Bob Zelin's NAB 2016 Review: Everything You Own is Obsolete
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Oh my God – all this amazing new equipment, and here I am, stuck in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, looking at disk drives! Is this show business?
The problem with the show, and will continue being a problem, is that technology moves very fast now. By the time NAB rolls around in Las Vegas, everything you own is obsolete. Except this year, all these companies were showing products that were based on computers that don't even exist yet! So it's obsolete even before the products come out!
My big problem, and the big problem with this review, is that I could not cover all the booths, so it is unfair to manufacturers that make wonderful equipment that I simply did not have time to see or write about. The show is so big, and let's face it – NAB is no longer a video show, at least in the South Hall. it's a high end computer show, with all the IT based products that blow the doors off of what existed in the past – and all at a fraction of the price of the "old days."
You walk into the south hall and there is the ginormous Blackmagic Design booth, with countless new products. Entering this booth on a Monday or Tuesday is similar to entering the mosh pit of a thrash metal rock concert, because there are so many people in there, you know that you are going to get hurt when you enter the booth.
I already knew that the highlight of the show would be the updated URSA Mini camera. Sure, it's just another camera, but this time, it has the ability to use REAL B4 studio lenses from Canon and Fujinon, and it seamlessly integrates with the already fantastic Blackmagic Production Studio equipment, like the ATEM switcher, and Talkback Converter.
Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4.6K. Click any image for larger view.
So after ALL THIS TIME (gee – 2 years) – 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.
This should have happened two years ago – but at least it finally happened.
AJA VIDEO SYSTEMS
Next stop was AJA, and if anyone thought that they were asleep, boy, they were not asleep this year.
The AJA Rovocam is a full 4K camera that comes with a 12x1 zoom lens that is designed for fixed installations (think theme parks, museums, churches, etc.).
The camera connects with a cheap Cat 6 ethernet cable to a box that looks like the AJA Mini Converters. The single Cat 6 cable provides power, and lets the 4K video signal travel 300' to the receiver box. AND you can plug in remote control for this camera as well over the Cat 6 cable. The camera is only $2495, and the matching mini converter is $495.
The technology used to do this is called HDBase-T, which is firmly established in the A/V market. AJA was showing the Sony RM-IP10 as the pan/tilt/zoom remote for this camera, but they offer FREE software that you can run on your Mac to control zoom/iris. So why are you spending $15,000 for a camera that you really don't even want to hire a cameraman for?
But they had so many other cool products at AJA. The U-TAP is a USB3 interface that takes any pro camera, and turns it into your webcam. Not the piece of junk that Apple provides, but your REAL camera, with SDI or HDMI output, that can now be your webcam. And it does not require ANY drivers, as it plugs into your USB3 port on your computer, and is recognized by the operating system as a generic webcam. How much? $345.00.
AJA UTAP HDMI
One of my favorite products at the show was the AJA HELO, which is a self-contained (this means you don't need a computer) H.264 recorder that records on SD card (just push the record button) as well as a web streaming box. And yes, they are compatible with all the popular web streaming services and software (like Wirecast, etc.).
The thing is tiny – it can fit into your laptop bag (you will use your laptop to configure it when you first buy it, but then, that's it). Plug in your camera, or your switcher into it, along with your audio mixer, and BAM – you are not only streaming your show, but you are recording it in H.264 format for the web. How much? $1295. Those companies in the upper south hall, selling streaming solutions for $30,000 – who buys that stuff anyway?
AJA released the FS4 Frame Sync. This redefines "Swiss Army Knife" – it will convert anything to anything – yes, Standard Def to 4K, yes frame rate conversion, yes audio sample rate conversion. And while there are buttons on the front for control, the Ethernet port lets you control this all from a web browser, so you don't have to memorize where all the button menus are.
AJA FS4 Frame Synchronizer
The AJA Ki Pro Ultra 4K 60p recorder came out. While it is amazing, doing 16 channels of audio recording, any ProRes or AVID DNx format you want, the REALLY cool part is that they have an eSATA adaptor for it, so you can record DIRECTLY to your RAID array, and start editing right away. Yes, your generic eSATA RAID array is now a tape machine because of the AJA Ki Pro Ultra 4K. (Right now, a young reader is saying "what's a tape machine").
AJA Ki Pro Ultra 4K
AJA also showed the "technology preview" of the Kona IP, which lets you get in and out of an AJA Kona card via network connection. This is new technology, that will ultimately replace coax video and analog audio signals for signal distribution. Blackmagic also showed a Teranex Mini IP Video box, that was based on the TICO Alliance format. So you can already see, that if both AJA and Blackmagic are tied into IP Video transmission, it's coming to your facility soon, and there is nothing you can do about it, other than adapt. Besides, Cat 6 cables are cheap, and you can control everything from your computer. All of this is based on the new AIMS Alliance for IP Media Solutions. The world is changing. Video as we know it is disappearing.
Because everyone is racing to the "next level", everyone is talking about 8K video. 8K? You just bought 4K gear, and maybe you will consider working in 5K or 6K, but 8K? With all this insanity, everyone is getting ready for faster bandwidth.
