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New ThunderPack™ at NAB 2016 with 96Tbytes!!!

Cine Gear Expo, the two-day show on the Paramount lot in Hollywood, is the best place to see industry tools, many of which you’ll be hard-pressed to find at NAB or IBC.

Camera Crane
A camera crane and a banner? It must be Cine Gear Expo time again!

Yesterday I covered Cine Gear’s three big camera-related announcements; today I’ll look at some of the other interesting things I ran across or that people steered me to.

Studio air conditioning at Cine Gear Expo
Studio air conditioning

It was a toasty weekend in L.A., and this hydra-headed ductwork in Stage 14 helped keep things from getting too hot. See? I promised you “cool stuff”, and I delivered! <rimshot> Thank you, thank you, I’m here all week…

ARRI

ARRI Alexa 65
ARRI Alexa 65

Alexa 65 is ARRI’s large-format, rental-only camera. The 2.11:1 aspect ratio sensor is 54.12×25.58mm and packs 6560×3100 photosites (by comparison, a “Super35mm” sensor is typically less than 25mm wide and 14mm high). Yes, it’s bigger and  heavier and its sensor captures a prodigious amount of data, but its control layout, menus, and workflow are just like those of an Alexa XT. Why mess with success?

ARRI large-format lenses
ARRI large-format lenses, and one Cooke
ARRI large-format lenses
More ARRI large-format lenses
ARRI Look Library
ARRI Look Library

A swatch book for looks? The ARRI Look Library is a complete set of 87 Alexa Mini /Amira Premium LUTs spanning a wide variety of looks, and it comes with a swatch book: each look is shown on a head shot, a street scene, and a car image, so you and your director can pick a look you like and load it into camera. Looks come in three different strengths and are tweakble, too. Alexa Minis and Amira Premiums shipped after May 1st already include the Look Library; you can upgrade earlier cameras (once they have SUP 5 installed) for around €280 if I recall correctly. And there’s even an iPhone app—no camera necessary if you just want to, uh, take a look (pun intended).

Lens Evaluation

Stay Focused coffee cup
Stay focused!

The Fujinon booth included a lens projector and Matthew Duclos of Duclos Lenses described how to use a projector to evaluate lenses.

Matthew Duclos
Matthew Duclos adjusting zoom and focus, as seen by the camera…
Projected image
…and how the scene looked to the eye.

While resolution measurement, brightness falloff, and image circle are easily understood, the projector holds surprises. Any geometric distortion you see on a projector is the inverse of what you’ll see while shooting with that lens: if the projector shows pincushioning, you’ll get barrel distortion instead. It makes sense when you think about it—the projector pushes the light of a rectilinear reticle out through the lens, the camera pulls the light of the real world in.

Lighting

Carpetlight booth
Carpetlight

Carpetlight: the name pretty much sums it up. It’s an array of dimmable bi-color LEDs (daylight/tungsten) on fabric, using conductive threads for power. You can hang it, drape it, even tie it in knots, as with that drape on the right side of the booth.

Carpetlight
Carpetlight at full brightness: That’s full sunlight falling on it at the front.
Hive Lighting
Hive Lighting

Hive Lighting has been providing power-efficient plasma lighting for a while, but the new-this-year WASP 100-C is a 5-color LED fixture. It’s fully dimmable, white-light tweakable from 1650K–8000K (plus any saturated color you’d like in 6º increments), and can be set up manually or over DMX.

WASP 100-C controls
WASP 100-C controls
WASP 100-C emitter dome
The business end of the WASP
WASP driving mini Source Four
The WASP can drive a mini Source Four front end

You can fit a variety of lenses, reflectors, Chimeras, and other light shapers. The unit runs very cool. It’s about $1000.

Lightblade LEDs
LightBlade LEDs

LightBlade LEDs are a co-production of NBCUniversal and Cineo Lighting. From the press release:

At Cine Gear, three different NBCUniversal LightBlade configurations will be on display:  the LB50 stand-alone linear source, the LB1K, an integrated 4′ x 4′ soft source, and the LightBlade Ladder Light, which continues the familiar form factors of NBCUniversal’s backdrop lighting system. The lightweight 1.5″ x 48″, 50 watt light engines are designed to operate in a variety of physical layouts, including stand-alone operation.  NBCUniversal LightBlade products are versatile, lightweight, silent and flicker-free, and built to endure the wear and tear of staging and production.

