By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
While 2016 had its technological dark moments (read about them here), it also had some highlights. Here are what we think are the best technology stories of 2016.
GoPro’s Silver Lining. With the GoPro HERO5 Black and HERO5 Session, the next generation action camera is more of a Tock on the Tick-Tock development cycle. But there are some definite improvements to the Hero make it worthy of including in your arsenal. First, GoPro incorporated the waterproof body into the design, making it no longer reliant on a case when getting wet. Then there’s the Voice Control, so you don’t’ have to take your gloves off in the gold winter day to press record. Other improvements included improved audio, GPS and better software.
Next is the true silver lining in what has been a tough year for CEO Nick Woodman: The GoPro Karma Grip handheld gimbal. The Karma drone may have been recalled until GoPro can solve its sudden power loss issues, but the heart of the drone was always the Karma Grip. And now GoPro is selling it separately since it is able to connect to any GoPro mount and give it rock steady stabilization. GoPro may have had its troubles with bad Karma, but there are definitely reasons to hope for a better 2017.
RED Helium Sells Out Seconds. The RED Helium. It came out of nowhere. An 8K, Super 35mm rig that Jared Land was able to sell out in minutes based on a testimony by Michael Bay and few spec posts over at the RED User Forums. It would bring 8K to the masses. But would it be as good as the Weapon? Well, after Land loaned his personal model to a 19 year old filmmaker, we got our first stunning images. And that was only the beginning! But it definitely lived up to the RED brand.
DJI Turns up the Heat. While it’s competitors have started to fall by the wayside, DJI continues to add to its market dominance with new Inspire 2 and upgraded Phantom 4 drones that not only provide professional grade video performance, but also meet the needs of a more mobile clientele with the Mavic. Toss in an expanded drone API for third-party drone development applications, and it’s clear that DJI is not looking over its collective shoulder.
Apple’s iPhone 7. How can the iPhone 7 be on both the best and worst tech lists of 2016? Well, the answer is that everyone’s relationship with Apple is… well, complicated. While Apple has caught some heat for removing the headphone jack in favor of a lightning only connector, the phone itself is a solid performer with water resistance, better placement of stereo speakers on the top and bottom of the phone, and improved battery life. The dual camera array of the iPhone 7 Plus may not be able to provide bokeh on video, like it can with stills, but I’m betting that Apple cracks that nut with the rumored 10th anniversary iPhone next year. Meanwhile, there’s also now a 256GB version, which not only gives mobile filmmakers the ability to shoot more 4K video, but also performs better in benchmarks than the 32GB models. The real saving grace for the iPhone camera though, is that it can shoot remarkably cinematic video, even comparing to the RED Weapon. So like I said, it’s complicated, and while iPhone 6S users may find little to upgrade for, those who have been waiting may find it worth buying into.
Snapchat Spectacles. This story came out of nowhere, but Snapchat released a pair of sunglasses which have a first person camera built into the frame, and it provides the ability to take video without having the creepy voyeur vibe of Google Glass. The Spectacles record a first person view of your experiences, but the downside is that it really only works with Snapchat itself. If you try to export the video, you end up with a circular image. But if you’re a Vine filmmaker looking for a place to hang your hat after Twitter shut it down, Spectacles can help make your content very creative. Their sales show Snapchat can’t keep them in stock, even putting them in vending machines because of demand.
Microsoft Surface Studio. You may not realize this, but Microsoft hasn’t really been in the PC building business for long, and after a string of frustrating offerings that included the Surface RT Tablet and Surface Pro laptop, they’ve finally hit on it with the Surface Studio. Sporting a mammoth 28-inch, 4K touchscreen that can tilt down to a draft table-like angle, the Surface Studio makes for an ideal tool for graphic designers and artists who seek a deeper digital connection to their work. There’s also a high-end NVIDIA graphics card for video applications, and when you toss in Microsoft’s innovative Pen stylus and Dial wheel controller for fine tune adjustment and visual scrolling, you have a hybrid PC with stunning creative potential. Right now, it’s very expensive at $3,000 [affiliate link to buy], and only works with a handful of art apps, but as development continues and more apps support it, the Surface Studio is definitely going to be a standard tool in the artist’s quiver.
ROKU Expands its lead over Apple TV. While Apple TV is playing it safe with OS updates for expanded app and Siri search capability, Cupertino’s ‘Hockey Puck’ is still stuck in the 1080p world. Roku, by contrast, has set its feet firmly into 4K by expanding into providing 4K Smart TVs with built-in streaming, and also a wide array of models that reach both budget and TV resolutions. From the highly mobile Roku Stick to the Roku Express and the Roku Premiere, there are now a handful of options to stream just about any program you can find online, at any budget.
I’m sure everyone will have their own opinion of the best technology we’ve seen in 2016, and it certainly was a banner year for filmmakers looking for more tools to tell their story. And I for one can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.