The Best of CES 2016

Each January, Videomaker’s editors journey to Las Vegas for CES, the world’s premier consumer technology showcase, where we spend a fleeting few days seeking out the newest and most innovative video tech. CES 2016 was no different. Searching for that next must-have video production tool, we scoured the busy show floor to uncover the best new products to add to our wish lists.

Here are 11 of our favorites — the winners of Videomaker’s Best of CES 2016 Awards.

Best Camera: Panasonic WXF991
Panasonic WXF991
Panasonic WXF991

Getting more video done quickly and easily is the strength of the Panasonic HC-WXF991. This camera brings together many of the features we look for in professional cameras with manual control for exposure, zoom, focus and white balance in addition to some innovative in-camera controls and effects.

The LCD display of the Panasonic HC-WXF991 supports a secondary camera that can swivel for picture-in-picture video of the operator or a second perspective. We also took notice of the in-camera editing options and are pleased with the post-production head start this camera can provide. After shooting in 4K, you can zoom in on the subject and get more options for a 1920 x 1080 image, or pan across a scene by setting start and end points. This feature can also be used to make our image more stable. We are excited about the combination of 4K and the secondary camera for behind the scenes or picture-in-picture video. Plus, the high dynamic range mode will make this feel even closer to a professional cinema camera without leaving the sub-$1,000 price bracket. We are pleased to bestow out Best Camera of CES 2016 award on the Panasonic HC-WXF991.

Best Drone: Yuneec Typhoon H
Yuneec Typhoon H

The Yuneec Typhoon H has sophisticated features for safe and stable aerial filmmaking. Foregrounding video, the Typhoon H puts together a 4K camera that can capture at 30fps and landing gear that retracts for flight. The autonomous flight options include orbit, follow an imaginary curved cable or go in journey or point of interest mode. These are common shots that tend to highlight the angle and position for which drones are best used.

Another key aspect of getting video with the Typhoon H is the display embedded in the remote control. This 720p screen, combined with the fully rotating gimbal, should drastically increase the joy in being the operator.

Then we can’t forget the quality of life features that may make the Typhoon H practical. Let’s start from the outside: It comes with a hardcase backpack, and the drone's arms are lightweight and easy to collapse for travel. While in flight, the Typhoon H uses sensors to avoid running into large obstacles and has ultrasonic sensors for flying indoors. There is certainly a theme of safety around Yuneec’s products, and the features reflect that with geofencing, low-battery fly home and continued stability in case one motor fails.

We're excited to see all these features at a lower price point of around $1800. For all the above, we’ve selected the Yuneec Typhoon H as the Best Drone of CES 2016.

Best 360 Camera: Ricoh Theta S
Ricoh Theta S

The Ricoh Theta S is a refined version of the original Theta. Presented in a simple design this upright, 360-degree camera might at first seem tricky to mount, but getting the shot will not be the issue with the 360-degree field of view. The resulting video is recorded in 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps in clips of 25 minutes or less to 8GB of onboard memory. The USB port at the base to allows you to offload your media — or stream live via the micro HDMI port. Alternatively, if you’re shooting stills, you can use the long exposure capabilities to play around with small amounts of light. Check exposure and white balance through the Theta S app, which also allows you to view your spherical image in real time.

Lightweight, upright cameras like the Theta S can be a little strange to handle, so we’re eager to evaluate how easy this one is to use. As our devices tend toward doing more and more different tasks, it’s refreshing to see a camera with dedicated buttons and no menu to swipe through. The applications for 360-degree video have not yet been fully mastered. For making it simple and maintaining the joy of video, we present the Theta S with our Best 360 Camera of CES 2016 award.

Best Microphone: Sennheiser VR Mic
Sennheiser VR Mic

We saw quite a bit of virtual reality tech at CES this year. Much was designed for the content consumer, but we found surprisingly little for the content creator – even less if you remove gaming from the equation. That's why we were excited to see the new VR Mic from Sennheiser.

The mic has four capsules arranged to capture sound in a 360-degree sphere. Placing the mic directly below a 360-degree spherical camera will cause the mic to remain mostly invisible to the viewer while capturing completely immersive audio from all directions. This differs from an omnidirectional microphone because it captures four channels of audio, rather than one. In their demonstration, Sennheiser featured spherical video of a piano player in a large room. When combined with a VR headset and a nice pair of headphones, we found the audio to be far more immersive than the video.

Placing the mic directly below a 360-degree spherical camera will cause the mic to remain mostly invisible to the viewer while capturing completely immersive audio from all directions.

As video creators, we're used to controlling the channels sound comes from manually; allowing viewers to control directionality of sound by turning their heads is a foreign concept, but one we may all need to become accustomed to eventually.

The workflow is hard to predict today, as the tools available to creators are still limited, but we know the first step is to use the right microphone. From there, Sennheiser plans to release specialized software to incorporate 3D Audio into a spherical video environment in 2017, shortly after the release of the VR Mic, expected in the the third quarter or 2016.

