It wasn't that long ago that NAB was a show for – wait for it – broadcasters. The kinds of things that you find in the North Hall these days, with a bit of Central Hall juiciness sprinkled on top. Anything from satellite dishes to switchers, plus cameras, lenses, and lighting galore.
The early days of the "desktop video" revolution revolved almost entirely around hardware. Storage and IO were the linchpins. How do you get stuff like video and film into your computer? And then out to storage that's reliable enough to never drop a frame? These were huge problems, with failures far more widespread than successes.
Companies lined up to solve these problems, or at least try, sometimes with dedicated software solutions that optimized performance and reliability. Sometimes with a patchwork of solutions from a variety of vendors that required end users to do the heavy lifting of figuring out which IO, storage, and software combinations might offer at least approximately equivalent performance and reliability.
Oh yeah, and decks. Decks were an issue. Even if you somehow miraculously stumbled upon a bulletproof combination of IO and storage, you still had to lay it off to tape with even more reliability. A hiccup on your desktop was annoying, but not a crisis. On tape? A crisis.
You know what there wasn't a lot of talk about? The software. Comparisons were typically around image quality relative to output requirements. It's been just about 20 years that delivery of "broadcast quality" video from the desktop became a mainstream consideration, and on any wide scale, maybe 15 years ago tops.
Hmmm, what was happening 15 years ago? Apple Final Cut Pro reached a robust-enough feature set for "broadcast quality" work (and yes, robust-enough third-party IO, including Pinnacle Cinewave RT), and massive updates to Adobe After Effects (3D layers! >2GB movie output!) and Adobe Premiere (DV! Streamlined web output!).
2001 was also the year that Avid demonstrated the firmness of its commitment to software-based filmmaking – in the FILM sense of the word – with the addition of FilmScribe's featureset around cutlists and a wide range of film gauges to Avid Xpress DV. In all, 2001 was a truly momentous year
What ELSE was happening 15 years ago, you ask? And well you should! Because 15 years ago, Creative COW launched! Read the amazing tale here!
Did I say 2001 was momentous? I mean MOMENTOUS.
There have been other momentous years since then of course, including Adobe Premiere Pro in 2003, software-only Avid Media Composer along with Avid Interplay in 2006, the 2008 (apparently permanent) exit of Apple from the NAB show floor (although of course not from the show itself), the 2011 introduction of FCPX, the 2012 introduction of Adobe Creative Cloud and its 2013 transition to subscription-only...
...and in 2015, the arrival of unambiguous messaging around Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve as the fourth major player in the NLE game: stepping up in 2016 to the "A" team of Adobe, Apple, and Avid – and the first letter of its company name notwithstanding, most certainly no longer the "B" team.
THE NEW REVOLUTION: NO REVOLUTIONS
So, here in 2016, suffice it to say that software matters. Wherever people had to go to find it, they went. Booths for Adobe and Blackmagic downstairs in the South Hall, upstairs for Avid, hither and yon for FCPX, most notably, in the FCPWORKS FCP Exchange in the Renaissance.
Hardware remains critical of course, for both IO with an exceptionally strong showing for AJA, another year of wonder from Blackmagic, the most energetic year for storage in memory (see what I did there?) most often showing Adobe Premiere Pro – including running on next generation of Avid storage, NEXIS, alongside Avid Media Composer and even (as has been the case for years, in fact) Apple FCPX.
But yes, software matters, and in the world of software, what mattered most this year? That there were no revolutions. No upheavals. No screaming crowds scrambling for the exits. There was no chaos on social media. Nobody angry.
The fact is that we need more years like this than not. Certainly more years than we get. The headlong rush for what's shiny has often led us down paths that are less productive than they've needed to be. This year, though, was all about productivity. Consolidation of features that matter around performance, extensibility, and integration. A year of building muscle on the bone.
The risk on the other side of course is imagining that nothing important has transpired. Well, that depends. How badly do you need performance, extensibility, and integration?
We really do need more years like this.
So what have we?
ADOBE CREATIVE CLOUD
Whatever else has come to pass, Adobe has been proving their ability to deliver on the promise of relentless improvement. The results speak for themselves: the greatest number of users of Adobe Digital Video & Audio in the company's history, its fastest growth, and record revenues. There's a THERE there.
There are people there too. Lots of them. Here's hoping you weren't in a hurry trying to get past Adobe's NAB booth.
Here's a picture from Adobe of their 2016 NAB booth, with our old friend Andrew Kramer presenting. Before striking out on his own to become stupendously successful, he got his start doing tutorials for Creative COW.
