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ZLense: cost effective 3D studio effects from Hungary

This 3D depth mapping technology for broadcast passed us by at IBC this year but the other week we had a one-to-one with zLense boss Bruno Gyorgy about his virtual studio system zLense.

Basically zLense looks like a huge matte box on the front of your camera, but inside is a box of tricks from Hungarian tech company Zinemath which promises to revolutionise the world of 3D virtual studio effects and graphics.

Gyorgy describes it as a 3D depth mapping technology for broadcast cameras which will dramatically lowering the cost of 3D effects for live and recorded TV.

zLense is a virtual production platform for film, production, broadcast and gaming which provides the world’s first depth-mapping camera solution that captures 3D data and scenery in real-time and adds a 3D layer.




The zLense virtual production platform combines depth-sensing technology and image-processing in a standalone camera rig that works with most standard broadcast cameras.

The system processes spatial information and allows production teams to create 3D effects and utilise state-of-the-art CGI in live TV or pre-recorded transmissions - with no specialist studio set up.

The zLense depth-sensing technology allows for a full 360 degree freedom of camera movement and gives presenters and anchormen greater liberty of performance.

Directors can combine dolly, jib arm and handheld shots as presenters move within, interact with and control the virtual environment and, in the near future, using only natural gestures and motions.

Gyorgy says the system is poised to shake up the world of virtual studios by putting affordable high-quality real-time CGI into the hands of broadcasters at a fraction of the cost of other virtual studio technologies.

The solution is quick to install, requires just a single operator, and is operable in almost any studio lighting.

“With minimal expense and no special studio modifications, local and regional TV channels can use this technology to enhance their news and weather graphics programmes – unleashing live augmented reality, interactive simulations and visualisations that make the delivery of infographics exciting, enticing and totally immersive for viewers,” says Gyorgy.

The ‘matte box’ sensor unit, which can be mounted on almost any camera rig, removes the need for external tracking devices or markers, while the platform’s built-in rendering engine cuts the cost and complexity of using visual effects in live and pre-recorded TV productions.

The zLense virtual production platform can be used alongside other, pre-exisiting, rendering engines, VR systems and tracking technologies.

The VFX real-time capabilities enabled by the zLense Virtual Production platform include:
•    Volumetric effects
•    Additional motion and depth blur
•    Shadows and reflections to create convincing state-of-the-art visual appearances
•    Dynamic relighting
•    Realistic 3D distortions
•    Creation of a fully interactive virtual environment with interactive physical particle simulation
•    Wide shot and in-depth compositions with full body figures
•    Real-time Z-map and 3D models of the picture

Posted 10 December 2014 by David Wood

Check out the new 4K footage from the Samsung NX1

Samsung, a relative newcomer in professional camera manufacturing, sprung a surprise a few months ago with the launch of a mirrorless camera the NX1 – designed to compete with cameras such as the Canon 7D MKII and Panasonic GH4.

In fact there’s quite a crowded field of good cameras in this market – both DSLR and mirrorless – including the Nikon D7100 and Fujifilm X-T1.

Not only does the Samsung NX1 offer 4K recording at 24fps, UHD at 30fps, and 1080p at 60fps, but in the higher resolutions, it encodes using the new, highly-efficient H.265 codec, a first for a camera of this type.

Last week NoFilmSchool brought to our attention some new footage from Andrew Reid which we think look pretty good for a camera which is £1,300 body only and has plenty of features designed to rival pro DSLR cameras from heavier weight companies such as Canon, Nikon and Panasonic.
Tell us what you think of the film.


Samsung NX1 with Sigma 35mm F1.4 from Andrew Reid on Vimeo.


One of the key features of the NX1 is its APS-C-sized, 28MP CMOS backside illuminated sensor, which allows the sensor to capture more light.

