Wednesday, April 25, 2012


 Now that NAB is over I thought I would offer some observations and comments.

  I haven't see any any attendance figures yet but I didn't seem to think it was quite as crowded as last year...but I could be wrong.

4K Stuff

  As I predicted in my prior blog post, 4K monitors are starting to appear.  Both Sony and Panasonic were showing demo models, without prices of course.  I'm sure they won't come cheap.  Sony had a 4K "theater" running with various pieces done with 4K cameras.  But these were displayed via a 4K projector on a movie-like screen.  They really looked great.  I'm speculating the primary market for the "prosumer" 4K cameras will be indy filmmakers.

Sony NEX-FS700 Camcorder

  There was lots of excitement over this new Sony camcorder.  Not so much about its "4K ready" future but more about its slow-motion capability that is unmatched in a camera of this price range.  Here's a video review of the camera.

Sony PMW-100 Camcorder

  This new Sony camera was a surprise for me at NAB.  I had not seen any of the usual blogs announcing it.  It's in the EX line of Sony along with, for example, the PMW-EX1R.  It records on the same SxS cards that the EX1R/EX3 use.  It seems to be a junior brother to those cameras with some features (like 4:2:2 video and HDMI output) that the EX1R/EX3 don't have.  In fact, the camera has analog, Firewire, HDMI, and HDSDI outputs.  It can record in either HDV or AVCHD video formats giving it a great "crossover" capability.

  If you have an EX1/EX3 the PMW-100 would be a good second camera.  If you have a Sony HVR-Z1U-class cameras and are ready to move up to a more professional-level camera, the PMW-100 could be a good step.

  There are several review videos of the PMW-100 on YouTube.  Here's a Sony promotional video describing it:

Sony HXR-NX30 Camcorder

  I mentioned this camera in my previous blog post.  I got to look at it up close at the Sony booth.  This little camcorder seems to based on the HXR-MC50 (which I love) with three additional features: 1) a "trick" moving lens stabilization system; 2) a built-in video projector; and 3) a tall lens hood that allows flash photos with the hood in place.  

  I would expect to see the moving lens stabilization system to start appearing on other Sony camera releases in the future.  I can attest that the "active stabilization" feature of the MC50 and Sony HXR-NX70 are the best in-camera stabilization that I've ever seen.  So good, in fact, that I can do handheld moving shots that approach (but not equal) those that I can do with the Steadicam Merlin.  The moving lens system of the NX30 may eliminate the need for an external stabilizer, but only time will tell.

  There are several videos about the NX30 on YouTube.  Here's a Sony promotional video.  

Sony No-glasses 3D TV

  Sony was demonstrating a 46" no-glasses 3D HDTV prototype.  I didn't get any specifics on it but I'm guessing it uses a lenticular lens overlay to create the 3D effect.  You've probably seen 3D magazine covers in 3D that use such a lenticular lens overlay to create the effect.  With the Sony TV you had to be fairly close and within a fairly narrow viewing cone to get the effect.


  GoPro's booth is approaching the size of Panasonic's, to which it was next.  And Pana's "booth" is huge.  GoPro seems to be expanding in every dimension - making their products fit more pro applications and evolving software systems to support the cameras.  I personally use the Contour POV camera but the GoPro is by far the most used for POV applications.

Sachtler Ace Tripod System

  I was quite impressed by the newly-released Ace tripod from Sachtler.  I have used the Sachtler DV6 fluid head for years and love it.  But the DV6 is really for larger cameras such as the Sony EX1/EX3.  The Ace system is designed for smaller HDV and DSLR cameras but it keeps the great counter-balance and variable drag features of the DV6 head.

  I was so impressed with the Ace system that I ordered one upon my return to Tucson  It should go great with my MC50 and NX70 cameras.  The only thing I didn't like about the Ace system is that you can't purchase the head separately.  The Ace head uses a 75mm ball so it could be used on any set of sticks with a 75mm ball.  But getting such a professional head and sticks for just over $535 is a great bargain.  I may actually use the Ace head on the sticks from my Shotoku SH10 system.

  Here's a video review of the system:

Steadicam Smoothee Mounts

  As camcorders such as the iPhone, GoPro, and other small POVs get smaller it is increasingly hard to steady them if using them handheld.  Tiffen decide to introduce the Steadicam Smoothee to help get smooth handheld footage with such cameras.

  At this year's NAB, Tiffen was showing several mounts for adapting various specific cameras to the Smoothee, specifically the iPhone 3Gs/4/4s, the GoPro, and Contour cameras.  Unfortunately, Tiffen has opted to make each adapter camera specific rather than providing a universal 1/4-20 mount that would enable the use of the vast array of small cameras now available such as my Sony DSC-HX10.

  Here's a short video of the Smoothee in operation.

Chinese/Korean Booths

  One unscientifically-determined trend I noted a NAB this year was the increasing number of booths from Korea, Taiwan, and China.  It seems that instead of just being the manufacturer of gear for US other countries they are starting to market products under their own banner.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.
DSLRs shooting news videos

"News" Cameras

  There are always "news" crews from various agencies and blogs shooting interviews at NAB.  I noticed that a large number this year are shooting video with DSLRs rather than conventional video cameras.  Some of the DSLRs were mounted on tripods but a lot of them were mounted on "rigs" carried by the shooter rather than tripods.

Friday, April 13, 2012


  We have arrived in Vegas for a weekend of fun and photos/video (and a little gambling, of course).  The wife and I will take in a show and enjoy some good food before she returns home Sunday and I get revved up for  the NAB - National Association of Broadcasters - convention.  This is the show for big boy video toys.

