IBC 2015 Highlights

Visiting the city of Amsterdam and attending the largest broadcast and film-related trade show in Europe somehow became for me my personal New Year. The fact that it coincides with the end of the holidays certainly helps in this regard.

This year’s IBC seemed a bit smaller than the previous ones. Some of the vendors were absent from the show floor, others were only present in their partners’ booths. One of the more noticeable high-end changes was the rebranding of Quantel, which acquired Snell in March last year. It changed the name to Snell Advanced Media, and instead of an opulent red-black booth featuring latest updates to their finishing and colour grading software, there was a much less noticeable white one, where Pablo was quite hard to find, and most of the space was dedicated to Snell streaming and broadcast solutions. A sign of times for the big players?

Hardware

My first stop was the Tangent booth, where I was able to handle the anticipated Ripple panel prototype. I saw early 3D printed models on this year’s NAB, and I immediately fell in love with them, especially after learning, that the expected price is going to be no higher than $400, most likely around $350. It’s a compact, casual grading panel with just three balls, three separate wheels, two reset buttons for each set, and two function keys, which theoretically can change the function of the wheels and buttons – if only the application supports Tangent’s own Mapper. At this price point it is a must-have for every editor out there. It is estimated to be available early next year, and it will be immediately supported by any program that works with Tangent Elements, because Ripple mimics the Tk panel from that set. Can you ask for more than that? Well, you can. You can hope that all major NLE vendors will support it as well, as soon as possible.

The grading surface that I've been waiting for since 2011.

The grading surface that I’ve been waiting for since 2011.

This year, for an unspecified reason, I was interested in new cameras. Even though at the moment I don’t have any particular plans to obtain one, I decided to go hands on with the new releases. The first interesting candidate was Panasonic AG-DVX200, a successor of the HVX-200, a great hit in its time. This 4k camera with micro four-thirds sensor, a fixed 13x Leica lens and image stabilisation would have been a great option for a company I used to work for, if they ever decided to upgrade from their Sony EX-1Rs. The form factor is very similar, and it handles very well – I’d even go as far as to say that it resembles EX-1R more than any other current Sony camera. Even though the side grip is fixed, it felt very familiar and comfortable. The lens rings were sturdy and easy to use. The fixed lens most certainly helps to optimise the camera capabilities, and from the brief handling, it has a nice depth of field and bokeh, should you need it. The camera can record true DCI 4k at 24 fps, as well as UHD. At Full HD the frame rate can go as high as 120 fps, and 4:2:2 10-bit log internal recording is standard these days, necessary to encode all 12 stops of dynamic range supplied by the sensor. On the downside, the size and weight really feels like something from the early 2000s, and makes the design a bit dated, and perhaps even clunky to some, and the viewfinder seemed for me pretty low resolution. That said, it’s really the most interesting ENG camera that caught my eye with great cinematic potential at a very decent price – about $4200.

An interesting 4k ENG camera from Panasonic.

An interesting 4k ENG camera from Panasonic.

Canon showcased C300 Mark II, which was a welcome update, but at $15,000 I don’t think it’s going to be a huge success. The new recording options are making up for the limitations of the original C300, and the images which I have seen so far are very nice, but I do not expect it to become the 5D of 4k cinema cameras. Why? Because newly released Sony PXW-FS5 does almost everything that C300 Mark II does, only better, and for less than half the price.

Sony PXW-FS5 is an extremely light (830 g), tiny, super 35mm camera with E-mount exchangeable lenses, and seems to be to C300 what A7 was to Canon 5D. It’s more compact, feels better in hands, and has a few more advanced options, like variable electronic ND filter and super slow motion capabilities which it inherited from FS700. The placement of the second XLR input is perhaps unconventional, but I have no way of telling if it will in any way interfere with the actual use.

My new personal favourite - Sony PXW-FS5. Very compact, great ergonomics, a true masterpiece.

My new personal favourite – Sony PXW-FS5. Very compact, great ergonomics, a true masterpiece.

The 18-105 mm kit lens felt great with the body, and the zoom control was right underneath my left thumb, just asking to be used. I am no DP, so I can’t really assess the quality of the lens, but with constant f/4 throughout the whole range, it seems like a great versatile piece that you can of course exchange for something better, should you need it.

Some might argue that BlackMagic Ursa Mini is still half the price, and very similar when it comes to features. I won’t disagree, I have not handled the Mini, I only know that it is larger, and only records in ProRes or cDNG, which means that you need quite a lot of disk space to record longer takes, and that you have to outfit it with viewfinder, LCD and other accessories, that Sony already has. It might be what you want, and on NAB I would totally say – go for it. But for some reason, the new Sony really struck a chord in my heart, and Ursa Mini dropped a few places down in my personal ranking.

The only true limitation that I found was that 4k internal recording was only 4:2:0, and the resolution is UHD, not true 4k. Sony promises Raw output firmware update at some later time, which means that you will be able to attach an external recorder – say newly released Atomos Ninja Assassin or Samurai – to get the 4:2:2 chroma and 10-bit colour. That said, I did not get to see any images from the camera myself, and I am going to wait for an informed opinion from my fellow colourist friends. As usual, the real world will verify marketing claims.

In the end, Sony PXW-FS5 seems like a great camera, capturing the essence of the 2010s in its form, capabilities, and price. If not for the blazingly fast changing landscape, I’d say it has the greatest potential become the true 5D of this decade – if perhaps coming a bit late to the party. But it looks future proof enough, to warrant the expense. And when even Canon delegation comes to Sony booth and openly says that they admire what Sony has done, you know that something is afoot.

