IBC 2016 for me was a pretty extraordinary show. The rate of change in so many aspects of our industry is mind-boggling. Technology changes are inevitable and relentless, driven by manufacturers desire to find the next big thing. It was definitely an IBC to be in “receive” mode with so much going on.
Starting with kit, 3 of the major camera manufacturers have all chosen to partner with the on-set storage specialist Codex for their most recent developments. Arri were the first and the Alexa continues to be the go-to camera for most DoP’s. Those 4 magic letters on the side of what is far from the newest camera on the Amsterdam block ensures that the demand for the Alexa is still as strong as ever. The recent ( ish ) launch of the Alexa SXT ( Super Xtended Technology ) camera allows you to get even more from the existing block, and I really like that Arri will upgrade all existing Alexas to the SXT with a software mod, rather than asking their loyal clients to buy a whole new camera. It’s still NOT a 4K block though, but when the HDR pictures look as good as they do, does anyone care?
Well…Netflix clearly do, and as recent reports indicate that they are the single largest commissioner of new content globally who also continue to mandate 4K as a minimum acquisition resolution, Arri will have to release a new block soon. Best guess would be that they will bypass 4K and go straight to 6K +, but I’ve been wrong before.
Canon had pre-announced their new EOS C700 a week before IBC, and the crowds around the camera were a pretty good indication that this might be a success. The Super 35 format camera records both internal 4K ProRes and XF-AVC, and the camera also has a Codex processor board in-built. Their Codex recorder fits nicely on the back of the camera and can then record uncompressed RAW at 120 fps. It ships at the end of the year, and looks good. It is also available in either PL or EF mount from the factory, and can be swapped back by the Canon factory if a client needs the other mount fitting. Oddly, it seems that the PL mount loses you a stop of light, 14 stops compared to the EF version’s 15 stops.
The 3rd Codex collaboration is with Panasonic, and their newest Varicam configuration, the snappily name “Pure”. The tape based Varicam of some 10 years ago was always the go-to camera with wildlife cameramen, and when they introduced the tapeless version a couple of years ago it was well specced, but was a little heavy for many operators, despite the stunning images. The LT was a trimmed down version and gained more traction with a much smaller form factor without compromising too much of the feature set. The Pure utilises the Codex technology and will also record 120 fps of RAW, this time V-RAW, Panasonic’s Varicam variant of RAW. Of the 3 companies, Panasonic has the least heritage of top-end drama, but the pictures and feel of the camera felt good to this untrained eye, and it will be interesting to see who prevails. It does seem clear though that Codex are perceived to be the best placed to help them succeed in this market. They’ve been in the top-end drama and feature film space for so long now, and having spent time with them at IBC, they understand what is required of a manufacturer, and are meeting that need.
Another Panasonic product that caught my eye was a new outdoor PTZ camera. I do like a gadget, and this camera has the insides of the almost ubiquitous HE130 PTZ model, but is fitted with a rain cover and wind screen wipers to cope with the British summer.
Sony meanwhile launched the only shoulder mount 4K camcorder at the show, the PXW-Z450. Single CMOS sensor, 2/3” mount, but contrary to most single sensor cameras the depth of field resembles the traditional 3 sensor look with a deep depth of field. They’ve used 1 of the 3 sensors that is in the HDC-4300 4K studio camera and as it’s only a 2/3” sensor, still gives a depth of field that a jobbing news cameraman would appreciate.
Both Cooke and Zeiss had some good product releases. Cooke announced their “multi mounts” mod which allows the Classic and Pancro primes to switch mounts between PL, EF, E and MFT. There has been a move in recent years for a cameraman to buy a lens, but rent the camera, such is the relentless release of new camera models. But what lens mount does a cameraman choose? This new functionality from Cooke solves this problem.
The ability to switch mounts is also available at Zeiss now, who were making a big noise over their award-winning new lightweight zoom. The 21-100x zoom lens sits perfectly on the Sony FS7, and with no need for a speed-booster due to the interchangeable mount, it should do well. It’s a little more expensive than the FS7, which is exactly as it should be. This lens will still be in use 10 years from now, which is more than can be said for any camera bought today.
The big lens market is interesting with Canon and Fujinon battling it out for the new round of purchasing on 4K box lenses. The supply of these lenses has been the determining factor of who buys what with demand outstripping supply in the build up to the summer sporting bonanza. Now we are in to run rate football season it seems to have calmed down somewhat. Fujinon are currently winning the numbers race with the 107x lens currently the longest on the market. Whether the market needs anything longer than this is debatable.
Ross Video continue to develop innovative solutions and I like their plan. In a time when almost all of the leading traditional Broadcast manufacturers have cut their head count, Ross has put well-connected, well informed people on the ground who, in my experience, will answer an out-of-hours phone call and solve a problem. I know this sounds like a pretty low bar, but for me it stands them out in the crowd. Add to this a strong and growing product portfolio and you have a formidable force. The purchase of Abekas was announced at the show and that will solve a missing link of not having any recording capability. This will no doubt be incorporated in to their portfolio soon. Their Carbonite Solo is a fabulous little mixer and they have just introduced a budget PTZ camera named Pivotcam, and this bundle should do well. As well as the clever server technology, Abekas also had a very neat little product clearly designed with Shaun Ryder in mind. 2 buttons on the Aircleaner will either garble the audio or blur the video. I think even I could write the instruction manual for this product.
Newtek also had some really clever development of their portfolio, all based around their NDI protocol, which they’ve made open format. The transition from SDI to IP is inevitable, and they, perhaps more than any other company I saw over IBC, have recognised the opportunities that this can bring. It’s far more than a Tricaster company now, and its Video Mix Engine and totally scalable production model is impressive. I see that the NDI technology advance has won some well deserved IBC innovation awards. Nice work.
I see parallels between the Ross and Newtek businesses, and these start with the business principals. Dr Andrew Cross of Newtek and David Ross of Ross Video are both totally connected with their customers and their staff. They also both speak with great passion about their businesses and this clearly feeds through to the teams that they work with. I was told that David still mixes shows so he keeps directly involved in what is demanded by his customers. I like this level of engagement from the most senior business colleagues.
In the same general area, SAM ( Snell Advanced Media ) made a huge statement this year by having a hall to themselves. They filled it with some impressive technology displays, and their Kahuna mixer is getting rave reviews, particularly as we are on the cusp of the SDI – IP transition. The mixer seems to be so powerful, and do so much of the up / down / cross conversion before the signal even leaves the mixer that the OB techs love it. They are also attempting the Broadcast equivalent of the 3rd rail….an instant replay system in a sector dominated by one player more than any other sector in our Industry. The term “EVS Op” falls in to the “Sellotape / Hoover” group and it’ll be a tough ask to gain any traction in the sports instant replay sector. That said, SAM has added to its sales team ( in line with what Ross has done and others haven’t ), merged two technically savvy companies and has a true Broadcast pedigree, so I wish them luck with their Livetouch 4K.
Moving to more post oriented product, Editshare have had some recent successes to boast about and there is certainly some momentum around their product. Their ability to work with so many intermediaries and standards make their offering appealing. It’s certainly the case now that they are winning some sizeable projects on the strength of the product and support rather than just being able to deliver to a budget price. Nice work guys.
This article was published on Broadcastnow.co.uk
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