NBCUniversal LightBlade products feature reference-quality variable white light from 2700K to 6500K. They have superior color rendering with typical CRI>90, R9>95, and a saturated color engine that works creatively with high-CRI white light. Additional products are being developed for use on location and on stage.

Yes, there’s a website, but at press time it only had three bullet points and a phone number. Presumably there will be more posted once products get closer to shipment.

And it wasn’t just LightBlade and the WASP; high-output, high-saturation, variable-color (yet tunable for “white” light) LEDs in sticks, tubes, blobs, and panels were all over the show.

Cameras & Rigs

Redrock Micro Retroflex
Redrock Micro Retroflex / Sony A5100 (?) / Veydra 50mm

I always get a kick out of Redrock Micro’s Retroflex rigs. They convert small, EVF-less hybrid cameras into eye-level Super8-styled shooters.

Panaflex Platinum
Panaflex Platinum loading demo

The S.O.C. gave loading demos on a Panaflex Platinum. Film loading is still a useful skill… but for how much longer will that be true?

Zacuto GH5 cage
Zacuto GH5 cage (with optional top handle)

I’m usually ambivalent about Zacuto rigging, but they’ve done it right with this GH5 cage. With the accessory shoe unavailable (it’s where the GH5’s XLR adapter attaches), many hybrid camera cages use the 1/4″x20 tripod socket as their sole mounting point, with perhaps a couple of additional points of contact to keep the camera from rotating. But that’s not enough to prevent “oilcanning”, the flexing of the camera on its mounting point. What to do?

Zacuto GH5 cage left side
Zacuto GH5 cage left side
Zacuto GH5 cage right side
Zacuto GH5 cage right side

Zacuto adds two more hardpoints, bolted to the carry-strap eyelets, for a rigid three-point mount. That is how it’s Supposed To Be Done. As a bonus, the right grip is left unobstructed for a comfortable handhold; you can fly the caged GH5 at eye level about as easily as an uncaged GH5. Well done.

Steadicam M-1 Volt
Steadicam M-1 Volt

The Steadicam M-1 Volt marries the passive inertial stabilization of the M-1 with the active servo stabilization of the Volt. It flies just like a normal Steadicam, but when you’re hands-off, it holds its orientation, without bobble or drift.

Steadicam M-1 Volt
The inertial brains live in that slab beneath the power distro
Steadicam M-1 Volt
Simple controls, tweakable on the fly
Steadicam M-1 Volt
Roll and pitch servos gently keep the camera aimed yet allow the usual inputs when you want to steer

Mark Weingartner told me he thought it was likely the most significant advance in Steadicams since, um, the original Steadicam itself. I tend to agree.

Chin-cam from Radiant Images
Chin-cam from Radiant Images

I don’t know what it’s really called, but this odd rig captures the P.O.V. of your chin and feeds a Codex recorder on a backpack frame. It’s the sort of oddball rig that Radiant Images seems to specialize in.

Lunch

Death by chocolate
Death by chocolate-dipped strawberries

It’s not a proper shoot—or a show—without craft services. Ingallina’s Box Lunch handed out samples; I enjoyed a fresh and tasty pesto tortellini / mozzarella / tomato skewer.

Daylight Displays and HDR

SmallHD 3203 HDR
SmallHD 3203 HDR. 32 inches, 1500 nits

SmallHD and Boland were showing field monitors in full sunlight.

I should also mention that Canon showed two HDR displays—inside, not in sunlight—including one that peaked at 2000 nits and could maintain that level across the entire screen, without dimming. Freaking gorgeous—as it should be, for $50,000.

Canon ran an HDR demo reel in which every single shot was properly graded: high brightness and wide color were used as accents, and no shot was “turned up to 11” just because it could be. Seeing HDR used with that level of restraint gives me hope for the future.

More Anamorphics

Atlas anamorphic image
Atlas Orion anamorphic image, shot off a monitor

Anamorphics, cheap? Atlas Lens Co. showed their first Orions, a set of three 2x anamorphic primes for $8000 each ($24,000 for the set). The lenses cover Alexa open gate, open to T2, and focus down to 2.75 feet (40mm and 65mm) or 3.3 feet (100mm).

Orion 65mm on a GH5
Orion 65mm on a GH5 via PL-to-MFT adapter

I pixel-peeped the lens on the GH5 using focus mag. Plenty of character, but not too much. Not quite as crisp as a Cooke but consistent at all apertures, so you won’t need to stop down for sharpness. That means plenty of shallow-focus, wide-aperture oval bokeh to enjoy. PL or EF mount, interchangeable. And if that’s not enough, three additional focal lengths are under design, too. Sweet.