If you do a non-revolutionary feature well enough, it almost becomes revolutionary, and such appears to be the case with the acceleration that will be arriving this spring in Adobe After Effects.
(No, not an NLE, but for much of the industry, After Effects is kind of like The Force. Not the ridiculous retconned version of a bug Force, but the REAL Force: an energy field created by all living things that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.)
Look, features are features, and the more the merrier, but the dream is always of speed – and here it is. Put simply, the things you touch most often are faster. Editing large number of keyframes, blurs, filters, color corrections, interface interactions, scrubbing the timeline, masking, plus file import, puppet rigging, and more: ALL FASTER. Cached files with audio play back in real time.
This is A Big Deal. Not just a little faster, either. As much as 5x faster. For many After Effects users, this will be The Biggest Deal coming out of NAB 2016.
Adobe Premiere Pro is also tuning up for speed. One manifestation of that is extending Premiere's long suit of native camera support, extending now to formats up to 8K.
The fact is that proxy workflows offer profound advantages in some circumstances, and now you'll be able to switch between native and proxy workflows across multiple devices.
AND you can start editing during ingest. Broadcasters (oh yeah, THOSE guys) have enjoyed this sort of thing for a while, and while Premiere Pro isn't the first NLE to introduce this, it fits quite elegantly into an Adobe-specific approach to speed.
I'd like to take a moment to highlight the distinction between VR and 360-degree video for just a moment. VR, who the heck knows what that even means? It means so many things that, for now, it might as well mean nothing. And I say that as a frothing at the mouth VR enthusiast. But c'mon.
360, though, I KNOW what that means. THAT stuff is here NOW. People are monetizing it NOW. They're shooting it with the kinds of cameras you already own and rent, deploying it in venues that you're visiting every day. It's real, and it's real easy to edit using a cool set of features inside Premiere Pro.
I need to also highlight the work of our dear old friend Chris Bobotis at Mettle, with whom we've worked since before Creative COW was founded. Perhaps the single most critical tool in the creation of highly finessed 360-degree video is Mettle's Skybox 360|VR Tools for both Premiere and After Effects. It's got everything you need for mending seams, changing focal points, correcting the horizon, and yes, because millions of people still care even if you don't, a variety of tools to support stereoscopic footage.
There's more of course, because it's Adobe. Even though Adobe Audition is arguably the most powerful and widely-used audio tools for video editors, it's also arguably still not as widely used as it should be. The new Essential Sound Panel puts a very simple interface on top of Audition's power, with tools grouped into easy-to-see categories. The buzz is that it's the audio equivalent of Premiere Pro's crazy powerful Lumetri Color Panel, which is potentially a Very Big Deal as well.
You can now also export multitrack Audition sessions to Premiere Pro via Adobe Media Encoder. This provides an update on the classic workflow that carries picture edit in Premiere Pro and audio in Audition (the classic part) to (the updated part) Adobe Media Encoder for a vast array of deliverables on a vast array of devices.
And yes, there's more, including Character Animator and Adobe Stock assets, both of which are speedier and easier to use than ever, but, alas, a bit beyond the scope of this overview.
I'm going to defer a deep-dive into the FCPX 2016 State of the Union to our dear friends Noah Kadner (another fella with whom we go back long before the founding of Creative COW) and the fine folks at FCPWORKS. Their FCP Exchange was once again THE place to find the key presentations, starting with, in fact, "The State of the Union" by FCPWORKS Workflow Architect Sam Mestman.
I'll mention a couple of 3rd party treats for FCPX, starting with the Dashwood Cinema Solutions 360VR Toolbox. It works through the Noise Industries FXFactory (which I hope needs no introduction to the FCPX community by now), and includes one feature of particular note: it's the first software, says Dashwood, that can "stereoscopically project still images or video sources into a spherical 3D 360* slit-scan rendering environment."
Of far wider interest is the return of a feature that was very nearly inexplicably dropped from FCPX from its prior incarnation, a feature called Send To Motion, which did just that. It sent projects from FCP 7 and earlier into Apple Motion, where a variety of composting, graphics, effects, and more could added, with safe passage back to FCP.
I say "nearly inexplicable," because part of the explanation surely includes that Apple was waiting for Wes Plate to create a solution. Wes is all about the interop, having pioneered the passing of editing projects into compositing environments, starting with Automatic Duck to tie together Avid Media Composer and Adobe After Effects.
A variety of joinings ensued from there, leading to 2016 and the NAB launch of Automatic Duck Xsend Motion. Coming soon, it will do exactly what FCP users have missed in FCPX: converting FCPX timelines into Motion 5 projects, keeping intact a variety of transforms, composites, and 3rd-party effects created in FCPX. "Long-awaited" and "welcome" are both understatements.
