These are the gadgets that will change the way we make films forever, and a few that… well, not so much.
By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
2013 could be a considered what one filmmaker called a game changer. This was the year that technology changed forever the way we make movies and TV projects. Some innovative, some simply matured, but there’s something about these products this year that made us want to use them. And use them we did.
Canon EOS 70D: The Canon EOS 70D is, admittedly, a mid-level DSLR, But even that didn’t stop Canon from introducing a feature that would eventually find it’s way into their professional cinema cameras. Dubbed the “best auto focusing camera ever,” 70Ds Dual Pixel CMOS Auto Focus system uses a phase shift in pixels to detect distance in the image and adjust instantly. And it’s done so well, that Canon recently introduced it in a firmware update for the Canon Cinema C100 cameras.
FreeFly MōVI M10: This is the gadget that filmmaker Vincent LaForet called a game changer. With it’s ability to turn a hand held camera into an ultra steady platform while on the move, the MōVI M10 surpassed the classic Steadicam since it didn’t need a cumbersome vest and arm assembly, but instead relies on electronic gimbals from the R/C copter industry. This enables the handing off of the camera from one operator to another without the image suffering. And Freefly knows that business because they also created a marvelously stable octo-copter for shooting with cameras as well.
DJI Phantom 2 Vision: Speaking of copter platforms, DJI introduced their second generation quadcopter drone, the Phantom 2 Vision. What set this apart from its older brother is that it not only came with it’s own 1080p camera that can shoot Raw video, but it also had a separate gimbal that could be controlled wirelessly over a secondary channel. And even better, the camera could be controlled by an iPhone via the DJI app that could either be equipped onto the Phantom controller, or from a secondary operator. It could record video while showing on board telemetry, and DJI redesigned the Phantom Quad to offer greater battery life, and automatic return should contact with the controller be lost. It’s an excellent update to what was already a game changing camera tool.
GoPro Hero 3+: The GoPro Hero camera grew up with the Hero 3+, with 4K video at 15fps or 2.5K at 30fps being a major feature. And the Hero 3+ also got 30% more battery life and became even smaller (20% smaller). In addition to shooting 4K, the Hero 3+ can shoot up to 120fps in 720p, has improved audio capture, 4x faster WiFi transfer and reduced latency of video preview via the GoPro app, as well as SuperView, a video mode that captures more of the sensor image.
Apple Mac Pro: After several years of hearing users demand and update, Apple’s Tim Cook finally made good on a promise he made last year during the WorldWide Developers Conference and announced the radically different and very cylindrical Mac Pro. Designed to lead the charge into 4K post-production, the update is a beast with up to 3.75GHz 12-core Intel Xenon E5 Processors, 12 GB DDR3 ECC memory, Dual AMD FirePro GPUs, up to 6 Lighting and 4 Thunderbolt 2 ports, and a 256GB SSD flash storage, this baby is built for speed. And thanks to it’s central unified thermal core design, the Mac Pro can be ultra quiet without having to have multiple loud fans to keep her cool. It’s also about 1/5 the size of the previous tower. But for me, the best feature, is that the Mac Pro is assembled right here in the good ol’ USA… in Fort Worth, Texas. Add in a more mature Final Cut Pro X 10.1 update, which handles 4K better than ever, plus works very well with the new Mac Pro, and you have a topnotch editing machine.
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera: Blackmagic could’ve secured itself as a “game changer” in 2013 just by announcing the Production Cinema Camera 4K, but not content with that, they also introduced a pocket model of its successful Cinema Camera that could not only do the same thing that its older brother could do, but do it in Raw … and did we mention it could do it for under $1,000?
Magic Lantern: The plucky Canon camera hack went pro this year by finally cracking the ability of the Canon DSLR platform to record Raw. And they did it so well, they were able to make a camera that wasn’t designed to even shoot video shot Raw video! What’s next for Magic Lantern in 2014? The sky is the limit. Well, that and the physical limitations of that damn buffer!
3D Printers: Originally called “rapid prototypers,” 3D printers went mainstream thanks to the so-called “maker movement,” which brought the cost down on the printers to under $2000. Last year, Hollywood put them to good use, but this year, filmmakers were using them to create prototypes of everything from props to camera platforms and using them to develop some great gear that we saw on Kickstarter. It may not be all that sexy, but a 3D printer is now a must have in any production designer’s shop. In in the future, they’ll slave them to iPads and Kinect cameras to create 3D images of everything.
XBox One / Sony PS4: The next generation gaming platforms showed up this fall, just in time for the Holidays. And the console wars have begun anew. But this new generation of XBox and Playstation isn’t only about gaming anymore. It’s about being a central hub of your entertainment universe, with live TV, broadcasting of your game play over the Internet, and even original programming beamed directly to your console. These aren’t your daddy’s video game players anymore.
Adobe Goes to the Cloud: In 2013, Adobe went all-in on Cloud Computing, announcing that they would only be supporting Adobe products via Adobe Creative Cloud Memberships. And with one update after another, users are finding the new scheme very beneficial. But with their network hacked and under performing sales, unfortunately, Wall Street isn’t all that impressed yet.
Cutting the Cable: Cutting the cable hit the ground running in 2013 as streaming video became a major entertainment option. Not only were users enjoying amazing original dramas like House of Cards over Netflix, but they also brought about a legal war between updates like Aereo and broadcasters seeking to shut down its expansion across the country. And with its ability to leach broadcast signals out of the air with a dime sized antenna, and route them to the Internet, the cable companies were rooting for the broadcasters… and saw them lose one round after another in court. And quietly becoming a favorite amongst the streaming platforms, players like the Apple TV and Roku 3 box got some low priced competition from the Google Chromecast.
I could also add the Apple iPad Air and iPhone 5S which came of age with 64 bit platforms, even thinner form factors, and a new TouchID security feature. But their platforms are so mature now, that it’s hardly expected that they make anything but a ripple. Touch ID, however, is an interesting innovation that makes every day use of the iPhone easier. So that’s something.
What About Losers?
Well, crown for 2013 has to go to Google’s Project Glass, which was Digital Trends’ best mobile product of the year. Not because it isn’t a cool piece of technology that is spawning the next age of wearable computing. That’s all good. The downside is it’s obscene cost ($1500), and that Google Glass seems to be rejected by any public place that just doesn’t want to see people wearing it in their establishment, over privacy concerns with the camera. And as a result, they’re saying leave it at home. And even one CEO says that Google has once again rushed a product out before its time. “When I tried Google Glass, it burst one of my bubbles,” said Aaron Levie, CEO of Box. “That product still needs a little bit of work.”
That was the year that was Next year… it’s going to be all about 4K, 8K, and who knows what else? But it’s sure going to be interesting.