For die-hard gear heads, the year starts not in January, but with NAB, the biggest broadcasting show in the world. AsiaWorks has spent the first part of this year in heated discussions over the best gear and coolest kit to come out of NAB 2014, and here we present our top picks.
First off, Andrew Clark, Creative Director, distils the discussions from NAB into a handy checklist for gear makers:
I think for me, this year’s NAB has really put what we would like from a camera very sharply in focus (no pun intended). The wishlist, as I see it, goes like this:
– Resolution up to 4k – Whatever… Next year we’ll be fawning over cameras with resolution up to 5k. As the technology continues to get better, it’s a natural thing for resolution to increase. It’s always good to have more resolution and more powerful technology in cameras. You never know what your next client is going to request – it’s not uncommon to shoot 4k for YouTube these days!
– Sensible Codecs and Video Formats that don’t require huge investment in post-production “workflow” hardware. Take the card out of the camera and let me edit immediately please.
– Full Frame/Large/35mm sensor – whatever you want to call it. Just give me sensor real-estate so that I can wow my client.
– High frame rates – more and more, these days, we’re shooting at 50fps and above. Please let us do it at a higher resolution than 720p.
– Shouldermount/handheld operation – none of this “modular design” stuff. Give me a camera I can pick up and shoot with – and please make sure it’s balanced when I operate, either with it on my shoulder or handheld.
– Viewfinder and Audio built in. Why wouldn’t any video camera have this feature? Enough said on that.
– Easy Access to menus and monitoring whilst on the fly. I don’t want to have to take my eyes off the viewfinder to faff with menu switches, volume controls and buttons. Let me do it whilst I’m shooting with simple button layouts, switches and jog/dial wheels that I can learn and/or assign. And make sure that they are in easy reach of my fingers, whilst I shoot.
– Multiple lens mount options. Most importantly: Let us be able to use our legacy of old broadcast HD lenses please, and please hurry up and develop a zoom lens that goes from 10mm to 400mm, F1.8 from top to bottom. And that’s light and (most importantly) very approximately the same length and diameter as your average pint mug.
I guess this year’s show really highlights that competition amongst manufacturers is high enough and that they actually seem to be taking what cameramen have been asking for quite seriously.
Derek Williams, co-founder of AsiaWorks, started his career as a cameraman for CBS in 1971. Here he gives us a history of broadcast cameras from a veteran cameraman’s perspective and chooses the best from this year’s crop of cameras:
I thought that this year’s NAB show was exciting. Very exciting, because it seems that the camera manufacturers have been discussing design and ergonomics with actual camera operators. This evolution of 4K camera design mirrors earlier design changes that grew with the old 3-tube ENG cameras. The truly ugly RCA TK-76 was simply a box designed to house the 3-plumbicom tubes and electronics. It was a beast to hand-hold and was thankfully short-lived when RCA went out of the camera business.The Japanese manufacturer Ikegami quickly stepped in and and built a camera designed around the camera operator, the HL-77. New models ensued and Sony joined in the ENG camera making business also.
This year’s crop of new cameras at NAB show that with some thoughtful design, viewfinders, video recorders, HD monitors, and the like can be built into the original design and not clamped on to an ugly box which has to be assembled on location. It is obvious that camera operators have again been consulted and some of their ideas refined and included. The Arri AMIRA is probably the pick of this year’s crop but the Panasonic Modular VariCam will certainly tempt some rental houses and big production companies.
While both these beauties are at the top end of the price range, I am excited about the entry of the AJA CION and the Apertus Axiom which make up the other end of the price-range, while BlackMagic continues to make improvements. Daily usage will be the test and while the popular models will thrive and be improved upon, the obvious lemons will fall by the wayside. My obvious enthusiasm is all about the trend towards ergonomic design and operator comfort on all fronts.
Andrew Fisher, Head of Operations, says:
I’m very interested in the new lights from Cineo.
The Cineo Maverick is portable, lightweight (about 2kg), weatherproof, and has a variety of power and mounting options, making them pretty much perfect for any kind of shoot. It delivers a volume of light equal to 1k soft source and has interchangeable phosphor panels that permit a variety of colour temperatures.
Also, the Sony A7s and Atomos Shogun recorder look pretty great. The Shogun is a 7″ IPS monitor backed with recording capability, with 12G SDI ports. It’ll record 4K ProRes onto single SSDs or RAID and will be priced under $2000.
We’re eager to reduce the amount of weight we have to drag around on shoots while simultaneously increasing our quality and anything that accomplishes that goal from NAB catches our eye here in Jakarta.
Mikael Enlund, Bangkok DP/Editor, says:
I have to say I’m curious about the AJA Cion. There were a bunch of 4K cameras at NAB, but I think they all had some major drawbacks for the type of shoots we do.
It seemed to be the only one that’s not too bulky (BlackMagic URSA) too expensive (Panasonic 4K Varicam) or too small (Panasonic GH4). These cameras would probably be great for some people but maybe not for us (Except the GH4, which I’m sure would make a great second camera).
The Cion shoots true 4K with 12 stops of latitude in up to 60 fps internally, has a large sensor (almost Super 35), is relatively cheap, goes on you shoulder and doesn’t weigh a ton. It does have a PL mount so lenses for it will be expensive, but hopefully those cheaper PL zooms are coming.
We will of course have to wait for the final verdict until we see the images that the camera produces and also how well it holds up during a shoot.
Beijing DP Jack Guan’s three personal camera picks:
Marc Sarrado, Beijing DP/Editor:
I can’t wait to see the results of the new BlackMagic URSA camera.
I found the AJA experiment interesting: 4K at a very competitive price. Let’s see how far they get.
Although they are new cameras, I still think that the new firmware for the Sony F5 family will still give a lot of good and reliable features. But one of the most interesting aspects of NAB 2014 is that several camera makers are making shoulder mount cameras again. This is very good news for my back. The plastic camera era has lasted too long. It also seems that the DSLR movement is slowing down.
I hope in the near future we’ll be able to play with some of those new toys.
Khairul Amin, Singapore DP, says
Although this year we’re seeing more cameras come onto the scene, I’m still very biased and would say that the Arri Amira will be the new benchmark as far as large sensor cameras go.
The images speak for themselves and despite it not being as compact as DSLRs, it is still very much a camera you can easily pick up and shoot in many situations.
The Panasonic GH4 would also be a great backup camera to go on shoots. Coupled with the interface unit, it has all the bells and whistles that the previous DSLRs lacked, at a fraction of the cost.
I’m also interested with what Edelkrone have lined up in their gear arsenal.
Their sliders are great for travel and it seems like they are trying to take it to the next level with the new rigs.
There are already rumours that Arri is working on a 6K 65mm sensor camera, but I’ll be happy to get the chance to shoot on the Amira this year.