March 22, 2011

James Cameron is Going to NAB -- and so is No Film School. What's the Best Way to Cover it?

NAB, which is by all accounts the most important film/video tradeshow of the year, yesterday announced James Cameron as the keynote speaker (along with Avatar cinematographer Vince Pace). Not the keynote speaker: me. I will be at NAB with a press pass, however, trying to cover as much of the expo as possible. It will be my first time at NAB, and truth be told, I'm a bit overwhelmed -- so I'm looking for any reader insights and suggestions. Also, if anyone wants a free pass to the exhibit floor, click the image below and use the code "EM44":

I'm planning on shooting as much video as possible on the expo floor, but here's the thing... a DSLR is really not the best tool for this. The lack of good audio inputs is compounded by the fact that I own fast primes, not a zoom lens, and thus the shallow depth-of-field is better for narrative content than it is for demonstrating gear (while also conducting an interview) as a one-man band. Ideally you'd want a camcorder that:

  • is compact and easy to handle
  • generates fairly small files (for easy uploading)
  • has decent audio inputs (with which to interview folks)
  • doesn't need a lot of light (I'll be filming sans additional lights)

Thanks to my partnership with B&H, I can probably get ahold of a video camera on a trial basis as long as it's not too expensive (the Panasonic AF100, for example, would be too expensive). Any suggestions as to a decent video camera? Also, any suggestions from NAB veterans for finding one's way around the numerous floors? Thanks guys, and I hope to see some of you there!

Your Comment

22 Comments

Kodak Playsport =D

March 22, 2011 at 9:55AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

2
Reply
Jimmy

I don't know if you would consider a sony nx5 too expensive, but it doesn't do to badly in real world situations. Either that or the JVC GY-HM100U which has native final cut editable files and is dirt cheap, but the audio input might not be exactly what you need.

If you look around, you can probably find a sony ex1 for a decent price too. I think they are around 4 grande. Possibly less.

March 22, 2011 at 11:10AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply

Something on HDV might be a good solution. Moderately priced, physicial backup, still in HD. I love my Canon XHA1, but more modern cameras like the Sony Z5 have a lot of great features generally unrecognized by the video community.

See you at NAB!

March 22, 2011 at 11:51AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

12
Reply

Panasonic HMC150 I think is the most affordable and robust camera for going on the run. I would go with the HPX170 but it is more expensive and uses expensive media too (but records on DVCPro HD which is delicious!)

March 22, 2011 at 11:52AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

18
Reply

You have a few choices of reasonably priced ($3k or less) HiDef solid state camcorders (don't buy a tape camera at this point) with reasonable "pro" features (at least a focus ring and xlr audio inputs):

Panasonic HMC40 ($1600) - AVCHD recording to SD cards.
Canon XA10 ($2000) - AVCHD recording to SD cards. Not out yet, but expected by the end of the month.
JVC HM100 ($2800) - MPEG2 recording to CF cards.
Panasonic HMC150 ($3000) - AVCHD recording to SD cards.
Canon XF100 ($3000) - MPEG2 recording to CF cards. Not out yet, but expected soon (end of month?).

I'm probably going to get the XA10 when it comes out, for the same type of use (run and gun, docs, etc). Should be a really nifty little camera, with proper HD video-specific resolution chips (no unnecessary high resolution for stills, so better low light performance - still not as good in low light as DSLRs though), infrared video, dual SD card recording, etc.

One last thing to think about though - don't the manufacturers usually have special NAB deals? Just keep that in mind before you buy something now only to see it much cheaper at the show.

March 22, 2011 at 1:24PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply
SB

Thanks very much, SB -- very helpful. One note: turns out the JVC HM100 records to SDHC, not CF.

The manufacturers do have special NAB deals, but I'm just going to be borrowing a camera to cover the event. Can't afford to own two cameras at this point!

