Zelinizing NAB 2012! Bob Zelin: The Future is Wide Open
COW Library : NAB Show : Bob Zelin : Zelinizing NAB 2012! Bob Zelin: The Future is Wide Open
NAB2012 was a dramatic trade show. I credit this to the demise of Apple's Final Cut Pro 7, and the possible demise of the Mac Pro computer.
I say this because if FCP 8 had come out, people would have spent their $299 for it and nothing would have changed. But Apple had everyone asking, "What do we do now?!?" And so the scramble was on for Adobe CS6, Avid Media Composer 6/Symphony 6, and the big surprise, Smoke 2013. And there was SO MUCH Thunderbolt, all because of the threat of the demise of the Mac Pro, as people considered a future of nothing but iMacs and laptops.
Other people have been seriously considering a future on Windows, maybe for the first time, and looked at HP and ProMAX workstations because of this.
With no FCP 8, and possibly no more Mac Pro (a Mac with slots), everything changes. All kinds of companies, all over the show, were getting ready for a wide open future.
ENTERING THE SHOW: BLACKMAGIC DESIGN
Upon walking onto the show floor, we were confronted with the massive Blackmagic Design Booth. New product after new product was introduced, and the only reaction over and over again was: WOW!
The already infamous new product from Blackmagic is the new 2.5K Blackmagic Cinema Camera for a mere $2995. This includes the $995 DaVinci Resolve software as well as the $595 Blackmagic UltraScope software. If you value these products (as so many of us currently do), this brings the price of the actual camera down to $1500. All I can say is that I would not want to be on the waiting list for this camera, as it may incite riots.
So many of the Blackmagic products were shocking, mainly because of their price. The legendary Teranex converter was a great product at $90,000 just six months ago. Today, at $1995, all you can do is drop your jaw, and say "Excuse me?!?" And it's smaller and quieter than before, with new I/O options including Thunderbolt! For an additional $2000, you get the 3D version that can handle 4K images. This threatens the need for any other editing interface ever again.
To the pleasure of many, the previously "not very useful" Blackmagic HyperDeck Studio SSD recorder is probably the #1 desirable recording device, because it now offers recording and playback capabilities in both Avid DNxHD formats and Apple ProRes formats -- all for $995. Removable SSD drives mean you can record "forever" (just keep swapping them), and the "Pro" model can play back 4K from a single SSD disk for $1995.
Blackmagic HyperDeck Studio SSD recorder
DNxHD and ProRes recording are also available in the camera-mountable HyperDeck Shuttle, which starts at $345. If you already own the earlier version of these products, which used to record uncompressed only, you can add these new formats with a free software download.
As if they were not cheap enough already, Blackmagic Videohub routers have dropped in price. The new Universal Videohub series routers offer direct Thunderbolt inputs to the routers, where their signals can be distributed as HD-SDI to the rest of the crosspoints. Meaning: no need for a capture or output card for your Mac computer with Thunderbolt. In the same way I felt that AJA restarted my career when they released the AJA IO, and everything started to work with FCP because of that, I now feel that way about Blackmagic.
Countless people are calling me for new jobs, new installations, new systems, because all of a sudden, they can afford to put in routers, switchers, streaming systems, etc. -- all because of the low cost of entry from Blackmagic. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera will further this along, because it will make a complete, easy, inexpensive workflow for everyone, just as Blackmagic has already shown in other areas. And this keeps me employed. And this keeps me happy.
AJA VIDEO SYSTEMS
AJA, one of the most important companies in the modern video industry (and not just to me), released many new products. The "no brainer" this year is the AJA T-TAP. How do you get a modern iMac with Thunderbolt into your facility's HD-SDI router today? Simple -- AJA T-TAP. This tiny box plugs into the Thunderbolt port of an iMac or MacBook Pro, and converts this signal to HDMI and HD-SDI, so anyone can buy this $249 converter, and VOILÀ! instant edit room, compatible with all the popular editing programs from Adobe, Avid, and Apple.
Top: AJA T-TAP; just above: AJA Ki Pro Rack
While I don't follow the 4K market closely, AJA showed the Ki Pro Quad. It records RAW 4K (as well as SD resolutions to ProRes) over SDI to SSD, and outputs it over Thunderbolt. It can be mounted to a camera plate system, like for the RED Epic or the Canon C500 4K camera. This incredibly powerful recorder is $3995, and can also serve as a converter for the production set's monitors.
