Over the next week or two I'll be posting our NAB roundup article(s) going into more depth on each of our vendors NAB announcements and new product introductions. Today's article is more my impressions and reflections on the overall tone of the show and where the industry is heading.
NAB is a professional show - again.
Over the past few years the NAB show started to feel more and more like CES. We were starting to become dominated by the Apple distortion field and the thousands of FCP fans that attended. While FCP had made enormous inroads into professional post, the NAB floor seemed to be teaming with FCP kiddies. This crowd was full of young, aspiring editors who went more for the fun and give-aways than to conduct business. Last year’s FCPX fiasco at the Supermeet put an end to that, and I don't think it’s a bad thing. Don't get me wrong, I still love the SuperMeet and the Videoguys are a proud sponsor, I just think that the NAB show is better when it is attended by professionals and people who make a living using, selling, and creating products.
The Post PC era
Tim Cook, the new head of Apple, now refers to the current technology trend as the “post PC era.” I happen to agree with him when he talks about the people who use technology to view, watch and participate in media. But, when it comes to actually creating, managing and working with media, we still need the strongest most powerful machines.
The buzz around NAB was that the Mac Pro is dead. I heard speculation about this at almost every booth I visited. Based on all the intel (pun intended) I could gather, I'm going to give it to you straight - We will not see new Mac Pro updates. I hope I'm wrong, just like I was a year ago with FCPX. But my gut tells me that it's a done deal. Sure, Apple could change their mind in a heartbeat, but I don't see it happening. What I could see, and what I would LOVE to see happen is for Apple to license Mac OS to HP and allow us to run OSX on one of the new HP workstations, especially my dream machine, the all-in-one HP Z1 workstation.
As I tweeted the other day @videoguys “OS X on a new HP Z1 would be amazing! A Symphony to my ears, Smokin hot for all NLEs, my head would be in the CS6 clouds.”
Thunderbolt, calling Mr. Thunderbolt!
At last year's NAB Show, Apple and Intel introduced their new Thunderbolt interface. Thunderbolt is a copper version of Intel's Lightpath technology promising to bring in a new era of high speed connectivity. Let's be honest, Thunderbolt has gotten off to a miserable start. While Apple includes it on every iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Book Pro they now ship, Thunderbolt devices are few and far between. However, I/O hardware manufacturers have gladly embraced the new technology. AJA, Matrox, Motu and Blackmagic all make Thunderbolt I/O devices that work great with FCP, Avid and Adobe NLE software - some of them now even work with FCPX for preview.
At this year’s NAB Show AJA introduced the T-Tap, one of my favorite new products from the show floor. T-Tap is a mini converter that allows you to go directly from your Thunderbolt port out to SDI & HDMI for monitoring and play out. With a $249 price, it is the must have accessory for every Mac based editor!
But, beyond I/O, Thunderbolt has been a no show - especially for storage. Here we are a year after Thunderbolt was announced and the only company that has been shipping reliable Thunderbolt storage is Promise. (I know Lacie has been shipping Thunderbolt drives, but I just don't consider them a viable recommendation for my customers because of reported issues with quality, reliability and heat). G-Tech just announced that their G-RAID Thunderbolt drives are now shipping to Apple Stores, but we'll have to wait until summer to get our first deliveries. Why the long wait? I'm going to lay the blame for this one on Apple & Intel. Getting Thunderbolt certified is incredibly difficult, and it shouldn't be that way. Not if the spec was fully baked and the chips where rock solid.
Several companies have created Thunderbolt boxes that will allow you to install your existing PCIe cards in them, extending the life of your RAID cards and older I/O devices. I've asked and it looks like it's going to be quite some time before we see GPUs function inside these boxes, extending their CUDA and Open GL/CL power to your iMac or MacBook.
My sources tell me Thunderbolt is coming to PCs later this year. Initially in laptops, but eventually integrated onto motherboards. I can't wait! Check out the Videoguys' Guide to Thunderbolt to learn more about this great new technology.
The Post Apple era in Post
Since Apple pulled the plug on FCP and decided to go after the masses with FCPX the video editing industry has become more exciting than ever. All editors learned that they can't become dependent on any one company or tool. You need to keep on top of and have access to all of the tools you need.