AVID MEDIA COMPOSER AND BEYOND
The reports of Avid's demise have been coming for so long (and have been so wrong for so long) that it's easy to look past the staggering innovation coming out of the company across a wider range of products than most people have any awareness of.
Avid Media Composer 8.5 was released in January, and how's THAT for revolutionary: Avid was one of a growing number of companies that's releasing stuff when it's ready!
What a concept! Not wrapping oneself around the axle of an artificially opposed deadline that may be nowhere near synced to product cycles. More of this please!
Anyway, there's a long list of new features in Media Composer 8.5, including support for HDR video, more audio tracks, many improvements to menus, timelines, media caching, personalization, continued development of the industry's most advanced media management architecture, and much more. Exactly the kind of features that don't necessarily make for flashy demos, but get straight to the heart of the things that most editors do most of the time.
As Bob in fact notes in a comment on Mat's video interview, we're not there yet. Standards are still being developed, but there are some exciting possibilities. For now, Avid demonstrated IP interfaces for Media Composer (obviously already very cozy with SDI and files), announced their commitment to open, agnostic standards, and (you knew THIS was coming, right?) INTEROP workflows over IP with companies like Grass Valley and Sony.
It's coming, and if you were in Avid's booth, you could see it – not just as a shiny demo, but as an emerging set of real-world protocols. Practical. Interoperable.
Speaking of which, in demonstrating the brand new Avid NEXIS storage, the world's first software-defined storage platform ("Next-generation (Intelligent and) Integrated Storage" – more about that in a sec), Avid's Michael Krulik tore open his shirt, superhero style, to reveal an "I (heart) Adobe" t-shirt as he showed Premiere Pro running alongside Media Composer.
Avid's Michael Krulik tore open his shirt, superhero style, to reveal an "I (heart) Adobe" t-shirt as he showed Premiere Pro running alongside Media Composer.
Not to say that NEXIS will necessarily be the first storage platform that somebody whose primary editing environment is Premiere will think of, but that teams who include non-Avid editors and artists will find a place in the network.
As Creative COW's Bob Zelin noted in his NAB wrap-up
The base system is 20 TB of storage with a 10 Gigabit Ethernet interface, and will sell for $15,000. This low price is almost inconceivable for a company like Avid. While obviously primarily intended for Media Composer, Avid editors in mixed environments will be pleased to note that NEXIS also supports Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Apple Final Cut Pro X, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, and Grass Valley Edius.
Base system 20 terabytes, yes – expandable to over 1.4 PETABYTES (1400 terabytes), with 300 clients.
Now, don't let it distract you from the fact that 20TB of 10gigE storage at $15,000 is a real game changer for small- and medium-sized shops, especially as you wrap your head around NEXIS means.
Start with real-time scalable workspaces: you can prioritize capacity, performance, and data protection on workspace-by-workspace basis, so that your most important projects get the most resources, and less critical projects are throttled back. All the while, you can be scaling from using any portion of those 20-1400TB as you see fit, in real time, with no interruptions in performance. There's simply never been anything like this before.
Then add redundancy galore (covering up to 5 drive failures), and as noted earlier, support for integrating multiple NLEs and Pro Tools....
Pro Tools! That's right! Another huge part of the Avid story!
You'll be delighted to hear that it's beyond the scope of this article, as are Avid 4Designer (high-end 2D/3D real-time broadcast graphics authoring), Avid Maestro (the superset of on-air graphics, including graphics production, tickers, etc.) Avid PowerWall (turnkey high-resolution video wall solution), TD Control for managing multiple control surfaces, Avid Spark for telestration, and PlayMaker for advanced slow-motion replay with up to eight I/O channels, with instant import and export to Media Composer, yes, but in fact to virtually any NLE or storage infrastructures.
There's a whole network of features related to this, including tagging and sorting clips with instant highlight editing, and ingesting up to six games in parallel for fast turnarounds.
Nor is any of this doing more than barely touching on Avid MediaCentral Platform, whose astonishingly broad feature set includes end-to-end sports production.
What's that you say? You don't do sports? That's fine. I'm merely using this as one teeny tiny set of datapoints to underscore that Avid is playing a vastly bigger game than just going head to head vs. Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple FCPX.
Especially not when so many of Avid's products are explicitly designed to work with those just fine, thanks.
And as a boothful of special guests were on hand to testify, good ol' Media Composer all by its lonesome continues to both rock and roll.
Honestly, I can't think of another company taking more big swings at bigger stuff, or more consistently knocking them out of the park.
BLACKMAGIC DAVINCI RESOLVE
Okay, except maybe Blackmagic.
