2013 NAB Show recap

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  • 4/28/2013
    I recently returned from the 2013 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, which is an annual trade show for broadcast, cinema and video production professionals to learn about the latest technology and innovations within the industry. Along with attending sessions lead by Hollywood and TV directors, cinematographers and producers, I got to learn about the latest trends in production and delivery technology on the show floor. This included the latest Ultra HD cameras, remote control helicopters, LED studio lighting, virtual sets, social media moderation for broadcast & digital signage, Steadi-Cams for iPhones, more powerful and efficient post-production software and much more. The following are three overall trends from this year's show.

    Ultra HD/4K was everywhere
    The hype of 3D at NAB 2012 has been replaced with Ultra HD (UHDTV) at this year's show. UHDTV is the general marketing term for 4K and 8K video resolution standards. This refers to video resolutions that are roughly four-eight times that of 1080p (full HD). You may be thinking, “my HDTV looks awesome, why would I need something better?” Take my word for it. It's noticeably better, especially on large displays. The best way I can describe it is that even close up, it looks like a fine photographic print. Although mainstream adoption of UHDTV is probably many years off (the display below costs around $20,000), eventually it will be adopted as a standard that replaces HD. That said, it does have some practical uses right now.

    Sony's 84" 4K Ultra HD TV with added graphic comparing 4K to HD and other standards.

    If you shoot 4K and master in HD, you can zoom into the frame up to 400% and still have full 1080p resolution. Meaning, you can get a close-up and wide-angle shot from one camera while having the flexibility of re-framing in post-production without sacrificing HD resolution. Most Hollywood feature-length productions are already being mastered in 4K and have been for some time now. If you aspire to be in the theater, your 4K mastered production should be ready to go.

    Considering that TV commercials are often shown in theaters, mastering in 4K should be a consideration for advertisers. Another reason to consider 4K today is future-proofing. If your content needs to have a long shelf life, you can master in 4K, deliver in HD today and have the 4K master on file once UHDTV becomes mainstream. The director of photography for Saturday Night Live's digital shorts mentioned that they are currently shooting and mastering in 4K for that very reason even though the broadcast is currently HD.

    Smaller, better, cheaper cameras & accessories
    Of course, this is a theme with any technology-related trade show and there's no exception here. One of the breakthrough products announced at the show was Blackmagic Design's Pocket Cinema Camera. This $995 camera isn't much bigger than a smartphone (without lens) and shoots a dynamic range that resembles film. To put it into perspective, the dynamic range and sensor size of this camera is on par with camera bodies that cost many times its price. The company also released a relatively affordable version of their Cinema Camera that shoots 4K.

    Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera mounted with a $30,000 lens

    These and other digital cinema cameras are packed with larger sensors that can capture clear images with less light. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda described how he used a single candle flame to light Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough who were sitting eight feet apart in "Oblivion."

    Although it was announced prior to NAB, GoPro's Hero3 Black edition POV camera can shoot 2.7K & 4K in a package small enough to easily mount to a moving vehicle or even someone's head! At the show, they showcased 3D footage shot with a pair of these cameras mounted to motorcycles, snowboards and other things on a 2.7K display that looked amazing.

    Other companies announced various support systems for these smaller cameras. Including affordable remote control & GPS guided helicopters that can fly a small camera. This means that aerial coverage will now be accessible to smaller, lower-budget productions.

    The cloud
    Along with just about everything else, video production is moving to the cloud. Services like Aframe are enabling production teams in multiple locations to collaborate on the editing process. They store footage and allow teams to view, comment and even create subclips from anywhere they can get an Internet connection. This data can be downloaded and imported directly into professional editing suites.

    Adobe showcased new versions of their post-production tools which have a greater connection to their Creative Cloud service, which include Adobe Story Plus. This cloud-based scripting tool is almost like Microsoft Word, but specifically for video production. Every piece of the script is tagged with metadata linked to characters/actors, locations and production teams. Producers can take the script and dynamically create a production schedule. If something changes in the script, it's automatically updated in the production schedule. Once footage is shot, it's linked to the script using text-to-speech analysis enabling editors to quickly find the footage they need. All of this adds up to greater efficiency and helps production teams keep up with increasingly shorter deadlines.


    Whether it be new higher resolution formats or more powerful and efficient production tools, the field of video production is ever changing. At thunder::tech, we try to keep on top of new trends and technologies, then implement them if/when the time is right. If you have questions about NAB or anything I discussed in this post, feel free to contact us.

    About the author::
    Matt Stevens is the manager of multimedia services and a graphic designer at thunder::tech. When he doesn't have a camera on his shoulder, he's probably swimming, biking or running (aka training for a triathlon). He also considers himself a proud "tree hugger."
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