One of the core support companies for this is ATTO Technology, who was showing 40 Gig Ethernet products (yes, not 10G, but 40G) with Thunderbolt 3 to 40 Gig Ethernet adaptors. Thunderbolt 3?? I just bought my Thunderbolt 2 computer 6 months ago!
ATTO 40GigE card
Yes, there was Thunderbolt 3 everywhere. So much Thunderbolt 3, it was almost a joke. Intel was showing Thunderbolt 3, and the assorted companies that were tying into Thunderbolt 3.
You thought that Thunderbolt 2 was fast? Naaah! That was so last week ago. Thunderbolt 3 is FAST – so fast, that doing 6K and 8K video is nothing for this technology.
Other World Computing was showing Thunderbolt 3 docks that adapt to everything, like display port, 1G Ethernet, Firewire 800, and USB 4. AKiTio also showed Thunderbolt 3 drive docks, and a complete Thunderbolt 3 server with PCIe slots in it.
What did Sonnet Technologies show? Just last year's product line, but this time, EVERYTHING was Thunderbolt 3. They have docks, adaptors, and converters for anything you can think of, all ready to go for Thunderbolt 3, including a Thunderbolt 3 512 Gig Flash drive that fits into your shirt pocket, and Thunderbolt 3 CFAST card readers.
And Highpoint Technologies was not sitting still. Not only did they show their 4 bay and 8 bay RAID arrays in Thunderbolt 3, but they showed the FIRST 16 bay Thunderbolt 3 RAID chassis on the market, complete with RAID controller. It even had a slot to keep a (non existant) Thunderbolt 3 Apple Mac Mini inside the RAID chassis.
OK, I can go on and on about Thunderbolt 3 products, but only one problem. Apple has not released a Thunderbolt 3 Mac yet, but EVERYONE else is ready is ready. And yes, this includes Lacie, CalDigit, and G-Tech.
Thunderbolt 3 exists in the Windows world if you are an early adopter of HP or Dell workstations. I know what will happen, though. Apple will release Thunderbolt 3 computers in 2017, everyone here will complain, and then we will all race out to buy these new products shown at NAB.
Ever ingenious JMR showed their new series of combo RAID chassis that hold variations of drive sizes and PCIe cards, and/or Apple computers in them. They had their very fancy JMR ProBracket rack mount for round Mac Pro computers that not only has slots for PCIe cards, but has capacity for 8 2.5" SSD or SATA drives. And you can get your hand in there to move the Thunderbolt cables around!
They had the same unit for a Mac Mini (with slots, and 8 2.5" drives) that was rack mountable, as well as a desktop version that held a Mac Mini but with 8 3.5" full size SATA drives. So every variation you could think of for consolidating all your weirdly shaped Apple items, JMR now sells.
OK, shared storage. Where do I begin?
Back in the stone age – when Avid Unity existed, shared storage for multiple editors was complex and expensive. Here we are, less than 20 years later, and it's a different world, even for the innovators like Avid. Avid ISIS is being replaced with a new system called AVID NEXIS | PRO. 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.
AVID NEXIS | PRO
The NEXIS | PRO is the entry level product, while the NEXIS E2 and E4 are the larger units that offer expansion, for larger facilities. Nexus Pro will allow for 24 editors and graphics people to connect. This will certainly become an instant hit with the Media Composer crowd that is starting up a new company.
MORE SHARED STORAGE HIGHLIGHTS
Long time established Facilis, who makes the Terrablock product line, showed the new and improved TerraBlock 8D, which offers 32 Terabytes of storage, with four 1G Ethernet ports. And yes, you can replace this with a 10G card for 10G connection via a switch. And it's $10,000. And yes, it's expandable now.
Facilis Terrablock 8D
Talk about aggressive pricing from a high end manufacturer! And their larger systems, like the 24D and the Hybrid24 can use 40 Gig Ethernet for incredible speeds.
Small Tree, considered one of the best and fastest shared storage systems out there today, had a dramatic re design of their user interface, so that now it is very user friendly. Everything from the tiny 5 bay TZ5 to the large TZ16 uses this new user interface, making the complex ZFS operating system easy to configure and use for a company that does not have a staff IT person.
Small Tree has always shown the absolute fastest performance of a shared storage system, for 4K and above workflows, and now, it's easy to use. They also support 40 Gig Ethernet for even greater speeds. And for Avid Bin Locking support, they now incorporate IndieStor to accommodate Avid Media Composer editors.
Studio Network Solutions continued to show their EVO line of products, with two dramatic new solutions. The new EVO 8 bay comes in a short depth rack mount, so you can stick this into a small shock mount rack case, and take it with you. You get 32 TB of storage in a small 4 rack unit package, that is only 18" deep. Now on location, you can have a full powerhouse shared storage system.
The latest release of EVO offers 16 bay, 8 bay, and 4 bay configurations, and includes ShareBrowser – a new app that finally ties all of your storage and project/media management into a single comprehensive window. Shown is the SNS EVO 8-Bay.
And of course, the new tiny EVO Prodigy Desktop that is a tiny box that holds 4 drives and starts at a very low price.
