We scoured the NAB 2014 show floor with the broadcast field as packed as ever, and had to look past hundreds of products to bring you these select few to be called tradeshow’s best. We found some companies trying new types of products, expanding on a solid following. This of course brings up some big names like AJA and Blackmagic, but in areas that are fairly new to them. New products are seemingly always coming out in camera support, and each built smarter and stronger. Again, we saw a couple established names crossover into territory that is new, and gimbals are beginning to feel like the new action camera – it’s great that they go together, but everyone is making them and applying them for smooth floating image stabilization. Here’s our Best Products of NAB 2014.
Best of Show Award: Blackmagic URSA
The Blackmagic URSA modular design really represents three cameras and then some, so some might call it cheating, but we'll just say that the versatility will make this camera very appealing to a wide audience. Blackmagic Design’s URSA features a removable component that contains the lens mount and sensor, so the base unit can be equipped to use EF, PL or B4 mounts. The EF and PL versions have a 4K super 35 image sensor, while the B4 will have a sensor aimed at the broadcast market. There’s even a body only version with a 4K HDMI input so any capable camera can take advantage of the multitude of LCD screens on the main unit. The EF version hits a sweet price point at just under $6,000 while the PL version goes for just under $6,500. The B4 and HDMI version prices are pending, as well as shipping dates as of the tradeshow announcement. The Blackmagic URSA is one of the earliest cameras with 12G-SDI, and combats rolling shutter issues by using a global shutter. The built-in 10-inch screen is a first and the camera is designed with two five inch touch screens for DOP and camera assistants stations. It also has the biggest audio meters and dials we’ve seen for the audio engineer. We didn't even mention that DaVinci Resolve 11 is set to be included with the camera, so we're just getting more and more excited to start trying this one out. For shaking up the industry again, the Blackmagic Design URSA deserves our Best of Show Award for NAB 2014.
Best Mirrorless Camera: Panasonic LUMIX GH4
Upon a second look at the Panasonic DMC-GH4, we're very impressed by the little camera that can do great things. With video at both UHD and DCI 4K, a Micro Four Thirds mount and ease of use, this LUMIX camera gets great images. 4K bitrates of 100Mb/s and HD bitrates of 200Mb/s will test the UHS Speed Class U3 SDHC or SDXC card you decide to use, while the flip out OLED will make it easier to shoot. The GH4 is small but strong with a magnesium alloy body, and room to grow with attachments, notably one that can provide XLR inputs and audio meters. The zebra patterns are a very welcome exposure assist, and a Synchro Scan can help take out the flicker from a monitor or fluorescent lights. Since cameras can be very compact these days we decided to celebrate the GH4 for being both small and exceptional.
Best Light of NAB 2014: Kino Flo Celeb 400 DMX
The size of the Celeb 400 DMX helps shape how it emits light. We've already come to appreciate the Celeb 200 DMX, so when the LED panel is scaled up from 24 to 45-inches, it's great to see the continued excellence. The Celeb 400 DMX has a color rendering index score of 95, which is most impressive in light of the full dimming and color temperature controls. These are incredibly handy lights, that don't get hot, don't require non-standard power, and won't bother your subject like some lights.
To add gels or mounts, it is a clear and secure task to slide a light modifier into the front slots. Ultimately it makes the job of lighting less of a chore. At nearly four feet long, it's going to cover a lot of your set. The entire case will be 53lb. or less depending on whether you go for the center or yoke mount kit. The Celeb 400 DMX brings great versatility and lighting power to sets, and saves valuable time, so these are clear reasons why we’ll call the Celeb 400 DMX the best light of NAB 2014.
Best Plug-in of NAB 2014 Award: Red Giant Universe
For editors, visual effects and motion graphics tend to be either their favorite part of the production process or the hardest. Plug-ins have been the go-to answer for many during post-production, so it stands that when one of the premier creators of plug-ins, Red Giant, teams up and collaborates with the editors in the Universe … there's some award-worthy effects to be had. The idea with the Universe is that you'd get to use the effects that creators like yourself and legendary people like John Knoll have created. You'll work with creators to help shape the effects that become available next, rather than have to wait until the next package of limited-shelf life plug-ins becomes available. Whether you use Mac or Windows, the major host applications are recognized, so to get the Universe to gel with your workflow probably won't take much. It's free on one level; for more access, a lifetime price of $399 or a premium membership set to cost $10 per month or $99 per year.
Best Camera Accessory of NAB 2014 Award: Sachtler Ace Accessories
The collection of Ace Accessories includes the Ace Base Plate, Ace Follow Focus and Ace Matte Box. Each is an individual product, but when they combine, your gear setup becomes elite, using standard 15mm rods, accurate focus and matte boxes for the ultimate in camera control. A total of three flags act like barn doors while two slots allow you to easily mix in a filter (or rotate one). The reliability that many have come to expect from Sachtler supports is now in the Ace Accessories range. The strong but light tripods from this German company are easily seen in many productions. In our experience, anything that moves the shoot along faster goes up in value. We're pretty sure that the frequency with which you'll turn to your Ace-ed rig will offset costs pretty well.
Best Action Camera Support of NAB 2014 Award: Dactylcam Go Rig
Prehistoric? Hardly, the Go Rig is for the young at heart, hobbyists, athletes, and enthusiasts. To fully explain what this rig does it'll take some physical description, it's an aluminum sled for action cameras that requires some 1/8-inch or 1/4-inch line, the Amsteel Blue non-stretch kind is preferred. It can carry 3lb. and is driven by a remote control. The easy question is which of the multiple small POV cameras you’ll use with the system, the harder question is what will you attach the cables for the sled to. Accessories can be attached to the Go Rig sled as well as a more powerful battery. The transmitter controls forward and back motion with a 4-Channel 2.4GHz Dual Band Remote Control. The kit should make jumping into cable-run cameras simple. At $990 the Go Rig certainly stands as an investment, but the fun on productions is definitely going to ramp up, just remember to set up a way to monitor your camera before sending the sled along.
