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Final round-up of NAB news - part three

Here are eight more highlights from NAB 2010 - the final batch of NAB news from the show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Centre



EVS


EVS launched a new, affordable, entry-level version of its server, the XTnano, for live slo-motion HD and SD instant replays. Developed for live broadcasts with medium and small sized OB productions, it is controlled by the Nano Remote, which has a jog knob, a T-bar and LCD display.

As well as live replays, the XTnano can be used for clipping and playlist creations. Transfers of footage can be made faster than real-time to removable media and Final Cut Pro.

The company also showcased its sports graphics system that integrates into its live slo-motion systems, enabling graphics and basic analysis functions to be overlayed over instant replays.

The system will be used in the FIFA World Cup to overlay graphics such as the offline position, the distance to goal and other graphic animations on the instant slo-mo replays.



Orad


Orad has just launched its own EVS-competing slo-mo server the company says is around half the price of EVS’s servers. The Orad PlayMaker Slow Motion Video Server is an eight HD/SD channel device that can handle input from two super slo-mo cameras.

It has a smaller form-factor than EVS’s servers and is capable of working on stereo 3d live broadcasts. Orad’s device provides 120 hours of storage in SD or 60 hours in HD and is operated via a touch screen panel with programmable buttons to enable, for example, the tagging of fouls, offsides, corners etc, making it straightforward to sort the database according to this data.

Also competing with EVS, Orad showcased its PlayMaker Studio graphics overlays, which make it possible to create instant replays with on-screen details including distance from goal and offside.

On top of this, PlayMaker Studio’s impressive tracking function enables detailed cg analysis during half-time, full-time and summary highlights packages, using virtual players that look like the players on the pitch.

The type of cg highlights broadcasters can provide using PlayMaker Studio include detailed analysis of player and ball movements, both in 2d and stereo 3d. It is possible to do flow-motion analysis in tennis, for example, which creates still images of the player each time they hit the ball so you can see how far they have moved around the court for each shot.

Orad also premiered a beta version of a new interactive screen, designed for sports presenters to use as part of their live analysis of a game.

It is currently possible to draw movements on screen and control frame-by-frame video playback by sliding left and right on screen, and more. Orad expects the interactive screen technology to also be useful for coaching.



Sony

Taking up one of the largest floor spaces at the show, including a full-size OB truck, Sony’s product focus at NAB was dedicated both to new products and the company’s consultancy services, which were being heavily pushed.

New products include a petite entry-level file-based professional AVC HD camera, the HXR-MC50E, which is aimed at the corporate market and video bloggers. It’s designed to “combine the simplicity and useability of a traditional consumer camera with the picture quality and support of a professional camera.”

Sony also announced a new model in its XDCAM EX range, the shoulder-mounted PMW-320, which provides a “low cost way of turning the EX3 into a studio configuration,” says Sony general manager, media sales, Mark Bainbridge.

It has a smaller sensor compared to Sony’s higher-end studio cameras, so isn’t capable of the same picture quality, but is a fraction of the price at $12k, including an interchangeable lens. It will be available from October this year.

Towards the end of last year, Sony announced that owners of its flagship SRW-9000 SR camera would be given the option of migrating to a 35mm single PL mount sensor. This is now available as an irreversible upgrade at a conversion cost of $60k.

Outside of cameras, Sony showcased 24” and 42” 3d monitors and a new 7.4” LED field monitor, providing “very high contrast ratio” with no need for a backlight. It costs £2.5k-3k.

Rather than purely focusing on showcasing products, around a quarter of Sony’s stand was dedicated to its systems/IT consultancy, design and implementation wing, aimed at broadcasters, production and post production companies. Current clients for its systems design consultancy include Sky and, with its NAB presence, Sony is “looking to identify potential partners” for future work, says Bainbridge.



