8-Mile Walk In The Desert / NAB 2004

By Eric Gustavo Petersen

LAS VEGAS, NV – NAB is to the most of the television and radio production community what Mecca is to Muslims.  It is a yearly pilgrimage to “Sin City” for a chance to “geek-out” on emerging technologies and a chance for companies to showcase the products and the services they offer or hope to offer soon.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) was founded way back in 1923 to function as a full-service trade association to represent the interests of free, over-the-air radio and television broadcasters.  In that same year, NAB had its first convention and these gatherings have been growing ever since with some 90,000 attending in 2003.

This year, like years past, I was but one drop in a sea of people that filled the Las Vegas Convention Center.  Like year’s past, my trips are cannonballs.  Leave the night before, stay at Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Casino in Primm and spend a whole day at the convention gathering as much information and taking as many pictures as I can before the trek home that night and the monstrous consumption of Red Bulls and cappuccinos.  So since you’re reading this, it means I made it home.

Here’s a look at what I think are some of the hot-picks, new toys, or just cool stuff available for your production bag-o-tricks

HD over FireWire (My #1 pick)

At last year’s NAB, Panasonic brought up the possibility that high definition over FireWire (IEEE 1394) would be available soon.  And “soon” came.  Just before the start of NAB, Apple (www.apple.com) released an upgrade to Final Cut Pro (Final Cut Pro HD) that included improved high definition support.  That support specifically applied to Panasonic (www.panasonic.com) and its high definition camera, the VariCam.  Now you can capture camera-native Panasonic DVCPRO100 high definition footage through the AJ-HD1200 VTR through one simple FireWire cable without special capture cards, recompression or transcoding.  This is a huge help to productions that might be able to afford shooting high def acquisition but not afford the cost of post.

15′ Telescoping Crane (My #2 pick)

It seems strange that everything you ever want is always a year too late.  In summer of last year, I served as a lighting director and camera consultant for a taping of a live concert.  At one point, the idea of bringing in a Technocrane was brought to the table and after the location scout the crane proved too big to fit in the small venue.

This year, two companies are planning on introducing smaller telescoping cranes – Technocrane (www.supertechno.com) and Chapman-Leonard (www.chapman-leonard.com). The crane from Chapman-Leonard, I was told, was being used on a production.  Technocrane had one on hand to look at.

The Techno 15 has a small footprint (2’7″ x 6′) that can fit into most standard residential and commercial doorways.  Its telescoping range is 10’3″ with a maximum lens height of 15′.  The Technocrane version (Techno 15) will be available as a rental through Panavision or you can visit the Techocrane website for other rental facilities.  Both companies will have final production models available by the fourth quarter this year.

Arri Sky Panel

Here’s another item that made its trade show debut last year.  The Arri Sky Panel (www.arri.com) is a Xenon based soft light source housed in a 2″ thin, 18.9″ x 15.6″ light panel.  The low profile makes it useful in tight locations.  The light comes in two color temperatures – true 5600K and true 3200K.  Depending on the power supply you get, you can dim the unit from 50% to 100% with no color shift.  The panels can be clipped together to create a larger source.  Since the fixture is DC, you can run it on a battery – great for location work or as a roving eye-light for moving shots.

Mole Richardson Twin Filament Junior

A couple of year’s ago I had a chance to work with a Barger-Baglite (www.barger-baglite.com).  It’s a lighting fixture that uses six, double-ended quartz globes that can either be 300w, 650w or 1000w and is usually used with a Chimera (www.chimera.com).  Depending on the configuration, each light can be turned on or off, effectively giving you a 300w to 6K light. I think it’s an amazingly versatile light.

Mole Richardson (www.mole.com) along with GE Lighting is working to create something similar within a Junior (2000w) head.  The specially created multi-filament globe includes a 750w filament and a 1500w filament.  The head will have two light switches and when both are on, you get a 2250w light. Paul Royalty (National Sales Manager for Mole Richardson) said that he expects the light to be available by the end of summer and I certainly hope that other lighting instruments might get a similar globe.  The idea of having a large source with a lower wattage light is appealing, not to mention light control without the changes in color temperature associated with dimmers.

Angenieux Optimo

Angenieux (www.angenieux.com) released the Optimo 24-290mm (12:1, T.2.8) back in 2001 with high praise from many cinematographers.  Last year, they showcased a cine-style Optimo 12×9.7 HD zoom (9.7mm-116mm) for the high definition market.  That lens received much praise also.  This year, Angenieux released the Optimo WA17-80.  This 4.7:1 zoom has the same great glass and covers 17-80mm zoom range with a T2.2 aperture.  Like it’s predecessor, it’s a bit heavy, weighing in at a beefy 11 lbs. (5 kg).  Still with this lens and the 12:1 you have a great set of lenses that will cover a wonderful range of focal lengths.

Steadicam Flyer

There have been many products for camera stabilization since small format cameras hit the market.  This year a sizable crowded gathered around the Steadicam (www.steadicam.com) booth to see and try the “Flyer”.  It looks like any Steadicam just that it’s been designed for a lower weight camera.  For the most part, it’s tool-free operation.  The counter-weight has a 16:9/4:3 monitor and can operate in standard and low mode.

MiniDV Slider Plate

Camera Track (www.cameratrack.com) showed off a rail system similar to the slider plates available for larger sized cameras and offered by a host of vendors.  The camera motion rig is a wheeled-platform on rails that can either run on a linear or curved track and can hold a camera up to 50 lbs.  It’s like a dolly without the size.

Notables!

Here are a few other items that I think are worth mentioning.

Airstar’s Infinity

First off there’s Airstar’s (www.airstar-light.com) new Infinity light balloon that is composed of modular wedges and can be shaped into different forms to fit the location or size of source you need.  It can be configured from a small tube to a large hexagon.  The balloon(s) can be equipped with either tungsten and HMI light sources or a mix of both.

Canon Anamorphic Converter

Canon released an Anamorphic Converter (the ACV-235) that optically compresses an image composed for 2.40:1 to a standard 16:9 aspect ratio. This way you don’t need to crop the top and bottom of your image effectively losing vertical resolution.

Wunderground

Before any shoot, I usually scour the net for almanac information relative to the location I’ll be shooting in.  This usually includes: sun and moon rise/set times and location, historical weather patterns, wind conditions and on night shoots, dew point.  I just want to be prepared to take care of the gear, crew and plan work-a-rounds to save the shoot.  I often have to look to several sites for this information.  Wunderground (www.wunderground.com) has included most of that information on their site and for free (advertisement supported).  To get rid of the advertisements cost only $5 per year.  It’s nice having all that information in one spot.

Summary

To be honest, I had hoped to see more earthshaking, got-to-have-it stuff.  Still, HD over FireWire make shootings HD more convenient for many shows that might have considered avoiding HD for the hassles it can have in post.  And the Techno 15 is going to be a great addition for location and tight area shooting.  But then again, for the most part NAB is geared for a different market.  I look forward to seeing what will be available to look at when CineGear Expo comes to town.  Till then – happy shooting!


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