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NAB: Days 1 and 2

Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Usual Suspects, a Few Surprises, the New Frontier

At the U.S.’s premium broadcast event, you’d expect the usual array of “interested parties” to attend … and they have. Senior folks from Microsoft, Apple, Google, Netflix, Facebook, Zynga, EA, Hulu, Roku, Verizon, AT&T, Akamai, Level 3, Intel, AMD and Nvidia; you name it, they were there.

Miss someone? 

Oh yes, the growing array of content production/post production houses who are putting together content for the rapidly expanding outlet opportunities.   

Sure, there were cable, network, station and Hollywood folks who built the association. Last year, DreamWorks’ Jeff Katzenberg beat the drum for 3D and the studios and a few network operations (ESPN, Discovery) listened and delivered. 

This year, tech tinkerer, filmmaking powerhouse James Cameron made an even stronger case for everyone, everything, everywhere to practice 3D production, distribution and viewing.   Cameron prodded the broadcast industry to get onboard or get left behind by the new distribution channels/opportunities.   

Speed it Up

At the same time, he felt the studios/theaters had to move beyond old-fashioned 24 fps (frames per second) productions and deliver a smoother entertainment experience with 48 and 60 fps. 

Since all of the newer projectors can be updated with a software fix to support the higher, smoother, more natural entertainment experience, he feels “everyone” will be delivering/enjoying the more natural experience…soon. 

Director Peter Jackson who is working on “The Hobbits” down in New Zealand said he had moved to 48fps production as a way of future-proofing his work.


New Game – James Cameron (l) and Vince Price discuss the roll the new Cameron-Price Group (CPG) will play in the development, enhancement and delivery of quality 3D video content across the complete spectrum of production operations and to all viewing venues.  Photo Source - NAB 

To prove he was serious about the next generation of 3D and HD production, Cameron had cinematographer Vince Price with him on stage to explain the role of their new venture, Cameron-Price Group (CPG). 

Simply stated, their charter is to develop/advance 3D technologies, practices, and creative tools.  Cameron- Price unveiled their “gold standard” for 3D, the prototype of the new Alexa M 120fps stereo 3D camera. 

 Tomorrow’s 3D Camera – CPG officials, in cooperation with ARRI, showed off the prototype of the new compact, high-performance 3D camera that will be in videographer’s hands early next year.   

The Alexa M (modular) is similar to the existing Alexa units but the head is connected to the camera body by fiber to make it more compact for stereo 3D rigs, action photography and shooting in tight spaces.Pre-production units will be out in September and customer shipments will begin Q1, 2012. 

 No one mentioned price, but it’s probably a matter of, “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”Sony’s , Panasonic’s Red Digital Camera’s 3D, HD camcorders were all refreshed – and they’re good – but the Alexa M just looks…very promising. 

 New 3D HD Cameras – New versions of the RED One (shown above) as well as improved 3D units from Panasonic, Sony and others are increasingly more compact, more rugged and more economical for movie production. Cameron, Katzberg and Jackson, as well as the hardware/software people have said 3D content will be coming to the home on a very regular basis in two years.  

TV Set Boost

While some believe passive 3D glasses will be needed, most say viewing will be glasses-free.  Regardless, it’s great news for TV set producers whose web-enabled/3D TV set sales have stalled.   

At the same time, LG has demonstrated glasses-free smartphone 3D viewing; and all of the major smartphone producers including HTC, Samsung and Motorola are developing 3D viewing phones. 

Obviously, no one is certain what neat new features/capabilities will be designed into this fall’s iPhone 5. 

This year, more than 92,000 NAB attendees seem to be paying more attention to the delivery pipes and content – profitable content – on every size screen imaginable.   Yesterday’s big iron production systems/tools drew much less attention.   

 Issue Announcements

What’s a major trade event without some “gottcha” announcements?   Here’s a few:

-        Level 3 is buying slightly smaller Global Crossings to take market share away from Akamai Technologies.  The combined company will be roughly the size of Akamai and will be a serious competitor for the growing streaming video content market.

