Creative Buzz: NAB 2012

Microwave truck towers on display between the central and south halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center during the NAB show held in Las Vegas, Nevada, Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

There’s a certain, unmistakable camaraderie that exists among people involved in all of the fields that I work in. Even if I’ve just met a fellow photographer or lighting designer, working with them on a complex show or shoot within minutes of a first hand shake, there’s always a mutual respect and understanding right off the bat — something that might take months to form with an average person off the street. No, I’m not saying we can’t be on the same wavelength if you’re not involved in a visual profession! But, you might have to wait out front while the in-crowd is ducking into the VIP entrance of my brain.

Naturally, then, huge trade shows where thousands of talented, like-minded creative types gather to geek-out at the latest and greatest storytelling tools are always a favorite of mine. I’ve strolled the show floor of LDI, a trade show geared toward lighting design, three times in the past ten years, each time at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This year, the “LVCC” welcomed me back for my sophomore visit to another great show, NAB. The largest production convention in the world, NAB caters to anything and everything that is video. From cameras and lenses to editing software to extension cords and light bulbs, if it’s involved in the production world, chances are it will be on display at NAB.

The sheer scale of NAB is daunting. Three massive trade show halls filled to the brim (totaling more than three million square feet) stand ready and waiting for visitors, mocking anyone’s feet unfortunate enough to be suck in dress shoes. I’m sure I walked for miles, literally, in my three days taking in just the central and south halls!

The show floor, and those packed into their favorite manufactures’ booths, carries a palpable creative buzz. The irony of dodging video crews darting around to cover newly released video equipment never tires. One doesn’t need to people-watch for too long to spot someone’s eyes lighting up with the realization that an idea could be realized with a new piece of equipment in their hands for the first time.

A visitor to The Stratosphere Tower documents the view looking west over Las Vegas, Nevada, Saturday, April 14, 2012. NAB 2012, the largest production convention in the world, was held in Las Vegas the following week.

This creative buzz seems to leave most visitors to the convention in an affable mood, similar to the one I’ve experienced at small airports when covering pilots and air shows. There’s something about being shoulder to shoulder within a convergence of people who “get it” — people who truly understand what you’re passionate about — that can’t be matched off the show floor. That is, unless, we’re talking about the silent nods when passing someone in your hotel lobby later that afternoon while still wearing your NAB show floor badges — “Yellow? Oooh, an exhibitor!”

NAB wasn’t all smiles and sunshine, however. I did visit a few booths where I got the impression that I was bothering manufacturer representatives with my questions about their products, despite my typical polite, defused demeanor (and despite visiting when their booths were not crowded). I know that NAB days are long and everyone gets a little cranky after eating from that BBQ place out front for the fifth time, so I’ll take the few poor attitudes I received with a grain of salt.

I understand everyone gets a little tired and cranky at NAB, but at least pretend that you’re glad I’m visiting your booth. I might be able to afford your products one day, and I’d hate for your salty mood to sway my decision.

I realize my badge doesn’t say NBC on it (yet), but I think the fact that the NAB show floor is open to people of all career levels is what makes it so great. Gathering for a presentation alongside a college student from Des Moines and a network executive from Los Angeles doesn’t happen in too many places. So, ornery exhibitors, you never know who you’re making a poor impression upon, or what they may be capable of purchasing (or swaying someone else to purchase) in the not-too-distant future. Put on a fake smile, humor me with a brochure, scan my badge, and make me feel welcomed. After all, it’s what you or your company is paying all that money for to be on the show floor in the first place.

Salty BBQ and moods aside, my visit to NAB this year was well worth it. I got to see new products I didn’t realize would be on display (such as the new ETC Source Four LED lighting fixture), and ones that I did (like Canon’s new 1DC 4K DSLR). I got to catch up with colleagues on the show floor (like a surprise run-in with Wisconsin-based photographer and videographer Dave Stluka), and colleagues away from the show altogether (like musician friend Erik Ramirez, who’s band I did an amazing sunset portrait of on a mountain over looking the Las Vegas Strip).

NAB 2012 brought with it interesting glimpses at where the industry is at right now (thank God 3D was less present this year!), and where it might be headed (4K… 8K?). One thing is certain, storytelling tools previously locked in high, untouchable echelons have never been so accessible to mainstream filmmakers, and with unprecedented quality. Cameras costing just over $1,000 are capable of delivering images that, fifteen years ago, would have required something costing $100,000. I left the show for the second year in a row with those thoughts in mind. The success of any production, today and from here on out, squarely falls on the the talent and dedication of those who decide to undertake a project. “We don’t have a nice camera,” is no longer a crutch. It’s an invigorating time to be shoulder to shoulder with another creative person, whether long time comrades or having just met, that’s for sure!

