Commentary: NAB 2006

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the May, 2006, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

By now you’ve read all the press coverage of the event and discovered that Apple did not announce a new version of Final Cut — though they did spend a lot of time showing their latest version, 5.1, running on a MacBook Pro laptop.

While at NAB, I created two audio reports that were posted to my website:

Click here to listen to Tuesday’s report — Quicktime movie, 3.3 MB — 5:57 minutes. (Takes a minute to load.)

Click here to listen to Friday’s report — Quicktime movie, 6.2 MB — 9:02 minutes. (Takes a minute to load.)

Philip Hodgetts wrote a great analysis of NAB trends for Edit Well — remember that first issue is free — but I wanted to chime in with my own two cents, because I saw four trends that are worthy of mention:

  1. Proliferating video formats
  2. CRT monitors being replaced by LCD displays
  3. Tapeless acquisition
  4. Tremendous vitality in the FCP community
Proliferating Video Formats

I walked past a camera manufacturer’s booth that had a sign hung over their camera saying “Shoots 21 different formats!” as if that was something to be proud of.

Do you remember the old days when we struggled to deal with NTSC and PAL? The new Panasonic P2 camera shoots 81 different combinations of video formats, frame sizes, and frame rates! That’s just plain way too many.

This last weekend, I spent an hour and a half on the phone with a client helping them figure out how to integrate pictures from a Sony and Panasonic camera. The brave new world into which we are rapidly plummeting is one where no two cameras seem to speak the same language.

As video editors, we are rapidly approaching the point where we are no longer bound by our creative ideas, but find ourselves restrained by how fast our editing software can be upgraded to support the latest incompatible camera format.

I’m all for “new and improved,” but right now I’m feeling like technology is running amok. Do we REALLY need all these different formats? Are any of the manufacturers taking notes on the HD-DVD / Blu-Ray mess? I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to pick a camera for the quality of its images without having to worry about whether it’s possible to edit those images afterward?

Based on what I saw at NAB, the answer is a resounding: nope!

Sigh…

LCD Monitors are Taking Over

I met with a Panasonic rep in their booth at NAB who gets extra points for honesty and forthrightness. I have been troubled for a while with the trend of replacing CRT monitors with LCD monitors. So, I asked him why this was happening.

He told me that there is only one manufacturing plant in the world who is making the phosphor-coated glass necessary for video monitors. Consequently, they are scrambling to convert to LCD.

The problems with LCD monitors are that they don’t show accurate color — at least for a price that mere mortals can afford; and they don’t show interlacing. (Interlacing is that wild flickering you often see on still frames or still images that shows up on your TV set, but never on your computer monitor.)

Based on a quick survey, the only manufacturer that currently sells CRT monitors is JVC — their TM-H150G monitor is VERY nice, and affordable). Sony and Panasonic are both exclusively LCD.

If you plan on working in an interlaced format — whether NTSC, PAL, or 1080i — you need a monitor that displays interlacing. That excludes LCDs. Take a look at the JVC and see if it meets your needs.

Tapeless Acquisition

Just before I left for NAB, Chris Hayner sent me the following:

If I was to use either Firestore or DV Rack, how would I go about archiving at the end. Since there wouldn’t be a batch list or physical tapes to recapture from? Would I have to transfer the files to a miniDV tape and some how make a batch list later? Any thoughts?

Chris, that is the $64,000 question!

Whether we like it or not, camera manufacturers are moving to tapeless acquisition because they like the flexibility and weight-savings that tapeless provides. What they haven’t done is figure out how we are supposed to archive all the footage we are collecting.

Copying your footage back to MiniDV tape only works if you are shooting DV. (By the way, be sure to use tape specifically labeled to support HDV — MiniDV tape may not have the necessary bandwidth to support HDV.)

I am not a fan of archiving projects on hard disks. My garage is full of hard disks that no longer connect to my computer. Hard disks are great for short- and medium-term storage, but not long-term.

At the show, Rimage (www.rimage.com) was showing a Macintosh-based archiving system in conjunction with its partner, Perennity (www.perennitysoft.com). This system backed-up data to optical disk and allowed files to span multiple disks. Perennity provides media management and cataloging. The big benefit was that files are stored in native format, so they can be easily located and copied from optical media to your hard drive.

Quantum (www.quantum.com) was showing its SDLT 600A tape storage system, also Mac-based. Each DLT tape stores 300 GB of data and backs up at the rate of 36 MB per second. The big benefit was that Quantum has been around since forever, as has the DLT format.

However, both systems were pricey — hovering around the $8,000 mark, excluding media. These prices make it hard for the individual editor, or small project studio, to afford adequate backup.

FCP is Everywhere

In spite of my grumbling, there was lots of good news — led by Apple’s announcement that they have over 500,000 FCP users around the world. Plus, it seemed that everywhere I went on the show floor, Final Cut was demoing new products.

This tremendous vitality in Final Cut is vastly reassuring as we make the transition into High-Def. FCP is not relegated to some small corner, but is, instead, front-and-center as NLE editor of choice. This means that we can look forward to more choices and more products that support Final Cut, rather than looking nervously over our shoulder waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I’m reminded of that ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Whew! They just can’t get more interesting than this.


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