Other key features:
•    Hybrid AF system with 205 phase-detect points covering 90% of the frame
•    15 fps burst shooting with continuous autofocus
•    4K (DCI 4K & UHD) video recording using H.265 codec
•    Can output 4:2:0 8-bit 4K video over HDMI
•    Stripe pattern AF illuminator with 15m range
•    Weather-resistant magnesium alloy body
Context-sensitive adaptive noise reduction
•    3" tilting Super AMOLED touchscreen display
•    2.36M dot OLED EVF with 5ms lag
•    LCD info display on top of camera
•    Built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
•    USB 3.0 interface
•    Optional battery grip

Posted 05 December 2014 by David Wood

How GoPro made Nick Woodman a billionaire

Miniature HD action camera the GoPro has made its company founder and chief executive Nick Woodman a multi-billionaire.

Woodman has sold ten million of the HD devices since 2009 and has made so much money from the invention’s IPO that last week he was able to set up a new charity with 5.8 millon shares worth around $450m to be run by himself and his wife Jill.

Investors weren’t too impressed when this move sent GoPro stock plummeting recently, but Woodman insists that the company has just got started.

While a smart phone might be the world’s best reactive capture device – easy to pull out to record an event that’s happening in front of you - a  GoPro is the world’s best proactive capture device, used by millions to take with them to record their passions and adventures.

A former surfer, Silicon valley entrepreneur Woodman developed the device when he realised that sports enthusiasts wanted decent kit on which to record their activities but nothing existed on the market.

Woodman was recently quoted commenting: “I got really lucky. I had an idea nobody else had in a seemingly very developed industry of digital cameras. So I had this grace period to slowly develop this concept.”

“At the time, I was scared. I thought that at any moment I was going to see the competition steamrolling me. But nobody was paying attention. In the early years, I would say GoPro’s products were not that impressive. But it’s all there was. Then, along the way, we were able to attract better and better engineering talent.”

The original cameras he developed were point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras which mounted to the user's wrist.

The product has since evolved into a compact digital camera that supports WiFi, can be remotely controlled, has waterproof housing, records to a micro SD card, and at around $200-$400 is affordable to the average action sports enthusiast.

In 2004, he made his first big sale when a Japanese company ordered 100 cameras at a sports show. Thereafter, sales doubled every year and in 2012, GoPro sold 2.3 million cameras.

In December 2012, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn purchased 8.88% of the company for $200 million which set the market value of the company at $2.25 billion making Woodman, who owned the majority of the stock, a billionaire.

Since then GoPro has faced down competition from lower priced competitors, and from more established camera brands. They have failed because GoPro is not so much about the product but the content it enables, Woodman explained in a recent interview.

“We have millions of people around the world capturing themselves and sharing that content with others.”

Woodman added: “I’m a big believer that when you’re pursuing your passions, your best ideas come to you. Your passions are a bit like your fingerprints: Everybody has them; everybody’s are different. One’s passions may just be a guidebook to one’s life.”

Where next for GoPro?

He went on to talk about the future. “I now have a new passion in life, my growing family. I’ve got three little boys.”

“One of my favourite ways to use a GoPro is taking it with us to the diner on Saturday mornings to document pancake breakfasts. But the challenge is, my family is trapped on stacks of SD cards on my desk.”

“This has become a big inspiration: How do we help our customers manage all this content—take 30 minutes captured at the park or on the mountain, compress it into the one or two minutes other people actually want to watch, then share it? That’s really the next phase for GoPro.”



Posted 14 October 2014 by David Wood

IBC2014 preview

Which technologies will be the big attractions at this year’s IBC? From cameras to media recorders, lenses and 4K, Televisual talks to IBC regulars about what will be causing a stir

Cameras: from Arri, Canon, Sony and Panasonic to JVC, Blackmagic and Cion

At NAB there was a glut of new cameras launches, something which delegates attending IBC don’t expect to see repeated.

If NAB was about camera concepts, IBC will be more about seeing the kit in the flesh and pricing it, says S+O Media head of operations Tony Mawby.

“Blackmagic’s offerings were interesting. Although a lot of people have since written them off, there are some fantastic features in the Studio Camera and 4K Blackmagic URSA and the Cinema Camera.”




