with it a stark reality, one that I think most of us would begrudgingly acknowledge as truth: technology and tools continue to grow and expand, while our ability to tell stories does not.


    What I mean is that weíve long since passed the point at which the camera was a limitation. Weíve now also left behind any idea that the technology available to us, at any budget level, is keeping us from telling better stories. Yes, there might be a new advancement that makes a shot possible that wasnít before, and thatís certainly a good thing. But does that technology advance story forward? Iíd argue that in most cases the answer is no. The greatest filmmakers in history didnít have a Movi, and their films are no less compelling because of it.


    During the Landmine Media Meetup, I got the chance to talk to a number of Users, DVX, BMC, and RED. And the same theme kept repeating itself: the only reason our greatest stories aren't being told is us. We can argue about dynamic range and global shutter all day long, but nobody in the audience will ever know or care. Iíve just finished watching a handful of new releases on Netflix, from big budget films to indies and documentaries, and never once was I thinking about what they shot it on.


    Thereís no doubt that a camera is a big investment, and many of us shoot for a living. We want certain tools that are going to make our lives easier, or our images marginally better. Iím in that boat as well. But if youíre waiting for this NAB or any other to deliver the gear youíve been waiting for before you shoot your film, youíre not a filmmaker. Filmmakers make films. Filmmakers tell stories.


    So while I always enter NAB excited about new technology, I always leave it feeling like I should be making more films, and spending less time talking about how to shoot them.


    And I think thatís what Iím going to do. I hope youíll all do the same.
    Stephen Mick
    Owner/Creative Director
    Skylark Creative

    weareskylark.com


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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Mick View Post


    FINAL OBSERVATIONS


    Three days on the show floor are grueling, tiring days. For those of you who’ve never been, it’s like three shopping malls side-by-side. It’s enormous. And every time I go, I walk in excited about what I’m going to see. And I’m rarely disappointed. This year was no exception.


    But the end of NAB also brings with it a stark reality, one that I think most of us would begrudgingly acknowledge as truth: technology and tools continue to grow and expand, while our ability to tell stories does not.


    What I mean is that we’ve long since passed the point at which the camera was a limitation. We’ve now also left behind any idea that the technology available to us, at any budget level, is keeping us from telling better stories. Yes, there might be a new advancement that makes a shot possible that wasn’t before, and that’s certainly a good thing. But does that technology advance story forward? I’d argue that in most cases the answer is no. The greatest filmmakers in history didn’t have a Movi, and their films are no less compelling because of it.


    During the Landmine Media Meetup, I got the chance to talk to a number of Users, DVX, BMC, and RED. And the same theme kept repeating itself: the only reason our greatest stories aren't being told is us. We can argue about dynamic range and global shutter all day long, but nobody in the audience will ever know or care. I’ve just finished watching a handful of new releases on Netflix, from big budget films to indies and documentaries, and never once was I thinking about what they shot it on.


    There’s no doubt that a camera is a big investment, and many of us shoot for a living. We want certain tools that are going to make our lives easier, or our images marginally better. I’m in that boat as well. But if you’re waiting for this NAB or any other to deliver the gear you’ve been waiting for before you shoot your film, you’re not a filmmaker. Filmmakers make films. Filmmakers tell stories.


    So while I always enter NAB excited about new technology, I always leave it feeling like I should be making more films, and spending less time talking about how to shoot them.


    And I think that’s what I’m going to do. I hope you’ll all do the same.

    The clearest assesment yet of where filmmaking is at today.
    I might add one thing further.
    The reality is also that the obsession with equipment is widespread.
    Make no mistake it is a drug and an illusion. Not the equipment, but the obsession.
    And it is fostered in a very conscious way by certain marketing departments and cults of personality.
    I have watched highly creative people come to believe that a camera system is the answer.
    In a way that approaches religous fervor. This is not healthy.

    An old friend of mine once observed in a general manner that "too much technique kills creativity".
    It has taken me years to realize that he was trying to be kind with me.


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    Senior Member Sumfun's Avatar
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    Thanks for the nice summary, Stephen. Hope you get better soon.