March 24, 2011 at 2:55PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

9
Reply
avatar
Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

How about the Sony NEX-VG10? It has a zoom lens but rather slow at 3.5. Both the Canon XA10 & VIXIA HF G10 is slated to be available in April but might not be in time for NAB. Both have faster lenses at 1.8 and the XA10 has XLR audio inputs.

Last year was my first attendance at NAB and it was overwhelming. Did PPW sessions and visited the exhibit floor daily and got to meet some great people. I kicked myself for not having attended after almost three decades in the industry and will try to make it a yearly trek if budget allows.

If you have an iPhone there is a cool free NAB app you can use during the show to get updates, keep track of schedules and view maps of the exhibit floor. It came in very handy last year and I'll be using it again.

Perhaps I'll see you there. Keep up the great work!

March 22, 2011 at 3:38PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply

I Would Say Go With The Canon HV30/HV40 and a Rode VideoMic Pro! You get great footage, and great sound for a good price. It's a DV Camera but it's probably a really good choice for you!

March 22, 2011 at 3:50PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

12
Reply
J.S Lawrence

Thanks very much guys for some great suggestions! The Panasonic HMC40 and HMC150 seem perfect (my MacBook Air has a SD slot, so that'd be the most elegant way of transferring footage). The Canon XA10 looks great too, but I'm not sure it'll be out yet.

March 22, 2011 at 8:59PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply
avatar
Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

I know you said you won't be using additional lights, but I've used the HMC150. It's a pretty good camera for ENG type stuff but the low light is a problem. Do yourself a favor and grab a little LED on-camera light for interviews! They're pretty inexpensive now, and it can make all the difference.

March 23, 2011 at 10:44AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply
MRH

Yeah an LED would be a good idea - most booths are well lit but some are very dark for various reasons. It's a HUGE show so plan on hitting a Hall a day maybe - South Hall upper has a few places you may want to visit such as Avid but mostly high end tech stuff. South Lower (where I'll be working the AJA booth on Mon & Tues) has all the fun stuff for post - DaVinci, Autodesk, Adobe, etc. and is a great place to concentrate 2 days for sure.

Central Hall has all the big boys - Sony, Panasonic, Canon, JVC etc plus most of the filmmaking tools such as tripods, lights, lenses, cranes etc. - again a full day for sure! North Hall more audio and misc tech stuff usually.

Tuesday nights AJA Party is the usually the best party of the show - make sure you try to secure a pass - tough to get but FUN!

Wear comfy shoes and have FUN!

March 23, 2011 at 7:31PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

10
Reply

Great tips. MRH, I've got an old Micro Frezzi light that I'll definitely pack -- not as cool/lightweight as the new LED lights, but it'll do. Anyone used the Rotolight? http://nofilmschool.com/rotolight

Lance, I'll come see you about that AJA pass. :)

March 24, 2011 at 2:34PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply
avatar
Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Before the show I use the my NABshow guide and exhibitor list (along with my publishers input ;-) to make a list and map of my "must sees" and spend the 1st day (or so) ticking them off the list...Only then do I use the balance of the time to "walk the grid" on the floors...

It's wayyy to easy to get distracted and miss what you "had" to see in the midst of discovering new toys (errr tools ;-)...

Carry as little as possible and don't start accepting handouts (get on the mailing list if interested) and like Lance said...comfy shoes and bring your own snacks...

Some of the parties are way way over the top...do whatever you can to get into them but you may find yourself wondering what the products could/would cost if they hadn't dropped $100k+ throwing them...

;-p

...Ric

March 24, 2011 at 4:05PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

7
Reply
Ric

If you can get me a press pass I'll bring you the camera!

March 24, 2011 at 4:36PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

12
Reply
Tim

Sorry but i just dont see why you would go out and spend cash on an HD camcorder instead of buying a good piece of glass.

I shot a ton of footage over 5 days at the SHOT Show in las Vegas with my 7D and an EFS 17-85. It was compact, light and had more than enough DOF for interviews. I strapped a RODE on the top for 139 bucks and it worked perfectly!