THE "NOW" NLEs
In spite of Apple's current marketing, I am unaware of any professional in my area currently using Final Cut Pro X. Everyone sees that "the writing is on the wall," that we have to switch to something else. This has been my conversation every day: "Are you guys going to Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 or Avid Media Composer 6?"
Then, just before NAB, Avid announced Avid Symphony 6 for $999! That is, a crossgrade to the full Avid Symphony software if you own Final Cut Pro 7 or earlier (not X), and an upgrade to the full Symphony from any version of other Avid software editing software -- 83% off the regular price!
AND the Symphony special includes a full version of the amazing Boris Continuum Complete plug-in collection -- which by itself costs $1595! Insane!
Now in version 6, both Media Composer and Symphony can work with any AJA, Blackmagic or Matrox I/O product -- the first NAB where this was true. Will anyone ever again order an Avid Nitris DX or Mojo DX with these amazing choices?
BUT WAIT! There was an incredible third choice that EVERYONE was talking about -- the Mac-only Autodesk Smoke 2013! Autodesk was not even on my list of booths to visit, and boy was I wrong. They showed a completely redesigned version of this amazing all-in-one editing/compositing/effects software, oriented for video editors, running on an iMac no less -- for a mere $3495, reduced from $15,000! It ships this Fall, with a free public beta download available in June. The new battle between Adobe Premiere CS6, Avid Media Composer/Symphony 6 and Smoke 2013 is just beginning.
This was not surprising, but came as a little blow to me, as I am an old school Avid Media Composer guy. I still think that Media Composer 6 is one of the greatest things that happened for our industry, and Symphony 6 is an incredible deal.
THAT said, while the buzz for CS6 was all over the show, the only Premiere editors I see out in the real world right this minute are those shooting with RED cameras, who desire the native workflow that Premiere offers.
It's just a matter of time, but people will do nothing until they have to. And when they do, as things stand today, it looks like most of them will be going to the Adobe Creative Suite.
STORAGE, STORAGE EVERYWHERE
So all of this stuff was in the big booths at the front of the South Hall, but once you moved towards the back, it was storage, storage everywhere. It was almost nothing BUT storage, and the associated companies for asset management and archiving -- and there are a lot of them.
Industry leaders EditShare and Facilis showed incredible, complete workflow solutions from ingest to archive -- EditShare with full 10gig Ethernet solutions, and Facilis with 8gig and emerging 16gig fibre solutions.
Upstairs in the south Hall, Avid showed the incredible Avid ISIS 5000 shared storage system, to which I previously gave a Creative COW Blue Ribbon Award. It uses standard Ethernet connectivity, with the option of adding 10gig cards for faster connections to Avid client computers. They also showed the Avid ISIS 2000, for massive amounts of nearline storage.
Additionally, Archion showed EditSTOR, which is a wonderful alternative for Avid storage workflow. Rorke Data also proudly displayed Strawberry, which is an incredible way to share Avid project files in Rorke's shared storage environment.
Studio Network Solutions showed their powerful SANmp shared storage software, which works with both Fibre and iSCSI for a SAN that doesn't require a server. While I was looking at this product, company owner Gary Holladay showed me the incredible globalSAN Xtarget Storage Server software, running on a Mac Mini. In conjunction with a Magma Thunderbolt 3 slot expansion chassis with the necessary cards to make it work, this becomes one of the smallest and most efficient shared storage enviornments on the market -- and certainly the most unique.
Xtarget works with any direct-attached storage, including Thunderbolt and FireWire, and across global and cloud networks, so you probably don't have to buy any new storage to create an incredibly fast SAN server. You can see this amazing product for yourself with a 14-day free trial.
Of course, one advantage of this is the ability to now run SANmp software on an existing ethernet network to provide a volume-based shared storage enviornment for Avid Media Composer. After NAB, I tested this at Disney Broadcast Operations, and it seems to work great.
While volume-based shared storage is not the perfect solution for Media Composer, it does allow anyone who wants shared storage for Avid editing systems to do it at greatly reduced prices, without being at the mercy of Avid product line.
