BIZ: Convergence at NAB2000 Expands Opportunities for Efilmmakers
by Tara Veneruso
(indieWIRE/4.25.2000) -- The National Association of Broadcasters' annual convention, otherwise known at NAB (April 10-13), brings together new hardware and software for television, radio, film, streaming and Internet media. NAB2000 was about the convergence of traditional analog with new digital technologies including integrated DV solutions. These new tools are enabling filmmakers to rely on creativity rather than financiers' wallets. The technologies exhibited at NAB are allowing independent filmmakers to remain free and retain creative control. In the words of Todd Verow, these advancements free filmmakers from "mortgaging our souls."
Each year I travel with Team Next Wave's Peter Broderick and Mark Stolaroff on a mission to find affordable tools that will enable ultra-low budget filmmakers the power to make movies on limited resources. NAB2000 was a stellar year for driving the prices down for desktop filmmaking. The traditional focus of NAB has been the higher-end industrial user. This year, for the first time, they seemed to be meeting the needs of low budget filmmakers, and the following tools have the greatest potential for the efilmmaker.
In filmmaker circles you could hear excitement that "Final Cut Pro is going real-time." Many trade papers floating around NAB also had headlines pronouncing the new HD 24P camera. The focus on convergence has many companies proclaiming their ability to aid in web encoding, DVD authoring, streaming media, and full HD24P production solutions. Marketing slogans captured the feeling at NAB 2000: Pinnacle systems touted "The choice for digital video," Sonic's "Where DVD meets the Internet," and Sony's PD-150 ad proclaimed "independent filmmakers will want to go everywhere with this camera."
The focus on independent filmmakers was most obvious at the Apple booth. They made it clear with banners featuring Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin with their "think different" logo. The booth was constantly packed with curious filmmakers. Last year I mentioned the biggest highlight was the initial release of Final Cut Pro 1.0. This year, Apple showcased its upcoming lineup of releases including the Final Cut Pro 1.2.5 update, available in May, which includes 16:9 wide screen format support and YUV processing ($999). Also announced was the RTMac PCI video card that will allow real-time dual stream DV editing, effects and compositing for the G4 Macintosh. Developed by Matrox with Apple, a fully configured system is expected to start at under $5,000.
Coming in the fall will be Apple's new uncompressed HD Movie Studio utilizing the Pinnacle Targa Cine board that provides uncompressed SD (Standard Definition) and HD (High Definition) editing. It is expected the entire turnkey system for SD will be under $10,000 and the HD under $30,000. Undoubtedly, this is making Avid quite nervous with their premium system, Symphony, costing about $160,000. This may very well transform the entire high-end post-production industry over on its head in the year to come.
Apple also presented QuickTime 4.1 streaming technology which was quite impressive. One of the best tips from the Apple booth was the recommendation for a book by Lisa Brenneis, "Final Cut Pro for Macintosh." I have found this an essential tool when using FCP.
In the convention halls of the Sands Expo Center, Promax was jam-packed and strategically positioned directly across from the Final Cut Pro area and next to the very-busy Res Magazine booth. Many filmmakers signed up for the Promax and Intelligent Media FCP classes during NAB.
Adobe was also nearby, highlighting the powerful After Effects 4.1. It won several magazine awards at NAB for being the best compositing software under $2,500. Another powerful compositing software announced was Pinnacle System's Commotion 3.0 (originally designed by Puffin designs) that allows for instant playback of moving video.
Although much of the talk on the convention floor was about the HD24P cameras, I felt the most significant new cameras for low budget filmmakers were Sony's VX2000 and the DSR-PD150. The VX2000 was not in the Sony booth since consumer models are not usually shown during NAB. The PD150 DVCAM ($3,795), with newly developed 1/3 inch CCD's, will be released in early June and is an exciting new entry for efilmmakers. The camera includes 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios, balanced XLR audio inputs, both the color LCD display and black & white viewfinder and has an iLink (FireWire) port.
Sony showed off their new HDW900 24P (progressive scan) cameras with Panavision lenses. The rental house Fletcher Chicago, in association with Laser Pacific and Efilm, sponsored a HD 24P showcase. Clips originated in HD24P digitally projected from the Barco digital projector and transfers of the same material were also shown on 35mm film.
Pierre de Lespinois of Evergreen Films presented clips from his TV series "The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne" which was shot on the HDW-700 Camcorder (not the 24P). De Lespinois stated that he was able to save a significant amount of money by shooting HD. He is shooting his next TV series using the HDW900 24P camera.
