April marked the annual return of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Show to Las Vegas, Nevada. The show is an opportunity to see the latest innovations in broadcasting technology and learn from thought-leaders and content creators on how they will use the developments to move the industry forward. Looking back at the show, we’ve picked out five central trends in the advancement of professional image acquisition that characterised NAB 2018.
The realm of high-end cinematography could be undergoing its most significant shift in years, as digital motion picture cameras move towards larger image sensors. Digital S35, the longstanding industry standard sensor size, equivalent to Super 35mm film, has been challenged by the latest flagship products all boasting larger format sensors with coverage of ‘full frame’ image circles. Since last year, the market has been hit with a flurry of camera announcements as each manufacturer brought their offering to the table. For many, NAB was the first opportunity to get hands-on with the latest and greatest in the field of acquisition, as the Sony Venice, Red Monstro, Arri Alexa LF, and Canon C700 FF were all on display.
The increasing demand for online video content means that many companies outside of the traditional broadcast market are investing in producing video content for the web. A diverse range of all-in-one solutions, entry level switchers, affordably priced camcorders and PTZ cameras are enabling more companies to bring such video production in-house. YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram have all upped their live video hosting capabilities over the past year, and live formats have quickly proven to be a popular tool to drive online engagement on social platforms. NAB saw several manufacturers demonstrating products that would appeal to organisations from a non-broadcasting background. This is not a new trend, but what we are witnessing now is that many of these organisations are looking to up their production value beyond a static single camera point and shoot setup and take on more ambitious multicamera productions in an intuitive and accessible way.
The pursuit of ever higher resolution is often a divisive topic. However, the demonstrations on offer at NAB this year certainly made a compelling case that bigger is in fact better. Sharp have fully committed to the 8K ecosystem and were demonstrating a full pipeline at the show from acquisition on their new 8K camcorder through to richly detailed video broadcast on their displays. The longstanding force driving the development of 8K has been the Japanese broadcaster NHK, in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. However, Sharp were also able to showcase key applications for the technology beyond broadcast, including digital archiving and display of fine art as well as enhancing the accuracy of medical imaging and remote surgery.
One of the main arguments against 8K is that unless viewed on an extremely large screen, it offers very little visible improvement on 4K. Nevertheless, Astro Design were able to showcase how increased resolution can benefit your viewing experience on smaller screens too. Astro have created a way to use this extra resolution to enable viewers to interact and personalise their viewing experience in real time. Touch screen devices have made us accustomed to using the ‘pinch to zoom’ gesture to focus in on detail in an image and 8K provides enough resolution to allow us up to a 16x digital zoom on an FHD (1080p) display. This is especially appealing for sports fans, allowing them to zoom, follow, and track their favourite players throughout a game.
High dynamic range was a popular topic at NAB 2018. The opportunity to capture imagery that is closer to that seen by the human eye and take advantage of a wider colour palette is an exciting prospect and throughout the show there were many stunning examples of HDR in action. Most vendors featured a host of readily available products that will support HDR workflows, with the emphasis shifting from what HDR can do to providing education about how to practically implement the technology. This was a prevalent theme, as many manufacturers used NAB as an opportunity to demonstrate the products and workflows that will make HDR accessible to all types of content producers.
The use of consumer imaging devices for professional acquisition is certainly not a new story, but a decade on from the landmark release of the Canon 5D Mark II, consumer products continue to compete with and influence their professional counterparts. This cannot be more plainly seen than with the reveal of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. This is a professional camcorder but unmistakably designed with the ergonomics and form factor of a DSLR/mirrorless camera in mind. Furthermore, it boasts an impressive feature set with a price tag that will compete directly with consumer rivals such as the Panasonic GH5. Despite early signs that convergence in professional and consumer equipment would be a short-lived trend, the fast-paced advancement of video functionality in mirrorless cameras, coupled with the abundance of exhibitors showcasing peripheral equipment to rig up your DSLR or mirrorless camera of choice for professional use, demonstrates that convergence continues to be as prevalent as ever.
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