Best Stabilizer of NAB 2014 Award: Freefly Movi M5
A 3-axis gimbal counteracts the movements of a camera operator, and steers footage towards the ultimate, cinematic smooth move look. Freefly's Movi M5 takes on the growing competition and helps make high production value easy. By the very nature of being lightweight and hand operated, the Movi M5 is more accessible than say, some sled and vest systems or dollies. The custom design centers on a proprietary inertial measurement unit and brushless direct drive system. The fully protected wiring and tool-less balancing are design attributes that quickly elevate this rig from others. With a payload of 5lb. and control features like pan/tilt, a graphic user interface (via bluetooth connection), silent operation, and a way to control the amount of allowed camera shake, this is a full featured camera stabilizer. The Movi M5 itself is $4,995 with various accessories available and can ship in 4-6 weeks.
Best Computer Monitor of NAB 2014 Award: HP Dreamcolor Z24x Display
Colors: 1.07 billion. Not bad, not bad, probably more than you or we could name. Actually, the Z24x is the smaller of two displays, but is significantly less costly at $600. As a color critical display, Ethernet-based remote control, through an integrated Web server, is in a league of its own. It has 1920×1200 resolution and 10-bit color accuracy with an easy-to change color space and color calibration. The quick access to presets includes specific color spaces, including some that sound like named stars beyond the Milky Way: sRGB D65, sRGB D50, Adobe RGB, BT.709, BT.2020 and DCI-P3. Plus users have the ability to create custom color spaces and control the primaries, white point and tone response. While supported for Linux, Mac and Windows, the Z24x must be calibrated on a Windows system. This is some of the best news yet in terms of color critical monitors coming down in price.
Best Storage of NAB 2014 Award: G-Technology G-SPEED Studio RAID
We can generally agree that more storage is better, and more RAID storage, is even better than that. The G-SPEED Studio is a storage device with room for four hard drives and is configurable to RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, or 10. You can bring the total storage up to 24TB, and at a lesser amount, the sustained 660MB/s transfer rate will get your files going quick. The connection is Thunderbolt 2 which can daisy chain to other devices and Mac computers. This echoes one of the beautiful things about Thunderbolt in that cabling in and out of devices is very simple. The four removable enterprise class disks are 7200RPM SATA III. We can't help but appreciate the efforts G-Technology goes through to match their design of storage devices to the current Mac that it will work with. The G-SPEED studio is developed with creative producers in mind, and who knows, you might fill it before the 3-year warranty expires.
Best Motion Control System of NAB 2014 Award: edelkrone Wizard
The edelkrone SliderPLUS is great at putting our camera into motion, but the Wizard would be even better. It's a module that attaches to the side of a SliderPLUS. Your control of the camera is simple with a four-direction button for moving the camera, and adjusting the average speed. These are the three things it needs to complete a move, where you start, stop and an average speed. And rather than punching in numbers, the Wizard can record your move, and you don't need to get the speed exactly right because the Wizard knows how to calculate averages. A double tap allows an infinite loop between points, and for this, the additional Target module makes the whole motion control system downright dangerous. The Wizard clocks in at $600 and the Target module at $800, and both have Canon LP-E6, Panasonic CGA-D54 or Sony NP-FV battery options.
Best External Recorder of NAB 2014 Award: Atomos Shogun
Use the Shogun for a powerful way to capture video. The 7-inch 1920×1200 resolution monitor makes it especially strong when it comes to monitor/recorders. Atomos lets you record to Apple ProRes 4K, Cinema DNG Raw or Avid DNxHD over HDMI and 12G-SDI. The Shogun has great color calibration with plenty of monitoring (including audio) and assist functions that camera displays usually aspire to have. The SuperAtom IPS 325ppi screen eliminates buttons with its touch screen, and the dual disk recording medium allows for extended record length like two hours with a 2TB RAID for 4K video. The openness of the Shogun is welcome when you're looking for XLR audio or remote control. The Shogun is calibrated to SMPTE Rec.709 for standard colors. Thankfully the Shogun is well suited to playing with many cameras on a production thanks to Genlock, timecode and monitor pass through. The report for the Shogun is to be ready for duty this fall and cost less than $2,000.
Most Innovative Product of NAB 2014 Award: Flo Light CycLight
Lighting just seems too easy if we use a single light for a subject. Especially when lighting green screen. The CycLight seeks to make the whole process easy with a single light fixture that reduces the light at the bottom, and gradually increases it to counteract the inverse square law that light must obey. So where a spot is twice the distance from a light source, that spot will have one quarter the intensity of light. This law governs audio as well, but the CycLight seeks to beat that law. The specification for beam spread reads: No. What the CycLight allows you to do is dim three 40W green LEDs and light a green screen from the floor, less than four feet from the screen. The idea for the CycLight and "Light Wave" technology is much anticipated, and the shipping date has yet to be released.
The news from NAB 2014 may not last very long but the products will and these here will be among the markings of another excellent year in video production innovations. The way we tell stories continues to change and the tools are getting more and more sophisticated. Whether we begin to assign three people to operate a camera, send our camera into floating handheld shots, use effects developed by a visual effects wizard, or light a green screen with one light, the products awarded here, stand to become big reasons for your video production’s success.
Jackson Wong is an associate editor for Videomaker.