-        Verizon announced it’s ready to begin delivery of video content to any device (AT&T, in the midst of trying to hang onto T-Mobile, said “me to”).  Cablevision and Time Warner already offer iPad apps which are stirring the mud with broadcasters.  The problem with the Verizon and/or AT&T offerings is, they currently require a separate video data plan for each device so your iMac, iPad, iPhone or alternatives will each have their own neat little plan.  That’s going to cost more than your shirt! 

-        The House of Representatives struck down the Net Neutrality (we’re wary of words like this after Digital Rights Management – DRM)  initiative, which puts Internet regulation up for grabs until it works its way through the legal system.  

-        FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell-Baker walked a careful line when it came to spectrum reallocation (taking “some” from the TV folks and giving  O.K., selling – it to the wireless folks).  Feels like a really bad Robin Hood movie – take from the rich, give to the rich.   Just how much video do people need on their smartphones anyway?   It turns out lots! 

-        Google’s Five-year-old YouTube has finally decided (or convinced by its bosses) that playtime is over and it’s time to make money and be a real content producer.  YouTube Live will be rolling out over the next six months with partners to stream video content through their “channels.”  You can probably expect TV networks/stations to jump onboard as YouTube and its parent figure out how to give you a viewing guide so you can figure out exactly what video content is where. 

-        Since Google stumbled with Hollywood, broadcast content owners – refusing to pay the “normal” retransmission fees, they’ve decided to invest $100 M to develop original content in the arts, sports, entertainment, etc.   

Economic Solutions

Production solution interest has shifted because with a decently powered $2-3,000 computer, some good post production software and a couple of decent HD camcorders, any indie can break into movie production (and they have been).   

The package may cost $10K, but that’s equivalent to a quarter-of-a-million starter system just a few years ago.   

So, what was hot this year?


Adobe CS 5.5 – Still the market share leader when it comes to software solutions that meet the needs of events videographers and Indie film makers, Adobe’s Creative Suite 5.5 delivers a lot of capabilities for the money.  

With the use of a complete array of Nvidia GPU cards, post production people will be able to move through their movie making faster and better than ever. Adobe’s new Creative Suite 5.5 has had some significant enhancements for both Indies who are tight on cash as well as other serious creative pros who are on a tight budget. 

Users finally get image stabilization, improved audio editing and RED, HDSLR support.   

The new package is a welcome (economic) change from Final Cut and Avid systems which are “slightly more expensive” because cool stuff like key-mapping tools, simplified customization and a playback engine that is supported by 30+ Nvidia cards are included. 

That kind of GPU-acceleration speeds post work. 

People who are a whole lot more knowledgeable on this than we are will be able to – and probably will – tell you a lot more. 

Autodesk either forgot to check the calendar when they came to this year’s NAB or are working in the future getting prepared for the 3D/HD everywhere people to catch up. 


Autodesk 2012 – The Autodesk folks won’t claim that they are future-proofing your post production work with their new family of creative solutions, but the 2012 family of products is making a good run at delivering products you will be able to grow with. 

The 2012 Autodesk Entertainment Creative suites give production and post production people the software and middleware they’re going to need to turn even marginal raw video footage into super movies, video streams for any delivery format. 

You could spend a day plus in the booth (or on their website) learning about the new stuff that provides single-step interoperability and a consistent user interfaces. 

 They’ve made improvements in practically every product, including:

-        3DS Max 2012 with a new accelerated graphics core, mRigids and new sculpting and painting enhancements

-        Maya 2012  with viewpoint enhancements, full-screen effects, editable motion trails and simulation options

-        . Softimage 2012 with new procedural ICE modeling, Syflex cloth simulation, multiple core development kit additions and stereoscopic capabilities

-        Total refresh of Mudbox 2012, MotionBuilder 2012 and enhancements across the board.

There’s a whale of a lot of very good, very economic power-driven software solutions being released and some neat and very useful hardware tools. But what interests us most will be the next two days’ focus on workflow and virtual/cloud post production, storage and downstream on-demand delivery. 

Right now, it smells like a lot of storage issues, problems, opportunities … we’ll see. 

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