Your stalwart narrator normally refuses to attend both NAB and Cine Gear, for the simple reason that getting to either involves a twelve-hour endurance test in the economy section of a roaring tin tube. At about six weeks apart, they always feel too close together to travel back and forth, but also too far apart to stay, short of pitching a tent in Griffith Park and claiming it’s an art installation.
There’s also the fact that there’s a media industry trade show every other weekend somewhere on the planet. They’re interminable, which is possibly why, by the third day, the booth staff at these events are generally capable of maintaining a standing position only with the help of a relay of willing interns. Even between NAB and Cine Gear, there’s MPTS in London, something your narrator finds it hard to get out of attending on the basis it’s only half an hour from his front door. Only a few days later, CABSAT takes place in Dubai.
There are people who go to all of these things, and somehow maintain their sanity.
On the assumption that most of our audience is interested in the camera package, let’s consider those things which are likely to pop up at Cine Gear based on their debuting at NAB, and which might well have made an appearance earlier in the year in the wintry London climes of BSC Expo. Those are the western world’s principal venues for toys appealing to the high-end, single-camera drama crowd.
There’ll be quite a bit of commonality between the BSC show and NAB’s central hall, both of which starred the Impression rear filters for Arri’s Signature Primes and Kino-Flo’s Mimik LED panel for high-colour-quality interactive lighting. This year’s NAB was also pretty good for people who’re forever searching for that finishing touch for the grip truck, with Matthews Studio Equipment showing its large and convenient gas-lifted lighting stand for putting bright things in high places. The bolt-on Litemover apparatus provides remote pan, tilt and focus control, which is normal enough on moving-head lights of the Vari-Lite variety, but a novelty on multi-kilowatt HMIs. Combined, these two devices seem intended to save junior electricians from the indignity of peeing in a bottle during long stints at the top of a cherry picker, making film sets a drier place to stand.
J.L. Fisher, requiring no introduction more than “the dolly company”, improved the performance of its ultra-smooth, ultra-quiet hydraulic lift assembly, a further buff to the already very well-polished Model 10. That’s the wheeled item which has long been responsible for all your favourite examples of traditional, formal camera movement. Aputure’s Infinibar, which also appeared at the BSC show, appears to recapitulate now-familiar tube lights in a flatter, squarer form which possibly makes more instinctive sense. A slight wobble exists here in that the Infinibar doesn’t expose the white subpixels to DMX control, which makes high-colour-quality image-based lighting difficult, although that’s a fairly niche application and existing tubes will do it fine.
If it seems like these laudable developments exist in rather specific niches, well, yes. We could quick fire other spot updates in specialist areas. Brompton and Roe’s collaboration on a video wall panel includes white emitters for improved colour quality. Blackmagic’s options for entry-level studio camerawork have increased, and there are some interesting new lens options from Meike. Some of these things interact: Blackmagic seems keen on EF mounts, albeit sometimes interchangeable with PL or the company’s own B4-compatible optical relay. Simultaneously, the lens manufacturers (Meike among them) seem to be able to make faster, smaller, cheaper lenses which achieve all those things simultaneously only by relying on much shallower mounts.
To risk a brief digression, the physics behind that are not a secret. Neither is the reason EF cameras are popular in a world which contains many EF lenses. EF mounts make camera packages more affordable by keeping existing lens investments relevant, but they are a barrier to making that camera work really well with good, affordable glass. Perhaps we protest too much, but an Ursa capable of taking E, micro four-thirds or L-mount glass seems long overdue.
Finally, at risk of indulging in a little nepotism, this year’s NAB show seemed to offer a particularly rich selection of training opportunities. The show has sometimes featured discussions with cinematographers, of which there were a good few, and it has featured software training, (with some packed events led this year by our own Scott Simmons). Still, the craft has rarely dominated the schedules, or the discussions in the corridors afterward, as it did this year. It takes nothing away from the new gear to recognise that technique matters at least as much.The high points of NAB 2023 make it even more clear that we should be talking at least as much about technique as technology.
That’s a thought that might be a bit less abstract to the crowd at Cine Gear, which might be a good reason for your increasingly jet-lagged correspondent to shake a leg and make the journey for once.
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