The 2013 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show was so very busy that only now has the dust settled enough for me to write anything. Unfortunately, I hadn’t the time to visit everyone I wanted to, but between the madness I did manage to catch up with a few of the companies who make products that interest me. While there were some major announcements that grabbed a lot of attention, here are some of the smaller pieces that you may not have noticed.
One of the reasons the show was so hectic for me this year was that it came just as the short film I’ve been directing has been winding its way through post. Just before leaving for Vegas, I posted a two-minute teaser online to have something to show off while the overall 12 minutes is finished. The inestimable Brian Mulligan, who’s been contributing compositing to my film (he’s responsible for the dimensional doorway effect) was at the Autodesk booth showing how he created this and several other effects using Smoke 2013 on the Mac.
While Autodesk wasn’t showing anything brand spanking new just yet, a “technology collaboration” was announced between Autodesk and Blackmagic Design that should eventually be great news for folks using products from both of these companies. There’s plenty of synergy I’d like to see; time will tell.
Speaking of Blackmagic, the upcoming DaVinci Resolve 10 was the other reason I was so busy. They piled in so many new feature announcements that I couldn’t even cover them all in the 25 minute Supermeet 2013 presentation I gave.
The video shows most of the headline features including a continued focus on application interoperability, online-oriented editing features such as timeline audio tracks, 3-point editing, and a unified trim tool; text generators; integrated optical-flow processing of slow motion speed effects; a completely revamped windowing interface with bezier drawing, unlimited window support within one node, a new gradient window, and window naming; all-new tools for splitting color channels in different color spaces for individual adjustment; and support for OpenFX plugins allowing Resolve’s capabilities to be expanded with whatever compatible plugins you want to use.
All of this just scratches the surface, however, and I’ll be demonstrating even more announced features at various events in the coming months (starting with an appearance at the BOSCPUG on May 29th). I’ll be demonstrating the new live on-set grading tools, more online editing features, the new optical-flow based noise reduction and motion blur features, and more.
Speaking of OpenFX plugins, GenArts announced version seven of their enviable Sapphire plugin collection. Anyone doing serious work in postproduction has either used or wanted to use these plugins, which in addition to compatibility with every major plugin format in use, is also available in the OpenFX format, meaning Resolve 10 users will have access to the phenomenal optical glows, lens flares, and video/film damage effects that you know and love.
In version 7, GenArts has added a new Beauty plugin for fast, targeted edge aware skin-tone smoothing, a new general purpose Edge Aware Blur for blurring low-detail portions of an image while retaining edge detail, and an update to their glow filters which allow for the addition of animated atmospheric noise as part of the effect (providing an illusion of volume). In addition, they’ve improved their Lens Flare engine, undertaking a project to shoot real flares through a wide variety of popular and vintage lenses, and rebuilding their flare elements library from terabytes of these scanned source images.
This year, I happened by the Eizo monitors stand, and noticed that they have a pair of LCD-based displays they’re hoping will appeal to the video postproduction crowd. The Eizo CG246 (a 24-inch LED edge-lit display) and CG276 (a 27-inch CCFL-backlit display) both feature DVI-D, 10-bit DisplayPort, and 10-bit HDMI inputs for convenient Rec.709 monitoring.
An additional feature of these monitors is a built-in Konica-Minolta colorimeter that pops up from the bottom bezel, and takes color measurements via built-in calibration software that can be invoked manually, or scheduled for routine automatic calibration.
After the calibration routine has been completed, a convenient window can be summoned that shows how the calibrated result lines up with the designated target brightness, white point, and gamut, all built right into the display via its internal menus.
In terms of gamut, I’m told they boast 100% of Rec. 709 and sRGB, 97% of Adobe RGB, and 92% of DCI P3, all of which are reasonable given their respective price points of $2400 (CG246) and $2700 (CG276). I’m told the black levels of these displays is respectable, although it was impossible to tell in the predictably wretched viewing conditions on the floor. There are trade-offs, though, as there are no built-in HD-SDI inputs available for more conventional facility installations. I’ve heard that Eizo has a great reputation among photographers, and I’d venture to say these look like excellent displays if you’re an editor or compositor, or if you primarily do grading for web video, with a bit of work for video output here and there.
One last note, in keeping with the general theme of 4K throughout the show floor, Eizo was showing a 4K prototype that’s being adapted from one of their high-resolution air traffic control displays (Eizo also makes displays for a variety of other niche markets), so one might hope that they could eventually come up with an affordable 4K display solution.