Onsight’s Richard Mills is already using the Blackmagic Cinema Camera as a third unit camera. “It’s becoming more popular but some regard it as rather bulky. Likewise the URSA, which we are also keeping an eye on.”

Another 4K newcomer is the AJA Cion 4K/UHD camera. “That’s got some great features too and I’m particularly interested in taking a closer look at its connectivity options,” says Mawby. “What I’ll want to do is get my hands on it as new cameras are hard to access until you are actually face to face with a working model.”

WTS Broadcast sales manager Duncan Payne is also keen on the Cion. “Judging by the pre-launch interest, even before a UK price has been confirmed, it’ll give existing contenders a run for their money, as AJA’s technical pedigree and know-how is well trusted.”

Powerful DSLRs

Onsight’s CTO Richard Mills also singles out the 4K capable GH4, Panasonic’s lightweight, compact and powerful DSLR. “It shows promise and is smaller than the Canon 1DC, another highly spec’d camera that we are impressed with.”

VMI md Barry Bassett agrees. “The GH4 is an excellent 4K camera – small and with beautiful pictures – but still has associated problems with audio input, picture monitoring and sensor size. You can fix this, but there’s a lot of fixes when the Arri Amira just works without any bits to add.”

“There’s no escaping that everyone loves the versatility and simplicity of the Amira and the simplicity and [low] cost of the C300, so we are really looking forward to what Arri do with the Amira roadmap – including its latest plans for 4K.

“It will also be interesting to see how Canon plan to supersede the C300 and C500, now that they have seen the Amira,” says Bassett.

Procam head of systems Don Grant will be keeping an eye out for innovations in miniature cameras following huge demand for camera rig shows from clients.

He will be looking at Sony’s GoPro competitor the Action Cam. Small cameras are also in vogue at S+O says Tony Mawby, who is a fan of the Sony A7S. “ It’s a brilliant little camera, although I don’t’ see it as a run and gun camera to stack up with other DSLRs.







"We are looking at it as a decent in car minicam. GoPro is very popular with production cost wise, but dealing with the footage is always an issue. It means that that the ‘cheap’ GoPro can become very expensive in post.” There’s clearly a big opportunity for a new miniature camera that can stand up to the rigors of broadcast production.

Payne confirms that the A7S will be a big draw on the Sony stand. “With the Lennie/Bloom/Chapman social media jungle-drums beating loud and clear, the A7S will also be popular no doubt. If you’re still in the dark about this camera don’t worry as it’ll be able to see you even with the lens cap on such is its low light capability!”

Standby for a big upgrade on the Sony FS700 too – a Mark II version is rumoured which will aims to simplify 4K workflows.

At the other end of the market, Mawby will be viewing the new Panasonic Varicams. “I’ll be really interested at where they come in on price with the Varicam 35,” adds Mawby. “It’s very well made, but the worry is they’ll shoulder into the market at too high a price – plus I was really hoping for a wow factor such as super slow motion.”

And spare a thought for JVC’s new Super35mm 4K camera,” he adds. “The days where it was just Panasonic or Sony and you’d be mad to touch anything else are long gone. A few years ago who’d have imagined we’d consider buying a camera from AJA or Blackmagic?” 

Media Recorders: Atomos, AJA and CD to Video Devices Cinedeck and Codex

Although most cameras are now designed to meet broadcasters’ bit rate technical requirements, the world of media recorders continues to evolve at speed. This means that a visit to the main broadcast recorder manufacturers such as Atomos, AJA, Convergent Design, Video Devices, Cinedeck, and Codex can be well worth the trouble. 

Onsight CTO Richard Mills has a visit to Codex on his to do list. He wants to see a working version of its Action Cam remote head camera system, which can shoot up to 60fps. With the popularity of drones and remote recording on the increase there’s been no let up in interest in pocket sized media recorders.

Atomos will be one of the main ports of call for people interested in the latest recorder technology, with IBC one of the best opportunities to get to grips with new models such as the Ninja Star, the pocket sized flash-based recorder designed for drones and GoPro style shooting. The £179 price tag makes it a quick and easy way to get ProRes from GoPro footage, but media recorders are certainly an area where you get what you pay for.



