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NAB 2015 In Depth Highlights

NAB 2015 is over but the effects are still being felt. And they’re mostly positive! Naturally, the first point of call was the Canon stand to be one of the first to hold and see the Canon C300 mkii. Canon has been quite clever in calling this unit the ‘mark 2’; you know what physical […]

NAB 2015 is over but the effects are still being felt. And they’re mostly positive!

Naturally, the first point of call was the Canon stand to be one of the first to hold and see the Canon C300 mkii. Canon has been quite clever in calling this unit the ‘mark 2’; you know what physical form the unit will be and you know how it will operate. No surprises at all then. What we expected was 4K and maybe a new addition or two (new sensor, greater dynamic range, maybe high speed recording etc). We got what we expected but a whole lot more besides. Yes 4K is great and was never in doubt as a feature but the codec change is the greatest addition as far as I am concerned. “XF-AVC” is clearly a derivative of Sony’s outstanding XAVC codec (it might BE exactly the same for I ALL know!) but regardless of who created the codec or not, finally MPEG-2 is gone and soon forgotten and the 8-bit file with it. That has to be great as even the heaviest of grades to a 10-bit HD file can be applied before colours and sensitivity become crushed. One of the main features I was really impressed with was the Dual Pixel Auto Focus. If you have used this upgradeable option on the Canon C300 (the mark 1 I suppose it will be referred to from here on) you know that it’s handy in particular for run ‘n gun formats, however the version for the mark 2 works like an absolute dream by being able to expand and move the area of focus. In other words, once the Dual Pixel AF is engaged you find a subject or area to want to stay in focus and providing it stays within the range of the lens it will stay in focus. Brilliant! From a camera hire company’s point of view, it’s not the ‘Emperors New Clothes’ and all of us will have this camera by the bucket load.

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Also on the Canon stand was the delightful XC-10. A great additional camera or B camera to go with C300/C300 mk2 or to use a standalone camera. This too also uses the “XF-AVC” though only posts to an 8-bit file. And it has a fixed mounted lens. But what’s remarkable is that is that in many senses this camera packs a similar punch in terms of quality and look to that of a Canon C300. Not bad for circa £1,500 eh? A genuine answer to the threat of Blackmagic’s pocket camera’s.

Speaking of Blackmagic, they had a new URSA launched at NAB and this is a mini version. No 10” flip-out screen, just a reasonable 5” and the mounts are non-swappable, you choose PL or EF mount (my suggestion is PL mount and get a good adaptor). I happen to like the Mini URSA. Can’t say for sure that we’ll get one but at least it’s not hideous like the regular/original URSA!

Whilst Blackmagic have taken their camera count into near double figures, AJA stay with just one, the CION. I must admit, last year this camera really caught the imagination of anyone that saw it at NAB then IBC. Lots of hype, well built, solid codec and reliable recording media based around AJA’s Ki-Pro technology but, the CION when launched was missing one or two vital features, the most obvious being built-in ND filters (that and a protruding data pak can’t be a good idea can it?). I really can’t see how they expect a camera of that size to be have to have a matte-box attached the whole time of shooting and so it should be a no-brainer right? Ahem. Wrong. AJA, if you’re reading this please understand that I and many others are big fans of the CION. Your recoding products have always been great for us and your badge on a product is a sign of quality but add ND Filters to your camera. You’ve had a year now of listening to the (potential) users and buyers and yet nothing. Poor form.

And speaking of not doing much, news from the Sony stand. There really wasn’t very much for us to gawp at. And that’s a good thing! Sony has launched far too many cameras in the last 3-or-4 years so it is in fact a relief that this year there were none at NAB in terms of internally recording cameras. The FS7 is that good it should be given a chance to compete against the C300’s. So it’s an odd “well done” from me to Sony for leaving well enough alone.

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My final Japanese big-gun review comes from Panasonic. Yes you read correctly, Panasonic. They had an odd 4K hand-held camera on display. It’s called the rather imaginative AG-DVX200 (rolls of the tongue right?) and it has a crimson red rear, carbon finish and a fixed Leica lens. So the body should be light, the sensor seems decent and the frame speeds up to 120fps (in HD only). I must stress that all info relating to the DVX200 is tentative and the camera is due later in the year. But let me say well done Panasonic. A good looking camera that has caught the interest that’s for sure. FS7 / C300’s look out…? And it’s reported that it will cost around £4K. I hope this one works out for them. We at Alias have never had any technical issues with any of our Panasonic stock so I look forward to the development of this unit.

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Away from cameras, LED lighting was pretty much everywhere as usual but none more impressive than what we saw at Rotolight, with the “Neo” on display. Alias Hire are BIG fans of the Anova LED panel light and so meeting its little brother was a real pleasure. I suspect we will have stacks of these lights as they are quite amazing. Why? Well, they’re bright. Much brighter than most lights of that size and scale. Dimmable and fully adjustable across 3150k to 6300k gives it an edge over all of its competitors but it is packed with special effects. To name but a few, it has strobe effects, lightning effects as well as a log-fire effect (that creates a ‘beside the fire’ look), it even has set timed faders and can be run on AA batteries. Just incredible! Oh, and Rotolight are a British company and there’s nothing wrong with showing a bit of local support. I was so impressed with this light that I am already committed to buying quite a few of the set of 3 x head units as well as a bunch of the single heads. They’re so good that I actually think they could be a happy replacement for conventional Dedo lights. Yep, they’re that good. Amazing in fact.

Also impressive was the ‘Small HD’ stand. They were recently bought by the Vitec group and it’s obvious to see why. Great, handheld mobile phone-style monitors that can be used with a dedicated loupe and an 7” Oled monitor and both benefit from wonderful design and functionality. Brilliant stuff!

One of the biggest disappointments was the Carl Zeiss stand. Last year they debuted a servo motor that in theory attaches to their range of compact zooms. Unfortunately it wasn’t working when I saw it last year, the same applies to IBC in September and this year they didn’t even bring it with them to NAB. Zeiss…what’s going on?? Get this unit working!

We were on a mission to search out drones and that technology reached fever pitch at NAB, so much so there was a dedicated section of one of the halls just for drones and accessories. In case you didn’t know, Alias is taking to the skies so this was of particular interest to us and we stumbled across a fantastic wireless video sender designed for arial use. There are lots on the market of course but the ‘Connex’ by Amimon was the only we could find that can send to multiple receivers. It also boasts zero(!) delay. This is all new ground for most of us but even I knew this was impressive.

And on the subject of wireless…

We’re bordering on obsession to find a mobile IP streaming solution and if we find anything better than the ‘Streamur 6’ from Webstreamur. Previously I was quite taken with LiveU 200 that was first seen at BVE but I suspect the Streamur 6 may just be the ticket for us. It’s very easy to use in what is traditionally a complicated area. I always hope that there is something better out there but if we proceed into live web-streaming then this is the magic box for Alias.

Toshiba-8k-Camera

Finally, but most definitely not least, the NHK stand had a Toshiba manufactured 8K camera on display. Nothing new there of course. But in my time of seeing 8K cameras this is the first time I have seen a shoulder mount sized 8K camera that records internally. No encoders, no need for an output…all in the camera via SSD cards. They even had test footage shot just a few days earlier on the Vegas strip. If you want to see the pirate show from the Treasure Island casino I know where to get of some.

NAB 2015 has outdone itself. Again. Viva Las Vegas!