- Adobe CS6 is loaded with revolutionary new technology and a level of inter-activity and inter-operation that takes it beyond a suite of software to a tightly integrated set of tools. No one is pushing the technology harder and further than Adobe right now. Professional editors need to include Production Premium in their NLE toolbox. Adobe's CS6 reveal made them one of the hottest booths at NAB 2012. Adobe CS6 officially launched April 23rd and it starts shipping May 7th. Anyone who purchases CS5.5 between now and the new software ship-date gets a free upgrade to CS6 directly from Adobe via download. This can save you hundreds of dollars!
- Avid has reduced the cost of their products so dramatically that every editor can now use Avid. When you combine their $999 Symphony crossgrade offer with the ability to use your choice of 3rd party I/O hardware, editors and production facilities have no excuses not to add Avid into their workflow
- Autodesk has decided to jump into the NLE space and give editors a 3rd "A" to choose from. Smoke at $3,495 is revolutionary, and while it is still expensive and requires a steeper learning curve, we see them becoming a major player in NLE going forward.
- Grass Valley Edius continues to grab seats in broadcast and news. GV is optimizing Edius to integrate into these broadcast workflows. Edius is a rock solid NLE, that allows you to cut and edit video very quickly and efficiently. That's why it dominated the Same Day Edit space in Event Videography and why it is gaining so much momentum in news and local broadcast.
- Sony Vegas Pro still remains one of the best kept secrets in NLE. Vegas just does some stuff better than many folks realize - for around $500! You won't hear about Vegas being used on Hollywood films or broadcast TV, but you would be surprised at just how many professionals are doing pretty amazing stuff with it. Their 3D workflow is very affordable and rock solid.
- Apple FCPX. Yes I'm including FCPX here. Yes, they left many, many professional editors high and dry last year. But they've also expanded the market, bringing professional level editing tools to millions of users. I have no idea if the original FCPX roadmap ever included coming back to the professional space, but based on the latest updates and sneak peaks at upcoming features, Apple is still investing in making FCPX an option for professional post. Time will tell.
The Post PC era for Content
3D is so 2011
At last year’s NAB2011 show 3D was the big buzz, yet it was barely a whimper in 2012. Although the folks at RED were demonstrating a 4K based projection system that uses lasers and, from what I was told, produces spectacular 3D images, I think one my vendors summed it up perfectly when they joked that "3D is a Zero billion dollar industry'. A year later and 3D is still something that very few of us are doing and even less people are making money. Sure people are creating 3D content, but it seems only Hollywood is actually making any money from it. This of course could and will change, but for now 3D remains a novelty.
4K is coming, but how do we get it?
The big pre-NAB buzz was around 4K. There was a lot of talk about having the ability to acquire and create 4K content. But, no one seems to be addressing how we actually get 4K content into people's living rooms. Even if you spend $10K on a gorgeous 4K projection or flat screen TV, how do you get the 4K content to watch? How do we get 4K footage through the existing cable pipes? How do we beam it down from satellite? Are we going to see a 4K Blu-ray standard with players to support it? Or will 4K be something we simply download from the net? If it's going to be streamed over the web, then someone has got to create an insanely efficient 4K CODEC, beyond H.264.
So for now, the workflow seems to be to shoot in 4K, edit on an NLE that supports 4K, then export a 1080P or 2K file for distribution. I'm getting HD flashbacks!! Remember when you got your first HD camera, edited your footage, then rendered it into SD and put it on a DVD? Yeah, I thought you might. Too many of us are still doing that. Until we have some industry standards for delivering 4K content, I suggest everyone but the most high end producers and editors wait this one out to see what happens in 2013 or even 2014.
Multipurpose your content for multiple devices.
The NAB show stands for National Association of Broadcasters. In 2012 I'm left wondering, just what and who is a broadcaster? Today content creators have to create video for so many different screens, formats and sizes that it can be very overwhelming with the amount of media that has to be managed. One thing is as crystal clear as a 4K video image - video editors and content producers have to create content for multiple screens. People now watch video on HDTVs, iPads, tablets and SmartPhones; via Streaming, Blu-ray & DVD, downloads, video game consoles, computers and other devices.