DIT-Cart-In-A-Box

Acromove ThunderPack
Acromove ThunderPack

Acromove is the new identity for Athens, Greece-based Motion FX. The ThunderPack line is a range of DIT-cart-in-a-Pelican-case products: power, storage, I/O, and networking in a robust carry-on form factor.

Acromove ThunderPack
Acromove ThunderPack top panel

Li-ion batteries are caged on the left, with disconnect switches allowing air transport. Weather-shielded connectors allow video and data I/O, power in and out, Thunderbolt, Ethernet, SAS, HDMI, etc. Two antennas provide a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Acromove ThunderPack with solar-power array
Acromove ThunderPack with solar-power array

This particular pack runs full-tilt for about six hours on battery power alone while driving a MacBook Pro, LTO drive, and card reader. With the solar panel for trickle-charging, it’ll  run all day long. You can also feed it AC if you have that luxury.

ThunderPack drive array
ThunderPack drive array
ThunderPack spec sheet
ThunderPack spec sheet

Panavision

Panavision HDR EVF
Panavision HDR EVF

Panavision demonstrated an HDR EVF for the Millenium DXL camera. The OLED EVF peak around 600 nits and can maintain 300 nits across the entire screen. It looks fabulous—more importantly, it brings the HDR viewing experience directly to the camera, so the DP or operator can see the effect that really bright wall sconce in the background has on the perception of the picture.

PX-Pro color filter demo
PX-Pro color filter demo: unfiltered spectrum above, filtered below

Panavision also showed their PX-Pro color spectrum filter, the spectral shaping filter—doing things like cutting excess IR—used in front of the sensor. The PX-Pro uses absorptive dyes, not reflective layers, so it’s much less prone to angular color shifts, as the demo above shows. Panavision extols the PX-Pro’s characteristics of making “colors appear smoother and have more transition with less red contamination. This is very helpful in tertiary and complex colors in skin tones as well as improved transitions in lens flares and shadow-to-light gradients.”

Panavision Millenium DXL
Panavision Millenium DXL

Both the HDR EVF and the PX-Pro are used on the Millenium DXL, Panavision’s large-format production camera introduced last year. Michael Cioni tells me there are now “several dozen” of these cameras in daily use.

DJI

DJI Spark responding to gestures
DJI Spark responding to hand gestures

DJI’s new Spark drone was a crowd-pleaser with its gestural interface. The $500 Spark is more of a consumer item than a pro cine tool, but it was still fun to see it respond like a well-trained dog, rising and falling on command and settling gently onto an upturned palm.

RED

RED No. 13
RED No. 13, because it’s not a proper show unless there’s some weird and scary-looking RED camera somewhere

RED was in Stage 2 along with DJI and Panavision, and RED is probably why there were waiting lines to get in; the fire marshal didn’t want an overcrowded venue.

Hawk65 anamorphics on the RED booth
Hawk65 anamorphics on the RED booth

AirHollywood

AirHollywood aircraft cabin
AirHollywood aircraft cabin

AirHollywood brought an aircraft cabin to the Paramount lot.

AirHollywood aircraft cabin
AirHollywood aircraft cabin, reverse angle
AirHollywood aircraft cabin, outside view
AirHollywood aircraft cabin, exterior view

Yes, it’s a cabin built onto a flatbed: why go to the set when you can have the set come to you?

If you’re prefer to go to the set, AirHollywood has aircraft-themed shooting stages in the LA area, Victorville CA, and Atlanta GA. And when you’re done shooting, take  a trip back to the “decadence of the 1970s” with the Pan Am Experience. I am not making this stuff up.

End Credits

A tip of the hat to Jim Rolin of Videofax for the tipoffs on the ARRI Look Library and Atlas Orion lenses (Videofax has orders in for the Orions), and to Mark Weingartner, ASC regarding the Steadicam M-1 Volt. Thanks, guys!

As to the hat being tipped, maybe it’s this one…

Make Cinema Great Again

 


Disclosure: I went to Cine Gear Expo on my own dime (actually, it cost a considerable number of dimes once flights, hotel, and car were included). There’s no relationship between me and any of the companies mentioned, and no one paid me anything for coverage. However, as the Ingallina folks gave me free food, I figured I should at least include a picture of their dessert strawberries.