At NAB 2002 (April 6 to 11 in Las Vegas, U.S.), more than 1,300 exhibitors – largely comprised of equipment makers – wooed prospective buyers with a dazzling array of products. Overall attendance at the annual electronic media show was down to 95,000 from 113,000 in 2001, but the silver lining was more individual attention and less waiting at booths.
There was some good news for digital manufacturers and producers from U.S. Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell, who rejected a broad-based request from several mid-sized broadcasters to delay the approaching deadline for upgrading facilities to digital television and high definition. ‘We want to keep the pressure on,’ he said, adding that the fcc would consider extensions on a case by case basis.
NAB president and CEO Ed Fritts accused the cable industry of slowing down the transition to digital TV by failing to offer consumers HD-compatible tuners. AOL Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons ceded that the cable industry may already be paying a steep price for its foot-dragging, as exemplified by his company’s recently posted US$50 billion quarterly loss. Said Parsons, ‘I don’t know what the future holds [for us], but it will be digital.’
While commissioners, broadcasters and cable executives debated the shape and speed of the transition to digital TV, equipment manufacturers at NAB 2002 emphatically declared their readiness to deliver in HD. From cameras, lenses and monitors to switchers, encoders, cables and tripods, the hd mantra was pervasive.
This year’s biggest leap in HD acquisition technology was Thomson Multimedia’s Viper FilmStream HD camera, with three 9.2 million pixel ccds. The Viper is geared for feature film and high end TV production and outputs 1080p HD at 24/25/30 frames per second and 720p at 50 or 60 FPS, plus 2K data for advanced color correction on Thomson’s Specter Virtual Data Cine, an upgrade to the Spirit Data Cine.
SONY also added to its hd/24p toolbox with new monitors, a color viewfinder for the Cine Alta (24p) camera, HD switchers, VTRs, a dual stream hdcam video board for its XPRI non-linear edit system (code named Cobra) and even a color viewfinder for its pioneer Cine Alta 24p camcorder. But, Zeiss’ Digi-Primes – a set of prime HD video lenses – created a bigger buzz in the rapidly expanding digital cinematography sector. A series of test shoots with these long awaited lenses, optimized for low light shooting, were the main event at the annual HD screening at the MGM United Artists Theater (by Fletcher of Chicago, U.S.).
Canon and Fujinon also premiered new sets of digital primes for HD applications, paving the way for broader applications of the 24p hd format. There were also plenty of interesting HD zoom lenses, including normal-sized ones with longer reach like Angenieux’s 26 x 7.6 and long box lenses like Canon’s Digi-Super 86XS.
On the 720p HD front, Panasonic introduced several cameras with variable frame rate capture, including its 27v Varicam, with a film camera’s capacity to ‘undercrank’ and ‘overcrank’ 3-60 FPS and film-like gamma performance. They also introduced a DVC PRO HD VTR with a two-hour HD capacity and new LCD HD monitors. But, their new palm-sized 24p DV camcorder stole some thunder by putting 24p acquisition within reach of the booming ‘micro-cinema’ end of the digital cinema ranks.
On the post side, there was plenty of non-linear editing support for HD formats, including 720p and 24p. BOXX Technologies edited multi-speed Varicam footage in its HD BOXX using Windows 2000. On the Mac platform, Pinnacle Systems performed real time hd effects in Final Cut Pro with their Cine Wave RT board and also unveiled Liquid Blue, an all format NLE that’s captivating Europe.
In a broad swipe at the new media marketplace, JVC and sony premiered webstreaming mini-camcorders designed to make webcasting and live streaming easy and affordable for consumers and pros alike. JVC touted its 1/3′ CCD ‘Streamcorder’ as ‘the camcorder for the broadband age’. It can record to tape or stream onto the Web, in concert with a networking package and can even be remotely controlled over the Internet.