NAB 2014-This Way to 4K
At the National Association of Broadcasters 2014 Convention the capability of broadcasting in 4K finally became a reality. A good thing too, as all those folks (about 1 million by years end) in the US of A who bought those 4K sets will have something to view besides Netflix's limited 4k streams (to the newest qualified sets only) and Sony’s Ultra HD Player..…eventually. The problem to be solved for 4K, is how are you going to stream an Ultra Hi Def medium. To do this Netflix compresses the data rate from gigs to 15.6 Mbps.
Perhaps the coolest solution comes to us by way of Adobe’s new cloud technology Primetime 2.0. Later this year Adobe will implement it’s new ultra high definition television (UHDTV) standard, which will allow media companies to deliver content across 4K enabled SmartTVs and other IP-connected devices and a cool insert your own ad by way of the cloud. Sort of a pop up on your TV. So the program could originate from anywhere and you could slap your logo (shot with Lumix 4K) where you want as in the picture below.
Speaking of 4K cameras, everyone trotted out their newest, hottest, AFFORDABLE 4K cameras. Mentioned in the above ad, Panasonic’s Lumix GH4 4k, was perhaps the biggest surprise a huge leap up from the GH3. The camera line is famous for it’s hardware hacks, that started with the GH2 (now about $300), that allowed inexpensive cameras with good lenses to shoot Apple Pro Res codec . A unique capability at the inexpensive price point. This in essence allowed the gorilla filmmaker to go pro and became their tool of choice.
The GH4, at $1700 for the body, can record 4K through a built in connection to off camera recorder. Add to that Panasonic's deal to get Leica lenses which were licensed for Panasonic to build in Japan gives you access to lenses that would normally cost more than the camera.. You can mount almost any lens from any manufacture on the camera. It is available for preorder now from B&H and Samy’s Camera
Premiered with less “Splash” but boasting better specs and an ability to film in candlelight (actually ¼ candlelight) is Sony’s A7S . Perhaps the lightest and smallest camera with full frame sensor (no crop), is not yet available for preorder and we can only guess at the price (around 4 grand - worth every penny). This camera revolutionizes the speed (ISO 50 to 409,000) at which cameras can record.
The bigger and better pixels and sensitivity of the sensor allows you to get a much greater dynamic range i.e., you get shadow detail even when the other part of the picture may be shot in very bright sunlight or artificial light situations. This is the type of stuff that higher end cameras 30 to 60k are paid to do.
It amazes me that Sony doesn’t have the sex appeal of the Red Camera. Once The Scarlet is outfitted with all the necessary Red MAG memory cards (the cards that the camera records on are expensive and max out at 45 minutes) and off the loading case with Red Rocket Cards comes to around $10,000; and that is not even covering what you are going to pay a Digital Imaging Technician.
The RED is not as flexible Sony’s F5; especially for the neophyte who isn’t familiar with the workflow. Red is also not a great low light camera, better when you shoot raw, but to get raw looking good you need a good colorist or a great DIT. The one thing that is free is a grading software called Red Cine-X that allows you to save out looks that you can use in the camera.
But when you do want a lush movie look (and have the light...and the crew) The Red is hard to beat.
Sony has also worked with Atmos in the development of their new HDMI Field Recorders, Monitor and Playback device the Shogun, which has the ability to record 4K with a monitor that boasts 1920 x 1200 and will record up to 12 gigs a second. So when 6K comes, you will be ready. See the how they work in Studio Tech’s video below.
A New Camera Which Is Not 4K? Heavens Forbid!!
Be you a newbie or pro, getting the right camera for your workflow is essential and that might not be a 4K camera. If you can't sell it or you have no place to deliver it to; you might not want or need a 4K, which comes with it's own set of demands.
The current darling of the camera world, the Alexa, used by Emmanuel Lubezki, to win an Academy Award for Gravity, was also used to film Homeland, Skyfall, Life of Pi etc.. Now they have made the Amira at a price point inline with an outfitted Red or F-5. Using the same camera sensor as it’s bigger brother (or sister) the Alexa, Amira, is built to have one person pick up and shoot straight out of the camera bag. AMIRA is hardy enough to take anywhere and features in-camera grading with preloaded 3D LUTs (look up table), as well as 200 fps slow motion.
