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Highlights from NAB 2015: What's New?

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Core Training: Compositing and Visual FX course!

As I write this, I’m on the show floor at NAB, setting up for the week to come, and the first thing you notice is how massive the show is. Just the South Hall, where I’m working on the CoreMelt stand, is hundreds of meters long, dwarfing most trade shows I’ve attended, and there are two more halls north of here and one more floor above me. Definitely a big deal if you’re in the video industry, NAB is the place where many companies show off their newest releases—and often where you can find discounts too.

Just one tiny part of the South Hall.

Just one tiny part of the South Hall.

So what happens?

Over 1700 exhibitors show their wares, and you’d have to keep on the move, seeing one company per minute for the entire show, to see them all. That’s not really practical, so what you’ll end up doing is heading to the big booths first, then scanning past as many smaller booths as you can before your eyes glaze over. Luckily, many booths are organized into somewhat loose categories—storage, plug-ins, rigging solutions, etc. so you can explore your areas of interest relatively easily. While there are many smaller booths worth looking at, inevitably the big guns will attract the most attention with their big product releases, huge booths and enormous, convention-center-covering banners.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the latest and greatest announcements from NAB 2015, punctuated with largely unrelated photographs just for fun.

You can’t afford this Panavised camera.

You can’t afford this Panavised camera.

Apple

Apple didn’t have a booth at NAB, but Final Cut Pro X 10.2 was still released at 9 a.m. on Monday, and it brings a ton of new features to the table. With the recent use of FCP X in Focus, it’s great to see Apple taking an active interest in pushing the app further. The release is so big we’ve got a feature article on it (see Final Cut Pro X 10.2 Update is Here With Plenty of New features). With 3D titles, more advanced masks on any effect, improved slow-motion and many bug fixes (including audio waveform performance), this a must-download, and a good prompt to update to Yosemite 10.10.3 if you haven’t already. Grab FCP X 10.2 right now in Software Update if you’re not in the middle of a project.

OWC showed off plenty of new toys, but I like the look of this prototype dock.

OWC showed off plenty of new toys, but I like the look of this prototype dock.

Adobe

The next version of Premiere isn’t quite ready to go, but Creative Cloud subscribers can expect a ton of new features soon. Improvements to color correction with the new Lumetri tools, ProRes support, the morph cut transition, and Creative Cloud libraries for easier access to elements made in Photoshop or Illustrator promise to bring useful improvements.

Something quite different, though, is the new Adobe Character Animator, which generates live cartoons based on your own words, mouth shapes and head movements. For some workflows, and for those of us with expressive faces, this could be a big deal indeed, and could grow into a terrific way to create animation.

Quantel was showing off their 8K solution, which was so noteworthy the mention itself warrants a photo.

Quantel was showing off their 8K solution, which was so noteworthy the mention itself warrants a photo.

Avid

The new Media Composer First isn’t out yet, but promises to be a free way to explore at least most of what Media Composer has to offer. Given that it’s free, there will be a lot of limitations, but with Apple and Adobe both offering cut-down “gateway” editors (iMovie and Premiere Clip) it’s good to see Avid join the party.

So many drones in so many net enclosures.

So many drones in so many net enclosures.

Canon

For those seeking more of a camcorder and less of a cinematic tool, the new XC10 offers 4K in a small, funky form factor with a flip-up screen. With a relatively small sensor, it’s unlikely to win converts from the likes of a GH4, though it does support Canon LOG recording.

The Canon XC10 is certainly cute, but we’ll see how it goes.

The Canon XC10 is certainly cute, but we’ll see how it goes.

However, the new C300 Mk II breaks more intriguing ground, offering 15 stops of dynamic range and a big list of features that many cinematographers have been asking for. High speed is finally included, with 60–120 fps in 2K (the higher rate if you’re willing to crop), and up to 30 fps at 4K internally. Usefully for grading, there’s 10-bit 422 (at least with 2K/HD resolutions) in a range of new bitrates with some new codecs (though ProRes would have been more convenient) and RAW support if you use an external recorder.

If you’re considering this $16000 camera, consider also that the C300 Mk I has now been discounted, and also perhaps consider Blackmagic’s revised URSA sensor and new URSA Mini.

The URSA, now smaller and with a choice of sensors.

The URSA, now smaller and with a choice of sensors.

Blackmagic

Three new cameras from Blackmagic this year—the URSA Mini, a lighter version of the production-size URSA, the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera, a truly tiny camera for drone and gimbal use, without even a screen, and the similar Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K, also without a screen. But wait, there’s a screen too: a new 1080p mini-monitor, Blackmagic Video Assist, that doubles as a ProRes recorder. At $499 it could prove useful even if it’s only used as as screen. The URSA also has a new 4.6K sensor which can capture at 120 fps, and existing users can upgrade if they want to. The URSA Mini can also be fitted with this new sensor, but there’s a $2K difference in cost between the old 4K and the new 4.6K sensors, a sign perhaps that the new sensor is a decent step up.

One of the small new cameras (they share a form factor) and the new video monitor.

One of the small new cameras (they share a form factor) and the new video monitor.

On the software front, Blackmagic were showing off a new Mac version of Fusion, and also Resolve 12. Continuing their traditional of yearly updates, they’ve extended the editing features of Resolve, and while the interface owes a lot to FCP X, it has the track-based interface of FCP 7. I like to think of it as FCP 9 to Premiere’s FCP 8, though if you’re not comfortable with the node-based color workflow, you may prefer to stay with FCP X (or Premiere).

The next big thing: displays you can walk on.

The next big thing: displays you can walk on.

RED

The new 6K RED DRAGON sensors promise to bring more dots to the party than we’ve seen before in a feature-class camera. Their new WEAPON brain also brings ProRes support up to 2K, which is certainly welcome, but really, if you’re in the RED fold, this will likely keep you there, and if you’re not, the cost is still likely to give you pause. It’s worthy, but not a casual purchase.

Some very nice, color-accurate displays from Eizo.

Some very nice, color-accurate displays from Eizo.

Conclusion

I’ve barely scratched the surface with this summary, but it’s difficult to do more than that, even if you spend all four days on the move. But the key news all ends up online, in articles like this one, so why go to NAB? First, you can talk to the people behind the products you use, talking off the record or merely being able to ask that really tricky question you haven’t been able to find an answer to. Second, you can see unannounced products that don’t feature in press releases.

But most importantly of all, you can meet with people you only know through forums and social media, share a drink or a chat, and make new connections in a way that’s not possible through a keyboard. As is true of life, the human component is what makes it worthwhile.

PS. And the parties!

I seem to remember some of the nice folks from FCPWORKS at a pretty fun FCP X gathering.

I seem to remember some of the nice folks from FCPWORKS at a pretty fun FCP X gathering.

PPS. And the driving through the desert in a convertible.

Yes, the black one in the front.

Yes, the black one in the front.

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Core Training: Compositing and Visual FX course!

Iain Anderson

Iain Anderson | Articles by this author

Iain Anderson is an editor, animator, designer, developer and Apple Certified Trainer based in Brisbane, Australia. He has taught privately and in tertiary institutions, and has freelanced for Microsoft and the Queensland Government. Comfortable with anything from Quartz Composer to Second Life and Final Cut Pro to Adobe Creative Suite, he has laid out books, booklets, brochures and business cards; retouched magazine covers and product packaging, shot and edited short films and animated for HD broadcast TV, film festivals and for the web.

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