Guest Blog: Beth Charlesworth: Report from NAB


Beth Charlesworth is a member of our ZOOM IN Video Production Collaborative and attended the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Trade Show in Las Vegas last week.  Here are some of the fascinating things she learned. Thank you, Beth! 
Beth told me to cut it down, but I couldn’t stop reading it and wouldn’t know which super valuable information to trim… so please either read the whole thing or skip to the topic that interests you:
3D Content – it’s here to stay!
Democratization of Content Creation – Playing Field is Level but it’s Harder and harder to make a living in the business!
Filmmaker Kevin Smith
Canon’s Explorers of Light Series on Photographers and Cinematographers
Computing in the Cloud – Rendering Made Faster
Products:  Final Cut Pro 10, “Get” from AV3 Software, Video Camera GoPro and a 5″ OLED monitor from Sony
Beth Charlesworth
3D Content
The overarching theme this year was 3D: available now in movies, in professional and consumer videography, and coming soon to TV broadcasting.  In the kickoff session, filmmaker James Cameron predicted that in 3 years when 3D TV is widely available without need for 3D glasses, there will be such massive consumer demand that content providers including TV broadcasters must be ready to shift to 3D in all programming.  When a student asked a panel of cinematographers if he needed to know 3D filmmaking to get a job as a cameraman, the head of the ASC (US cinematographers’ union) replied, “unless you will retire in 2 years, YES.”  Products on the convention floors included 3D displays, and 3D cameras ranging from very high-end for filmmaking, to a tiny video GoPro for a few hundred dollars.  A Warner Bros. executive said a 3D smartphone will be out this summer and several 3D tablets will be released late this year.  Content-creators’ approaches to 3D were wide-ranging.  One filmmaker used a side-by-side mounted pair of Canon Powershot point-and-shoots in video mode to create 3D video.  The most spectacular and compelling example of 3D content I saw at NAB, was from a 3D version of the Royal Opera House’s production of “Carmen,” which reportedly was released in theaters last month.  3D Carmen was amazing, gorgeous – the audience could not tear eyes away from the giant screen. 
Democratization of content creation
This is not a new subject, but was raised again and again in formal sessions and informal conversations, because the economics of media and entertainment are rapidly changing with DSLR filmmaking, production of high-end visual effects by independent contractors, video news coverage streamed directly from a smartphone via the web, etc.  No one I heard would predict the end result of these changes.  While many products shown on the floors were directed to such independent creators, there was great concern among independents about whether their business models were viable.  Video motion effects creators I asked about the state of their markets reported frustration with clients’ purchasing decisions being made solely on price.  The same was said by a number of independent producers of corporate and other commercial video I spoke with – that quality counts for little in this recessionary market, that they find corporate buying decisions are solely cost-based.  Yet it was also widely remarked, especially by content distributors in panel sessions, that with video now omnipresent, consumers demand high-quality production values to watch video on any venue including Youtube.  Executives from established post production houses complained on one hand of having to compete with mom-and-pop garage-based studios, while reporting increased profits by winning contracts and then outsourcing the work to mom-and-pop or offshore contractors.  Indie filmmaker Gareth Edwards (“Monsters” released 2010) predicted soon 2 kids in a garage will make a terrific film for $1000 (lots of garage-based creativity discussed at NAB), distribute it via the web while making tons of money, and blow up Hollywood’s business model.
Kevin Smith and “Red State”
Kevin Smith may be the most entertaining human on the planet.  Between riffs answering audience questions he presented excerpts from his new film “Red State,” described as his answer to the Westboro Baptist Church.  He is marketing the film through personal appearances – “in-person 3D.”   “Red State,” he said, is his last film, as he no longer needs “$20 million and 200 people to realize an artistic vision.”  On May 9, 2011, he will launch S.I.R., Smodcast Internet Radio, on which he will be a principal entertainer/interviewer. 
Live presentations by Canon’s Explorers of Light 
On the show floor, Canon offered hourly presentations by noted still photographers and cinematographers, including Russell Carpenter (Oscar for cinematography in “Titanic”), Alex Buono (director of photography for Saturday Night Live), Bruce Dorn (nature and commercial still photographer and videographer), Rodney Charters (director of photography for “24”), and a number of others.  My one regret from NAB is that I did not spend at least an entire day in the Canon booth watching and learning from all these experts.  I spent more than half of one day there, learning how they use DSLRs for videography and in filmmaking (and stills), how to maximize these cameras’ outstanding performance in low-light settings, how to light for video, what effects various lenses will produce.  Excerpts from their recent films and commercial work illustrated how DSLRs are being used in video.  A few points out of many:
·      Video lighting can be done very inexpensively, with supplies from the hardware store.  Make a dolly from a skateboard or bike.  See the recently published book “A Shot in the Dark” by J. Holden.
·      With digital editing capability, the pace of video has greatly increased.  Average length of an edited TV clip = 4 sec.; for 40 minutes of a TV show made by this cinematographer, 1200 different clips were used.
·      As little as ½ foot-candle of light has been used to light a video taken by a high-end DSLR, which recorded good video although actors were barely visible to the naked eye in the dark.
·      A higher ISO setting is not always noisier than a lower ISO.  For Canon DSLRs, use “native” ISO settings in multiples of 160, to create least noise.
·      Use 24 frames per second for the most cinematic look in video.  Faster fps settings may be perceived as lower quality, more as video than cinema.
·      Watch the web for release soon of an option for a Technicolor picture style (color palette) for Canon DSLRs.
·      A series of stills can be sped up, for example to show rapidly the transition from dusk to night to dawn.  Use the DSLR manufacturer’s intervalometer (about $150) to set intervals for still shots.  To control for changes in exposure, bracket stills and/or use a 3rd-party exposure controller (under $300).
 Computing in the Cloud: 
·       Digital editing capabilities are creating greatly increased need for computing power, which will grow even faster with 3D. 
·      Avatar’s 1st 9 minutes required 3 nonstop weeks to render.
·      Recent Dreamworks 3D animated films each required rendering time in the 10s of millions of computer hours. The figure has about doubled for each animated film created by this studio in the past few years, and is expected to continue to grow at at least this pace.  The Company has a relationship with HP for use of HP server farms continuously as production progresses, editing and rendering along the way.

