Tag Archives: Gear

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NAB Day 3: Recap

And that’s a wrap. Fox Frame’s first trip to NAB is over and we’re headed back to Indiana to finish shooting One Day in April (well theoretically at least). I think the biggest take away from this week is that while the industry might be pushing 4K or RAW, the average shooter is still focused on HD. I saw more FS100s, C100s, and DSLRs on the floor, than I did 4K or RAW shooting cameras. Sure, those cameras are more expensive, they’re newer, but nobody uses RAW for web or needs 4K for interviews. To me, that explains why a product like the Atomos Ninja is so popular and why it’s not really time for the every day shooter to worry about RAW or 4K. The average videographer isn’t shooting high-end commercials or feature films. We’re making our living shooting web docs, interview pieces, and smaller commercials for local business. The Atomos products give real value right now. Your C100? Broadcast approved. That’s the whole selling point of the C300 and it’s 3x the price of the C100 with a Ninja.

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Right now I think, and this is definitely true of Fox Frame, we don’t want to spend a ton of money to be bleeding edge or future proof. We want products that work with our existing products and workflow that help us generate more revenue. Broadcast approved codecs do that. RAW and 4K may give you more flexibility to finish, but nobody has time for that. Do your clients want to pay you an extra day rate for a nearly imperceptible difference in quality?

Not to turn this into a business school seminar, but as a small business you want to have the shortest amount of time from sending your invoice off to cashing your check. The best retail companies in the world have spent millions of dollars and countless man-hours figuring out how to only have as much product on hand as they need to sell immediately. The longer you hold on to a product the less new revenue you’re bringing in and the longer its taking you to get the cash you’ve already invoiced. Not only from a profit stand point, but also from a cash flow stand point, spending more time on the edit than is really necessary is hurting your spending power. That nonprofit gig that you shot on RAW with a BMCC when a C100 with a Ninja would have been fine? Not only is quality difference going to be lost in translation, your slowing yourself down and hurting your bottom line.

Obviously, people were excited about the new A7s and the Black Magic Ursa, but the majority of products were all about improving the workflows we’re already using. Rigs, sliders, jibs, wireless transmitters, gimbals (soooooo many gimbals), all of these tools that used to be reserved for Hollywood are dropping in price and opening up a ton of production value for users on a budget. Some of this stuff isn’t super innovative, but I do think that the trend toward giving more people the tools to make really good looking stuff is a good one.

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A few companies really stood out to me: Defy, Pivothead, Novacut, Atomos, and Teradek. I really think Defy have positioned themselves in a good spot. They’re products are very affordable, well made, and they have a great corporate culture that seems to really connect with smaller productions. I got to chat with Drew from Defy and you can really tell just how jazzed they are about building this gimbals. The other huge factor here is that Movi’s are too expensive. 5,000 dollars to hold 5 pounds is crazy. I’m sure it’s a great product. I’m sure it’s well made, but I’m going to buy a Defy because I can get a very similar product, fully spec’d with a bunch of additional kit (that joy stick deal is sweet) for well under 5 grand. The G5 is 3800 base. The lower weight unit, which I maybe find more appealing because I only lift 3 times a week, is even less. There are a number of gimbal companies out right now; most of them will fail but a few will survive and I think Defy is going to be the brand regular shooters trust. The price point is right and their doing a great job of responding to customer feature requests. But this NAB really showed the explosion of gimbal companies, so the culling is probably a few years off. I’d keep that in mind before I bought a gimbal – some of these companies aren’t going to be servicing products or responding to customer service requests in the same way. Speaking of bad customer service, DJI just got into the gimbal game. We waited at their booth to try out the Ronin and after the guy we talked to about using it looked us in the face, nodded “yes”, and then 5 minutes later proceeded to hand off the only display model to another dude right in front of us, we bailed. That pretty much sums all of my interactions with DJI customer service with my Phantom as well.

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I mentioned Pivothead earlier, they make glasses that shoot HD video. They have a great form factor and while the initial models only supported 30p, they’re rolling out a new version that’s got 24p and some cool wireless features. The action camera space now is where gimbals are going to be in 2 years. GoPro has pretty much eradicated all of their competition. They only new action cams I saw came from companies like Sony, JVC, and Panasonic. All the smaller companies? Totally gone.

