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April 15, 2013

NAB 2013: 6K Cinema Camera, 4K Tablet, and More

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The NAB show (the biggest video/broadcast show in the world) is the best place to find out what’s coming for video and cinema technology. The new products and announcements at NAB 2013 present a new reality for video professionals: 4K DSLR video is here, affordable 4K cinema camera technology is a reality, and 6K production cinema cameras are here too. What’s more: 4K display technology is now world-wide (finally hitting the US market) and the PC hardware and software ecosystem is innovating rapidly to tackle the new and increased demands for post-production. In this post, I’ll share some of the awesome things I saw and got my hands on during a brief visit at NAB 2013.

Cameras and Camera Tech

RED Digital Cinema has officially broken the 6K barrier by releasing the RED DRAGON 6K digital cinema camera which records both motion and still images in 6K resolution at up to 100 fps! When shooting with the RED DRAGON, creative professionals will achieve even more image detail than the Industry leading 5k sensor and even more dynamic range than previous RED camera systems. 6K resolution also allows more composition freedom when downscaling to HD or 4K finished video files.

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A fully functional RED DRAGON camera with accessories

But RED didn’t just show the RED DRAGON, they brought the assembly line to the show by constructing a clean room where attendees could watch RED DRAGON cameras being assembled. Furthermore, RED started taking orders for these new cameras on the first day of the show. The excitement in the air was palpable.

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A lineup of RED DRAGON cameras being tested following assembly at NABShow

Some high-level specs for the RED DRAGON: (more available here)

  • Maximum resolution: 6144×3160 (19 MP)
  • Dynamic range: 16.5+ stops
  • Weight: 5lb (brain only)

One of my questions for RED was how this 6K capability would affect data rates and post production workflow. RED CEO Jim Jannard told me that while the images are larger in resolution, the DRAGON sensor produces cleaner images (than prior sensors) that can use higher compression ratios. According to Jim, this allows 6K resolution footage to be acquired at lower data rates compared with the previous generation EPIC 5K sensor using equivalent settings. RED also showed the new RED ROCKET-X 4K/5K/6K decode/transcode card, a 5x more powerful card than the original RED ROCKET card. The good news is that with RED ROCKET-X and REDCINE-X Pro, the new RED DRAGON 6K workflow is well supported in hardware and software. As I recently discussed with RED’s Ted Schilowitz, creative professionals looking for the most powerful post-production hardware are finding great options with Windows-based OEM hardware like HP Z-series workstations. I’m looking forward to pushing the limits with 6K workflows on Windows!

At NAB 2012, Blackmagic Design debuted a new camera concept and product: the Blackmagic Cinema Camera which shoots at up to 2.5K resolution and is available with Canon EF or micro four-thirds mounts. This year Blackmagic unveiled the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K which records on a super 35mm sensor at up to 4K resolution at 30fps (3840×2160) and carries a list price of just $3995.00 USD (current planned availability is July 2013). On the exterior this new camera is pretty much the same as the original 2.5K Blackmagic Cinema Camera, but this new model can record at 4K Ultra-HD resolution.

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Blackmagic Production Camera 4K with Angenieux cine lens

Another interesting new camera from Blackmagic announced at NAB this year is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera. Essentially the same size as a small point and shoot camera, this new member of the Blackmagic camera family offers many of the features that you’d find on a full sized HD cinema including an active lens mount (micro four-thirds), SD memory support, 800×480 LCD screen with enhanced focus mode, microphone input, and HDMI output.

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Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with ARRI 18-80 cine lens – crazy proportions!

Canon also had all of their latest cameras on display, including two that shoot in 4K, the EOS C500 super 35mm cinema camera, and the EOS-1D C DSLR cinema camera. The C500 is a unique take on the cinema camera concept due to the unique ergonomic design and other features. The C500 can record 2K streams to internal CF media, or 4K streams (at up to 4096×2160, 60fps) to an external recorder.

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The Canon EOS C500 4K Cinema Camera with Canon 30-105 cinema lens

4K video has hit the DSLR camera market! The Canon EOS-1D C Camera is new (available since March 2013) and is the first 4K video capable DSLR camera. With its ability to record 4K footage (4096×2160, 24fps) without downscaling, this camera provides new video capabilities for the cinematic DSLR shooter.

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DSLR? Cinema Camera? The EOS-1D C is both!

Director/producer Vincent Laforet was on hand at the Canon booth to talk about his experiences with the EOS-1D C. Vincent paired up the EOS-1D C with a truly innovative gyro stabilized camera system called the MōVI which you can see and read about in his blog post here (amazing). It was a pleasure meeting Vincent and talking about the challenges editors face with 4K footage in post-production.