I was very excited and surprised to see ETC’s new Source Four LED fixture on the show floor. While it’s not able to hold a candle to an open white 575w tungsten Source Four just yet, the possibilities for where this technology is heading are quite exciting. Can you imagine a theater completely devoid of dimmer racks? Can you imagine lighting a show with 48 fixtures with only 4 20 amp circuits? That’s where we’re headed, ladies and gents.

While not necessarily new technology, I always love stopping by the Canon booth and playing with monster 80x and 100x video lenses. Picking out someone’s eyeglass screws 100 yards down the aisle of the show floor (I’m not exaggerating) and practicing my follow focusing as they stroll around never gets old!

Also at the Canon booth was the new 1D C 4K DSLR. Put away plans for that new car, because you’ll need about 15 grand (yes, $15,000) before UPS brings this baby to your door. Ouch! On the plus side, the aliasing and moire issues that make my 1D Mark IV cameras a challenge to work with in video mode have been greatly reduced, if not eliminated, on this model (despite “line-skipping” and down-sampling still occurring). And, you can now shoot 60 frames per second at 1080p for buttery, high-rez slo mo shots!

Yeah, and Canon, while we’re chatting about gear I can’t quite afford, I wouldn’t mind if you left my new 1DX in this paint scheme! Is this a cool look at a camera’s physical form or what?

Visitors to the Las Vegas Strip late Monday, April 16, 2012.

A pedestrian walks in front of a lighted wall on the southern end of the Las Vegas Srip late Monday, April 16, 2012.

Academy Award winner Garrett Brown (right), inventor of the Steadicam, demonstrates his revolutionary tools at the Tiffen booth on the NAB show floor. I had the chance to speak with Mr. Brown at least year’s NAB, and was pleased with how approachable he was given his mind-boggling list of accomplishments in cinema. If you’ve seen the films The Shining, Rocky, or Indiana Jones (to name just a few), you’ve seen Mr. Brown’s work.

“Go Pro, Go Pro, Go Pro!,” chant the fans at the Go Pro camera booth at the daily 3pm giveaways. This chanting could be heard across the central hall show floor, and was clearly effective at drawing a crowd. I’m a huge fan of Go Pro products, but as with last year, the Go Pro booth was always just a bit too crowded to enjoy.

I’m attracted to lines of colored lights like a moth to a bug light in a restaurant kitchen, so this array of Arri L7-C color-mixing LED fresnels made me stand briefly with my mouth agape and eyes glazed over. As with most Arri products, you’ll pay a pretty penny for these (around 7 grand if memory serves me right), but the build quality is unmatched. I own several Arri tungsten fixtures, and they’re tanks! The open white on these at 5600K still won’t beat a 575w HMI outdoors, but again, the potential for this technology taking off even more in the future is quite exciting.

On the LED front with something that actually seems ready for prime time right now is the Litepanels Sola ENG fixture. It’s daylight balanced and BRIGHT! Fully dimmable and focusable, it will set you back about $720 big ones in kit form.

What day on the show floor wouldn’t be complete without a sinful, cupcake treat? The Cupcakery, located in the Monte Carlo Hotel, was probably responsible for around 2 pounds of my total Las Vegas weight gain. The Southern Belle (foreground) red velvet confection, topped with heavenly whipped cream cheese frosting and luminescent, sugar crystal sprinkles ended up being my decadent pastry of choice.

Wow, he’s good!

I wonder if their feet hurt as much as mine from all that walking on the show floor?

The future of post-production? Adobe, I already love Photoshop, so I’m not ruling you out for video! When I found out at the booth that Premiere doesn’t have to transcode footage from DSLR or AVC formats to edit, it quickly became more than just a blip on my radar. I would have loved to have compared it to whatever Apple has in store for Final Cut Pro, but as with years past, they were no-shows at NAB. I hate feeling abandoned by products I know and trust.

The cool set at the Panasonic booth, complete with live models to frame up with your favorite new camera or lens!

Until next time!

Posted in Photography, Thoughts On Life, Travel, Video Production by Guy Rhodes on April 26th, 2012.

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