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Notes From NAB

by alexis

Another year's pilgrimage to NAB, in Vegas...

Well this year’s NAB is shaping up to be a doozy. Having spent the day chatting with representatives from various vendors of color correction software, color critical broadcast monitors, and accelerated storage systems, all of which I take a professional interest in, I thought I’d share some end of day thoughts.

Of course, the biggest news is Blackmagic/Davinci’s announcement of a $995 Mac OS X compatible, software-only license of their flagship color correction application, Resolve. Spending $30K gets you the overwhelmingly designed control surfaces (USB connected, by the way), while $50K gets you the control surface and a Linux license (and then you need to buy the appropriate CPU/multi-GPU configuration to run it).

A terrible picture of a terrific color correction system, Resolve for Mac OS X

Interestingly, on Mac OS X, you’ll end up installing two NVidia GPUs into your Mac Pro, one in the default slot that’s used to run the UI, and a second one to do the image processing. Coupled with an additional Blackmagic card for video I/O (they say they’ll introduce compatibility with other video I/O interfaces eventually), and another I/O card for whatever flavor of accelerated storage you’ll be wanting to use, you’ll have one full Mac Pro workstation. From what I saw on the showroom floor, you can do quite a bit with this configuration.

While they were at it, Davinci has refined the user interface of the new version to make it a cleaner, sharper, darker experience. Overall, it appears to be a powerful and efficiently designed product. Davinci has long been one of the top names in color correction systems, and having the Resolve software available on OS X is a big deal, never mind the exceptionally affordable price point. I look forward to having this tool in my suite.

Of course, there’s plenty of other news. Iridas is showing an update of their color correction software Speedgrade (for which there’s also an OS X version), which expands upon an already impressive array of native format compatibility.  Speedgrade has a lean, efficient interface with a useful and unique take on some common operations, and a really interesting field-to-post suite LUT-based workflow that’s very cinematographer-friendly. I’d like to get to know this product better.

I also checked out Discreet’s Autodesk’s color grading software, Lustre. From a distance, I’ve always been a bit put off by Lustre’s dense user interface, but watching the demo artist in action, and especially seeing some of the new shot sorting and grade management features they’ve put into the application for their new release, I was impressed. They’ve also put quite some thought into the stereo grading workflow, which I’m seeing is fraught with all kinds of pitfalls for colorists (left and right cameras not matching and with a lens flare in one eye but not the other, jeez!). Sure would be nice if they took a page from their Smoke playbook and brought Lustre to the Mac, but that’s just me thinking aloud.

At colleague and friend Robbie Carman’s suggestion, I also went to see the Flanders Scientific monitors. Having heard about these for years, this was my first view of them. Although the show floor is the worst possible place to evaluate a monitor, what with all the ambient glare killing the contrast, I was impressed at the gamut handling, the wide viewing angle, the visibility of full-range image data (super-white and super-chroma), and the properly presented interlace handling (there’s still plenty of 1080i programming being produced, it’s not all progressive frame yet). Coupled with true 10-bit processing and display, HD-SDI and 3G, and full-blown 3D LUT calibration, this is a righteously proper broadcast monitor for a mere $10K.

On the other hand, I finally had a look (after two years of wanting to see one) at HP’s Dreamcolor monitor. Again, it’s hard to judge fairly in the environment, but I liked what I saw, and at a mere $2K, it’s a nice solution for the right suite, and certainly priced to move. Not, however, necessarily a good solution if you’re needing to work with interlaced material for broadcast (the Dreamcolor engine can’t deinterlace and calibrate, so you need to feed the monitor a deinterlaced signal). Again, if all you do is progressive, then this is not a problem–it depends on the work you do.

I saw lots of other things (my Twitter feed has many more ramblings, if you’re into that sort of thing), but I’ll end with my one extravagant, yet unobtainable wish–the Konica Minolta CS-2000.

If only I had a spare $24K lying around...

It’s a spectroradiometer of extreme accuracy and low-light sensitivity. In my color correction writings I often like to spin off onto tangents of comparative research, and I wish I had a tool like this to go crazy with measuring real-world color phenomena.

And this was only the first day. Much more to see tomorrow, I hope to connect with Filmlight and Assimilate to see what they’re up to in their new releases. Oh, and I’ll be interviewed briefly on Larry Jordan’s Digital Production Buzz at 4:05. Whew!

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Mike Jennings April 28, 2010 - 4:29 am

Hey Alexis, wish I’d bumped into you there.

A couple tidbits: TVLogic was showing small OLED-based broadcast monitors ($6K), 15-inch I think. It was stupefying. The color is all at the surface, so viewing angle is not an issue, and the detail visible in the shadows weakened my knees. LG expects to release a 30″ OLED by 2012, and expects that OLED pricing will drop below LED by 2016.

TVLogic was also showing a dedicated color correction monitor that was basically a DreamColor in a broadcast monitor formfactor for like 3x the price.

Did you happen to catch the Eizo display with the calibrator built into the bezel? It can run on a schedule, no PC required. Looked really promising.

I’ve been shopping spectroradiometers, too, and the cheapest I’ve found one is under $5K, a b-stock model (usually $9K) from shopfsi.com. I can dream. But I’m also hearing that an X-Rite Eye-One (i1) can be used as a spectroradiometer because of its diffraction grating. You can find them new for under $1000 if you buy it from CurtPalme.com I think I’ll start there.

Vanhurkman May 17, 2010 - 11:04 am

Hey Mike!

Sorry to have missed you! Maybe next year… Yeah, I saw the TVLogic OLED displays, very cool but so small and expensive. I’m also curious about the panel life, I understand the blue OLEDs aren’t lasting very long, but that improvements are ongoing. OLED is a great technology, but it seems that it’ll take a while to mature.

I didn’t spot the Eizo, built-in calibration sounds convenient.

I’ve got an Eye-one for plane jane calibration of my CPU displays at home. I hear the tech is great for the price. Unfortunately it’s not as portable as I’d like for doing nutty “wander around town measuring stuff” experiments, which is my fantasy. Actually, my real fantasy is to pull measurements of subject color ideals off of painted artwork at various galleries, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish!


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