I think the DSLR is a way better option. And as far as lighting goes, trades shows (especially NAB) are FULL of light and actually very easy to shoot in ( in my experience)

March 24, 2011 at 7:06PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply

Definitely have a game plan of what you want to see before you get there. I went back in the 90's for a single day just looking around without any plan, and it was really overwhelming (but fun).

At the beginning, everything was really neat and exciting. By the end of the day, it was like "oh yawn, another satellite uplink truck for sale... another broadcast video switcher that costs $100k". Be prepared!

March 24, 2011 at 8:17PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

16
Reply
Nathan

I would keep the coverage focussed to the issues concerned with the subscribers of this site - the no film school indie crowd. Also, since you are posting to the web, a consumer grade HD camcorder with extra batteries, media and a laptop is all you ever need.

Thanks for your website and frequent mailers. Great job!

March 24, 2011 at 11:32PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply
Sareesh Sudhakaran

I used to cover NAB every year for FilmCrew magazine. There used to be a press lounge with bagels, pasteries and coffee. Find it early, before the floor opens. Most of the companies with new products will have press releases there waiting for you, and some will have press releases that are generated during the show. Before the floor opens, hit the publication display and get a free copy of everything from American Cinematographer to Hollywood Reporter. Stash your magazine stack back in the press lounge then be ready when the doors open to the show floor. I would take one day to walk the entire event making notes about booths that either had an interesting new products or were drawing a crowd. I would start by finding the booth with the best bags and get a few of them, then I would take every hand out and freebie. When my bag was full I'd stash it at the press lounge and get another. Afterwords I'd always find a product in my pile of literature that I missed, but wanted to follow up on. Companies that took the time and effort to print information about their products usually were a better source than those who just scanned your badge to put you on their e-mail list. I resisted getting into long conversations with vendors the first day. Tell them you'll come back. Let them spend that day refining their spiel, plus, you won't have the time to see everything anyway. The first evening map out the second day. Second day go back to the booths that cover the products you are interesed in based on your notes. I'd wait for the third day to start interviews. By then the people you interview will have their pitch down to quick sound bites for you. If you have an impressive number of subscribers and advertisers, put it on or next to your press pass so it can be read at a glance. There are a bunch of goofy people running around with press passes, so those who don't know anything about NoFilmSchool will be wondering if it is a waste of their time to talk to you. There are vendors throwing parties for clients who can spend millions, and they will not be inviting or talking to you, but others will invite everyone they talk to. You may be a party guy, but I was (and still am) married with children and never really cared for Las Vegas, and even less for parties in rented rooms where the first question was "what do you do for a living?" I would always try to pre-schedule evening meals out with a few friends I knew were going to be at NAB. You can get good food in Vegas, and I was always starving by dinner time. The food at NAB used to be outrageously expensive, bad, and required waiting forever to get.
I would guess Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Nikon and Canon will all be launcing new products for the DSLR market that is clearly eating into their prosumer video market, but I wonder how much the earthquake and tsunami will interupt their NAB activities, which were usually massive. One market sure to grow is lens manufacturing, so look for good quality DSLR lens sets that don't cost more than a new car. As more people own "movie" cameras, there will be a growing market for more lens options that don't make manual focusing such a pain.
I'm sure you will, but would also look closely at any new editing software that specifically targets DSLR shooters.
Enjoy Las Vegas, but I miss the days when NAB travelled to different cities.

March 25, 2011 at 12:27PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply
Russell Steen

Sorry for the massive comment, but you asked.

March 25, 2011 at 12:35PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply
Russell Steen

Russell -- thanks so much. Very, very helpful. I will get some morning pastries and follow your advice!

March 25, 2011 at 2:45PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

25
Reply
avatar
Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

I would get the 2011 NAB Show app to help find what you're looking for.

March 30, 2011 at 10:32PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

0
Reply
Brian Hynes

C100, hands down!

April 7, 2013 at 1:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

2
Reply