Mike’s NAB 2011 Day One Part One

I visited Blackmagic, AJA, Red, Arri, Canon, Fujinon, Abel Cinetech, and others

Hey all! I’m here at NAB and am wandering the show checking out what interests me. My coverage will be based on what I saw in the order I saw it. Today I visited: Blackmagic Design, AJA, Red, Arri, Canon, Abel Cine, and Sony. So here we go:

NAB 2011 Day One

Hey all! I’m here at NAB and am wandering the show checking out what interests me. My coverage will be based on what I saw in the order I saw it. Today I visited: Blackmagic Design, AJA, Red, Arri, Canon, Abel Cine, and Sony. So here we go:

BlackMagic Design

I’d planned on going straight to the Red booth, but there was too much candy along the way. Right up front was Blackmagic, and they had a laptop and a box sitting next to a camera so I had to check it out – yep! They were showing Thunderbolt stuff – the $995 UltraStudio 3D:
-Thunderbolt based
-very approximate size/shape/volume of a paperback book
-dual 3Gb/sec link, HDMI 1.4a & component analog for 3D
-12 bit architecture
-SD/HD/2K support
-was under glass, usually indicative or a product demo or a product not as close to shipping. I need to go back and do proper research at booth or online, but that has been my experience. But they had a camera connected to a box connected to a laptop with a moving live image on it, so it appeared to be working.


They also were showing DeckLink 4K or $595:
-quad link 3Gb/sec
-capture/playback card
-SD/HD/2K/4K capture and playback (what are you going to capture 4K this way????)
-8 lane PCIe bus
-supports Rec 601, Rec709, XYZ for DCI spec
-P3 color space somewhere?

Disk Recorders:
HyperDeck Shuttle for $345
-compact, portable, battery powered
-capture/playback from SDI/HDMI
-records to SSDs
-can edit from the SSDs themselves
-records uncompressed 10 bit 4:2:2 QuickTimes

….so did BMD just replace capture decks with sub-$350 device? Sort of – the “tape” will be SSDs that cost several times what the recorder costs. Somewhere else today I heard the really fast 512GB SSDs are about $1500. Uncompressed 10 bit 4:2:2 1080p24 runs around 450GB/hr. Where do you put that data? Not on a hard drive long term if you’re smart. Look to LTO-5 with LTFS…

HyperDeck Studio for $995

-same idea as above, with a 2nd slot for rollover recording, rack mount

SmartView Duo for $695

dual side by side small LCD screens – good for rackmount or truck usage


Next up: AJA

AJA had both demo product and technology previews in their booth.

Actual products to ship as seen:

4K on Kona3G: since the Kona 3G has 4 bidirectional 3Gbit connections, they decided to point them all in the same direction – it can output a 4K image in quads (2048×1080, 4:4:4) if it uses all the outputs. That is great! The catch is, 4K displays are still fairly pricey and hard to come by. But it is relatively easy to output to those now.

Kona 3 cards, like I have, can’t do this trick – only single link 1.5 Gbit, not 3Gbit. Drat. Oh well, not like there’s a 4K display/projector at my house.

Technology previews:

AJA Phaser:
Based on my brief look-see, seems to be a KiPro Mini type device that connects via Thunderbolt to a MacBook Pro or other Thunderbolt equipped device. Supports HDMI 1.3 input and HDMI 1.4a output. From website:

Codenamed “Phaser”, AJA’s upcoming product supports HDMI 1.3a input and HDMI 1.4 output for stereo playback, provides 10-bit up/down/cross-conversions, with RS422 device control and professional reference/LTC I/O, in a highly portable design.

