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NAB – The Alias Review by Mark Wilson

NAB 2016 was somewhat of a quiet affair with no new camera launches from the usual big players that would set the broadcast world alight, but that dear readers is not a bad thing at all from our point of view. Over the last five years, companies such as Sony, Canon, Arri, Blackmagic and others have been throwing a new must have model in our face at every possible chance. So to have no new announcements came as a welcome breather which allowed us at Alias Hire to spend time focusing on finding the items that make their current cameras even better.

Our first visit on Monday morning was to the Canon stand. As we did in 2015, we booked ourselves in for the first appointment of the morning. Alias have a great history with Canon and their products, so we wanted to get all the details and see what they had brought along to show off. Although they didn’t launch a new camera for the broadcast market, they did release an exciting new lens that peaked our interest immediately. The 18-80mm EF Servo lens is what we hope will be the start of a new wave of servo driven lenses that change the way we shoot on cameras such as the C300, C100 and C500. A Constant T4.4 across the focal range, this Super 35mm lens is a hybrid of the popular EF, Cinema and Cine-Servo lenses already available from Canon. It can be powered from the camera mount on the C300mkii or C100mkii and can control the zoom, focus and iris. It’s a lens we think many people will be looking forward to getting their hands on this year. Hopefully it will prove very popular so Canon can expand the range of this lens type.  Canon also showcased a lot of 8K research and development equipment including an 8K camera and monitor. Canon clearly want to be seen at the forefront of new technologies. From a personal point of view, I was blown away by the sheer detail shown on their 8K monitor. It was like no monitor I have ever seen.

We spent a lot of time on the Canon stand compared to Sony’s, purely because there was nothing new for us to look at. The Sony PXW FS7 is still a very popular camera for our market and with the FS5 being released in the latter half of last year, I don’t think Sony have any real need to introduce any new ‘camcorder’ cameras.  Having completed our visit to the big two, this meant we could really start our walk around the show and this is where the magic happens. This is where you go in blind and hope to stumble across something magical and that’s exactly what we did, but more on that later.

The stand that was difficult to miss due to its sheer size and colourfulness was the Atomos stand. It was here that they released the Flame series of monitor / recorder which included the Shogun Flame and Ninja Flame. Their key selling points being HDR (High Dynamic Range) monitoring capabilities. Using AtomHDR, a proprietary image processing technology that maintains vibrant colour whilst shooting in Log profile where bright scenes may cause banding or washout. Atomos did mention they would bring HDR monitoring to some existing products via a free download coming soon however they did point out it would not be as good as the Flame series because of the technical specs of the current machines, such as the Shogun.

There was a lot of LED lighting as you would expect at the show with brands from around the globe but the one we loved was from a home grown talent, Rotolight. They released the Rotolight Anova Pro which they were keen and excited to show us and we now know why. Improving on the original Anova, Rotolight have taken many of the SFX features from their Neo product and placed them into the Anova Pro along with a few extras including still photographer’s flash gun option where you can trigger a flash from a remote plugged into the back of the unit. You can also use a wide array of wired triggers from multiple manufacturers. We loved this light so much that we are hoping the first set of serial numbers 001 and 002 have our name on them.

A company that has really pushed its way to front of house at the trade shows over the last few years is DJI. Positioned next to the GoPro stand, DJI continues its drive to make products that are affordable, well built and appeal to the next generation of film makers. The DJI stand had a wide array of products including their range of Drones, the wonderful Osmo and very handy grip equipment that is already available but what caught my eye was an adapter plate to allows the X5 camera to be mounted to the OSMO along with the DJI Wireless remote follow focus unit. Hopefully soon they will release a chest mount for the OSMO as this little handheld gimbal camera has become a very popular unit in the hire market. For more info or to buy an OSMO or anything from the DJI range contact Dan Wheeler at PEC Video dan@pec.co.uk.

JVC were showing their PTZ remote heads as fixed cameras are becoming almost a mainstay in broadcast production at the moment, and while I’m on the subject of remote control units iFootage have multiple motorised attachments that can be used with their Shark Slider. A lightweight slider that we love and could quite possibly one of the best on the market at the moment, and we have loads of them.

Blackmagic released a beautiful and affordable 4K 7” monitor recorder in their Video Assist range. HD / Ultra HD monitoring and recording, with 6G-SDI and HDMI inputs. Recording to SD cards, this is a cost effective solution to the monitor / recorder world.

Beyond Blackmagic, is was great to explore the vast array of stuff that some may find boring but as a Hire Company manager it’s my job to check out bagging and packing solutions. Not only must our kit must be presented and packaged beautifully, it must arrive safely. So I always keep an eye out for items that will enhance our clients experience with us including, lightweight flight cases and camera back packs which are frequently requested.

Now, earlier I mentioned about stumbling across those magical items that you weren’t expecting but when you find them, you think to yourself “that’s brilliant, I need that!”. This year there were two for me. The first was the SyncBac from Timecode Systems. A BacPac for the GoPro that allows multiple units to have timecode synced from a master camera such as a C300. Available later this year, these BacPacs will clip directly onto the GoPro 4 and will fit snuggly into the Housing with the Back Door extension. It has its own internal battery so it will not feed off of the GoPros power and can be charged via USB. Having Timecode for a GoPro multiple camera shoot will come as a welcome addition to those who frequently use these as a setup. As soon as we stumbled across this stand we were blown away and were not surprised when Timecode Systems won the Innovation show award for NAB2016.  We look forward to these units being released and adding them to our hire stock.

The second ‘magical moment’ for me was stumbling across Rig Wheels at the end of the day on Wednesday. They were showcasing a lot of their magnetic mounts for cars which have been around for a little while, but their new release at the show left me impressed. The Cloud Mount is a magnetic mount that holds the DJI Ronin gimbal and camera. The plate that holds the Ronin is suspended between the magnets and Ronin with strong flexible wire so there is play in the mount so it can gently move when attached to the car to add to the smoothness of the shot along with the Ronin’s gimbal system. Alias stocks several DJI Ronin’s and Ronin M’s so this could also be a great addition to our hire fleet.

With the show coming to a close, and having covered the key equipment areas, it was time to look at future tech or tech that is currently outside of our comfort zone. A few years ago that would have been drones, not only for us but much of the industry so drones have since dominated the shows over the last two years as the gadget to show off. This year their presence was a much more drawn back affair. This time the new tech on the block was for 360º cameras and VR. Grouped together in the North Hall were lots of different companies showcasing their version of this technology with Nokia taking the lead. The technology is incredibly complex / easy (depending on your point of view) but amazing to see. The possibilities are endless with this immersive technology and it will be something Alias will be keeping its eye on the coming months.

We strive to stay at the forefront of new technologies so that our clients have access to the newest kit. Above are the key bits of it that we came across but did we miss anything?

Were you there? Did you see something that may be of interest to us? If so let me know me at mark@aliashire.co.uk.