Okay, okay. So Content & Communications World 2014 happened a couple of weeks ago. But this isn’t that kind of review. This is not a breaking-news show report, but more my own take on what I found interesting at a show that crams a year of big shows – NAB and IBC – into two compact days of exhibits, talks and classes.
The show this year was different, with a vibe that seemed more upbeat than I remember from last year. The crowds certainly came, with a record 11,076 attendees over the two day event.
The economy helps of course, with some good economic growth – many were surprised at the number of 3.9-percent growth from July through September with both business and consumer spending up. Unemployment, meanwhile, was down to some 5.8 percent in October, the lowest since July 2008.
The big news at this show though was that the National Association of Broadcasters – no one really uses that increasingly outdated moniker – decided to come to town again. NAB bought the show late last year from JD Events, which had run CCW for a number of years. (The show is more accurately called CCW+SATCON. SATCON represents the satellite-enabled communications industry; NAB plans to integrate that show – which now seems totally unrelated to the production community – more closely with the CCW show activities.)
NAB’s EVP of Conventions & Business Operations Chris Brown said the group plans to grow both the attendee and exhibitor base of “what has emerged as an important East Coast venue for the content community.”
One way the show will grow next year: InfoComm Int’l, a group for the worldwide pro AV and information communications industries, is coming too. That group’s brand new InfoComm Connections show – aimed at technology managers, in-house technical staff, and institutional buyers – will be co-located at next year’s show, which happens to be on November 11-12, 2015. If you’re a numbers freak, the two shows are expected to handle 9,000 attendees, 375 exhibitors and fit into that increasingly crowded lower level of the Javits Center.
Some of you might remember NAB’s earlier effort a number of years ago to create a smaller show at the Javits Center. Didn’t work. Not very specific to what the production community on the East coast needed, it just felt like a very truncated version of the annual Vegas show. The 2008 financial implosion sealed that show’s fate.
But given a second chance at creating a presence on the East coast, NAB plans to get it right this time.
So here – in short form – is my take at what I liked at CCW 2014. I’m sorry to leave so much out, which includes most of the software, companies like Quantel which have proven surprisingly resilient with the many twists and turns of the industry over the years, and more.
Scheduling software such as AlterMedia’s Studio Suite doesn’t get as much coverage as the latest cameras, but of course project management is key to any successful operation beyond a few people. How else are you going to run daily operations among a staff while organizing and managing all the hardware and vendors involved in a production or post facility? Just using Excel spreadsheets won’t do.
AlterMedia brought Studio Suite Xi to the show. The software really shows the benefits of the 18 years of development that the Burbank-based company has put into it.
As you can imagine, web and mobile connectivity are built into the most recent versions, allowing production teams to coordinate no matter where they are.One local production pro, OffHollywood CEO Mark Pederson, has been using the software since 2008. In a release, he notes that Studio Suite is the only solution the busy production services and equipment rental house could find “that solves all of our needs in a single solution.”
The interface has gone through a refresh, web and iOS access has been better integrated, enhancements that address the many challenges of managing contacts, resources, schedules, budgets/actuals, and the thousands of other details that become unwieldy in day-to-day studio operations. The upfront pricing strategy is a nice approach, and something I wish was available from other companies. You know what you’re getting at each level, whether Solo, Pro, or Network, and charges are specifically noted. There’s more to cover than can be presented here, so check out their website.
Aframe offers a cloud storage network primed for far-flung productions, such as editors in New York receiving material from a Louisiana shoot as an LA producer keeps tabs. At the show, Aframe announced significant upgrades such as new business analytics, improved control over video assets being acquired and produced around the world, and a desktop app that takes advantage of page loads now 5x faster than before.
Canon’s entry point in the EOS Cinema line gets an upgrade to the EOS C100 Mark II. Upgrades to watch for include an upgraded DIGIC DV 4 image processor (improved images, sensitivity up to ISO 102,400, less moiré and “jaggies”); improved OLED display; larger adjustable viewfinder; better autofocus so that focus transitions are natural – subjects stay tracked if you keep them centered in viewfinder; dual AVCHD and MP4 file format recording; and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Canon has taken criticism, as the $5500 list Mark II offers 8-bit, 1920×1080 60P image capture, while less expensive DSLRs are shooting 4K. But the company has always delivered great color, while its cameras are famously rugged and quick to operate without a lot of the rigging, which can make DSLRs trickier to handle. Many think Canon’s Cinema line, including the new Mark II, deliver a more gauzy, film-like look rather than a more contrast-laden video style.
JVC launched its full 4KCAM product line at the show with three new handheld camera models. The GY-HM200 ($2995) a “full-featured” 4K Ultra HD camcorder does HD streaming, while the GY-HM170 ($2495) does HD and 4K Ultra HD recording in a compact body with an integrated 12x optical zoom lens. My favorite is the GY-LS300 ($4450), delivering 4K via a Super 35mm CMOS sensor combined with a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lens mount. JVC’s Variable Scan Mapping technology allows lenses from Super35 to Super16 to keep their native angle of view.
RED Digital Cinema turned up with its 6K RED DRAGON, which is one big sensor. At over 19 megapixels (6144 x 3160) and outputting RAW, you have many more options while shooting; a new color science in the sensor and electronics claims to deliver smoother skin tones and tonal variations, besides offering a huge 16.5 stops of dynamic range. At the show, RED debuted its 4K Broadcast Module. Designed for live broadcast events or – are we talking the future here or what? – on-set streaming of live 4K images.
Sony has created a stir with its new FS7 – more formally known as the PXW-FS7 XDCAM Super 35 camcorder. It’s obvious that the company’s been listening to folks like documentary filmmakers who have never been very pleased with the form factor that Sony and the other Japanese manufacturers continued to use is a targeted broadcasting.
The native E-mount lens mount on the 4K camera accepts the many lenses from the greatly improved Sony lens division. The mount is “machined from stainless steel“ Sony notes, which means it’s hardened enough to handle many zooms without added rails. Meanwhile, adapters allow the camera to accept most 35mm lenses including PL, EF, Leica, and Nikon. Sony’s new XAVC Intra and XAVC Long GOP codecs support 10-bit 4:2:2 recording, with an update in early 2015 that will enable native HD recording in Apple ProRes HQ 422.
Folks have even taken to praising the ergonomic “Smart Grip” which uses a industry standard rosette for the first time, making the set up much more comfortable for the camera operator to manipulate. The list of useful innovations goes on, including the four built-in ND filters and the ability to record RAW to Sony or 3rd party drives. All in all a considerable product from Sony that seems unique in many ways.