3D and larger sensors invade NAB 2010

Thanks largely to Avatar's tour de force, 3D was probably the biggest new thing at NAB 2010, which just wrapped last week in Las Vegas featuring over 85,000 audio visual professionals from 157 countries.
April 19, 2010

Thanks largely to Avatar‘s tour de force, 3D was probably the biggest new thing at NAB 2010, which just wrapped last week in Las Vegas featuring over 85,000 audio visual professionals from 157 countries.

While 4K/2K capture and post was the talk of the last two editions of NAB, this year 3D was the mark to hit for many exhibitors. There was a 3D Pavilion featuring the 3D@Home Consortium whose goal is to bring high quality 3D TV into homes across America. Here they helped mobilize plenty of technology needed to make great 3D programs for viewing at home and in theaters.

Many dual stream HD (SDI) products were repurposed as 3D or 3D-ready and some, like Blackmagic Design’s DeckLink HD Extreme 3D, were actually good to go as was their DaVinci Resolve 7.0 industry standard color correcting software. Other kit, like P+S Technik’s 3D stereo recorder in a box, were in early development.

There were easily several handfuls of 3D rigs scattered around the convention center. 3D pioneer 3ality Digital demonstrated hefty (TS4) 3D rigs with larger cameras like Red Ones and SONY 1500s. SONY’s booth featured a demonstration of its new, smaller P1 box style camera grabbing live shots for All Mobile Video’s new 3D TV live truck. Element Technica, which got its start making support gear for Red One, grabbed an award for their fast, flexible Neutron rig ideal for smaller cameras, but which can also be quickly stepped up for use by mid-sized cameras too.

One iconoclast worth tracking is the Chapman Rig which worked perfectly well with an EX1 and EX3 combo and with a pair of Nano Flash 3D recorders (Convergent Design) on a tripod, but which can also used on the shoulder. At under $3k it was the most economical, flexible 3D rig at NAB.

The complexity and clunkiness of all of the 3D rigs made Panasonic’s AG-3DA1 3D camcorder look smart and sleek by comparison. It is essentially a fully integrated side-by-side 3D rig which captures many HD formats to high capacity P2cards. Several filmmakers who tested it for a day after minimal training found it fairly easy and effective to use. ‘We managed eight to 10 setups at three locations versus only several a day with the big rigs,’ says Pierre les Espinois DP/owner of Evergreen Films. ‘It really changes the game, especially for TV.’ Remarkably there was even a point and shoot-looking 3D camera by Data Video, using C mount primes. ‘I designed it for shooting in tight spaces and fast-pacing that big rigs don’t handle that well,’ said designer Stefany Allaire, who said it should be ready to go this summer.

One trend that stood out (outside of 3D), is the increase in the average size of camera sensors. Perhaps the hottest digital video camera on the floor this year – ARRI Alexa EV – boasts 35 mm sensors which enable it to capture luscious color and detail, with very low noise, especially when uncompressed (4:4:4). Moreover, it has an ASA of 800 with an exposure latitude of 13.5 stops and captures proxy files ready to edit in Final Cut Pro for around $60k – the price of a top drawer beta SP camcorder a decade ago.

SONY gave a taste of things to come by unveiling a work in progress the size of a typical 1/3′ camcorder but that uses 35 mm sensors, like those now only found in high end cameras. Panasonic revealed a comparably small camcorder with a large sensor in the works, the AG-AF100, boasting a 35mm 4/3′ sensor, possibly available from a dealer near you in the next year. Most interesting is the pricing, which is like its current 1/3′ AVCHD camcorders and fairly comparable to HDSLRs. With the oncoming arrival of Red’s Scarlet later this year, the starting price of around $3k appears to be weighing heavily on the minds of marketing execs for the majors. It seems like SONY and Panasonic are hoping to fend off challenges by Red on one hand and Canon and the other.

Red’s Scarlet was still a glimmer in a glass case at the annual NAB Red-user event at the Tropicana Hotel. Spokesman Ted Shilowitz promised it before summer’s end, but the wait is still on. There were, however, a few working models of Epic, Red’s smaller yet more potent successor at the Red event plus a short but sweet demo reel of Epic footage shown several times – to the delight of the ‘Red Tribe.’

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