JVC

JVC looped an impressive 3d video of beautiful landscape photography to showcase the capabilities of its 2d-to-3d rack unit converter box, the
IF-2D3D1. The device, which costs $30k, looks at the contrast, colour and depth cues your eyes see and runs through 2d footage, turning it into stereoscopic 3d.

David N. Walton, assistant vice president, marketing communications, JVC, says it can be used for 2d-to-3d conversion on live events, as it only has a latency of less than two frames. He added, though, that it’s “going to have some errors, and isn’t a magic box to provide perfect problem-free 3d.”

Walton says, following the development of prototype models prior to launch, “The firmware has been improved dramatically up to launch and there are manual controls on the box to adapt the output to get it right."



SENSIO

Also centred on 3d, with a decade’s worth of working in stereo, SENSIO used NAB to promote its SENSIO3D 3d ‘virtually lossless’ delivery technology, which squeezes the left and right eye into one to enable distribution of 3d content through conventional 2d broadcast channels networks.

The company has two main targets for SENSIO3D; firstly, the consumer market, with VoD and pay-per-view being “very well suited for stereo, with lots of movies and premium events,” says Nicholas Routhier, president and CEO.

The other is the theatrical/”out of home” market. Routhier says SENSIO has worked on 20 events in 3d since last year, with clients including the NBA. It has also recently teamed up with 3d live events company Aruna Media for the delivery of the World Cup in 3d to cinemas and stadiums worldwide.



SGO Mistika

Having made major inroads into the stereo 3d finishing market over the last six months, with sales to Framestore and Sky, SGO concentrated on stereo 3d enhancements for the latest 5.0 release of its Mistika system.

The update is based on feedback from customers, and makes the tools more familiar and logical, as well as introducing a set of new tools.

The new tools include refined options for controlling convergence, enabling images from the left and right cameras to be properly aligned and made identical size in post.

There’s a new tool for adapting inter-ocular distance, making it possible to artificially change the position of the cameras if they are too far apart. This can make images easier to view even when they aren’t necessary badly shot.

Another new feature is the addition of vectorscopes for colour monitoring, which make it much more straightforward to colour-match the left and right images.

SGO also used NAB to demo a live stereo 3d feed to Mistika, which is aimed at checking and testing everything is set up correctly prior to the shoot, and avoiding having to correct so much in post.



Snell

After 15 years on the market, Snell’s restoration tool Archangel has finally gone high def. The updated real-time defect-remover, which takes out 80% of defects such as dirt, dust, film weave, scratches and grain, has, since its inception, been limited to SD content, but is now capable of the real-time restoration of HD images.

The new Archangel is being launched at a lower price than its predecessor and, as well as coping with higher res images, has an improved interface and filters. “If you’re working on full length feature restorations, the Archangel will pay for itself in five jobs,” says a Snell spokeswoman.



Farmer’s Wife

Scheduling and facilities management software providers Farmer's Wife booked a hotel suite near the Convention Centre to demo its new iPhone app providing on-the-move live worldwide access to a facility’s Farmer’s Wife server.

The slick-looking iPhone interface enables a producer to check and add bookings, view ‘To Do’ tasks, assign notes and check the schedules of the people in their facility, seeing live what’s happening at the facility. The app also provides access to the facility’s Farmer’s Wife contact database while on the move.

It is also possible to view and update live information on a production’s budget using an iPhone or iPad on location, so you know on the day precisely where a project is at in terms of its budget.

The iPhone app is available for free for those on a service and maintenance agreement with Farmer’s Wife, and those buying new Farmer’s Wife systems. Simon Hadfield, md, Farmer’s Wife, LA, says a system for the average sized UK post house costs around £7.5k, including the iPhone app.

Posted 30 April 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Framestore's view on post houses becoming production companies



The facilities pages (p.16/17) in the April issue of Televisual includes a short comment from Helen Stanley, Framestore’s md of commercials, about whether post companies should become production companies.



