Ride of the Unicorns: NAB 2012
Only a few months ago, the National Association of Broadcaster’s conference in Las Vegas was the place to be for video production professionals of all kinds. It was my first, and did not disappoint. More than the technology, it was great meeting people whom I’d previously only known through Twitter avatars. Though online “friends” are a great thing, nothing replaces meeting and chatting with people face to face. I took the trip with some production friends from Kansas City, Joseph Pollock, Mike Ransdell, and Melissa Ransdell. We arrived in Las Vegas Sunday night, and checked into the hotel.
Our first stop was the RED party, thrown by Light Iron at the Tropicana. It was the first time I’d seen any 4K material period, and it was easy to see why RED pushes 4K so hard. The material shown on various displays at the party was gorgeous. Curious about the main presentation, Joe and I walked into the main room. The part of the presentation we walked in on was not what I was expecting, to say the least. Whomever was speaking was about half as dynamic as Charlie Rose, which takes some doing. Thankfully there was a great segment featuring Ridley Scott talking about shooting RED on Prometheus. I could listen to Ridley talk all day. Interestingly he made the assertion those who say “shooting 3D adds too much time to the production schedule” are full of it. Next was the CineBeer meetup at Public House in the Venetian. I met a lot of people I’d been following in my Twitter timeline for some time. That was a great group of people – I learned that I don’t know jack about beer compared to Cail Young or Alister Robbie.
The next few days of the conference flew by so fast. Quite easily my favorite booth of the show was Blackmagic Design. Resolve 9 looks insane – and the nutters at BMD are including it free with the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera, along with UltraScopes. That’s $1500 in software on a camera that in total costs $3000. So technically speaking the BMDCC is only $1500 when it is worth much more. BMD has taken the era of “no excuses” to a whole new level. A lesser known rumor is every unit requires unicorn tears in the manufacturing process. I went back to the BMD booth 5 or 6 times with new questions every time. You could tell the BMD reps were being very careful with what details they released about it. A smart thing, when you consider the sort of backlash that can occur when you promise the moon and deliver a pebble. BMD came to dominate NAB and they did, in so, so many aspects.
Other favorite booths included the Red Giant Software booth. It was great to finally meet Aharon Rabinowitz in person. Joe and I helped on their Denoiser II product video and it was fun to chat with someone who I first “met” looking for After Effects tutorials on Creative Cow. Seth Worley and Simon Walker were fun fellows to chat with as well. Red Giant’s booth had a lot of great presentations. One regret I have is not meeting Peder Norrby, creator of Trapcode. Adobe, well, what can you say? They had a huge area all demoing Creative Suite 6. I dig their subscription model for Creative Cloud very much. Post Magazine had an area mostly dedicated to Post TV, where they had a plethora of live NAB coverage. Marc Loftus had me on as a guest briefly, were we ripped through a variety of topics. You can check out that video here.
I found myself coming back again and again to the Kessler/Zacuto booth. I made it a point to try out a variety of follow focuses at NAB and it became readily apparent why Zacuto has the reputation they do. KesslerCrane’s new products were plentiful and rock solid. A number of their new products were also really lightweight. A complaint I’ve heard before about Kessler gear is how heavy it can be. It seems they have been listening. Meeting everyone at the booth was great fun as well – a great bunch that I’ve followed on Twitter for some time. Kessler Fusion is an incredible system, but the ShuttlePod Mini is what caught my eye. That and a number of their smaller products, like their multi-angle mounting plate and quick release plate system. Joe and I found time to go test some of these smaller products in the desert and they are all rock solid. I am a fan of their KC-Lite jib, but the new Pocket Jib Pro looked and felt absolutely awesome.
A surprise booth for me was JAG35. I had not had the chance to play with any of their products before. Their quality is superb to say the least. Canon’s booth was immaculate as I expected. Seeing Shane Hurlbut talk in person was nothing short of epic. He was talking Act of Valor and his short film “The Ticket” shot on Canon’s new 4K DSLR. Shane’s work is superb and his speaking style is like trying to trap lightning in a bottle. An entertaining, informative, and just plain passionate individual.
There was no shortage of high speed cameras at the conference. The notable ones to me were the TS3Cine and Phantom Miro line of cameras. Portable high speed is going to give many creative options they wouldn’t have had before. The interface on the TS3 Cine was likable and easy to use. The fact it shoots Cinema DNG doesn’t hurt, either. I hope Fastec Imaging continues exploring the area of portable high speed cameras. I didn’t get to play much with the Sony FS-700 but it looks quite impressive. Matt Allard has a great article on DSLR News Shooter here worth checking out regarding FS700.
The most interesting camera support gear to me was Letus. Their Master Cinema Series line of gear, a collaboration with Shane Hurlbut, interests me very much. Initially I didn’t quite “get” it, but its a camera agnostic platform that isn’t an investment in any one camera. The cage, yes, but everything else is modular and can be configured many different ways. Seeing what they come up with for cameras like the BMDCC will be interesting. The odd form factor of the BMDCC seems to invite support gear like a Letus cage. Manfrotto was also demoing their Sympla DSLR rigs at NAB. They felt good, but not quite as good as Zacuto or Letus.
The GoPro booth was popular, and for good reason. Every day they gave away the GoPro HERO 2 and other GoPro goodies. The material being demoed on their screens was fantastic. On top of that, David Newman was giving presentations every day about their new software. David used to be with CineForm before they were acquired by GoPro. Though this sounds like a mancrush, and it is, somewhat, I think he is one of GoPro’s most important people. Joe and I got the chance to pick his brain a bit at the Kessler party. He’s the sort I could listen to for hours, his knowledge of production and post production is vast.
Dell was also at NAB, making their home in the large Intel booth. It was fun to meet up with some of the Dell employees I met at SXSW. They had a private meeting with those who have been testing their workstations to get feedback from us and see how our experiences had been with Adobe CS5.5 and Dell workstations. The discussion was lively and it was great to see what Dell was up to. Now publicly released, you should check out their T5600 and T7600 workstations. To call them “workhorses” would be something of an understatement. They absolutely smoke the “current” Mac Pro line. Wait if you like, but working on hopes and rumors is not a smart way to go.
The announcements and technology at NAB were great, but meeting people was the best part of it. The Post Chat meetup in particular was lots of good fun. The first day I arrived I felt a bit awkward but once you start meeting people and get in the habit of introducing yourself to people it becomes quite natural. I met a lot of great people and I can’t wait for next year. So many talented folks showed up and were quite friendly. It was interesting to me how humble some were – I met a lot of people I look up to, but none were arrogant about their talents. I haven’t mentioned TimeScapes due to it being in its own blog post next week. Now that I have seen it about 10 times I think I can share my thoughts on it. If you have yet to make it to NAB, plan on it. It’s a great place to connect with like minded folks. To everyone I met – thanks for such a great time. Hopefully I’ll see you at NAB 2013!