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Vincent Laforet talking about his experiences with the Canon EOS 1D-C and the MōVI

With so many exciting new camera products on display at the show (way too many to list) it was really hard to take it all in. One thing is for sure: 4K (and beyond) is a reality, and we are all in for an exciting technology transformation as 4K motion picture cameras become more mainstream over the following years. I’m looking forward to bringing you all more stories about post production with these amazing new cameras on Windows – there’s certainly a lot to talk about.

Displays and Hardware

So 4K cameras are great and all, but if you can’t see it in full resolution or can’t edit it- what’s the point? The good news is: there is a ton of innovative new technology specifically aimed at producing and viewing 4K high-res footage.

In case you didn’t catch the announcement at CES 2013, Panasonic is releasing the world’s first Tablet with 4K display resolution, and it’s designed for Windows 8! At NAB 2013, I got the opportunity to play with this soon-to-be-released Windows 8 PC, and I’ll have to say it’s amazing.

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Hands-on with the Panasonic ToughPad 4K Tablet PC

The display on this PC is gorgeous, and it has awesome 10-point multi-touch support as well. I was surprised at how thin and light this PC is – I would consider it to be a very thin if it were just a display with no PC inside!

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Panasonic 4K Tablet side profile

With a resolution of 3840×2560, the Panasonic ToughPad 4K Tablet screen is actually beyond 4K-UltraHD resolution (3840×2160). The 15×10 aspect ratio provides a nice layout as well. This is the ultimate Tablet to go along with your new 4K camera!

Panasonic also had a collection of amazing professional monitors on display, including the Panasonic BT-4LH310 31-inch native 4K 4096×2160 production monitor. I’ve been testing 4K displays with Windows 8 recently (including 2 4K displays run off a single adapter), and would love to give this one a try while color grading video footage.

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You have to see the Panasonic BT-4LH310 31-inch monitor in person to appreciate the image quality

There were also several “extreme” 4K displays at the show. These mammoth display setups included projectors, giant TVs, digital signage solutions, and other large form-factor 4K display technologies. I could certainly use some of this equipment in my lab.

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The Leyard 4K ultra-hd LED video wall is constructed of multiple panels

Post-Production Tools

There was quite a buzz around the Adobe booth at the show at NAB this year. Adobe was performing demos and presentations featuring some of the yet-to-be-named new and updated Adobe Creative Suite applications. I love how well Adobe Creative Suite applications take advantage of industry-leading extreme graphics capabilities on Windows (lots of accelerated features), and they have done a lot of great work integrating with 3rd parties like RED Digital Cinema.

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Adobe’s Jason Levine shows off the next version of Premiere Pro

It was standing room only as Adobe’s Jason Levine gave walkthroughs of the exciting new features that will be included in the next version of the Adobe Premiere Pro, including:

  • Redesigned timeline UI
  • Duplicate frame indicators
  • Paste attributes selection UI
  • New keyboard shortcuts for common tasks (Ex: nudge clip up/down)
  • Built-in Looks Browser with pre-built looks from Adobe SpeedGrade
  • DNxHD codec support built-in

I can’t wait to experience these improvements and to try out new features.

Adobe also ran interactive demos of the new Creative Suite applications in their booth, including the next version of Adobe SpeedGrade.

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Adobe’s Colin Smith running demos of the next version of SpeedGrade on an HP Z820 workstation running Windows

The next version of SpeedGrade has some great new features including:

  • New Media Browser and Look Manager
  • Scaling optimizations for laptop users
  • Continuity Checker
  • Snapshot Browser
  • Shot Matcher

While visiting the GoPro booth, I met GoPro Software Technical Support Manager Jake Segraves. Jake is shown here demonstrating GoPro CineForm Studio Pro on a killer Alienware laptop running Windows. Did you know that extreme gaming PC laptops can also be a great video editing laptops? Extreme mobile graphics and large screens make these machines great for pro-video work.

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Jake Segraves demonstrating Cineform Studio Pro on an Alienware Laptop running Windows

GoPro CineForm Studio is available in three different versions on Windows including a free version, a premium version, and a professional version. Each version has a different feature set, but with all versions you can transcode to a GoPro CineForm format (the supported input files vary by version of GoPro CineForm Studio). When editing GoPro CineForm-based media files you can achieve excellent editing efficiency and portable adjustment capabilities without the need to re-render. Jake performed a demo where he made color grading adjustments in GoPro CineForm Studio and then performed playback of the same file in Windows Media Player with no re-render (settings were applied in playback), very cool. Jake also performed demos of some of the cool 3D editing capabilities that are built into GoPro CineForm Studio. I’m looking forward to trying out 3D shooting and editing with my GoPro HERO3 cameras, and now I’m inspired to go out and do it!

My only regret at NAB 2013 was the fact that I didn’t have time to see everything. I’m certainly looking forward to using some of the awesome new technology I saw at the show, more on that as the story unfolds.

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