The HD24P tests included a TV episode and a commercial and were therefore difficult to determine the results for feature filmmakers. Larry Thorpe, vice president of acquisition systems for Sony, mentioned that Wim Wenders recently used the HD 24P camera in Dublin, Ireland to shoot a music video for U2.
There was quite a bit of debate whether the tests were scientific enough to determine if the industry should quickly move into HD24P production as a universal format. This brought up a round of questions about how filmmakers should deal with the multitude of formats out there. The authorities on the panel agreed that there needs to be more rigorous tests to make a full determination. For low budget filmmakers the HD 24P camera does not yet seem an affordable solution with a day rental rate of $1,850 from Fletcher Chicago.
Barco and Digital Projections, Inc. seemed to have the highest quality projectors on the convention floor. Of note is the Texas Instrument's DLP (Digital Light Processing) imaging technology referred to as the "cinema chip" being used by Barco and Digital Projections, Inc. According to Chuck Collins of Digital Projections, Inc., major film studios are currently only willing to show their films on cinema chip based projectors. He said it could take up to 18 months to get up and running with the cinema chip projectors. The current theaters equipped with digital projectors feature the Texas Instruments' prototype DLP Cinema Projectors. At this time there are 18 worldwide with 10 in the U.S. and 5 in Europe.
The most intriguing discussions about the coming of digital projection revolve around the financial models for installing the projectors into the theaters. Collins mentioned that a theater in Canada is using WWF Sunday Night screenings to draw in new revenue. Theater owners are discussing alternative sources of programming as a way of installing the infrastructure to fund this expensive conversion.
The streaming media companies got major financing this year, which was apparent in the enormous booths. Last year many of these companies did not exist. There were over 100 streaming media companies at NAB this year. It is a bit strange to see such an enormous booth with nothing inside but large monitors stating that they stream content for the web. Some faces included Microcast, iBeam, and Intervu with Microsoft hosting the NAB Internet Theater including Loudeye.com and Viewcast.com.
After listening to so many streaming media companies claiming they were the first and best at everything, I grew weary and resumed my hunt for the latest releases for desktop editing.
Many other companies aside from Apple are modifying their software to enable native DV and uncompressed editing. Avid has announced the new release of Media Composer v10.0 and Symphony v3.0 which will feature 24P editing and output for streaming formats on the web. This is great news for filmmakers wanting to make affordable trailers for their website that are already cutting their feature on the Avid. Pricing for the Media Composer XL 9000 turnkey system is $105,200.
For filmmakers on a budget, Avid's Xpress DV (FireWire) on the Windows NT based IBM is a good system for editors accustomed to the Avid. It also features the web output ability and includes DVD authoring software ($9,000).
Media 100 has come together with Digital Origins (EditDV which also features FireWire editing) had the iFinish system on hand as their Internet solution for content creators. They also announced an alliance with Canon, Beatnik Inc., Terran Interactive, and Wired with a focus on creating and delivering streaming media.
Adobe Premiere 5.1, like Apple, has teamed up with Pinnacle and will use the Targa 3000 to enable real-time editing on a Windows 98 or NT system coming out in the Fall. They also announced the ability for uncompressed editing for 3 tracks from HD to web content.
Discreet Logic announced new versions of Inferno, Smoke and their other high-end post production online systems. They also promoted convergence of media with their slogan: "onscreen, onair, online."
OTHER INTERESTING PRODUCTS
Texas Instruments had the most amazing home entertainment display, a concept model featuring their DLP technology. Although it was just a model, I could really see where future convergence is headed with integrated HD and Internet content with a webcam built into the top of the monitor. Is it a videophone? A TV? An internet browser? A rocket launcher?
Other items of note included the HoloPro, a holographic projection screen, which seemed to be no more than a piece of clear glass with complete TV images viewable in full daylight. Finally, Panasonic had interesting prototypes for future models all utilizing the memory stick. There was a watch that is a music player, a digital camera the size of a necklace charm, "Show Stopper" (a hard disk recorder to replace the VCR [like TiVo]), and an Internet microwave oven. Perhaps filmmakers will be able to cook their food just before getting home from a long day's shoot.
There is so much more information and new products that were presented at NAB2000 then what I am able to cover in this article and with one pair of feet. I urge you to continue your quest for new technology and information on the Internet. The following are several sites that may be helpful:
http://www.nab.org/conventions/nab2000/ - site contains URL's for companies at NAB2000.
http://www.nextwavefilms.com - site includes many DV filmmaking links.
http://www.2-pop.com - Final Cut Pro informational website
[Tara Veneruso, a director and editor working in the digital realm, is also a consultant for Next Wave Films, a company of The Independent Film Channel.]