By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
NAB 2017 was vast with no lack of interesting technology to see. From streaming video boxes to virtual reality, to tiny little drones that fly in formation. There was also announcements for updates to Blackmagic’s Davinci Resolve, and Adobe Premiere. But my favorite item is one that simply loves the water.
Day one of NAB 2017 brought me to Blackmagic, where I was hoping to see a new Pocket Cinema Camera. Alas, that didn’t happen since Blackmagic’s Grant Petty had already announced all the hardware for this year about six weeks before, and aside from adding bluetooth to the new URSA Mini Pro, the path was cleared for their annual NAB presser to be about software, namely a massive update to Davinci Resolve 14.
This time around, BMD was adding an audio mixing module, which would enable the software to evolve once again from its humble color grading roots, to a full fledged video editor, and now an audio mixer. Davinci also came with an advanced facial tracking utility, and now it’s essentially, it’s a sweet of products underneath the hood of one master interface.
After a chat with Blackmagic USA President Dan May, I spent the rest of the day roaming the floor, seeing everything I could find, and found a lot of devices for live streaming via YouTube and Facebook. This led me to BoxCast, which for my money may be the best option for live streaming out there short of using Periscope and a GoPro. With BoxCast, you can live stream in 4K at 60 fps from up to four different cameras, no matter their connection, and then output through BoxCast’s backend live to your viewers without having to rely on any other portal save your own.
The BoxCast interface itself is under $1000, and it costs about $199 a month for cloud-based processing and broadcast with real time analytics. If you’re not ready to take that deep of a plunge, they also have a lower end 1080p version for $495, and about $50 a month. They even have a single camera app for about $20 a month to go with a single camera mobile stream. Talking to Sam Brenner in the BoxCast booth I can tell that these guys live and breath live streaming and have a great attitude and business model. This may have easily been my best in show, but it’ll be a runner up, for sure.
The night before NAB officially began, Panasonic teased a mid-level cinema camera that fits in between the GH5 and the VariCam line. We’re calling it the VariCam Mini for now, but it’s shrouded in mystery. All we know is that it’s smaller, presumably going after the Canon C100 market, and will have a simplified workflow. Speaking of cameras, ARRI also announced that its ALEXA line was going wireless through a partnership with Convergent Design, and the first camera to field test it would be the SXT.
Day Two had me stopping by Adobe to see their latest update to Creative Cloud. And in terms of audio mixing, Adobe Premiere is also getting support to do more advanced audio work. Adobe is essentially adding Audition’s Essential Sound Panel to the Premiere interface, and it should enable editors to do some basic sweetening as they go along.
Other Creative Cloud improvements include the Essential Graphics Panel, which will give editors the ability to do motion titles and graphics, as well as a super cool camera de-blur option. Character Animator 2 also makes the move into live streaming, with support for Facebook Live, which is huge.
Switcher Studio announced a partnership with DJI, and support for using the OSMO Mobile gimbal stabilizer as a remotely controlled camera. Using your iPhone, Switcher will now be able to control every function including pan, tilt, focus, zoom, white balance, the works. It even turns the phone’s LED torch into a tally light. They’re having a little too much fun over at Switcher!
Drones-wise, I saw a super small pocket sized drone called the ZeroTech Dobby, capable of recording in 4K and flying in formation with motion control-like precision. But the oddest drone I saw was the PowerEgg drone. Shaped like an egg, the rotors and landing gear collapse into the ‘egg,’ and includes built-in 4K camera with 3 axis Gimbal and 360-degree panoramas. It looks like it belongs in an Alien sequel.
Day Three of NAB 2017, and I’m finally going to get to see my best in show … the Sennheiser MKE 2 waterproof mic for the GoPro HERO5. Essentially, part of the backend of the HERO’s waterproof polycarbonate case, the MKE 2 attaches and can record underwater at a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.
Based on the mic technology used in tiny microphones on broadway, the Sennheiser MKE 2 has an ultra thin rubber membrane and a super dense spikey sphere that repels water so the mic can record in water. Happily, we no longer have to deal with fishbowl audio when surfing or snorkeling out in the water. We can actually hear what is really going on. And even through the specs are for 1 meter, the Sennheiser rep assured me that the MKE2 is over-engineered to go beyond that depth, should it happen. In addition, the MKE2 can handle wind up to 70 miles an hour like it isn’t even there.
A close second was SmallHD’s Ultra Bright monitors. I tell you, you have to have a lot of confidence in how bright your monitors are to not only put your booth outside in between the Central and South Halls, but to do it facing directly into the Las Vegas sun! Not a lot of fun for those in the booth wearing the iconic black SmallHD T Shirts, but it was no problem for the new FOCUS (Editor-in-Chief Heath McKnight’s pick for best of NAB 2017) and 703 models, which, with over a billion colors, were so bright, you could see every detail without a hood. SmallHD is killing it right now and they are definitely competing with Atomos for attention.
Speaking of Atomos, I finally got a glimpse of the huge 19-inch SUMO external monitor-recorder, and it’s more a portable TV studio in a box. The giant HDR HD screen makes it easy for the director and crew to watch a scene unfold, and it records in 4K.
I also have to give honorable mention to SLR Magic, which announced a new anamorphic lens adapter that brings ultra wide screen 2.31-1 aspect ratios for under $500. That’s a game changer.
Thursday was spent getting ready to go home and give my final daily report at Digital Production Buzz.
All in all, I’d have to say I saw some marvelous new technology. And while BoxCast, new offerings from SmallHD, and the SLR Magic Anamorphic adapter came close to getting my top honors, I really have to give it to Sennheiser. With the MKE 2 they’re going after the next generation of audiophiles, and giving GoPro an added audio layer to their thrilling action camera video presentations. And for under $200, well that’s the Best of NAB 2017 for me.
My total miles walking NAB 2017, in case you were wondering, was 20. And my feet are still sore! Until next year, Las Vegas.