2016 NAB: More attuned to customers than companies

Gary Adcock

The number of cameras, lenses and associated production and post tools released in immediate proximity to the recent 2016 NAB show has been utterly staggering.

From 2008-2014, something like 8-10 new camera designs had been demoed for the public each year. Or there were hundreds of “NEW” software products released for consumption, usually with a disturbing level of bugs and inaccuracies that take years to find and flush out of the code.

Yet 2016 NAB was vastly different — more about the customer than the companies this year.

According to Dan May, president of Blackmagic Design, it was about revising customer experience and expectations. “Take the DaVinci Resolve for example,” he said. “We added about 250 new features to the latest version  Resolve, while taking care of more than 1,000 enhancements and user requests” — echoing comments of other manufacturers I had talked to.

Most of the big announcements came before the show. Canon’s $5,000 18×18 EF-mount servo zoom lens, defined what should be a big stage for the smaller lighter ENG rigs, while undercutting the current ENG lens market by more than $30,000.

Lytro’s Cinema Camera demo singularly defined the future. The unbelievably massive 3x6x4-ft. camera undoubtedly was the talk of the show.

Many are waiting to see if Lytro will be able to make that over 700MB per frame image, from the myriad of nearly 400 sensors and a mile of cable, into a viable “shoulder mountable” cinematic endeavor, within the 12-to-18 months being quoted to industry insiders.

When it came to VR/HDR Arri had the show’s best HDR demo.

Virtual Reality and HDR were the real mainstays of this NAB. The new VR pavilion in the North Hall displayed a good representation of vendors, from Nokia to Assimilate. Other vendors, such as Dashwood Cinema Solutions’ 360VR Toolbox facilitated a new crop of VR content that enable and simplify VR editing and modification from within the most popular non-linear editing from Apple and Adobe.

HDR content was seemingly all over the show floor, yet more than one manufacturer showed flawed demo or knowledge of how HDR actually works.

There is no real way that any current 8bit display technology can accurately output the colorimetry and gamma required for proper monitoring of High Dynamic Range (HDR) content, making one companies claim of “8bitHDR” dangerously erroneous.

While the manufacturer touting HDR everywhere in its booth, but showing a REC709 video signal to demonstrate how accurate its monitor was compared to Dolby’s HDR standard, the intended audience was misled and added to the overall confusion about HDR in the marketplace.

I still feel that the Arri booth in Central Hall had the best HDR demo at the show. Nothing has ever shown me the power of what HDR can do more than looking at the faces of the factory workers than make Arri products staring back at you from the screen. The subtlety of color evoked a visceral response from everyone I showed it to.

So let’s settle down with our old toys and get to know them better. It’s about time we, as filmmakers, got back to producing better imagery with what we have, following the industry leads to make better pixels, not more of them.