Final Cut Pro 10  

Final Cut Pro 10 was introduced at the FCP Users’ Group Supermeet Tuesday night.  It is a radical improvement (not simplification) of the software.  Examples: inserting clips in the timeline with no disruptions in the timeline; ability to sync multiple-source audio to video, ability to make selections of areas within the frame to be adjusted for color, brightness etc.; color-matching of entire palettes between clips (an example was shown of clips of the same subject filmed at different times of day being matched so that all were made to conform to the color palette of light in the designated clip).    Version 10 will be out in June for $299, regardless of upgrade or new purchase.  Apple rep wouldn’t say whether all of Final Cut Studio will be upgraded at the same time. 
Get from AV3 Software
“Get” is designed for use with Final Cut Pro in editing spoken audio – interviews, dialogue, etc.  Enter a word (or multiple words, a phrase, or combinations of these), and Get will search your audio, identify where it occurs, provide a list of those clips in the browser.  Get searches an hour of audio in 1 minute.  When one of the identified clips is opened in the viewer, the timeline at the bottom will have color-coded dots on it marking where that word can be found.  For example, if I search my audio for mention of Palo Alto, Mountain View, and/or Menlo Park, Get will give me a list of all clips in which any of these terms occurs, to move into the browser.  The list will have color-coded dots beside each clip (i.e. blue for Palo Alto, red for Mountain View, yellow for Menlo Park) indicating which term appears in which clip.  When I open one of the clips in the viewer, the timeline below will have a blue dot wherever Palo Alto is mentioned, a red dot wherever Mountain View is mentioned, a yellow dot wherever Menlo Park is mentioned.  Can be downloaded for $249 at  Peter Ramsay from AV3 said they will give substantial discounts to nonprofit organizations who provide proof of nonprofit status. 
 GoPro: available now is the tiny, about 3” square, $299 Hero video camera which takes beautiful 1080p video under extreme conditions, as well as time lapse stills.  Waterproof to 180 ft. depth.  See examples of video at  Demonstrated at NAB but not yet on website: 3D GoPro video camera, only slightly larger.  Viewing video in 3D requires 3D glasses and 3D display.  NAB attendees (including me) stood around a large 3D TV display with jaws dropped, watching surfers appear to shoot out of the screen at us.  Comes with attachments for helmet or on-person wearing OR surfboard mount OR car mount, as well as various mounts available separately.  All Hero HD cameras are the same, only mounting accessories differ.  Standard-definition Heros also available for lower price.
4.     SONY 5” OLED monitor for DSLRs, with peaking: Very sharp, very bright, and with surrounding screens for outdoor use as well as indoor. Mounts on hot shoe or on rails.  Peaking feature shows parts of image which are in focus.  Should be very useful for DSLRs such as Canon 5D Mark II, where is difficult to focus using LED display on back of camera. (I ordered one!)  At around $400, much less expensive than other monitors for DSLRs.

NAB is enormous, crowded, and exhausting.  Take heavily padded walking shoes.  There is a reason for the (real) massage therapists giving back massages in chairs lining the central hall.

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