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    Resident Preditor mcgeedigital's Avatar
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    Good stuff my man. Thanks.
    Matt Gottshalk - Director/ Dp/ and Emmy Award Winning Editor
    Producer/Director, Digital Creative for the United States Postal Service


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    for me finding the HEART of the image is when I started shooting on 16mm film...(no tech or hype just art) which fortunately turned into commerce..


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    Quote Originally Posted by yoclay View Post
    An old friend of mine once observed in a general manner that "too much technique kills creativity".
    It has taken me years to realize that he was trying to be kind with me.
    I think every filmmaker has to go through that disease. It's like a filmmakers measles. Crazy thing is that less gear makes you actually more creative. Good thing would be to put some stellar rules to buying new gear - once in two or three years, and between that time don't even bother being interested what new came out
    FS7 & other


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    Great round-up, Stephen! Thanks for posting!

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Mick View Post
    Seeing the Panasonic DVX200, even if it was just a pre-production mockup, hit me directly in the feels. I loved shooting with the trusty old DVX100 back in the day, and it’s refreshing to see what could be a worthy successor in the works. Like many people, I keep hoping that Panasonic will give us the AF-200. The fact that they haven’t yet proves to me that they’ve ceded a certain segment of the market to other players, and just aren’t interested in claiming it back. And with all the other cameras we have, that’s fine by me.
    Yeah, it certainly feels like Panasonic has given up on an AF-200. I'm very excited about the DVX200, though! All the great image quality of the GH4 but the convenience of a real video camera in one affordable package. I see myself shooting a lot of events with this thing.

    I was pretty amazed by the RED Weapon. As a one-time Epic owner, it’s impressive to see the sheer engineering that RED can squeeze into a camera body that size. Again, there’s a point beyond which cameras make no sense to buy. But I’ll certainly keep an eye on what develops with Weapon, as it’s a camera that we might rent from time to time as needed.


    What concerns me about RED is that their brand seems to be “losing it’s way” a bit. That’s not to say that the products they’re creating won’t be successful, but when I think back to the early days of RED, and read back through some of Jim’s REDUser posts from back in the day, I’m not sure the current RED is the same brand. We’ve gone from the accessible cinema imagery of the RED ONE to the break-the-bank price of Weapon, with recent Dragon adopters left feeling stung. And moving forward, I don’t really see an entry point into the RED ecosystem, once Scarlet is end-of-life. I’m not saying there isn’t a plan, just that what that plan is doesn’t seem entirely clear. And as a brand, I think that’s a problem.
    My thoughts exactly. I owned a RED ONE back in the day, but I could see the writing on the wall. RED had to make a choice: to go after the big Hollywood productions or to chase after the broke filmmakers with indie aspirations. They chose to go Hollywood, and I don't blame them. There's more money to be made there. And Blackmagic has since picked up the mantle for the indie filmmakers. I think RED is trying to be synonymous with prestige, image quality, and price. Because they can no longer say they're affordable. I mean, maybe they are compared to an F65 or Alexa, but for the rest of us mere mortals they're just as out of reach. They've basically become a rental-only company. And that's okay by me. I'll be happily shooting beautiful 4K on my GH4, and possibly a DVX200 later on.
    Jaime Vallťs
    AJV Media
    Video, Photography & Graphic Design: www.ajvmedia.com


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    Underwater Giraffe Member heavyG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yoclay View Post
    I might add one thing further.
    The reality is also that the obsession with equipment is widespread.
    Make no mistake it is a drug and an illusion. Not the equipment, but the obsession.
    And it is fostered in a very conscious way by certain marketing departments and cults of personality.
    I have watched highly creative people come to believe that a camera system is the answer.
    In a way that approaches religous fervor. This is not healthy.

    An old friend of mine once observed in a general manner that "too much technique kills creativity".
    It has taken me years to realize that he was trying to be kind with me.
    This needs to be quoted over on RedUser... There is some hardcore hand wringing, crying, and bitching happening about 'being left behind'.
    heavyG
    Wishing I was drinking Chai at Jalandhar Junction.


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    Senior Member Surf it Mike's Avatar
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    Thanks for the insights.

    Gear lust can be seen on every forum including this one. Seriously some of the comments I've seen here are equal to Reds forum or even worse the rabid fanboyism of Cinema 5D off old.


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