The more expensive the recorder the more codecs it can handle and the better the monitor – with many camera operators and hire companies wary of recorders which can’t display video output these days. In fact, one of the main reasons for looking at recorders in the flesh is to find out whether the cheaper models are actually up to the job.

Many believe that simply paying more for a recorder buys you a certain amount of reliability and quality. Says VMI md Barry Bassett: “There’s no doubt that cheap recorders don’t really offer the functionality of the more expensive units.”

Atomos's expanded range

At the top end of Atomos’ range comes the Shogun, its forthcoming 4K ProRes and RAW capable recorder offering 12G-SDI and 4K HDMI outputs.

This is expected to generate plenty of interest. Says Procam’s head of systems Don Grant: “We have invested a lot in Video Devices – the PIX270i recorder/player and Pic240i portable recorders because of the advanced functions they have.”

“You can attach hard drives and record multiple streams. We bought six recently and will want to go to Video Devices and find out what updates they have coming up,” says Grant.

“In fact, one of the things we like about IBC is you get a chance to talk to companies about feature changes and product updates. When you deal with Atomos on a daily basis you talk to customer support or sales side but not the people that make the decisions about future features.”

Another popular recorder is Convergent Design’s Odyssey 7Q, which can now be paired with the Sony FS700 converting it into a 4K camera.

It has transformed the Sony FS700 from a marginally useful camera into a 4K camera capable of 200fps slow mo (dependent on a future firmware release) at entry level cost. Proof that planned updates and modifications in media recorders are really worth keeping an eye on. 

Trends in lenses

The big news in lenses is the next generation of 4K and anamorphic lenses which the big manufacturers – such as Angenieux, Cooke and Fujinon – are bringing out.



On the Canon stand its new all-rounder the CN7 x17 4K 17-120mm Cine Servo Zoom will be pulling the crowds. Procam has already ordered it, as has S+O. Procam operations director Paul Sargeant is also looking for new PL lenses to add to the company’s stock. Onsight CTO Richard Mills adds that Fujinon – manufacturer of the 4K compatible Cabrio Zoom – is one to watch.

 “What we also need is more 4:3 camera lenses, as Arri is the only offering in this field at the moment,” says Mills.

Anamorphic

VMI’s Barry Bassett adds: “There’s already a lot of talk about lens manufacturers stepping into the anamorphic market. We already own some anamorphics and have sizeable advanced orders for these in 2015 expecting our clients to want to shoot in 2.35 anamorphic. But what is interesting is the reason is not simply about the format but also about how the ‘bokeh’ of the defocussed images changes when you shoot. You end up with a completely different look to shooting with spherical lenses.”

The problem about today’s high resolution cameras and lens market is that everyone gets pin sharp images which look great, but what DPs want is images that stand out and look different.

This is what has fuelled the move towards inferior retro ‘vintage’ glass, says Bassett. “Pictures shot with these lenses look different – not necessarily ‘better’ but ‘different’.  Shooting anamorphic is simply another method for achieving this.”

VMI already owns classic Kowas which have recently been rehoused, plus it has ordered the new Cooke S4 anamorphic primes and the new Angenieux 56-152mm anamorphic zoom.

Other hire companies are taking a more cautious approach. Says S+O’s Tony Mawby:  “We have been looking at lenses, but they are all still very expensive. We have a lot of filmic lenses and an anamorphic camera, but expect the new offerings will be a little bit out of our price range.” Sigma is one photographic lens manufacturer talking about entering the broadcast video market, says Mawby.

“It has a good reputation and it’ll be interesting to see how it transfers to video. The big question is can Sigma keep the quality up and the prices down?,” he adds, pointing out that Sigma will need to come in at the higher end of the market, where it will compete with Arri, Zeiss and Angenieux, avoiding the lower end where there is a glut of cheaper Chinese imports.

4K

There has been much talk about 4K but so far less practical engagement with 4K kit from broadcasters and producers. As a result 4K products haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves. But that won’t stop manufacturers banging the drum.