Speaking of display technology, Flanders Scientific came out with two sets of new displays. The color critical CM series consists of the 17-inch CM171 ($3,295), the 24-inch CM240 ($4,995), and the 32-inch CM320TD ($5,495). The CM series have 10-bit panels that display native 1920×1080 video. Of these, the two that are probably of interest to the colorist due to their size are the CM320TD, and the CM240.
A 32-inch display is a reasonable size for a display with good off-axis viewing, in a medium-sized color grading suite, in which you’ll be working supervised with clients sitting behind you. Thus, it’s tempting to think that, at a mere $500 premium over the 24-inch CM240, the CM320TD is an easy choice. However, be aware that there are key differences between these two displays that you may or may not find important.
- The CM320TD is capable of passive stereoscopic 3D, has a glossy screen, and a higher 1,600:1 contrast ratio. Its panel is native 10-bit. It’s also an LED edge-lit display, for which no warm-up period is necessary for critical viewing. However, this results in a narrower gamut then the CM240; the CM320 displays 100% of Rec.709, but it covers a smaller portion of DCI P3 then its 24-inch counterpart.
- The CM240 is not stereo capable, it has a matte screen, and a 1,100:1 contrast ratio. It uses FRC to achieve 10-bit performance, which you’d likely never notice. Using CCFL fluorescent backlighting, its native gamut is wider then that of the CM320TD, covering approximately 97% of the DCI P3 colorspace, however CCFL needs a warm up period of approximately 30 minutes to fully stabilize.
Other then the size, if you care about glossy versus matte, or stereoscopic 3D-capable versus not, then you’ll have a decision to make. If you care about the difference in P3 gamut, that’s fair, but be aware that both monitors are capable of being switched to the DCI-P3 standard using the proper color transform, white point, and gamma setting with which to get a preview of how this transformation will affect your image.
Flanders also announced the new BM series of lower cost, LED edge-lit, 8-bit displays. The BM210 is a 21.5-inch model ($2,495), while the BM230 is a 23-inch model ($2,995). While not being marketed as color-critical displays, and having a lower 1,000:1 contrast ratio, these are nonetheless great-looking displays covering 100% of Rec.709, and will be right at home in any video village or editing suite.
It’s also worth mentioning that both the CM series and the BM series feature Flanders’ CFE2 Color Fidelity Engine, which allows for the use of two 64-sided LUTs, one for calibration, and a second one for applying “looks” in the field. CFE2 is also compatible with LUTs generated by LightSpace CMS, and in fact Flanders and Light Illusion have announced “LightSpace for FSI Monitors,” which is a lower-priced ($2,500) version of LightSpace CMS specifically for use with FSI monitors for calibration and LUT generation, facilitating a wide variety of workflows. Probes Flanders recommend include the Minolta CA-310 and the Klein K10-A (more on that later).
Incidentally, I did an interview with Larry Jordan on Digital Production BuZZ in which I erroneously mentioned the existence of HDMI input on the Flanders displays. Afterwards, I went back and chatted with Bram Desmet at Flanders as I couldn’t believe I had gotten that wrong. It turns out that, while there is not in fact an actual HDMI connector on these displays, their DVI connector is pin-compatible with HDMI.
This means you can connect, for example, the micro HDMI output of the upcoming Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera to any of the Flanders displays via a simple adaptor. And I mention the Blackmagic Design camera for a reason—Flanders Scientific also added BMD-Log “standard” and “full” monitoring modes, so you can monitor a normalized image even while shooting using the film log setting of this family of cameras. This is in addition to the C-Log and S-Log modes the monitors already support. In conjunction with built-in video scopes and the new ability to display two separate video signals side by side via two simultaneously connected inputs, these are incredibly flexible displays for field use.
And by the way, that Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is ridiculous; I can’t wait to get my hands on one. A super-16 mm sized sensor shooting 1920 x 1080 video with a micro four-thirds lens mount on a pocketable body recording compressed CinemaDNG raw media to affordable SD cards for $995? Unbelievable.
After learning of LightSpace and Klein compatibility, I had to pay them a visit, too. The Klein K10-A is an improvement to the original Klein K10 colorimeter, which they’ve been kind enough to provide me for classes I’ve done on monitor calibration. The K10-A has been out for some time, but I finally got the chance to ask Klein president Luhr Jensen just what’s better about it. The K10-A boasts a three-times improvement in lowlight sensitivity over the previous model, and a longer focal length that’s also appropriate for cinema applications where you’re measuring the screen. Like its predecessor, the K10-A is appropriate for measuring CCFL and LED backlit LCD, CRT, Plasma, DLP Projector, and OLED, so it’s an extremely versatile instrument.
