Like a flash, NAB 2016 came and went! After a 36 hour day trying to get home, I needed a moment's rest before diving into my thoughts and experiences from this year's show. Check out the above video for my initial thoughts and reactions. I'll go into more depth in this blog post, so stand by!
VR (Virtual Reality)
As we all know, VR is taking the industry by storm. The VR pavilion was tucked away in the North Hall this year, far from the cameras, drones and post-production tech. It was small and very understated, with a handful of booths advertising their products.
Nokia came with the most gusto, demoing their Ozo, a 360 degree camera with 8 2k by 2k sensors. I watched some demos on the Occulus, Vive and Gear VR. Aside from my usual concerns about the headsets (Low pixel density, poor refresh rate, why does the Occulus have terrible built-in headphones?), I was extremely impressed by the demo.
The Ozo uses a stereo image for a true 3D experience, unlike your standard 360 video. The 3D didn't feel gimicky and after adjusting my eyes to the low resolution of the headsets, the experience was extremely immersive, and the world around me was slowly drowned out by the awesome images strapped to my face.
However, with a retail price of $60,000, the Ozo just isn't a feasible 3D VR solution at the moment. Options like the GoPro rig or the Kodak cameras are much more affordable, if a little messier. The GoPro rigs all require some sort of stitching and syncing mechanism, where as one of the Nokia reps I talked to said the Ozo produces a latlong automatically because it is a single camera with multiple lenses and sensors. Pretty cool, but not $60k cool.
Overall, the VR booth was incredible. Though I think we're a couple years out from a solid range of quality solutions, I am extremely excited about seeing where all this is headed!
Drones & Gimbals
Of course, the gimbal and drone hype was huge this year. It felt like everyone had DJI inspired quadcopters hovering around their designated flying zones. Even more companies were offering their own handheld gimbals for cellphones and GoPro.
The existence of these gimbals is very questionable to me. Most of these gimbals don't do that much to stabilize the camera and, with a wider lens, those small shakes from your hand pick up less on the image. The above video was shot with a GoPro and all of it was me just holding it with one hand. Any shakes, I ironed out with warp stabilizer in post. Hardly worth the $800 price tag of some of these gimbals, if you ask me.
On the other hand, the gimbals for larger, professional cameras were really taking off. MoVI and Freefly Systems are still going strong, facing stiff competition from DJI and countless other manufacturers. These systems are incredible at stabilization, and the tech gets better every year. However, The vertical, Y movement of cameras on these systems are problematic and often you can tell they were shot on one of these systems, just by watching the camera bounce up and down as it glides through the air.
I remain a firm Glidecam/Steadicam supporter, however. They aren't easy to learn like the 3-axis gimbal systems, but the results are far better if you ask me. Additionally, the ease of balancing, lack of batteries and better results make those Steadicam systems more appealing in my mind. However, the gimbals are very versatile. In the end, I think they are different tools for different tasks.
Back to drones. DJI is clearly still the king, with a massive booth right in the front of the hall by the concourse, letting everyone know they exist with a massive, flashy booth. I talked to all the other drone creators, with Autel catching my eye in particular. Most of these companies are offering a very similar product to DJI at lower prices, but they lack the reviews and sheer time on the market that DJI has had to make anywhere near the same impression. I'm hoping we start to see reviews for these pop up soon! (I'm in the market!)
Okay, before you start throwing fruit, I recognize that 8K isn't going to be in the hands of consumers for a long while and that the difference to the untrained eye is negligible. What I like so much about 8K is that it took a very strong magnifying glass to see the pixels on the screen. We are quickly reaching a point where resolution is getting as good as it can be, which means we have to start paying more attention to our capture methods to improve the image.
We saw a demo at Canon, where they put us in a theater, flanked by 3 massive 8k screens. It was an incredibly immersive experience and I was blown away by how vivid it was compared to the 4k screen I'm used to. We might not be watching TV or movies in 8K for a while, but when we do, the difference will be noticeable to video professionals, especially on a larger screen.
This last topic is near and dear to my heart. HDR couldn't come fast enough. I remember watching some HDR demos at NAB 2014 and thinking to myself, "This. Is. The. Future."
For those unfamiliar, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It allows for more latitude for color data, which means a picture with richer colors without the use of the much-maligned post-processing by your TV set. In addition, the dark parts of the image are hard to see, as where the bright parts make you squint to see at times. It feels so similar to what our eyes experience, that the experience is very immersive and a noticeable improvement from the current dynamic range of consumer displays.
Atomos is currently pushing their HDR recorders as hard as they can, offering more latitude, while letting you record to ProRes, RAW, and a multitude of other formats in rec .709, giving colorists a massive amount of range to work with. If there was an award for "most promising new tech", HDR would be it.
As always, I had a blast at NAB. It was great to see where the industry was headed as well as meeting cool people who have taught me a lot about film, VR and technology. I finally met Wren Weichman of Corridor Digital, who turned me onto Octane. I also accomplished a life goal of shaking hands with Andrew Kramer of Videocopilot.net. Among others were Phillip Bloom, The guys behind Wizard of Aus, Devin Graham, Phil Arntz and Ben from Atomic Productions.
It was great seeing the RodyPolis Team, Niko and Sam from Corridor Digital, as well as Josh and Andrea from Hitfilm again. Everyone is such a huge inspiration and without this community of talented people, I'm sure I wouldn't be doing what I love today.
Next year, I hope to see more of you there! We can go to Yard House and eat the best food on the planet.