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NAB 2009 Journal

Jun 9, 2009 4:38 PM, By D. W. Leitner

Cameras, lenses, and flash recording on the cheap.

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Zacuto’s Joe DeJulius demonstrates shoulder mount, viewfinder, and follow-focus for Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II

Zacuto’s Joe DeJulius demonstrates shoulder mount, viewfinder, and follow-focus for Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II, which captured a lot of attention at NAB Show 2009.
Photo by D.W. Leitner

By NAB’s own count, registration plunged 20 percent for the 2009 show vs. the 2008 numbers. By my count, the drop was greater, since registration numbers include veritable armies of employees, sales reps, and booth minions flown in annually for the occasion by Sony , Panasonic, and other large exhibitors.

Was it a failed NAB show? Far from it. Indeed, it was one of the more interesting NAB shows in memory. I asked at least a dozen exhibitors what they thought about the show’s impact. They uniformly expressed satisfaction that this was one of the best shows ever, precisely because economic doldrums culled the crowd. Instead of gabbing themselves hoarse to throngs of techno tourists, they enjoyed leisurely conversations with decision-makers and industry veterans.

Another consolation of this pared-down NAB was that Sony and Band Pro Film and Digital—traditionally centerpieces of Upper South Hall—opted for cheaper floor space in Siberia, the far, empty end of Central Hall usually inhabited by small struggling lighting companies. This had the happy consequence of consolidating all camera companies—film and digital—along with lenses, lighting, and grip equipment into Central Hall. Rival megabooths Panasonic and Sony anchored the two ends of the large hall—a perfectly efficient arrangement that I hope becomes a permanent fixture of NAB.

With lesser chaos came greater clarity of purpose. Monday’s NAB Show Daily News headline was the perfunctory “Exhibitors, Buyers Ready to Do Business,” while a day later, the headline cried: “Super Session Addresses Quality Video on the Cheap.” Now, that’s adjusting to prevalent conditions with alacrity!

Canon TS-E 17mm tilt-shift lens

Canon TS-E 17mm tilt-shift lens.
Photo by D.W. Leitner

It’s worth noting what “Quality Video on the Cheap” means in this front-page NAB report about a panel discussion of “ways that independent filmmakers can effectively create ‘a million-dollar look on a thousand-dollar budget.’” (Should I point out the ironies of NAB’s recognition in 2009 that independent filmmakers suddenly matter?) Chief among the enabling technologies discussed by the panel were Red Digital Cinema’s Red One and Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II digital SLR—with the 5D getting most of the attention.

The article cited “lots of anecdotal notes” from the panelists regarding how digital special effects software along with these single-CMOS-sensor cameras “are revolutionizing the way indie films, short films, and TV commercials are lit, shot, and edited.”

Whoa. Wait a minute. Has a single significant project been broadcast or distributed, no less captured, using a 5D, which only arrived last fall? Worse, the article trumpets the 5D’s “ability to capture 1080p video,” but it fails to illuminate what sort of HD video it is—H.264/MPEG-4 AVC at 38Mbps—or what’s required to edit it: a steroidal NLE and lots of disk space.

Sundance-style pie in the sky? Wishful, if hysterical, thinking? It would have mattered less if Canon 5Ds hadn’t pervaded the Central Hall during NAB.

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