Says Azule Finance md Peter Savage: “They are going to be trying very hard to alleviate the perception that 4K is expensive, difficult and elite. Expect heavily edited shots of 4K World Cup football on the Sony and Grass Valley stands.”

But if buyers, from producers to post production, are not quite ready to make major investments in 4K there is still plenty of interest.

Most hire companies have a 4K camera or are thinking about getting one. Similarly facilities might have a 4K reference monitor, or if not, they are thinking of buying one. It’s all about positioning the company as 4K-ready.

Says Envy head of operations Jai Cave: “We have seen an increase in enquiries, so we are interested in new 4K products and existing product updates throughout the workflow chain, from camera updates to 4K displays.”

WTS Broadcast sales manager Duncan Payne adds that a 4K camera designed specifically for OB market is a big priority. “There’s the Sony’s F55 PL mount camera, with a fibre adaptor on the back and Grass Valley showed a prototype 4K OB camera at NAB. It will be interesting to see the progress that they’ve made.” VMI’s Barry Bassett adds: “4K is going to be increasingly important for lens manufacturers.




“Bear in mind that high end lenses (Cooke S4s, Zeiss MasterPrimes) are already 4K rated while lesser lenses are not – although people might not realise this. Expect a branding exercise to sell us what we already have – like offering us ‘organic wild strawberries’”.




Posted 03 September 2014 by David Wood

Microsoft creates new video smoothing app

Researchers at Microsoft have come up with a tech have developed a technique for converting first-person videos, such as those captured with GoPros or by cyclist’s helmet cams, into smooth timelapse footage.

The Microsoft Hyperlapse software, which the software giant plans to release as a downloadable app, analyses video content before increasing the speed and adding new frames to smooth out camera jumps.

The app could be useful to producers looking for a quick way to smooth timelapse footage created by first-person videos.

An algorithm eliminates the erratic camera shake that tends to be present in always-on cameras such as those made by GoPro, which are increasingly popular in TV production.



The miniature cameras are very simple to use but can suffer from camera shake and changing lighting conditions.

Traditional stabilisation methods and simple frame sub-sampling techniques don't work well with first-person videos as the shakiness gets exacerbated as the footage is sped up.

Many camera manufacturers such as Sony (SteadyShot) have image stabilization software built into camcorders, and professional editing systems have image stabilization technology built in.

The Microsoft Research team worked on a system that reconstructs the journey and develops a new, virtual camera path for the output video that is rendered from the input footage.

The research team, which includes Johannes Kopf, Michael Cohen, and Richard Szeliski, said: "There are three key parts to the process. The first is scene reconstruction, which involves developing a 3D model of an environment based on the captured frames.

"Once the model has been built, the software will create an optimised path for the camera.

"Finally, the image is rendered at ten times the original speed using stitching and blending of selected frames from the original footage.

"As the prevalence of first-person video grows, we expect to see a greater demand for creating informative summaries from the typically long video captures.

"Our hyperlapse work is just one step forward. As better semantic understanding of the scene becomes available, either through improved recognition algorithms or through user input, we hope to incorporate such information, both to adjust the speed along the smoothed path, the camera orientation, or perhaps to simply jump over uninformative sections of the input."



Posted 12 August 2014 by David Wood

Is the Panasonic GH4 the best DSLR ever?

Time was when any professional cameraman wouldn't be seen dead with a DSLR, given their generally deserved reputation for poor usability as well as a host of image problems from rolling shutter effects to moire, aliasing and a poor performance in low light.

But Panasonic seems to have made significant advances with its latest 4K DSLR offering – the GH4.

Panasonic reports that its has sold hundreds to dealers such as Visual Impact and CVP as professionals can see that its a big step forward, offering a wide range of high quality recording modes, including internal 4K recording at 100 Mb/s, plus 200 Mb/s in iFrame mode and 1080 50p or 60p HD.

The 4K image can also be efficiently downsized to HD for a 10 bit 444 sample which can be reframed for HD broadcast, plus it has slow motion options up to 96fps.