Helen provided more copy than we were able to include in the magazine, due to space limitations. The rest of her copy provided interesting reading, so here’s the full transcript of Helen’s comment:


“Post companies are set up differently to production companies. Our skill sets aren't in live action shooting, especially those high end beauty, comedy, drama or action sequences.... and we underestimate this at our peril!

However, straight cgi commercials and those with cgi characters performing over live action plates, are both areas where Framestore has been working successfully for some years.

Our main competitors here being traditional animation houses who have diversified to house their own cgi teams.

Computer animation is Framestore's strength and, like the traditional houses, a number of our key animators know how to tell an animation story and we have executed a number of spots in this genre.

Our digital and design teams have pioneered the direction of both virals and title sequences for a number of years, and are now directly competing with design oriented production companies.

In the States, where the post companies have directed cgi/vfx heavy spots since the early 90s, there has never been an issue with their storytelling (maybe Pixar helped with that) and Framestore NY has directed many excellent spots since its inception.”

Posted 27 April 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Blackmagic shakes up colour grading, live from NAB, part two

The biggest news in colour grading systems to come out of NAB is Blackmagic’s complete re-engineering of its DaVinci Resolve colour correction suite, culminating in the release of a software only version of the professional-level system for a mere $995.

It is aiming the software-only version, suitable for grading HD and SD content, at Final Cut Pro workstations using control panels such as the Tangent, providing the means to offer high-end colour correction at a very affordable price.



The new Resolve software is also available with the DaVinci Resolve Control Surface, which has been designed by colourists to “work together in total harmony”, with controls placed near natural hand positions and lift, gamma and gain adjustable at the same time.

The software and control panel version costs $29,995.



Finally, there’s a top-end version for grading at higher resolutions of up to 4k as well as working on stereo 3d content and Red files. The DaVinci Resolve Linux License configuration comes with the Resolve Control Surface and allows the grading system to be powered by a cluster of computers with GPU cards, enabling real-time processing.

The Linux-based multi-GPU license Resolve costs $49,990, including the Control Surface.

As well as providing a cost-effective grading platform for the professional finishing of all genres, including modestly budgeted corporate work and pop promos, “The software-only version makes it possible for any director to do preparatory work and try out some grades on a $995 system, then move up to the next Resolve for the final grade,” says Blackmagic’s Simon Hollingworth.

He adds that, compared to Apple’s Color software, which is packaged with Final Cut Studio, “The systems are like chalk and cheese. Colourists can take their existing experience with Color and apply it to the DaVinci way of grading. They already have most of the core skills and can now benefit from the same grading solution as used on Hollywood films.”



Reacting to the news of DaVinci’s new products and consumer-level pricing, Digital Vision’s vp worldwide marketing Martin Bennett questions where the support and servicing will come from. By buying an off-the-shelf $995 product, Bennett argues the level of servicing customers expect from a professional-level application will be lacking.

“We provide 24 hour a day support and proactively help customers, continually doing minor releases, bug fixing and so on. It’s more and more about the level of service you can provide. Customers know they can knock on our door and get immediate service.”

However, Bennett admits that Digital Vision would “at some point like to go to all price points, primarily to offer something for the education community, to bring on the next generation of colourists.”



As well as its announcements around the DaVinci Resolve, Blackmagic also used NAB to showcase the stylishly designed UltraStudio Pro, “the next generation of input/output device for uncompressed SD and HD using USB 3.0”.

By utilising the new USB 3.0 interface rather than firewire, the UltraStudio Pro capture and playback device runs at 4.8 Gb/s, which is enough speed for uncompressed 10-bit HD video.

The desktop device, which costs $895, includes a seven foot breakout cable with an impressive number of video and audio connections including 3 Gb/s SDI, HDMI, s-video and 4-channel analogue audio.

It also has a built-in up, down and cross converter enabling editing in one format and output to any HD or SD formats.



Blackmagic also launched a USB 3.0 version of its UltraScope waveform monitoring product, which enables on-set monitoring of video and audio on a laptop. It is powered by the USB port, eliminating the need for a power source on location.