QNAP – boy, I used to make fun of this company! QNAP has become the Blackmagic Design of the shared storage world.
I was personally demonstrating the QNAP TVS-871T playing back multiple streams of 4K video without issue. The system comes for free with the 10G Ethernet card, as well as four 1G ports, so you can really get away without buying an Ethernet switch to connect to all your clients.
The QNAP TVS-871T is the world’s first Thunderbolt DAS/NAS/iSCSI SAN triple solution.
Bottom line – not only does this product do the job, but there is NO ONE that is selling shared storage that actually works, cheaper than QNAP. I have no idea how they can sell at these prices, but they are.
And QNAP makes "big boy" products too, that include 16 and 24 bay rack mount RAID chassis – all self-contained and expandable, all with 10G and 40G Ethernet capability. I once considered them a joke, but QNAP now makes one of my favorite products for shared storage.
G-Tech had the buzz during the NAB show – as much as Blackmagic, AJA or Adobe. Everyone wanted to see the new G-Tech G-RACK 12 shared storage system. Only last year did G-Tech start to get back into high end professional products, like the Studio XL 64 TB RAID array. That product became wildly successful. I can only assume that this was the inspiration for G-Tech to release the powerhouse G-RACK 12 product.
G|Rack 12 | G-Technology
It is a 12 bay RAID chassis (RAID 5 or RAID 6) with a BVRfs operating system that is insanely fast. All units have four build in 10G Ethernet ports. They range in size from 48 TB to 120 TB. How do you get 120 TB into a 12 bay chassis? Easy. Put in the BRAND NEW HGST 10TB SATA drives. This unit is currently expandable to one additional chassis, but very soon (probably before its official release in May 2016), they will be able to have a total of 4 120 TB chassis running on one head unit.
I had the G-RACK 12 running for 4 days solid, never turning it off, and it was ice cold the entire time with no special cooling other than the normal temperature of the NAB show floor.
The reaction to this new shared storage system was incredible. People trust G-Tech, and now they offer a killer box that ranges in price from $17,000 – $32,000.
The very last thing I saw at NAB was the much talked about LumaForge. These products were being shown privately at the Encore Hotel in a suite.
Because I was involved with so many shared storage products, I made sure to enable all the network protocols on everything I tested or looked at – AFP, SMB and NFS. NFS is required for work with Apple FCP-X. At LumaForge, I was only interested in looking at two products – the Jellyfish, and the Indie. That's what my clients could afford.
LumaForge is the only company that is strictly focusing on FCP-X. And in the same way that almost every shared storage has NFS capability, and can work with FCP-X, LumaForge can do the other network formats as well, and work with Adobe products, etc.
But when it comes to FCP-X, I cannot deny that if you have to use NFS network protocol, there is nothing that is faster than what LumaForge is doing, both on the Jellyfish and the Indie.
The Lumaforge Jellyfish is their entry level box. It is non-expandable, but has two native 10G Ethernet ports and four 1G Ethernet ports. The Indie and the larger expensive Studio is expandable. If you are a professional FCP-X user, and have multiple users, you really need to look at this product carefully.
BUT WHAT ABOUT....?
But what about the Lytro Cinema camera? What about all that Virtual Reality stuff, or HDR?
That is the problem with NAB. It's too big, there are too many products. There are just so many companies to see, and personally, I can only absorb so much information in a certain period of time. I tried to focus on the companies that my clients ask about.
To me, going to Blackmagic, AJA, and Adobe would have been extensive enough, but I had to see other things. The Adobe booth, which unfortunately I had no time to go to, was constantly packed to capacity, with NAB attendees spilling out into the aisles of the show, blocking people from walking by.
Were there other cool little booths that no one will even mention? Of course there were, and that is one of the crimes of going to a show this large, and not being able to see everything. But I did see a couple worth special mention.
In the Upper level of the South Hall, I put special effort out to visit Super TCP from Canada. Everyone talks about the cloud, and web access, but most people don't have the money for Aspera or Signiant licenses, and just complain about the low speeds of their cable company. Super TCP solves this with their wonderful technology that accelerates your connection, making sending huge files a reality, for just $25 a month per client.
And I know there were other companies doing similar things. I just did not have the time to check all of these out.
MuxLab had a very cool little box, called the 6G-SDI Extender Over UTP, that could send 4 independent HD-SDI signals (think 4 HD cameras) down ONE single Cat 6 cable, and they were demonstrating it live with four Blackmagic cameras.
MuxLab 6G-SDI Extender Over UTP
These are the booths – the little guys – that make you say "wow" when you see them.
So what does all of this mean? It means that things are continuing to constantly change. Things are getting faster, larger in capacity, and most important – CHEAPER. Even the big boys are now realizing that if you expect to sell your really cool product, you have to make prices reasonable.
When you look at companies like Blackmagic and QNAP, you have to question, "Why should I spend more money? What exactly what are you offering me that justifies the added expense?" And that has made every one of these manufacturers sharpen their pencils, and become more aggressive in their pricing. Which just benefits all of us.
While I was completely exhausted after the show, what I really needed was more time to check out more products. It's amazing what is out there.