by Dan Ochiva & Joe Herman
Here’s the second part of our series on what we consider the 10 best products of 2010. You can read part 1 here.
When Canon and Nikon added video to their DSLRs and begat HDSLRs, you could almost hear the shudder that went through the camcorder divisions of Sony and Panasonic. Suddenly, highly portable, relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use cameras could create HD video with the shallow depth of field that was long the hallmark of the high end of professional cameradom.
With its AF100 camcorder, Panasonic turns the tables again, this time using the four-thirds format sensor popularized in new still/video cameras that started delivering in 2008 to take on HDSLRs, which suffer with their own issues, including rolling shutters, moiré patterns, and an awkward-for-shooting-video form factor.
Panasonic’s AF100 is now gaining fans, rapidly. While slightly ungainly to hold, the camcorder offers a good feature set including the ability to use a wide range of interchangeable lenses, XLR mic inputs, uncompressed audio, and external monitoring. Other useful features include a modest though useful slow motion setting (which can be initiated with the touch of an external button), zebras for focusing, and a waveform/vectorscope
With a list price just under $5000 (expect to lay out around $7500 for a more usable setup with added storage, a camera rig, and an added lens) this camera could set the bar for the other single sensor camcorders due to release at NAB in April.
Nvidia Quadro (Fermi Series)
It’s tough in some ways to single out graphics cards for inclusion in any year’s list of best tech, since the blandishments of manufacturers make every new model seem a breakthrough.
But Nvidia has done something considerable with its latest Quadro series. (The previous series uses an “FX” after “Quadro”, which the new series drops.) The Fermi chip integrates three billion transistors, about three times the number of transistors in Nvidia’s most powerful graphics chips now on the market. Tom Halfhill, senior analyst at Microprocessor Report says “Fermi surpasses anything announced by NVIDIA’s leading GPU competitor (AMD).”
The cards offer 2GB or more of the latest speedy GDDR5 memory, the memory bandwidth itself grows by an additional 35 percent and the chip sports up to 512 CUDA processing cores, enabling an average 5x faster graphics performance over the prior FX series. With its considerable parallel processing chops and extensive support for programming languages like C++, the chipset will also be more attractive to HPC (high-performance computing) users. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, for one, is building what it’s calling the world’s fastest supercomputer using the cards.
Besides top performance in 3D and graphics apps, folks in our industries will like the continued integration with the rest of post via Nvidia’s SDI Capture card which enables multi-stream, uncompressed video (up to 12-bit color) to be streamed directly to Quadro SDI-enabled GPU memory. Support for the Quadro SDI output card also delivers integrated graphics-to-video enabling 2D and 3D effects to be composited in real-time with 2K, HD, and SD video.
Maxon Cinema 4D, version 12
Version 12 of Maxon’s Cinema 4D is a great upgrade to this versatile modeling and rendering software. We’ve already reported about its growing importance, especially among motion graphics users. Version 12 has a host of new features and enhancements but we think that the new dynamics system and linear workflow are the most important. Its character animation tools are also top-notch. In the New York Design community, Cinema 4D is a very popular application and version 12 continues the tradition of quality German engineering. Our recent review gives the details on why we like the new version of the app.