Heck, they've had the biggest booth at NAB for the last several years running. They might concede a little (storage? Pro Tools?), but they ain't conceding much to anyone.
Before the show even began, Bob Zelin predicted to me that the Blackmagic URSA Mini would be the product of the show, the sign that Blackmagic was officially unstoppable. As he wrote:
We now have a COMPLETE studio system, including a real camera that can be controlled by the ATEM switch (free software upgrade) for zoom, focus, iris, black levels, and DaVinci primary color grading (who needs those pesky expensive camera CCU's anyway) with a REAL LENS. And yes, there is intercom (if you buy the Talkback Converter), Tally (if you buy the new URSA Mini Viewfinder), Color Correction (if you buy the ATEM switcher), and VTR control (if you buy the HyperDecks) – all built in.
And why is this big news? Because this costs a FRACTION of anything else on the market. No one, not even ebay, can compete with these prices. The labor, and cabling (and lenses which Blackmagic does not make) will cost more than EVERYYTHING you need to build a complete studio production system.
So anyway, remember back in 2009 when Blackmagic bought DaVinci and nobody had any idea what BMD was doing in the software business?
Yeah, me neither.
It really was startling at the time, but now it seems almost inevitable. Why would Blackmagic NOT be in software, right?
And once you have the product line that virtually defined the (then) extremely pricey category of highest-end color grading, why not decouple it from its very pricey hardware and give away an only minimally limited version for free? Or maybe charge $1000 for the "full" version. Sure, no prob.
Then start building in editing features. Then add an advanced compositing environment via Blackmagic Fusion, and start to blend them as an integrated suite, DaVinci Resolve Studio, that includes loads of other goodness from the Fusion family, like distributed rendering, and advanced facility-class workflow and project management.
Even if Blackmagic was doing NO hardware, this would be an INSANE amount of work – and they are of course doing plenty of hardware.
Including cameras! Remember when it made NO SENSE for BMD to be building cameras?
Yeah, me neither.
As I did with FCPX, I'm going to defer the heavy lifting in talking about the state of DaVinci Resolve as an editing platform to a longtime Creative COW member, Walter Biscardi, who offered up an epic trilogy walking through the specifics of Resolve as an NLE.
You need to check the whole thing, but I'm going point you to the finale in particular ("Editing on DaVinci Resolve: Day 3"), wherein Walter gets to talk with product manager Peter Chamberlain, lead engineer Rohit Gupta, and colorist, author, and trainer Alexis Van Hurkman.
You're going to want to read Walter's full and very specific evaluation, but I'll offer this for your delectation:
Is Resolve 12.5 a professional non-linear editing platform? I would honestly say "Yes" with this release. I've gotten pushback on forums from folks who have tried 12.0 and didn't feel it could edit well. I totally agree, it was a step in the right direction, but wasn't there yet.
I suppose the .5 moniker makes folks thing it's just an update. 12.5 is an entirely new release that probably should have been called Resolve 13. This is a solid editing tool that I have enjoyed cutting in...
Oh, and what the heck, I'll mention another 3rd-party VR/360 solution, this time from 360 Designs and their Mini EYE range of custom rigs built around Blackmagic micro cameras. (Both Micro Cinema and Micro Studio.) Packages start at $10K-ish for 3 Blackmagic micro cameras (yes, this kit includes the cameras for this price!!!), matched lenses, genlock, batteries, and all that good stuff.
It's designed with live-streaming in mind, and was in fact successfully deployed on the Oscars Red Carpet in February. (Our story about it is here.)
From there, it goes up to the top-of-the-line EYE, a 42-camera rig shooting 400 megapixels, 24 microphones, 3 different 3D axes, and still manages to pack four hours of battery life. A bit pricier, natch ($55,000), but if that's what you're doing, that's what you need. But the three and four unit versions of the Mini EYE are getting it done in the real world for their specific applications.
Wait! Is there any chance that DaVinci Resolve Studio includes features for working with 360 video? My friend, there's EVERY chance! We've published a couple of stories about it at Creative COW, including this one on a major music video for a Grammy Award-winning Brazilian musician, and this one on - wait for it--on Discovery's SHARK WEEK VR!!!
And as you'd expect, there's plenty of opportunity to take advantage of Resolve's color grading toolsets, including some exceptionally tricky color matching that Resolve handles with ease, plus powerful networked rendering that came into the company through Fusion and now part of Resolve Studio.
"YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION?" NO. I DIDN'T SAY THAT AT ALL.
