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Maintaining Objectivity: How I Will (And Won't) Be Covering NAB

04.12.11 @ 2:30AM Tags : ,

NAB film video dslr HDSLR coverageThe interesting thing about covering an event like NAB in person — especially one that stretches across several halls — is, when you’re on one floor, you don’t really know what’s going on elsewhere. It’s a maze. After missing Band-Pro’s announcement that they will sell Leica lenses bundled with RED EPICs because I couldn’t find the Band-Pro booth in time (it was right after James Cameron’s keynote across the street), I asked one of the RED reps, “hey, what did you guys just announce with Band-Pro?” Since he was stationed at the RED booth and the announcement had just happened at Band-Pro’s, he didn’t know himself. To be fair, it’s not like I was asking Jim Jannard — just the first rep I ran into — but the point is, sometimes the best way to monitor breaking news is to be in the press room connected to the internet, or at least on Twitter — not traipsing the show floor with video gear in tow. It’s no coincidence that I had no updates to share yesterday, as I was too busy lining up video interviews. Thus I’m scratching the video stand-ups and will try to do a better job with show updates throughout the day. Also, if I’m not glad-handing on camera, I think I can be more objective about the products on display.

The rest of this post is just me rambling (though I do mention a few products), so be forewarned that this is just an unedited expatiation1 before I hit the sack and start over with a different approach tomorrow.

I did a few video stand-ups and I did them like anyone else would: I let a manufacturer tell me about their product, and then I’d ask them how much it cost, I’d shoot a few inserts, and then that would be it. I didn’t really get an opportunity to interject much analysis or opinion, made all the more difficult because I was focusing on, well, focusing. The videos turned out fine, technically: the Canon XA10 is a sweet little camcorder with a very fast f/1.8 zoom lens (which precludes the need for an on-camera light), and since I brought two lavalier mics the sound is clean too. But when it comes down to it, doing the videos just didn’t feel like me. Plus, I honestly think I can cover the show better without having to cart a bag of video gear around in order to interview folks who’ve already given a dozen interviews that day and are just reading from a script. Instead, I’m going to link to or embed the best coverage from the capable folks who are already covering the show top-to-bottom (some of whom I met yesterday), and I’ll try to impart any wisdom I gained by having had use of both hands to actually inspect gear.

Case in point: sometimes there is no substitute for being there in person. I got to play with the new Convergent Design Gemini 4:4:4 recorder and was very impressed with the size, weight, featureset, and how well the 800×480 resolution held up. It’s not as high a resolution as the SmallHD DP6, but the small screen size makes it a moot point — as far as I can tell. Tomorrow I’ll check out the DP6 and some of their new stuff as well. The Gemini is very well-built and absurdly small for a uncompressed field recorder (I should note that the Gemini software was not working in record mode yet — simply as a display — but Convergent’s track record with their NanoFlash is a good one). On the other hand, a similar monitor/recorder, the Atomos Ninja, felt flimsy to me. This is as it should be — the Gemini is $6k and the Ninja is $1k — but until you get your hands on something (especially a touch screen device), it’s often hard to tell whether a product is built for professional use or not. Now, were I to interview the Atomos folks on camera, would I say, “hey, this feels flimsy?” No. These people have long enough days without being put on the spot with a camera shoved in their face. And they’re producing an HDMI-based product that’s certainly hard to beat from a price-performance perspective, so I’m holding it to high standards. But I think I can be more objective in my NAB coverage if I do what I usually do, which is filtering the news with my own opinions, and I think I can do that better without being just another mouthpiece for the manufacturers. Yes, I have sponsors, and yes, I will cover their products here, but today I discovered that I don’t have a problem canceling the rest of my appointments (most of which are with site sponsors, in fact) if I think I can better cover NAB without the video stand-ups.

Okay, enough meta news — the rest of the NAB posts will be real film/video coverage! In the meantime, here are a number of relevant tweets from today’s show. More to come tomorrow when I’m not going through an existential “I’m not a vlogger” crisis.

James Cameron


@ just took the stage at #NABshow. Will tweet whatever nuggets of wisdom of his fit into 140 chars… #nabhdslr


Handheld, steadicam, technocrane the challenge for @ and Vince Pace in developing 3d rigs (at the time were 400 lbs). #nabshow


@ personally operated all shots on Avatar except for steadicam. Handheld rig was 27lbs. 3d tools should be “transparent.” #nabshow


New Cameron/Pace group to allow 2d extractions w/ different field of view than the (wider) 3d shot. C/P also to make a kajillion $. #nabshow


Chicken & egg problem w/ lack of 3d TVs in homes (and inability to justify prod $) is same as in cinemas years ago – @ at #nabshow


“I’m not drinking my own cool-aid: everything we predicted w/ 3d has come true… ahead of schedule.” @ at #nabshow #nabhdslr

Gareth Edwards


Filmmaker Gareth Edwards (Monsters): “I learned to make rubbish movies cheaply and quicly in my back yard… ” (cont’d) #nabshow


“… and then I enrolled in film school and learned how to make rubbish movies slowly and expensively.” #nabshow


His original idea was akin to Cloverfield, but then Cloverfield came out… so Monsters was “Afghanistan to Cloverfield’s 9/11.” #nabshow

Single-Chip Camera Evaluation

This won’t be hitting Zacuto’s site until June (reportedly), so I’ll have more to come on this after I get a second viewing:


Just watched the single chip shootout by @ and could watch it many more times. Slots are mostly booked – get in while u can! #nabshow


Main takeaway from @‘s single-chip shootout: don’t trust the charts. You can’t measure emotional reponse in numbers. #nabshow

  1. The big words come out at night, apparently. []

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