We have to use the same footage and images and graphics to create content pretty much simultaneously for all formats, flavors and devices. It's a daunting task and one that requires enormous amounts of storage. You’ll also need a way to organize and manage all of the media. Your long term success will depend on understanding these delivery formats and the needs of your customers for each device. The hardware and software tools that make this task more efficient and faster without sacrificing image quality or creativity are going to be vital for your NLE toolbox.
The Post DSLR era for cameras
OK, I've been a huge fan of DSLR video since the initial launch of the Canon 5D Mark II. When the 7D launched we partnered with Canon to provide our Guide to DSLR Video Workflows. Several years and millions of DSLRs later, it looks like the industry is coming back to video cameras, but in a wide variety of form factors and configurations. Red, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony appeared to be slugging it out in this space. Unfortunately it looks like every new camera will come with its own set of CODECs and other issues for post production workflows.
Field recorders like AJA Ki Pro, Convergent Designs’ NanoFlash, Fast Forward Video sideKick HD and the Atomos Ninja and Samurai now all support both ProRes and DNxHD, allowing you to go directly from SDI and/or HDMI to the file format of your choice. All nice solutions, but they come with added costs and complexity and rigging.
Blackmagic Design shocked the world at the NAB Show and introduced an HD camcorder that had folks going crazy. It was by far the biggest news and draw of the show. This new camcorder is designed for post production workflows but features a GUI that feels as much like an iPhone as it does a professional video camera. Thankfully, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera allows you to record directly onto an SSD drive in either ProRes or DNxHD, making it easy to edit your footage.
With a disruptive force like Blackmagic now in the HD camcorder game, all bets are off. Who knows who the winners or losers are going to be? My advice to you is simple. Get the HD camcorder that works best for the kind of video you shoot and produce. Don't get swayed by fanboys or haters. Do your research and figure out what features you need most.
Live video production, Streaming and Post Production are colliding
One of the things that amazed me about this year's NAB Show was how it seemed like every other booth was either streaming video about their new products, selling a streaming video product, or had a streaming video angle. Streaming video is everywhere - we watch it on our computer, on our phone, on our iPad and now even on our HD TV sets.
A few years ago, Newtek created the Tricaster, the product that started the collision between streaming and post production. In my opinion, the Tricaster is one of the most important and amazing products introduced over the past 10 years. It has revolutionized live event productions. Since its introduction, the Tricaster has grown up from a $5K affordable SD solution into a fantastic, but expensive HD broadcast studio in a box. Still amazing, but how many of us have $40K to get one?
We went looking for lower cost streaming solutions and we found a couple that really knocked my socks off. The Livestream Broadcaster is a $500 box that attached to any HDMI source and allows you to instantly stream your video over the LiveStream network. It supports Ethernet, wireless, 3G/4G via USB dongle and there is an app that lets you control it from your iPhone or iPad.
While not at NAB, the folks over at Hauppauge are about to release StreamEez , a high definition video streamer designed for organizations that want a simple to use, high quality video streamer to broadcast live events over the Internet. Currently, the Hauppauge HD PVR is the gold standard for XBOX360 and PS3 gamers looking to record and share videos of their gaming sessions and I expect the StreamEez to be just as popular for live streaming over the Internet.
The GoPro booth was huge, and they were showing a WiFi BacPac kit with remote control that allows you to control your GoPro remotely over WiFi via your phone or tablet with a free GoPro app that also gives you live preview. Now that is cool! Last year they purchased Cineform, to allow an easy way for users to import their GoPro Hero footage into consumer, professional post and even broadcast workflows. Keep your eye on GoPro!
I'm a big fan of Telestream Wirecast and Boinx TV. I would love to see an affordable way to capture multiple HD streams via HDMI or SDI into a laptop or iMac. Now that would be cool, and if my discussions at NAB are any indication, I'm not the only one thinking about this.
NAB - where Social Media meets the real world
One of the biggest highlights of NAB for me was meeting so many of my online friends from Facebook, Twitter and blogging. It was so cool getting to actually meet and share information face to face with so many of you. My only regret was how many of you were there that I did not get to meet. I guess that's the downside of Videoguys not having a booth at NAB. The upside is that I get to walk the floor to see what's new and exciting and I get the opportunity to spend quality time in all our current and potential vendors’ booths. For those of you I didn't get to say hello to, I hope to meet you next year - either at the Supermeet, on the show floor, at one of the fantastic after hours parties or meet ups like the one held by the #PostChat twitter group.