Posted 14 April 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Live from NAB, Las Vegas - part one

In the first of Televisual’s dispatches from the floors of NAB at Las Vegas Convention Centre, here are a few of the highlight product releases so far….

Panasonic

Panasonic used NAB to showcase its lightweight, dual-lens file-based stereo 3d camera, the AG-3ADA1, which it describes as “the world’s first professional quality, fully-integrated HD 3d camcorder”. The company is now taking orders for the camera in the States, which has a list price of $21k and will be made to order for delivery in the autumn.



The AG-3DA1 is designed to be much more straightforward, affordable and portable compared to using two cameras on a rig to capture stereo 3d. The lenses, camera head, and a dual Memory Card recorder are integrated into a single device and it has built-in stereoscopic adjustment controls and functions for automatically correcting horizontal and vertical displacement. The camera automatically recalibrates enabling hassle-free 3d image capture.

The 3DA1 records at 1080/60i, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p and 720/60p and 50p in AVCHD. In AVCHD PH mode, it records up to 180 minutes on two 32GB SD cards. You can switch from left, right or overlay views on the built-in LCD display.

Avid

Avid has acquired audio console specialist Euphonix, to “expand our portfolio and offer customers, from independent producers creating music in their home studios to broadcasters preparing segments for national broadcast, a complementary set of workflow solutions,” says Avid’s chairman and CEO Gary Greenfield.

He adds that, “As audio and video workflows continue to converge, we are now well positioned to deliver control surfaces that work across both audio and video applications, making the content creation process more cost-effective and efficient for our customers.”



Avid’s official line at the moment is it intends to continue to support and sell both Euphonix and Avid’s own Icon audio control surfaces.

Avid has also launched the latest versions of its editing systems Media Composer and Symphony, which now have “native support” for file-based formats including Red, QuickTime (to enable direct editing from cameras such as the Canon 5D and 7D and importing of footage from devices such as the AJA Ki Pro) and Canon’s XF codec used in its new 4:2:2 50Mbps-capable camcorders.

Avid also now offers full support for Panasonic’s file-based AVC-Intra compression when working with the P2HD format.

Native support for these formats removes the need for time-consuming transcoding, re-wrapping and log and transfer processes when working with these formats.

The editing packages also have improved audio effects and an enhanced user interface.


Autodesk

Much of the current focus for Autodesk is on connecting pre-production, production and post production, making it possible for a director to be hands-on in all aspects of cg/vfx production at every stage of the production process.

As part of this, Autodesk’s vfx, compositing and grading products now have a consistent set of tools for stereoscopic 3d production, from conceptualisation through cg/vfx to compositing, colour grading and finishing.




Stereo 3d aside, the newly launched 2011 versions of Autodesk's applications include advanced lighting (through pixel shading) and over 100 photo-real ‘substance’ textures for Flame (such as bricks, concrete, wood, etc), “new creative tools” in Lustre, a redesigned interface for Maya and modeling and texturing enhancements for 3ds Max.

Autodesk also announced a new ‘sketchbook’ application for getting started on new ideas on both the iPad and iPhone.


For more on Autodesk at NAB, head to http://area.autodesk.com/nab2010

Quantel

One thing you can guarantee at every NAB is Quantel CEO Ray Cross announcing the current year to be the best ever for the company. Last year was the best of the decade and this year has apparently already surpassed the greatness of 2009.

Cross pointed to something fairly mundane ­- FCP integration in its broadcast newsroom systems - as being partly responsible for its latest healthy performance, this development apparently bringing in $10m of new business that wouldn’t have otherwise come in.



New product announcements for Quantel, of course, all centre on stereo 3d. Mind you, Quantel has more right than many to champion everything stereoscopic, having been at least a year and a half ahead of the game and having its grading system Pablo chosen for finishing Avatar.

Its stereo stuff for this year includes a new stereo 3d multi-layer timeline with integrated vfx for its iQ and Pablo systems and time-saving stereoscopic tools including geometry correction and stereo colour balance (for matching left and right eyes or taking a balance from the middle, and auto-drawing shapes from one eye to the other).

