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NAB’s Hot Items: Mobile Video, 3D and 4K

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As we approach NAB This year, the industry faces different kinds of challenges. The effects of the prolonged writers’ strike, the threat of an upcoming actors’ strike, combined with general economic malaise are taking their toll.

But as they say in show business, the show must go on.

And it’s not all bad news. For broadcasters, there’s a new big thing on the horizon: mobile video. The show organizers are putting a great deal of emphasis on mobile this year, introducing a new Mobile Solutions Pavilion and a mobile track in the conference sessions.

According to a recent report from the NAB technology advocacy program, known as FASTROAD (Flexible Advanced Services for Television & Radio On All Devices), broadcasters in the U.S. could reap an additional $2 billion in annual revenue by 2012 delivering content to mobile and handheld devices. The Advanced Television Standards Committee is trying to fast-track a standard for mobile and handheld digital TV for release in early 2009.

Meanwhile, Hollywood is pinning a lot of its hopes and dreams on stereoscopic 3D. Expect to see lots of 3D on the show floor this year. Many see it as something that will drive audiences back into theaters for an experience they can’t get at home.

4K workflows will be another hot topic at the show, as the tools to work with 4K images from ingest to distribution continue to propagate.

While there will be two big notable absences from the show floor this year – Avid and Apple – show organizers said that there will be almost 200 new exhibitors. There’s also a subculture of “whisper suites” and off-site demos at NAB, and although they’re a huge pain in the ass to get to, some of them are worth checking out if you can brave the taxi lines.

Off-floor demos include that of Cinnafilm, showing its Cinnafilm HD1 system at the Mandalay Bay. It’s designed to apply real-time “film-look” effects to SD and HD digital video in full resolution. The system is based on advanced, patent-pending motion estimation vector analysis and GPU parallel processing technology that minimizes the time it takes to process interlaced digital video. Another off-site demo: eCinema Systems at the MGM Grand.

On the Show Floor

In terms of cameras, Below the Line learned that Iconix, makers of the tiny, two-ounce HD-RH1 high-def camera will have a prototype of a new 2K camera – the Studio2K. It will comprise the RH1 camera head and a new Studio2K controller. The HD-RH1, with a camera head about the size of a golf ball, offers 35 different format and frame-rate combinations, capturing in both NTSC and PAL formats in all HD resolutions.

Thomson is finally shipping its Grass Valley Infinity Digital Media Camcorder. The 2/3-inch CMOS camera, which sells for about $27,000 (including the viewfinder), can record to 35 GB REV PRO removable drives (built by Iomega) or CompactFlash cards. It records HD or SD, DV25, 10-bit 4:2:2 JPEG2000 and has an option for 8-bit 4:2:0 MPEG-2 as well.

Over the past few years Sony has focused its attention on its XDCAM optical disc-based camcorders. But the company now has a solid-state camera in its arsenal – the XDCAM EX. Equipped with two hot-swappable SxS memory card slots, the EX1 can record up to 140 minutes using two 16-GB SxS PRO memory cards.

Panasonic announced that it plans to ship a 64GB P2 solid-state memory card for its popular line of P2 HD and P2 solid-state camcorders and decks in the fall of 2008, double the capacity of the current 32GB cards. A 64GB P2 card is capable of storing over four hours of DVCPRO footage, or more than two hours of DVCPRO50. The top of the P2 line is the AJ-HPX3000, a 2/3” 1080P camcorder, which features three 2/3- inch, 2.2 million pixel CCDs.

Quantel is planning to unveil its Pablo Neo at the show, a new Pablo system offering tactile, interactive, color correction. The company will also be demonstrating Final Cut Pro integration as on offline/online model along with its revolutionary stereo 3D postproduction technology.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary at NAB, Digital Vision will introduce a number of new products and features that enable postproduction facilities to move more processes into the tapeless digital environment. The company will introduce new 4k real-time capabilities for its Film Master tapeless grading and finishing system, unveil a new software-based standards converter, and showcase new tools and options for its DVO and DVNR image enhancement systems, including Stablise, RGB Align, and Vertical Scratch Removal.

Codex Digital will exhibit its new Codex Portable recorder at the Band Pro Film & Video booth. The demo will feature a live end-to-end pipeline, capturing 1080p, 4:4:4, from a Sony F23 camera, and delivering the footage to a range of editing and compositing systems. Scheduled to ship in June, 2008, Codex Portable weighs just 9 lbs. and records from all high-end digital cameras, including those from Sony, ARRI, Panavision and Dalsa. It will be shown working alongside its bigger brother, the Codex Recorder.

The Foundry will show the latest release of its Nuke desktop compositing application –version 5, as well as the recently launched Furnace 4 plugins for Nuke and eyeon Software’s Fusion. The company will also offer a special preview of Furnace for Apple Final Cut Pro and a technology demo of its stereoscopic VFX tools.

IDX, known for its lithium ion batteries, is diversifying, and at NAB will demonstrate a preproduction model of its new CAM~WAVE HD, a mobile transmission system that eliminates the need for cables in many remote situations. It transmits full-bandwidth, uncompressed HD-SDI and SD-SDI pictures with less than 1 millisecond delay, up to 150 feet in line-of-sight shooting, or 100 feet through walls.

Exhibiting at the ZGC booth, P+S Technik will introduce the Skater Junior Camera Dolly. It is designed to use the many of the same accessories as the current Skater line but is lighter and more affordable. Earlier this year, the company won a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for its Skater Mini Dolly.

Cooke Optics will showcase its S4/i series of Prime lenses at the P+S Technik booth the Bavarian Pavilion. Equipped with Cooke’s /i Technology, these lenses are fast, light, and enable film and digital cameras to automatically record key lens and camera data for every film frame shot and provide it to postproduction teams digitally. Companies with equipment supporting the /i protocol include Aaton, ARRI, Avid, Cinematography Electronics, CMotion, Dalsa, Mark Roberts Motion Control, Preston Cinema Systems, RED, The Pixel Farm and Service Vision. Cooke lenses will also be featured at the exhibit booths of JVC and Aaton, and Cooke’s limited edition RED Set of lenses will be on display at the RED booth.

In view of the weak economy, it remains to be seen whether NAB will break any records this year. In 2007 the show attracted 110,000 attendees from 163 countries, and for the 1,600 exhibitors, it represented an estimated $50 billion in commerce.

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