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NAB 2011 - Some Thoughts on the Show Themes

My entry into this media world was through the DSLR.  The DSLR revolution we called it for a while.  As a DSLR enthusiast, it was clear that its not a revolution anymore - its absolutely mainstream.  Both its strengths and weaknesses continue to inspire hardware and software designers to find new ways of using it.  The old revolutionary council has not lost its enthusiasm and even its most vociferous opponents are more likely than not to be making their pitch down the lens of a Canon EOS.

Duelling Gurus - Bloom v Laforet - Different approaches but both still evangelising DSLRs

That said the show was a bit dull from a DSLR gear point of view for me.  I think there are a few reasons for the lack of progress.  Firstly, most of the major photo shows have been and gone and thats robbed NAB of any scoops.  Secondly, the Japanese Tsunami has had a major impact on the supply side.  Even if the manufacturers have a new story to tell, they will be wary of doing it when the shipping date may be a long way out. Whilst there have been worthy additions to the video capable DSLR market over the last year nothing has really extended the envelope and NAB has done nothing to change that.  About the only area where there was a buzz was EVFs.

Zacuto EVF

Zacuto saw a lot of interest in their new EVF and sitting right behind them on the show floor was Cineroid who beat everyone to shipping last year and now are preparing a metal bodied version with a choice of outputs.  I believe there was a new entrant from LCDVF but I didn’t get to see that.  I did get to see a prototype from SmallHD using a larger 4” screen.  This is more overtly a dual purpose device but it is going to sacrifice a little pixel density compared to the Zacuto.  Redrock Micro seem to have fallen by the wayside a little with their design which wasn’t one show.  I was told, but not by RRM, that they were reviewing the design or price point due to the coming influx off dual purpose flip designs.




If there was a vibe about this year then it was not DSLR or 3D it was 4K.  RED has been banging the drum about HD (roughly 2K) not being enough.  However, with 4K cameras on the way from Sony and JVC and 4K lenses from Canon, I just get the feeling that the electronics industry is looking for what comes next. 

Canon's PL mount 4K compatible zoom lenses

With Full HD already pinned on 1080p they need a new moniker to rally round.  4K has the advantage that it breaks the cycle of getting into ever more desperate superlatives.  There are alternative names floating round like Quad HD or perhaps even Cinema HD.  Remember, obsolescence is part of their business model - so change is inevitable.  Of course from a content creation view 4K is not just Quad HD its Quad Hassle.  Top movie productions and post houses may be used to a 4K pipeline but not the rest of us.  With Thunderbolt, CUDA, 64bit and all that I think the post and hardware vendors are just about ready but the display and distribution side for anything except movie theatres is nowhere near ready.  To see the difference from 1080p you are going to need a very large display device.  I must admit I struggled to see the difference in the RED Theatre at the show which was using a Sony 4K projector.  I liked the short they made but there was no shock and awe for me on the image quality. 

Sony F65

Sony’s own theatre showing footage from their new F65 was more impressive if partly because the screen was huge and the room was not.  The demo material was more overtly “demoish” than REDs but what impressed me was the latitude and the lack of noise.  But would I expect to see a difference on a 50" or smaller panel on a wall 3m away like most people have - I just don't think so.  How is that 4K image going to reach me.  My rural internet connection struggles to deliver me AppleTV 720p in a reasonable time.  Broadcasters are not going to sacrifice 4 HD or 16 SD channels to show one 4K channel and current blu-ray players would are going to struggle with the format or the capacity - probably both.  The market is still trying to digest 3D and I guess it will be a while before the marketing machine gets into its stride.

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