What I Learned from NAB, Without Actually Going to NAB

19Apr11

As many of you know, last week was the 2011 NAB Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s by far the biggest tech-gasm for film and video professionals, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go. But, because of the wonders of the internet, I was still able to keep up to date and on top of the goings on at NAB.

Let me start out by thanking the people/companies/websites that kept me involved. First, Teradek (http://www.teradek.com). Their continuously live-streamed coverage of the show both gave me something to do while I was stuck in the office, and let me watch gear reviews, interviews with filmmakers, and just general film chat. I also have to throw in a big thanks to Jared Abrams and the entire crew from Wide Open Camera (http://wideopencamera.com), they shot a ton of footage, and uploaded it to Vimeo while at the show; it was a big help. Some of the others that I followed intensely during the show were Alex Lindsay from Pixel Corp (http://www.pixelcorps.com), who also hosted a live stream; Jem Schofield from theC47 (http://www.thec47.com), who’s post show coverage has been tremendous; and a colleague of mine who was able to go to the show, Nico Van Den Berg (http://www.nicotvandenberg.com), who I’ve been able to get specific questions answered about the show. So, a big hat off, and an even bigger thanks to all of these guys for their coverage of the show.

Now, for some of what I actually learned (besides the fact that I should have gone, and in the future need to go, to NAB myself). I’m going to talk about gear, because that’s a majority of what I saw.

Cameras:
The indy filmmaker now has some very hard choices to make. Between the rise of HDSLRs (like the Canon 5D MkII and 7D, and the Panasonic GH2), the Sony F3, and the Panasonic AG-AF100, filmmakers have such a wide choice of cameras that choosing the right one could be difficult. There are so many things to consider (besides price point): sensor size, audio jacks, battery life, weight, the list goes on. Ultimately, I think choosing a camera comes down to three things: price, where you’re planning on exhibiting, and shooting style. Obviously, how much money you can spend will determine what level of camera you’re going to get. Who wouldn’t want an Alexa or a RED? Just a little out of an indy budget (usually). Second, where you want to show your work. If you’re just planning on exhibiting on Vimeo or YouTube, then you’re going to be wasting money with a super high def camera (RED). Yes, they have more latitude. Yes, the pictures look amazing. But, if you’re screening on the internet, and HDSLR will give you all the quality you’d need. Lastly, shooting style. A lot of indy projects are built to be “run-and-gun” type of shoots. And, if you’re having to set up a complicated, heavy rig, that needs four people just to move it, it’s going to get tiring, and expensive. I’ve found that lightweight rigs, that can be put on a shoulder mount, allow the operator to save time and get shots that a large rig couldn’t. For me, the best answer is an HDSLR. They’re in my price range, they look good (definitely good enough for the web), and even with all the flaws, they still perform at a level that I need them to.

Accessories:
Don’t even really get me started. Zacuto’s (http://www.zacuto.com) EVF is the HDSLR shooter’s dream. And their Scorpion shoulder rig is the definition of form factor.

Lights:
Everyone knows that LED lighting is the wave of the future, and NAB didn’t deter this at all. I’m going to talk about three companies in particular, Ikan (http://www.ikancorp.com), KinoFlo (http://www.kinoflo.com), and Arri (http://www.arri.com); because these companies had the most lighting info that I hadn’t seen before (note: I’m not knocking LitePanels, I love LitePanels, and their 4×4 Variable Temperature LED Panels make me shiver at the sheer awesomeness, but, I’ve seen them before, and I didn’t see any coverage of LitePanels at NAB). That being said, Ikan: they lead, in every way possible, when it comes to on camera lights. Hot shoe adaptable, high output/ low energy drain, versatile, and low price point. These camera mounted lights have everything a hand-held shooter could want. They even have lights that have variable color temperatures. I’ve been following Ikan for a while, so a lot of what I saw wasn’t so much new information, as it was new highlights. I saw the lights… in a new light, to coin a phrase. I’ve never been one for on camera lights. I always thought they were bulky, and couldn’t do much for a shoot. I don’t think that anymore. Many of these on camera lights put out more than a stand light. For an indy filmmaker, they are a very viable lighting option. KinoFlo has always been at the ehad of the pack when it comes to non-Fresnel lighting. And they still are. And it could simply be because of this: http://www.thec47.com/gearbox/kf55kf32.html. I shouldn’t need to say any more about those. But I will. For $22 a piece you can turn any fixture into a daylight source. Let me say that again. FOR $22 YOU CAN TURN ANY FIXTURE INTO A DAYLIGHT SOURCE. You got it now? For an indy filmmaker, this could mean the difference between breaking the bank, and staying in budget. And then there’s Arri. I can’t say enough good things about Arri lights. It’s what I learned on, so I may be biased; but they’re good lights. At NAB this year, Arri announced a new series of LED lights, the L-Series. From what I’ve seen, these lights are just like their Fresnel counterparts in style and ease of use. But there are a few major differences; and all those differences revolve around the fact that they’re LED lights. Low poer draw with high output, they don’t heat up, they have the option to have variable color temperature. They’re the perfect combination fresnel and LED type lights. The only downside is the price point (that and they haven’t been released for sale yet). I didn’t actually see any coverage of the price, but if their anything like the other Arri lights, or like the LitePanels LED Fresnel lights, they’re going to have a hefty price tag.

This is just a glimpse at what I saw at NAB, and I didn’t even go. So, if you are like me, and didn’t go, what have we learned? …GO TO NAB! I know next year I’ll be there. It’s the ultimate filmmaking networking event, it’s got swag, and there’s tech out the ass for you to ogle; in short, NAB is a must do for emerging and veteran filmmakers alike.

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