I hate to think that my enduring memory of London’s Broadcast Video Expo (BVE) this year will be the almost fluorescent green sweatshirts that the floor staff had been forced to wear, but it may be so. Suppressing an involuntary exclamation and shielding our eyes from the hideousness, let’s move swiftly past the dayglo-clad welcoming party and make our way directly to the Arri booth, where we hope to confirm our suspicions that the newly-added onboard raw recording option makes no visible difference to the pictures produced by Alexa. In all seriousness, I hesitate to offer a final judgement on that until I’ve at least seen it graded, which is where the difference is likely to be clear, and in general, I’m in favor of uncompressed media simply because it’s more widely compatible than clever codecs, (although software handling ArriRaw still needs to be specifically Arri-aware).
On a related note, with Sony’s F55 now getting a major airing, it’s pretty clear that nobody cares if expensive flash cards can outlast the lifespan of their cameras. I confronted Sony with the idea that a conventional 256GB SSD, such as you’d use in a laptop and which costs maybe $200, has effectively the same performance as a similarly-sized SR Memory card costing around six times as much. They didn’t really respond very usefully, but what alarms me more is that the new F-series cameras also have a higher-performance SxS card associated with them for the 4K work, which is also new. It’s always possible to make arguments about specific features and guaranteed compatibility, but I shall be looking closely at this at exhibitions this year with an eye to finding out whether there’s any appetite for a manufacturer-agnostic flash format for cameras.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, flash storage manufacturer Sandisk were at the show. With manufacturers like Atomos and Blackmagic already relying on standard 2.5” SSDs (whether in a caddy or not), if anyone’s going to produce a standard film-industry data cart, it might as well be Sandisk, or a collaboration of Sandisk and others. It’s barely worth reporting so early, but Sandisk did respond with “something’s coming later this year” when I mentioned the standardization issue – although they couldn’t be pressed further. But they did have a camera and a couple of flash cards submerged in a fishtank. Apparently that’s ok, with their modern cards, but I hope Sandisk will understand if I choose to shy away from actually trying it.
Away from cameras, the explosion of LED lighting, with dubious claims of innovation, continues unabated. I’ll name no names, but I’m getting very tired of manufacturers putting a lot of LEDs in a box – even a very nice box, with a pretty tinted diffuser on the front – and claiming that it’s innovative. Well done, then, to Brother, Brother and Sons who have an interesting approach which separates the phosphor diffuser from the blue LED drivers. Although this has been done before, it does raise the possibility of color-tunable output with different diffuser panels. My main thesis here, though, is that LED lighting is now more than well-enough established that simply using that technology is not grounds for a claim of “innovation.” Such claims need to be backed up by something. Something more than a really nice case.
The Below the Line Award for Most Looming Exhibit goes, of course, to the people who make Technocranes. A huge one was shadowing about a quarter of the trade show floor. While I’m not sure there’s anything particularly new about it, I shall sleep soundly knowing that, in theory, I have the ability to do camera moves on a crane that looks like an escapee from a Japanese animation about giant robots.
Ultimately, BVE probably suffers by being so close to NAB, and although the exhibition hall seemed reasonably well-filled and well-attended there wasn’t, other than the Sandisk hint, much indication of what we might see in Vegas. Perhaps my abiding impression, other than those lime green sweatshirts, will be that the decline of stereo 3D continues. There was at least one interesting – if clearly very much in development – idea from 3D Vivant, which provides glasses-free true two-axis angle of view reconstruction. In the main, though, the prevalence of two cameras strapped to a plank was much lower than at previous exhibitions, and on this subject my eyes are, frankly, dry.