It is a small device, small book sized, about the same size as the Blackmagic Thunderbolt based device.
AJA Riker
Continuing the Star Trek Next Generation naming these was the Riker box, the idea being to have a very fast pipe out of the box (8 lane PCIe interface) leading out to a large box with modular, upgradeable/replaceable processing modules. It’ll handle up to SD up to 5K workflows (clearly Epic inspired) with the ability to do a LOT of realtime conversion and scaling. 2K stereo 3D up to 60fps per eye, 4K stereo up at to 30p, single camera up to 5K. The idea is put in a whoppin’ fast bus and be able to shove as much data as you need around on the thing, but there are two daughtercards to allow for modular upgrading. Tony from AJA was saying they are still in the exploratory range – do customers want a fully populated box? Buy with 1 or 2 slots occupied, upgrade when they need it? Still open questions.
Riker is a big box – full rack width, about 3 or 4 RU tall I’m guessing, and rackmount deep. The idea was to look at video processing needs, find the bottlenecks, and design an open ended system with the bandwidth to take whatever processing you need offboard and allow plenty of space, cooling, power, and upgradeability to do what you want to get done. No need to limit to what fits on a single card with limitations of built in power supply from the bus. Interesting and valid concept. Is 8 lane PCIe enough bandwidth? I think I heard/saw 24Gbit/sec was the throughput. Will this hold us for a while? Or will Cameron type projects required 4K/60p/3D? Dunno yet.
Other details:
-supports 3D LUTs, up to 33x33x33 in resolution
-Epic & Alexa workflow with true 4K playback (or downconversion to 2K/HD I’d guess as well)
-24Gb/sec bus to/from host
-128Gb/sec internally to the 2 add-in card slots
All AJA news here:
Next up: Red Digital Cinema
I had a nice but scattershot visit to the Red booth. On their forums website Red had talked about Great Things to be seen at NAB, but I didn’t see anything OMG spectacular – I got the impression that I missed something or that Big Announcement didn’t happen. Hmmph. Things seemed, or rather my information gathering was, a bit scattershot at Red, I feel like I need to go back for some more definitive answers. Here’s what I learned:
-Epic: I heard third hand from unofficial non-Red sources that Epics may be delayed – I need to get official clarification on Epic X status. Last I’d heard officially Epic-X cameras (Phase 2 for those keeping up, for upgrading Red One owners like me) would ship in the near future and be caught up by summertime. I need an official update, I don’t have one. In any case, lots of Epic M (for Machined, non mass production versions that cost more) have shipped in the hundreds – this is the de facto beta test camera. Red hand picked who they would or would not sell these models to – you had to have the money and the relationship with Red to do this.
-Scarlet – design and engineering work appears to be done, but a component problem seems to have arisen due to the tragic catastrophe in Japan. Red, like a lot of other vendors, could either get beat up further on their margins and switch to a pricier alternate vendor, or wait it out. A wait seems the likely call, so Scarlet may be delayed a bit. Again, I need a more formal explanation/official answer.
Red Ray – shown working, even their demo movie was playing back from Red Ray. The guy in the screening room said “Roll tape!” at the end of his introduction, and I asked and he said oops, yes, was Red Ray playback.
Epic accessories – lots of display, prices not set yet.
Future Red products – I missed the official announcement, but had others explained that the next sensor from Red would not be the FF35 Monstro (full frame still sized sensor, 36x24mm, equivalent to 8 perf 35mm film), but instead would be the Red Dragon, available as an Epic upgrade the same way the Mysterium-X was available as a Red One upgrade. Available “next year” – nice and vague. Red is infamous for ever shifting targets on availability. Early estimates are their best hopes, those rarely turn out to be accurate. The further out the call is made, the more it is off has been my observation.
Asked about sensor size of Red Dragon, an employee smiled and said “we aren’t talking about that yet.” Could be news there, could not be. If were same size, “we aren’t talking about that yet” is still technically true – although more is hinted at.
RAW SPECULATION: If they want it to still be PL mount, CAN’T go notably wider, the PL format glass won’t cover it! The only direction to go is taller – if the current sensor is 16:9, could at least keep the width the same and increase the height to make it a 16:12, aka 4:3 area sensor. This would allow for an anamorphic lens arrangement, and 4:3 for stills mode as well. Just my pet theory though, no hard data to back that up.
Tons of mounting grips and gear, very cool to see all the pieces, but my budgeting mind blanches at what a well equipped total system may end up costing me – notably more than the $18,500 upgrade from Red One to Epic (that still allows for keeping the Red One in Stage 2).
Also seen:
-Red Station (footage data unloading module) with CF, 1.8″ & 2.5″ SSD offloading modules
-Michael Cioni from LightIron showed me his about-to-be-released live streaming and metadata adding iPad app that will be available on the App Store (iPad app and free OS X server app for collaboration). Interesting pricing strategy: $20/copy for iPads, if you want data collaboration, free server software download to run on any viably modern Mac and then $20/iPad for the collaboration capabilities. Hope to cover more later, but lots of customizable metadata entry, and Michael said YES you can pipe out the metadata into an FCP XML and shoehorn it into Comments and other FCP fields. Wait for Wednesday night to see what new might be possible…
But I need to go back to clarify the unknowns, and see what else I might have missed.
Next up – Arri and their Alexa camera
A quickie here, getting tired and I have a meeting in less than 7 hours:
-Alexa M – M for Mini or Modular – ever seen the T-block from a Sony 1500 or 950 camera? Same idea – pop off the optical block, remote it via a cabled connection, and you reduce the camera head size. All the same mechanicals are there, but the optical block is TINY compared to the whole camera – the part the lens attaches to is roughly the size of my two fists held together. A cable can run a long distance back to the body. This looks great for 3D and steadicam rigs (speaking of which ran into Garrett, inventor of Steadicam and chatted, way cool). The good news is they are doing this, the bad news is it is many months away. But they’re on it.
-Alexa Plus – lens metadata input and recording, improved controls/electronics, etc. On the way
-120 fps – this was the big (and awesome!) surprise for me!
Good news:
-will be able to shoot 120fps this summer on existing Alexas!
-NO WINDOWING – uses FULL sensor area
Bad News:
-will require a hardware update – will record onto an as-yet-unannounced solid state recording media. Faster SxS? SR Memory? We don’t know, they aren’t saying but NOT SSDs they say
-will be a for-pay upgrade
-no Arriraw or HD-SDI – in high speed more, these are shut off since can’t shove data fast enough. Therefore, your only recording option is….
-ProResHQ at a max of 1080p resolution
-ProRes4444 is known to be preferable but processing and bus and card limitations are forbidding that at present
I saw a short demo of high speed footage, looked FANTASTIC. VERY promising feature here! Alexa continues to impress the hell out of me – I haven’t seen a shot that I’ve been disappointed in yet, knowing the shooting environment.
-I wasn’t clear on whether it was an Alexa Plus or a firmware for-pay update to existing cameras, but Anamorphic Desqueeze is an update coming
-Alexa OV (Optical Viewfinder) was on display. It is coming, not out yet
-two new PL mount zooms from Canon!
-14.5-60 T2.6 for $45K
-30-300 T2.95 up to 240mm, then ramps up to T3.7 @ 300mm, $47K
…..and my eyes are closing on me, so lets call this Part 1 and continue the rest tomorrow. I’ll download pix from camera and get some up too. And remember, come to the Content Theater at 6pm Tuesday for our Single Chip Camera Evaluation – comparing a dozen cameras including Red One MX and Alexa.


Mike Curtis

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