This in camera grading is huge because it means that as you shoot you can set the look of your film with their pre-built in camera looks or have some genius create one before you start and film and load it. A handy thing if you are filming in the jungle, the city streets or in a foreign country where you don’t have anyone to help you before your final edit. Ooh it only shoots HD you say. But it’s color space, ProRes up to 4444, which is crazy good and you can, like the Red, future proof it with hardware and software upgrades.
Okay Enough With Cameras
The two software giants Avid and Adobe are slugging it out to capture those left adrift by Apple’s abandonment of Final Cut Pro Suite including Color. What about FCPX you say? It does many things well especially for someone who is new to editing or doesn’t need to hand things back and forth on a small project. But revolutionizing media sharing through the cloud was what this NAB was about. It was why at the Pre NAB Editor’s Lounge none of the guys on stage used it.
Avid made it’s big splash with it’s own cloud technology called Avid Everywhere. Of course Adobe has it’s Creative Cloud and Adobe Anywhere. Of the two Avid, is going to have more success with the pros, as it is a change called for by a lot of studios, postproduction houses and TV stations. Now a reporter can rush out to a breaking news story and while he is waiting for his crew, shoot the scene on his IPhone or android and send it via Avid Everywhere to his station. Once the content is approved by the producer it shows up in an editors bin in Media Composer, who is putting together the news show. Anything else that follows from the scene will arrive in the same way. No more rushing back to the station. The station can then share their media with any affiliates in the same way, anywhere in the world.
This is not to say that Adobe Premiere is not helping fill the void left by FCP. Broadway Video, that produces Saturday Night Live and Seth Meyers uses the Creative Cloud with Premiere as their go to editing tool.
Click here to see Broadway Video's Stacey Foster , president and managing director, talk about how Adobe CC helps with SNL's insanely quick turnaround.
Avid promised volume licensing to take the pain out of dealing with license issues for large organizations, but will not deliver for a year or two. (I have to go one by one through 70 computers licensing and registering their software). They did deliver,like Adobe before them, rent by the month version of their main editing application Media Composer and a 30 day trial of their top of the line option, Symphony.
And now, if you get a support contract, any updates to a licensed piece of software will only be $99 for students, $299 upgrade for Pros,if you already own Media Composer 6 or 6.5. No more big money surprises when the app goes to a .5 increase in release. Also the painful task of coding before you edit and the organization of media is made simpler in the new release of Media Composer 7.
Besides learning how to work the aforementioned DIT station like the Rogue Pro, one of the hottest jobs in video, is the ability to turn raw 4K footage into something beautiful. Only a colorist using Davinci Resolve, the industries leading color-finishing software can make it look that good. Both Adobe and Avid claim to have great tools but 75% of all the jobs go to Davinci Resolve and watch out, you can now edit your video on the same piece of software and it handles 4K beautifully. If you have enough horses on your computer, like Apples new $5,000 trash can or the souped up HP Z820, a better buy all tricked out with Nvidia's quadro 4000 graphics card for about $4,300. I mean if you got money to burn the Apple is smoking fast but the HP is soooo easy to expand.
To do this grading like a pro you used to have to buy a monitor and set up tools that put this beyond the reach of the guerilla filmmaker. Now HP has provided a DreamColor monitor (The HP Z27x), and a super fast card (HP Z Turbo Drive) to allow you or me to edit and finish 4K. To do this the HP Z Turbo Drive serves as both a boot and data drive (storage) and it is twice as fast as thunderbolt. Allowing you to render at 1 gig a second over a long period.
Finally, I have to give a thumbs up to Post Production World Training Seminars at NAB, an embarrassment of riches, with superstar teachers Eran Stern (After Effects), Robbie Carman (Davinci Resolve), Rich Harrington(Photoshop) and Maxim Jago (Premiere) . Maxim Jago's day of Adobe Premiere's new features (available for viewing at Peachpit's streaming site) and Rich Harrington's unique workflow with video in Photoshop are the most compelling reasons to purchase or to stick with Adobe's Creative Cloud Suite. Adobe is now taking steps to improve the interaction bewteen CC programs, while continually updating their programs instead of waiting a year or two for new releases.
The new features of Premiere Pro CC which were previewed at NAB are now available for update. Make sure you download the April 14th update of Premiere to get the good stuff and then watch Rich Harrington's new title on Lynda.com covering what's new in the update.