Quantel also has a new stereo 3d workflow for sports and studio work, which includes an as yet unreleased new stereo 3d broadcast editor.


Cintel



Long-standing scanning firm Cintel (previously Rank Cintel) has brought out a new auto image enhancement and restoration box, imageMill2, that provides real-time 2k grain, dust, scratch and noise removal as well as image stabilisation.

The box is available as a standalone product or as part of Cintel’s ditto evolution scanner, enabling full, automatic image restoration to take place during the scanning process.

Cintel also announced a new website, www.usedtelecine.com, which as the name suggests, is the place to go for second hand telecines. All scanners sold on the website have been fully refurbished and come with a Cintel warranty and 0% finance options.


Part two of the Televisual NAB blogs will include Black Magic’s $995 da Vinci professional grading software and Digital Vision’s response, The Foundry’s Nuke and Ocula updates, EVS’s new affordable XT Nano slo-mo server and its sports graphics system for detailed, graphics overlays on instant replays in the World Cup, and Canon’s new 4:2:2 50Mbps-capable file-based camcorders.

Posted 13 April 2010 by Jake Bickerton

No 3d World Cup on TVs in the UK



With all the hype surrounding the FIFA World Cup being filmed in 3d for the first time this year, you might assume you’d be able to head to your local pub to see some 3d matches on its fancy new 3d TV screens.

Or even watch the games in 3d in the comfort of your own home, if you’ve been particularly quick off the mark to snap up your own 3d TV set.

But no. At a press conference today revealing FIFA and Sony’s stereo 3d plans for the World Cup, it became clear that, as the BBC and ITV is broadcasting the World Cup and not Sky, there’s going to be no 3d World Cup on TV in the UK.



Instead, there will be “up to 50” UK cinemas screening some of the matches live in 3d. Which sounds pretty good until you find that none of them is an England match, that is until we (hopefully) get through to the Quarter finals and onwards through the tournament.

In truth, it’s all a little underwhelming.

ESPN in the US and Spanish broadcaster Sogecable are broadcasting 25 World Cup matches live to 3d TV sets around America and Spain, and FIFA is “expecting more” broadcasters to also provide a “3d home viewing experience”. Niclas Ericson, FIFA’s director of TV, estimates a global audience of “hopefully a few hundred thousand people” to watch each game live in 3d.

Seven camera positions will be used for the 3d filming at each of the 25 matches earmarked for 3d, says David Bush, director of marketing, Sony Professional, Europe. On top of this, some of the coverage from 2d cameras will be converted live to 3d to supplement this footage.

Three of the stereo 3d positions will be above pitch level. Two OB trucks, including the Sony-designed Telegenic stereo 3d truck, will cover 3d transmissions of the games, with Sony’s new stereo image processor (the MPE-200) used to auto-resolve imperfections in camera alignments and help ensure high quality 3d images.

 

Posted 08 April 2010 by Jake Bickerton

US cg firm launches in UK

American cg firm Speedshape has set up a sales office in London and aims to open a Soho-based cg animation studio later this year.

The company, which started out in Detroit eight years ago, specialises in cg-based car modelling, taking CAD data and building photo-real car exteriors and interiors for print ads and marketing brochures, and animated sequences for TV and digital spots. Current clients include Ford, Mazda and GM.

Its Transformers cinema spot for the launch of the Chevrolet Camaro is below...




Speedshape also builds interactive websites such as Mustang customiser, which enables visitors to build and paint their own versions of the car (see image below).




As well as cars, the company has worked on animated cg packshots for the likes of Jack Daniels and Proctor and Gamble.

The UK office’s first commission is a seven-minute ‘mood piece’ for an as yet unnamed car brand, working with a “top-end commercials production company,” says Speedshape’s Danny Morris.

Posted 07 April 2010 by Jake Bickerton
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