Its base price of around £1,300 including VAT sounds extremely low for a camera that can do all that, but professional users will need the Panasonic YAGH interface unit which provides XLR audio, Phantom power and timecode input – bringing the total cost to £2,500 including VAT. It records internally or to fast SAN Disk Pro memory.

In addition the GH4 offers peaking and zebras although as yet no ND filters.

Both Sky and the BBC's Natural History Unit are imagining a role for the GH4 as a specialist camera capable to taking 4K pictures which doesn't break the bank, and some productions have already experimented with the GH4 rigged on a drone for 4K aerials (it's extremely compact and light and has a low power draw).

The major drawbacks (there had to be some) are the micro four thirds sensor and restrictions over the type of glass you can use it with, although an adaptor for Canon EF glass is in the works. Plus the XLR audio needs four pin SLR power from an external source. Plus there's no escaping the fact that it doesn't have the from factor of a professional camcorder and its menu systems have to be navigated according so not one for run and gun style shooting.

Visual Impact sales manager Paul Brown said that the real relevance of the GH4 is the YAGH base, which provides XLR and BNC connections.

“This is a big plus, setting the GH4 apart from other DSLRs that typically need a lot of extra boxes to make them work.

“The fact that the YAGH is specifically designed for the GH4 makes it quite a nice package. At this point you can't expect a lot more.

"Generally people don't use this type of camera for run and gun due to difficulties pulling focus on the move, particularly in 4K mode. I see it scoring with budget film makers, low budget TV shows, corporates and people dipping their toes into 4K."

Richard Payne, technical development manager at Holdan, adds that the GH4 is a lot of cameras for £2.5k inc VAT.

“For this you get camera body and YAGH interface unit combined. You get a 4K camera with 96 fps slow motion and 200Mb/s recording in HD.

"Plus its got XLR audio with Phantom power, Quad SDI and timecode in as well as both peaking and zebras – features which you don't really expect on a Mirrorless Compact camera at this price.

“This makes it much more relevant for high end production – the word from the BBC is that it's a camera to be taken pretty seriously.”





Posted 23 July 2014 by David Wood

NAB 2014: what to look out for

Five seasoned NAB regulars discuss what they will be on the look out for at this month’s broadcast convention in Las Vegas

Over 93,000 delegates from 156 countries are expected to arrive in Vegas this month to see the latest in broadcast kit and digital media technology from over 1,500 exhibitors around the world.
The scope of NAB is mindboggling – it bills itself as the world’s largest B2B electronic media show covering filmed entertainment and the development, management and delivery of content across all broadcast, digital and online platforms. Despite this vast scope, everybody is essentially looking for the same thing: the next innovative piece of technological hardware or software which has the potential to deliver economies of scale or transform their business.




Niall Duffy
on 4K, IP networking, asset management and M&A

Broadcast tradeshows require a strong dose of amnesia – we all look forward to arriving at the convention only to walk in the door and suddenly remember that sense of being overwhelmed by the size, scale and piquant odour of the predominantly male herd. Although we probably don’t always appreciate it, there has been remarkable development in broadcast over the past 10 years.

This year we will be focusing on four key areas. The first is the most obvious – UHD and beyond.

 We fully expect shock and awe in cameras and displays. Although there is a nervousness from some who see cost but no new customers, there is an inevitability about UHD that simply was not there with 3D. With OTT players such as Netflix already committing and manufacturers actively pushing larger sets, the question is not if, but how soon.

The second key area will be IP production and the software defined network. Whilst considerably less sexy than 4K, we believe this will be the next big transformational change. The ability to deploy a complete IP workflow from acquisition to headend for linear TV and acquisition to device will fundamentally alter the cost structure and control of TV production.

Media asset management (MAM) is third. Specifically how far MAM has swung from enterprise systems to more middleware technology that acts as glue between production systems. We also want to see just how real cloud based deployment of MAM is, and who is buying.