  My recent blog posting discussed some of the new acquisition devices coming out, particularly those of the "4K" variety.

  There will undoubtedly be lots of other new gadgets to see.

  I expect that 4K-capable monitors will start appearing to go along with the new 4K cameras. 
  Even though most of us are barely into the 2K (HDTV) age, I expect there will be a continual push to higher resolutions.  I have read that there is already a 4K television standard being drafted.  But even discounting the future of higher definition television transmission, the higher resolution cameras are emerging at near prosumer pricing which makes them ideal for indie filmmakers.

  Even more efficient and cost-effective LED lighting will probably on display.  LEDs are quickly replacing incandescent lighting and as more powerful LEDs become available they are starting to encroach on HMI lighting for high power lighting applications.

  I have heard rumors that plasma lights may be starting to emerge for video and cine lighting.  These are supposed to be even more efficient than LED lights.  There may actually be some prototypes at NAB this year.  I'll watch for them although I would expect that they will be quite expensive early on.

  Unfortunately, Macrosystem representatives will not be in attendance this year.  As you recall, last year Herr Sprave had a nearby hotel suite where he met with dealers in attendance to discuss upcoming plans.  I will miss that this year.

Friday, April 6, 2012


  Sony has released a firmware upgrade for their HXR-NX70 camcorder.  This upgrade provides several nice new capabilities to the camera.  

  Here's a complete list of what's added:

  1. Improvement of zoom rocker operation(Selectable zoom speed). 
  2. Dual Recording for Simultaneous Rec. to its internal memory and memory card.
  3. Added 1920×1080/30p and 1280×720/60p.
  4. The EXPANDED FOCUS and HISTOGRAM buttons are now assignable keys.
  5. Added Last Scene Review feature.
  6. The Display ON/OFF button now also controls display of the Face Detection Box onto video output.
  7. Display ON/OFF optionally overlays Zebra and/or Histogram display onto video output.
  I've just downloaded and installed the upgrade but haven't had a chance to try out the new features.  Part of the install process requires a reset of the camera which puts all of the menu settings back to their factory default values so I've got to go through and re-establish my own personal settings.

  Item 1 doesn't mean much to me because most of my shooting is from a tripod using a remote zoom controller but it should be of great value to shooting handheld because the rocker control of zoom speed (before the upgrade) was quite twitchy.

  Item 2 is a great addition for those people worried about SD card corruption and loss of important shots.  The internal memory is 96GB so it can handle more than any available SD card.

  Item 3 isn't of interest to me but "filmmakers" will probably rejoice.

  Item 4 is a great addition.  Assignable buttons are a feature well loved on the Sony PMW-EX1R.

  Item 5 is also a great addition.  I really liked this on the EX1R.  Now, if they'd just add a "delete last scene" feature like the EX1R.

  Item 6 is not important to me.

  Item 7 is probably most useful to those using external monitors.

  You can download the manual describing the firmware update additions here.

  My previous blog discussion of the NX70 is here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


  The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2012 show begins in less than two weeks from now.  I expect to attend again this year.

  There are usually one or more "hot topics" or trends that each year's show seems to have that stand out among the many technology activities there.  One that I've noticed that seems to be emerging for this year's show is "4K" video where 4K means the camera has some 4000 (3840) horizontal pixels.  For comparison, HDTV has about 2000 (1920) horizontal pixels and is therefore called "2K" video.

  4K cameras have been around for at least two years in the high-end cinematography arena but these were specialized and quite expensive cameras.
  What I see as the trend is for cameras with this high resolution emerging at "reasonable" prices.


  The first in this new lower-cost 4K family was the recently released JVC GY-HMQ10 priced below $5000.  Here's a picture of it:
   It's pretty amazing that such high resolution video technology can be done in such a small package!

  Now Sony has just announced their first "prosumer" 4K camcorder, the NEX-FS700.  Although official pricing has not been announced, it is expected to be below $9000, without lens.  Here's a picture of it:
  Although this camera is significantly more costly than the JVC model it has some amazing capabilities.  In addition to being "4K-capable" (via a firmware upgrade coming sometime after initial release), it has some slow-motion capabilities heretofore only available in much more expensive video cameras.  

  The FS700 will be able to shoot 120 fps in a 16-sec burst, 240 fps in an 8-sec burst and, 960 fps (at a 1080-"1K") resolution!  That's pretty amazing.


  Because current HDTV standards do not support do not support 4K resolutions one would expect that the preceding cameras will be mostly of interest to the "indie" filmmakers that have been adapting digital single lens reflex (DSLR) still cameras with video modes to their needs. The Sony camera above has a "super 35" size sensor which gives it the shallow depth of field that filmmakers lust after.


  Along with the NEX-FS700 described above, Sony announced the tiny HXR-NX30 compact HD camcorder, which is expected to have a price around $2500.  The unique features of this camera are a gyro-stabilized lens and sensor system and a built-in projector!

  The general specifications of this camera are very similar to the Sony HXR-MC50 but with the two additional features.  It will be interesting to compare the gyro-stablilized lens system of this camera with the very good stabilization capability of the MC50.

  Sony has announced yet another camera before NAB - the PMW-100.  This latest camera in the XDCAM EX line seems to be a smaller version of the PMW-EX1R but with a higher - 50Mbps - data rate than the 35Mbps of the EX1R.  The sensor is smaller than that of the EX1R.  Here's a picture of it.

  Pricing has not been officially announced but should be around $5000.


  I'm sure there will be lots of other new and innovative things to see a NAB.  I'm looking forward to it.  Let me know if you're going to be in attendance also.