I personally look at a lot of the less expensive stuff. Maxx Digital showed their Final Share solution with 10gig direct connect. It uses the same parts that Avid uses for their own storage, but moves 800MB/sec to handle uncompressed 2K and 4K files over 10gig Ethernet in a shared storage environment.
Small Tree showed Titanium, a fantastic self-contained Linux server that houses drive arrays, making a great shared storage system that can work with every NLE on the market. And of course Small Tree, being a leader in 10gig connectivity, is able to do full 10gig direct connect to all client computers as well, for incredible speeds. Creative COW's Walter Biscardi -- who better? -- was on hand to demonstrate this wonderful system in the Small Tree booth all week.
Small Tree Titanium 16. Click image for larger view.
Sonnet had their great fibre and SATA chassis at the show, as well as their new innovative Thunderbolt products. This included the xMac mini Server -- a rack chassis that holds a Mac Mini computer, along with a Thunderbolt to PCIe adaptor that can house normal PCIe cards to run big disk drive arrays, and even a Red Rocket. They also showed the Echo Express and Echo Express Pro Thunderbolt to PCIe expansion chassis -- both one and two slot, with integrated power supplies.
They also showed the Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter, as well as the ever-expanding line of QIO products. Sonnet swears that with the new firmware updates, the computers don't lock up when you pull the cards. I saw this proved at the ProMAX booth.
Maxx Digital showed the Thunderbolt version of the Mobile Rocket RAID for the RED Rocket card, which lets you use the RED Rocket in the field with new Mac Book Pros that have Thunderbolt ports. ATTO Technology is one of my favorite companies in this industry, and they showed the ThunderLink series of Thunderbolt adaptors to everything -- Thunderbolt to SAS/SATA, Thunderbolt to Fibre channel, and Thunderbolt to 10gig Ethernet. (Also in ATTO's booth: CI Design's new Thunderbolt to 8-bay SATA chassis.) ATTO is certainly aiding our industry's ability to continue to use all of our products, should the Mac Pro disappear.
This possibility has made people have been looking at PCs who would never have even considered them before.
I met with HP, who showed me the details of their new Z820 workstation. Oh my God! This is the computer that Apple should build, but never will. Sandy Bridge chipset from Intel with eight slots (four x16 lane, three x8 lane, and a legacy PCI slot), twice as much RAM as a Mac Pro can hold, and up to six SAS or SATA solid state drives in stock configurations, seven expansion bays in all.
The fact is, HP kicked ass. Other than a Dell in the Intel booth, the only PCs at the show were HPs. Everyone -- and I mean EVERYONE -- had a Z800 or Z820 workstation that was demonstrating a Windows 7 product.
With one exception. The ProMAX Systems booth showed the ProMAX ONE, a PC built for them by CI Design that looks exactly like a Mac Pro. It has six easily accessible drive bays from the front, 4 ports of Ethernet that support link aggregation, a built in LTO, a built-in Sonnet Qio for SxS, P2 and CF cards, and six slots -- four are x16 lane, two are x8 lane. If I switch to PCs, this is the computer I am buying.
As I'm writing this, I'm asking myself, "Are we all idiots? Why aren't we working on an HP Z820 workstation?" What I have seen really shows that IF we were to all switch to Windows 7 (which will never happen), this aggravation would be all over. AJA, Blackmagic, Matrox, Adobe, AVID ALL work on a Z820, and this would be a no excuse system. But nooooooo! Gotta have those Macs!
I wish that I had more time to go visit the other halls more extensively besides the South Hall. On my way to the Center Hall to see the Teradek Cube -- which is an amazing WiFi Transmitter for HD-SDI signals. I passed the IKAN booth, a company I would never normally even look at. They were showing their amazing new self contained waveform monitor/vectorscope/LCD Monitor display for camera rigs -- and this complete tiny package cost all of about $1200 dollars! This is why I always feel that there is never enough time at NAB -- because there are such wonderful suprises all over the show, and unless you are lucky enough to bump into them, you will just miss the entire exhibit.
NAB 2012 was such a unique show, because it reinforced that EVERYONE can own anything today, without having a huge fianacial investment in equipment. Everyone can afford hi-end finishing systems, HD monitors, scopes, color grading software, and now, even a 4K camera. The playing field is getting leveled more than ever before. It's an exciting time.
NAB 2012 only left me with one question: what will Apple do next -- and will it hurt?