LightSpace, from Light Illusion, wasn’t announcing anything specifically at NAB (they’ve been announcing new features all year), but after some prodding Light Illusion principal Steve Shaw did mention a just-released improvement for identifying probe-induced errors, specifically for darker readings that can be problematic even for high-end equipment. LightSpace is able to use statistical analysis to identify spurious out-of-trend data and average it out of the final result.
This isn’t just limited to the RGB curves (shown above) and Hue vs. Hue, Hue vs. sat, Hue vs. Luma curves often seen in other grading applications. Mistika also includes Luma vs. Luma, Sat vs. Sat, and Luma vs. Sat curves. Those of you looking for a professional grading environment that has a “Vibrance” control, appropriate use of the Sat vs. Sat curve opens the door to all that and more.
Another thing Mistika was showing off was an extensive suite of tools for improving qualified keys. As you can see below, shrink, grow, gaussian blur, de-speckle, fill-holes, and median blur filters can be applied to refine your qualified key. Additionally, qualifiers can now be combined using blend modes. But that’s not all…
Taking this one step farther, Mistika provides the ability to adjust the lift and gain of the qualified key, as well as a “Key Curve” that lets you adjust the contrast of your key in fantastically specific ways. This is a terrific level of control more typically seen in a compositing application.
Mistika 7 also adds an interface for assigning individual settings to multiple simultaneous outputs, in order to apply different transforms, LUTs, or other effects to each individual output. For example, this lets you apply a transform and LUT to 709 output sent to a conventional HD display, while also applying a separate LUT or other adjustment to XYZ output being sent to a 2K projector. The UI has room for nine different output definitions, which can be used for monitoring and also for rendered output if you’re creating multiple masters.
Additionally supporting XML import, integrated DCP Creation, and ACES, this is a good update for Mistika-using colorists.
Last, but certainly not least, FilmLight had some great announcements, starting with the sexy new Slate control surface. At $12,000, this is a more affordable Baselight-specific control surface then the Blackboard range, and looks like it pairs well with their more affordably priced Baselight ONE (dropped to $46,000 without external storage). With its compact size, it’s a good fit for smaller suites and on-location work, and connects via either Ethernet or USB.
Like its big brother the Blackboard 2, the Slate has remappable buttons (66 of them) with names and icons that change as you change modes. Along with 12 rotary encoders, and sets of six remappable buttons above each of the three trackball/ring controls, this is a serious control surface with great feel and solid build quality.
It’s worth noting that, if the Slate is too rich for your blood, the Baselight One (and Baselight editions NLE plugins) are compatible with the Tangent Element, Wave, and Avid Artist Color panels.
Getting back to the Baselight, FilmLight is clearly interested in making the Baselight ONE a more affordable and attractive option for smaller facilities. The diskless version of the workstation comes in a 4U tower that’s been engineered for quiet, for installations lacking a machine room. With an internal 2TB SSD drive cache, it’s meant to connect to an external SAN or NAS of your choice (although Filmlight’s FLUXStore is always an option) via fibre-channel or 10Gig-E. Filmlight old-schoolers can still get a rack mounted Baselight One with a built-in 28TB or 56TB RAID, but the rackmount and tower versions have identical performance, so it’s purely a matter of form factor convenience.
Baselight also sees some nice improvements targeted at the experienced colorist. For example, a new Result Blending control lets you mix back to the original image, or any other specific layer, at any point in your grade. This also works in conjunction with each layer’s blend mode and source control.
A related feature lets you layer any image into your grade. For example, you can use this feature to add texture to your grade using a film-scan of grain. As an open-ended control, there are all manner of things you could use this tool for.
FilmLight has put some effort into streamlining stereoscopic 3D workflows, as well. Stereo clips now appear within a single timeline, rather then requiring you to manage two separate timelines. A new color-matching algorithm does per-pixel color matching across the entire frame, simplifying the hassles of matching both eyes before getting into your real grading. Geometry matching can now be accomplished using track points to account for situations where you need to deal with a moving shot with a flexing rig. On top of all that, automatic stereo correspondence handling has been added for shapes that you’re using for secondary work.
The FilmLight FLIP portable on-set grading workstation has been updated to be thinner, and now has the capability of communicating with compatible cameras via WiFi to, for example, copy metadata from the FLIP to the Arri Alexa, to be written along with the rest of the recorded data. This is all part of their “FilmLight at every stage” initiative, using the BLG (BaseLight Grade) format to copy grade metadata from set, through editorial and compositing (using Baselight Editions plugins), and finally through to be available for finishing inside of one of the Baselight grading workstations.
There were plenty of other announcements from Avid (new Media Composer features), Sony (updated OLED studio displays with wider viewing angles), Assimilate (demoing Scratch 8), and much more, all of which I sadly missed. But that’s okay, it’ll just give me more to see at IBC in a few months.