This is obviously nowhere near the full picture for any of these four companies. Nor is it the complete landscape for NLEs and NLE-related software (plug-ins, compelling new workflow and asset management tools, archiving, and more), nor, needless to say, cameras, lights, lenses, storage, and related hardware.
There are also lots of other companies besides these four that had fantastic NABs. (AJA, ARRI, and Canon come immediately to mind, and plenty of others.)
But I keep coming back to this idea that the dominant themes of this year's show revolve around practicality, performance, and the kinds of features that will make your life as a customer much easier.
Remarkably, in many cases, these improvements will cost you absolutely nothing. And if something, not necessarily a whole lot, either.
Adobe's new features are built into your subscription.
You've either gotten Avid Media Composer 8.5 as part of your subscription, or purchased as part of an annual support contract. And if you haven't been on a support contract and want 8.5, you'll sign up for a contract and get that, plus all upgrades for the coming year. In any case, short money for sure.
And neither Apple nor Blackmagic is charging for upgrades at all. No new money changed hands for significantly enhanced functionality, perhaps the only place in Las Vegas where this was true.
Okay, THAT part is pretty dang revolutionary. None of this stuff is all that expensive!
Even the expensive add-on stuff like $15,000 for 20TB of storage with insane flexibility is a genuine breakthrough price. Three-camera VR rigs with lenses, batteries, and more, all-in for $10,000? Why BACK IN MY DAY, you couldn't even a buy a single broadcast lens for that price.
(For that matter, I paid $15,000 for 27 GIGABYTES in my first array back in the day, and that was a deeply discounted price.)
So as I'm wrapping up my epic tale of a revolutionarily non-revolutionary NAB, I find myself almost giddy. As you can well imagine, this happens to me quite a bit, but no kidding. I'm AMAZED at what's happening. Even the incremental changes are exciting, because they're the RIGHT increments.
And there was no real hype to cut through this year, because there wasn't all that much hype. How refreshing!
Leaving in the end a genuinely substantial round of upgrades that were delivered in the fullness of time, whether or not it was AT the show, with companies doing exactly what we've wanted them to do most of all, every single year: pay more attention to getting things RIGHT, rather than building features just to have cool demos.
The ironic outcome of such a low-key round of releases is that I find myself more excited than ever that the forces shaping development are coming together in meaningful ways.
Zelin Nation rejoices as the legendary Bob Zelin's legendary NAB wrap-up returns, featuring the unique insights of this industry-leading broadcast engineer into the stories that matter most. You won't find a better overview of shared storage, IO devices, converters, studio cameras, and Thunderbolt 3, because there aren't any. Check it out. Legendary.
This was not an exciting year for the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas, says Creative COW Associate Editor Kylee Peña, but that doesn't mean it wasn't important. The “exciting” stuff isn’t what affects post production workflow the most, at least not immediately. Kylee notes that we may not even know NAB 2016's most important announcements for a few more years. After all, it might have been a long time after the introduction of 4K or even HD at NABs past before those mattered to YOU. So as important as NAB is, that's why it's important not to lose sight of the things that matter the other 51 weeks of the year.
Welcome to Wednesday's edition of the the industry's most comprehensive coverage of the 2016 NAB Show. Some of the companies with especially wide-ranging presentations including AJA, ARRI, and Blackmagic Design, with the latest news from hundreds of other companies in cameras and support gear, storage, archiving, broadcast, 4K, and much much more.
Welcome to Tuesday's edition of the the industry's most comprehensive coverage of the 2016 NAB Show. Some of the companies with especially wide-ranging presentations including AJA, ARRI, and Blackmagic Design, with the latest news from hundreds of other companies in cameras and support gear, storage, archiving, broadcast, 4K, and much much more.
At NAB 2015, Creative COW Contributing Editor Kylee Wall says that the show's biggest story is companies now competing with each other to provide the most compelling collaborative platforms. The winner? Customers. Here's Kylee's look at the details of how it's all coming together.
AJA announced 4K-focused updates to its family of mini converters, as well as updates to the 4K/UHD CION camera and new loan program that will put the camera in the hands of filmmakers across North America for free this summer.
Signiant's Flight and Media Shuttle services are continuing to rapidly grow, with major facilities adopting the service in global workflows. New enterprise features make it easier for large companies to bring Signiant inside their facilities.
Blackmagic has unveiled a variety of new camera and broadcast products, including "micro" version of their popular cameras for remote control or all day use, a new version of Resolve, and sensor upgrades to the URSA cinema camera.
In their first NAB Show exhibiting together, Quantel and Snell introduced updates and new features to their IP routing and switching technologies and servers, and affirmed a commitment to lower costs and expand third party support to make their products widely available to a broader market.