Technology We Want to See in 2021

2021 is coming...and with it, a whole lot of tech. 

What a year. 2020 is finally nearing an end. And the biggest piece of technology we are all hoping for, a vaccine, is getting approved and rolled out worldwide, which means that production, which has already restarted in a limited capacity, could be back in full swing by the summer of '21.

Along with that, there are a few tech dreams we are hoping play out by the end of next year. 

USB-C everywhere

This first one is surprising to even write, but here we go, we'll say it again. We would really like to just see USB-C used wherever there is USB, and also wherever it can reasonably be used for power, in 2021. This feels a bit like an article we could've written in 2019, 2018, or even 2017, but here we are in 2020 with products still rolling out with USB connections that could be USB-C instead. 

The obvious advantage is USB-C's ability to provide power and send data. There are still a small number of motion picture accessories that are getting powered by barrel connectors that should move on to USB-C. While we are at it, smaller accessories should start having USB-C accessory power ports. While we love that there are solutions like the Blindspot power pipe, that solution only exists to fix the failures of others. Most batteries offer the option of a USB power out, but of course, that requires repatching every time you swap a battery. The next wave of URSA Mini Pro sized cameras should have a few USB-C connectors for either power or potential smart connections to accessories.

32-bit floating point in the palm of your hand

32-bit floating point audio recording is awesome. Roughly equivalent to "RAW" video recording, it opens up a much larger range of adjustment in post-production than you get with traditional 16-bit or 24-bit recordings. It's available in a whole host of portable recorder/mixers like the MixPre II lineup and the Zoom F6. It's even available in the Zoom F2, a portable recorder designed to do local recording of a lavalier.

Hopefully, we start seeing it on a whole host of products, including the next-gen Zoom H4n, or H6. And if wireless transmitters have the ability to record internally as well, adding 32-bit would be awesome. We're looking at you Deity, Zaxcom, and Audio Limited. 

More affordable high-end drones 

Consumer products aimed at the mass market always refresh more often than professional tools. That is a given. After all, the Alexa LF is still basically the same ALEV-III as the original Alexa from a decade ago. But tech that sits in that sweet spot between consumer and professional still needs a refresh from time to time, and we're hoping to see that from drone makers like DJI in 2021. 

After coming out with a very thorough and excellent refresh on the Ronin S and SC gimbals this year, it's clear that DJI still focuses on the mid-level market. Despite that, most of their drone refreshes have been on items like the Mavic Air and the Mavic Mini. We haven't had an update to the Mavic Pro lineup since 2018, which is forever in this particular universe. The Inspire 2 launched way back in 2017 and is showing up as out of stock with some vendors, so maybe we'll see an Inspire 3 sometime next year.

There isn't much competition in the space. We're patiently waiting to see what Sony will offer under its Airpeak banner. And we're hoping the Skydio team improves its drones with more functionality towards capturing cinematic video. Hopefully, all that goes down in 2021. 

BMPCC6K Pros and cons
Blackmagic 12K Pocket

This one is such a no-brainer it wouldn't be worth mentioning if we didn't also want to talk about lens mount options. Blackmagic has always been incredibly generous with getting their newest sensors into the pocket format. In fact, the URSA Mini lineup was limited to 4.6K while the Pocket went to 6K. Thus we think it's very likely we'll see a 12K in the future. You may have to deal with the battery issues and less frame rate options, but you'll be able to shoot really amazing stuff.

Another thing we're hoping is for Blackmagic to move from EF mount to RF mount. That might take some effort on the development side to reverse-engineer the communication for autofocus, but RF is where Canon will be headed for its Cinema EOS line. It would be good for Blackmagic to meet them there.  

10Gb Ethernet as a default

10Gb ethernet is 10 times faster than the standard 1Gb ethernet that is the current default. Indie post houses and production companies use this affordable network solution to move media around when they can't, or don't want to, invest in fiber networks. For a second it felt like 10Gb ethernet was about to take over, with iMacs, Mac Pros, and Mac Minis starting to support it with an optional upgrade. 

Then the Apple Silicon Mini came out, and you can't get a 10Gb ethernet connector natively. It's only 1GB, for now. While we find Apple Silicon impressive, this is a huge step backward. We wanted to see a 10Gb as not just an option, but the default going forward. 10Gb ethernet doesn't matter to most people, but man, does it make lives easier for filmmakers, especially if more people will be working from home.

There are reports online that there is a 1Ggb motherboard for the Mac Mini coming, but it's very disappointing not to see it now, and that it's not become the default yet.

Apple Silicon eGPU

While we're on the subject of Apple Silicon, we hope for a new eGPU sometime in the coming year. Intel-based eGPUs don't work with Apple Silicon, which, considering how different the technology is, makes sense. Apple Silicon shares the memory between the GPU and the CPU for unified memory, while Intel systems do not. This makes it unlikely that an Intel-based eGPU would work efficiently with the newer designs.

This is why it's vital that Blackmagic or someone else work with Apple to release a fully integrated and supported eGPU for the new Apple Silicon systems. While we were truly impressed with how well Apple Silicon works, camera resolutions aren't going to stop going up. We're at 12K now and we want the option of bringing on more horsepower when we need it.

RGB replacement fluorescent tubes

This last one is a dream, but if we can't dream big, then why dream at all? We want an RGB LED tube that you can plug into a traditional, ballast-type fluorescent socket. 

There have been consumer RGB LED bulbs designed for twist-type lamps for years now from companies like LIFX and Philips Hue, with Philips Hue even showing up on some film shoots. Companies are dipping their toe into the platform as well. But these just whet our appetite for what would be really useful, which is bi-axial tube light replacements for fluorescent units.

Think about it. Walk into a grocery store or office space, see the overhead fluorescents, and know you can just rent a bunch of perfect LED bulbs to rebulb the ceiling with and do whatever you want. Give us DMX control and app control, and you can basically paint with light for the scene. We are aware that it's complicated to make units that work with a fluorescent ballast. Most recommend removing the ballast when putting in LED tubes, but there are people who have made these units with standard LEDs. We are looking at you Aputure, Kino Flo, Quasar, and Hive. Or anyone really. Give us full RGB tube light units we can plug into any waiting fluorescent fixture. Somebody has to do this someday.

What are your hopes in tech for 2021? Tell us in the comments below.      

Still feeling nostalgic about 2020? Then check out the rest of our Year in Review 2020 coverage for more of our top picks, industry trends, and end-of-year takes.

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