The last area is the nature of the market itself. Market consolidation is one of the big current trends, with Belden acquiring GVG, Quantel acquiring Snell, the pending Sintec acquisition of Pilat and Vislink buying Pebble Beach. We want to understand the confidence of the new organisations, the logic and strategy, the nervousness of the existing vendors and how clients are viewing this. Maybe NAB will be smaller next year, but that’s does not automatically mean it will be weaker. Quite the opposite.
Nial Duffy is chairman of Mediasmiths



Malcolm Cowan
On innovation in sports broadcasting

Sports broadcasting is one area where innovation rarely pauses for breath. As the worlds of IP networking and broadcasting draw ever closer together I think remote working is an area where this confluence could be a major benefit.

With large events, broadcasters spend a huge amount of time, money and effort designing, building and staffing a temporary facility often overseas, whilst their core facilities remain idle. Bringing the event home, whilst retaining the same level of access and control is the ideal scenario, saving on costs and environmental impact.

Timeline will be looking at improving on the collaboration we have in this area with vendors such as Avid and Sony as well as looking for new technologies to help us push this forward.

With the build of the BT Sports hub at the Olympic Park in Stratford we created a facility in an incredibly short timeframe (under six months). But this doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. Broadcast technology marches on quickly and we need to ensure we can advise BT Sport on the next steps to improve workflows. I aim to spend time at NAB looking at options to do just that.

With such a large number of vendors in one place at one time it would take too long to list everything I intend to look at, but sport replay and analysis systems, post production systems and workflows, high bandwidth shared storage, file ingest, studio and ENG cameras, vision systems, high end graphics and compositing systems and grading tools are just a few.

I also hope to learn about emerging ideas for using white space technology (the unused gaps in DTT spectrum). This is being pioneered in the UK and there may be interesting adaptations for broadcasting.
Malcolm Cowan is head of technology at Timeline TV



Ian Jackson
On camera technology

There’s not much doubt about the subject which will be generating the most heat at NAB in the camera market: 4K and its development. It will be a complicated road map as acquisition formats are now more prolific, significant end-user uptake will be content-led and having just invested in another cyclical 3D damp squib, buyers are bound to be wary.

 All eyes will be on Arri, which has so far had little to say about any 4K plans other than there’s more to a creative image than resolution, specifically the dynamic range and the vital cosmetic attributes of digital sensors, which is why its latest product is resolutely not a 4K product – yet. There’s no doubt that everyone is very excited about the Amira. We think it’s going to be an important camera, plugging a gap for a quality, lightweight camera designed for a wide range of work.

We believe Arri’s NAB announcements are going to influence the decision making of a lot of other manufacturers. Panasonic’s next generation Varicam 4K will be there, but Panasonic is really going to have to offer something unique. At the moment the Varicam is 200fps and 4K, but questions will be asked on availability to market, particularly in light of the geological time scaling of Ultra AVC which has effectively marginalised P2 use in the UK.

 One camera that will be exciting interest is Panasonic’s GH4 – a 4K consumer camera that takes amazing images and comes with BNC connectors, docking kit, time code, all for under £2,400 when the docking kit is included.  We are also looking forward to Canon’s unveiling of its new range of 4K Cabrio style zoom lenses – definitely a growth area which feeds into the Amira and Sony F55 world.

 In the last year or so, Canon has performed brilliantly with its C300 but we think the rental market is looking for a 4K on board codec camera with a proper handheld form factor and sensible 4K monitoring – a 4xBNC feed out is not a real world shooting option. Canon is going to have to be careful about its next move to build on a very successful recent run of products.
Ian Jackson is commercial director at hire company VMI




Andy Howard
On vfx and monitoring

As with past NABs, monitors will be at the top of the list of things to see for Framestore. This year I’m expecting a lot of Ultra HD monitors which will be defining the next step up in picture quality.

The growing importance of 4K won’t just be obvious in the latest displays, but also the high-end workstations needed to work in UHD and the systems that help you deal with increasing file sizes.