I think Pivothead can compete. The glasses form factor is a big deal. I know for One Day in April, Pivtothead glasses can go places GoPro’s simply cant. No rider will let us weigh down their bike or screw up their aerodynamics with a GoPro, but they all wear sunglasses. It’s like their not wearing anything. That’s a feature GoPro can’t compete against with their current form factor and I think there’s a spot for a company like Pivothead to fill. They need some stronger marketing, but as long as GoPro doesn’t launch a set of glasses I think Pivothead is a company to keep your eyes on.

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It’s not gear, but I found the Novacut software to be a really interesting concept. The reps were super eager to chat and very upfront about the software. It’s not a fully featured NLE, but it will allow teams of folks all around the world to work on assembly cuts. I can’t imagine using this for quick turn around projects, but for something like One Day in April, where we had hundreds of hours of footage to cut into something through a process of whittling down selects a collaborative assembly editing process would have been a total God send. We haven’t tried it yet, but I’m eagerly looking for a project to try it out on.

As for the announcements, I’m cautiously interested in the Ursa. Not into C Fast, but so far, it’s the Black Magic camera that appeals to me the most. And honestly, I hate that they’ve had such a struggle with shipping but I love that they’re out there pushing the ball forward on the specs. You don’t need them, but somebody needs to force Canon to actually try. I was pretty underwhelmed by the XF200 announcement, but after playing with one (they are sooooo small for what they offer) it’s actually on my list for my next doc. Form factors great and I’m sure it would make an excellent pair for the C100. As of late I’ve been underwelhemed by Canon’s announcements, but there’s really no denying that they make great products. Over priced and under spec’d, but great at what they do.

This wasn’t a game changer year and for most of us the really bleeding edge stuff isn’t necessary yet. I think the best stuff to investigate is the products that are going to really improve your production value and your HD work flow.

We had blast hanging out with our brothers in Hardpin and they’re going to be rolling out the video interviews we collaborated on over the next few weeks. We had great chats with the folks at Atomos, Teradek, Black Magic, Pelican, Defy and a few others.

So now when do we start speculating about the C200 again?

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NAB Day One: Will it ship and other pressing questions.

Continuing on Sony’s strategy of announcing products before NAB even starts, last night saw the announcement of the DJI Ronin, the Atomos Shogun, the AJA CION, and another Black Magic Camera that will ship sometime in 2016. I honestly have no idea why Black Magic announced another camera. Just like a lot of folks, I was totally blown away when Black Magic announced the Cinema Camera two years ago. It had crazy specs for it’s price and more importantly marked the start of companies that don’t make cameras buying off the shelf products and cobbling together their own camera. Everybody knows it never shipped in volume – they had cut the price before the preorder list was even filled. When they announced the Production camera and the Pocket Camera, it seemed like BMD was doubling down and really trying to get a foothold in the production market. The Production Camera still hasn’t shipped in volume and by the time both the Pocket Camera and the Cinema Camera, BMD had earned itself a reputation of announcing products it couldn’t deliver. So, I find it hard to believe anybody really expects to pick up one of these Studio cameras in the next six months.

As much as I love the disruptive nature of a company like Black Magic entering the camera market and offering the full potential of their sensors their including in their cameras at a lower price point, the reality is a company like BMD and their suppliers don’t have the infrastructure or corporate experience to ship these things in bulk. Both the Cinema Camera and the Production Camera have been plagued with manufacturing issues. Companies like Canon don’t have that problem because they’ve figured out their supply chain management. They sell millions of Rebels every year and that means when they announce a camera it’s going to ship because they’re not also figuring out to mass produce at the same time their designing it.

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This brings me to the AJA CION. Specs wise it looks great. Form factor looks right. I’m interested, but honestly I’m skeptical that’ll be able to ship in large numbers for exactly the same reasons Black Magic hasn’t been able to. It’s great more companies are getting into the camera game, Canon needs to be prodded into innovation, but I wish they’d include their manufacturing plan in addition the specs when they announce these cameras because it’s one thing to make 15 cameras custom order and something entirely different to ship thousands in bulk with high quality control.

These announcements can be exciting, especially to give consumers insight to what is technologically possible for a camera. But, they’re just words on a page. They’re not a shipped product and before you get super pumped about shooting everything with a camera that’s just been announced it’s probably wise to consider the cameras manufacturing history and ask yourself: will this ship?

Just as I’m finishing up this post Black Magic has announced the Black Magic Ursa, an obvious replacement to the Production Camera – a camera that still hasn’t shipped.