Software

Speaking of BlackMagic, I visited their booth to ask for the future plans for Fusion, which has recently been released as public beta on OS X. I learnt that some 3D camera tracking capabilities should be incoming, as well as the support for Deep Compositing and OpenEXR version 2.0. If you know, what it is, you probably rejoice. If you don’t, then you most likely not need it. But me – I’m happy. It means, that finally Nuke will have a decent competitor, and most compositing will very likely move from After Effects to the software, which is more suited to it. By the way, if you want to start learning Fusion, Alan E. Bell, editor of the Hunger Games, has a few great lessons on his blog.

About Resolve 12 almost everything has already been said, so let me only add that it received the Best Post Production Solution award this year. Congratulations.

Guys from iZotope were showcasing a new version of RX Advanced, their audio waveform editor. I was totally enamoured by the new DePlosive module. I remember editing a podcast, where I spent a lot of time painstakingly removing the plosive sounds by painting them out in Audition. With DePlosive, the whole thing lasted about 30 seconds, and the results were much better than my manual manipulation. Simply amazing. When it comes to fixing sound, there simply is nothing else, but RX5.

I also spent some time in Maxon’s booth, watching a few demos of the new release of Cinema 4D, and I wish I had the R17 with its Take System when we were doing Hero Punk Trailer. It really simplifies the asset and scene creation, allowing for example for numerous cameras, which can then later be rendered simultaneously from a single file. New improvements to spline tools, sculpting and motion tracking are also great additions. And Variation Shaders – wow, what a power to easily add variation to your scene! I was definitely impressed.

Finally, Adobe showcased the changes coming to the Creative Cloud within the next few months. Personally the most expected feature for me is the Optical Flow time remapping in Premiere, for which we have waited perhaps 4 or 5 years, if not more. Audition has the great Remix feature which should help to seamlessly fit the music to your edit, and After Effects will now support Lumetri effect within the application. The most likely next move is going to be – finally – to support various colour spaces throughout the whole range of DVA applications. I don’t expect this to come before NAB 2016 though.

SpeedGrade will hopefully see some important bug fixes, but I stand by my previous assertion – within 2 years it will most likely be gone, and its functionality will be implemented in Premiere. The streamlined grading application became just a specialised grading interface for Premiere’s timeline, and as such, it might be too costly to even maintain, not mentioning actual development. Besides, Premiere is faster and better in many things already, including mask tracking, and overall performance.

Due to popular demand, it is now possible to install Adobe Anywhere without the expensive streaming hardware, only as the collaboration hub. The pricing is not yet known, but the general thinking seems to be that this Anywhere version starts to make sense once your group reaches 10 editors, with the sweet spot being about 15-19. Therefore it is still a bit of an enterprise solution, but slowly tickling down to us, mere freelancing mortals. At the same time, the development of the review application, which profited from the Streaming Engine, has mostly stopped, due to very limited uptake. Even though the initial voices were very enthusiastic, the actual usage proved to be very rare. Which somehow feels disappointing, because this was almost the first step towards editing on touch devices which do not have to be specced out. Maybe the world is not yet ready for it.

Adobe also hosted a few interesting demos. The tech presentations by always amazing Jason Levine were interspersed by even more inspirational ones, including Sian Fever’s advice to editors how to be successful while working in short form, and Walter Murch on editing in Premiere Pro CC. During both I took copious notes, as they thankfully focused more on the craft and general advice rather than just using this or other tool. That said, I congratulate Adobe for bringing Walter Murch, Coen brothers and Kirk Baxter to Premiere camp. It’s great to see the NLE, which I have the greatest affinity for, gaining some serious traction in the world of feature films.

On my final day, I spent some day in the Future Zone, looking at various solutions for VR content creation and delivery. Funny enough, I am being drawn into this subject somewhat against my will, but hearing people who are passionate about it, and who actually are working on the projects that use this technology, makes me more interested. VR tends to pop up in the places I would not expect at this stage – for example NLE plug-ins. But then, only future will tell if VR will go the way of 3D, or if it finds its own niche and place in the world of multimedia content.

Other events

Alongside IBC there was FCP X Summit taking place about 10 minutes from the convention centre, which I planned to attend for a brief while, but due to particularly long nights in Amsterdam in the end decided to skip. A few of my colleagues who were there said, that it was interesting, and perhaps next year I might work it into my own schedule, as FCP X continues to appear on my radar more and more.

Apart from the show floor, there were also numerous events and parties going on later in the day. I attended the Colorist Mixer, organised by Warren Eagles, and as usual, enjoyed the food and the company very much. Even though the colorists are usually solitary people, this event brought them together, and helped them to mingle among themselves, as well as people from such companies as Tangent, Flanders Scientific, Calman and SpectraCal.

No IBC would be complete without the Supermeet, organised by Michael Horton, Dan Berube and their team of volunteers. Many people came there just to hear Walter Murch speak again, and to take part in the world-famous raffle. This time the luck was not on my side, but the event was as funny as ever and as usual the breaks allowed for some interesting talks with old and new friends to happen, which might result in some interesting developments in the future.

Hopefully the IBC, despite the reduced vendor presence this year, is not going anywhere, especially since it became the integral part of my calendar. It’s a great time to see what the companies are up to, but more importantly, to talk to many friends that I have made during the years. And for this reason it is worthy to attend at least once. Yes, these days you can get all the information about the new releases on the Internet, but nothing beats personal contact, even for such an introvert as myself.

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