Tracking where and what your content is has become a very high priority so I am expecting to see a lot of media asset management and storage systems. I’m also keen on the latest in digital signage and the technology that allows consumers to interact with digital content. Vfx companies are now often required to re-purpose client media for web, in-store signage and promotional displays, so we will be looking out for the technology that deals with that type of work. NAB also always gives you a great opportunity to see the latest cameras, which is essential for production and post-production alike. From a vfx stand point you want to see what your clients are shooting on so you can help advise on the best way to source images for a project.
Andy Howard is head of engineering at Framestore




Jon Folland 
On the new world of content management

Nativ will be introducing its concept of media logistics platforms at NAB as well as launching the latest version of cloud platform MioEverywhere.

I’ll also be looking for other vendors who offer media management, workflow and collaboration platforms in the cloud. These new technologies promise content owners cost savings and flexibility. But how far has it come and are content owners ready to embrace these new platforms?

I’ll be looking to see how other traditional DAM companies are operating in the cloud and how they are managing heavy assets in these environments and how they are coping with the relatively high cost of moving large assets in and out of the public cloud.

I’ll be keen to talk to studios on their views on public cloud when considering content security. Clearly cloud platforms can be made secure, but is the mind-set of the content owner changing? Other issues include how far has streaming technology MPEG-DASH come, and has anybody has really cracked rights management in the multi-platform world? I’ll be looking out for interesting solutions in this area from companies like Mediamorph.
Jon Folland is CEO of Nativ


Posted 04 April 2014 by David Wood

How to make in house post work

There have always been competing views about the merits of in house post production and how far it is practical for indies to post their own shows.

Here producers and post houses debate the merits of in house post production.

Donna Mulvey-Jones, head of post and facilities, Maverick Television

"Aside from all the flexibility of having in-house post, the main attraction is in reducing risk as much as cost.

Sometimes savings can be made at production budget level to allow cheaper post lines in today’s struggling budgets. 

It also enables companies to absorb overruns or avoid those little extras that all add up when you go out of house.

Savings made at production level allow more money to go back on screen.  

But for most companies internal post is more than just saving monies in post budgets. 

It’s about spending money internally that would otherwise have gone out the door to allow us to invest back in overall company development – but without any compromise to our output."


Marc Allen MD True North, producer of The Valleys (MTV)

 
“True North has developed in house post in two ways. The first was a natural reaction to significant volumes of programming commissioned as the company grew significantly.

This justified the investment in the kit, skills and talent that has now become an integral part of our home in Leeds.

The second was to expand these operations towards the talent and commissioners based in or around MediaCity in a joint venture with Flix Facilities, to use their expertise and technical staff to house and support our Manchester post production operations.

Both of these initiatives have worked. In house post might not be right for everyone. It depends on volume, the skill set of the people you can bring in and the type of programmes that you are making but its been the right move for us.”


David Klafkowski, joint MD, The Farm Group
 
"Whether or not to take your post in house is essentially a business decision.

For some shows it works, for some it doesn’t. If you have a returning commission which can utilize a good percentage of your hardware and personnel investment, then investing in post-production could be a sensible option.

Don’t forget though that if in order to realize a return on your investment you need to run your “set up” beyond your first job, your systems will need to be maintained and while software licenses appear to be good value, support contracts, updates and hardware upgrades come up with costly regularity.

My advice is to not automatically assume that working in house will be cheaper, look to the market to out-source some or all of your post services, there are some very creative solutions and deals to be had out there and partnering with a post house could well be the most “cost effective” option."


Adam Downey, head of post production, BSkyB


"In house post has come a long way in a short space of time. Initially it was all about indies needing to make savings in a world of falling broadcast budgets but since then there has been a significant evolution.

Its development has been aided by the emergence of file-based cameras, which saw in house  handling full res media, as a result of which it began to make sense to handle the online in house as well.

The success of any in house post operation is determined more than anything by the respect that it is afforded within the company.

If it's treated purely and simply as a way of saving money that's fine, but by treating it as a profitable business whether working internally or externally then in house post can build the same respect that traditional post house enjoy.

In fact, there's very little that separates them apart from the accountants and sales people." 





Posted 13 March 2014 by David Wood
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