This is the first VR Mic we've seen, and the demo was extremely impressive. For that, the Sennheiser VR Mic takes home our Best Mic of CES 2016 award.

Best Smartphone: LG V10
LG V10

The LG V10 is a well-thought out smartphone that makes a great camera. Joseph Gordon-Levitt led a campaign that collaborated with individuals to capture an in-between moment in their life and the commercial came alive. The phone at the center of it all is the LG V10. The phone’s 4K camera is complemented by a 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 display, a shock resistant housing and three controllable mics. That’s right, three mics. The manual controls for the LG V10’s camera allow you to direct the mics to pick up audio from in front of or behind the phone, and the ISO and shutter speed can also be adjusted. Image stabilization allows for smooth handheld shots. As for your post-production, the LG V10 provides some quick cutting options including a mode that combines 3-second clips and one that allows for file titling and editing of playback speed, filters and background music. Two nice touches that make the LG V10 far more usable are a removable 3000mAh battery and expandable microSD memory.

The camera on the LG V10 is quite different from what we’re used to. With more manual control than the vast majority of smartphones and 4K video recording resolution, the LG V10 will beat the resolution of most compact cameras. Retailing between  $600 and $699 without contract, depending on your carrier: AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon, the LG V10 is our Best Smartphone of CES 2016.

Best Smartphone Accessory: olloclip Studio
olloclip Studio

The olloclip Studio is a versatile case and accessory combination that gives some very cool options for iPhone 6/6s Plus owners. The base case will of course protect against common bumps, but olloclip differentiates this case with tons of options for accessories. Building on their line of iPhone lenses, olloclip turns the Studio case into a true video rig. Within the modular system, a finger grip provides for stable handheld use in portrait or landscape orientation, and a pair of 1/4"-20 clips allow for tripods, handles and other equipment. There’s also a pair of cold-shoe adapters that open the door for nearly any light, mic or accessory to be added to and used with your smartphone. The Studio is rounded out with a kickstand for propped up display.

Retailing at $90, One of the biggest draws to the olloclip Studio is the customization option and modularity we get with the ability to slide the clips and grips along the phone or detach them one by one. We'd love to see the Studio available to more smartphones, but we appreciate the video-minded direction olloclip is taking smartphone accessories. We're happy to see the olloclip Studio take home our Best Smartphone Accessory of CES 2016 award.

Best Storage: G-Technology G-SPEED Shuttle XL

The G-Technology G-SPEED Shuttle XL is certainly impressive. You want up to 64TB of storage at Thunderbolt 2 speed? You got it. As part of G-Tech’s Evolution ecosystem, there are eight slots for removable 7200 RPM drives, or use G-Tech's SSDs. There’s a handle that’s asking you to transport the enclosure from place to place, and once you’re there, the Shuttle XL can transfer data at up to 1350MB/s. The RAID is as configurable as you might imagine, supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50.

The Shuttle XL starts at $3,500 with 24TB and can expand up to 64TB for $8,000 — a hefty costs for some hefty storage. Thankfully there’s backup with unlimited tech support and a limited 3-year warranty. For giving us a safe place to house our footage, we award the G-Technology Shuttle XL the Best RAID Enclosure of CES 2016 award.

Best Mobile Storage: SanDisk Extreme 510
KODAK Super 8

SanDisk becomes the go-to name again when it comes to storing your media with the SanDisk Extreme 510. We must be clear that this storage device is a portable solid state drive despite being just a little bit larger and thicker than a CompactFlash card. It might even fit one of those tiny coin pockets on your jeans.

The SanDisk Extreme 510 can endure water, dust and falls up to 5.9-feet. To further resist falls, it includes a metal clip to keep it secure. It will also resist spilling information with its 128-bit encrypted password protection. SanDisk claims write speeds up to 400MB/s and read speeds at 430MB/s. The 480GB capacity drive is accessed and powered via USB 3.0. The SanDisk Extreme 510 is a solid state drive we feel has earned our Best Mobile Storage of CES 2016 award.

Most Innovative Award of CES 2016: InVisage QuantumFilm

InVisage has rethought the capture of images with QuantumFilm, their innovative new sensor technology. There are distinct advantages that QuantumFilm produces in imagery due to a global shutter and improved low-light performance, color accuracy and dynamic range — solving some common issues that videographers and photographers have been griping about for years. These are high-level features that are often celebrated on cinema cameras.

We’re eager to see QuantumFilm used in smaller and better image sensors, but it still may be some time before QuantumFilm gets integrated into the cameras we use to capture images. One main aspect we’ll look out for is the cost to implement QuantumFilm in image sensors and how this will affect camera manufacturers. Call us cautiously optimistic as we recognize InVisage QuantumFilm with our Most Innovative of CES 2016 award.

Spotlight Award: Kodak Super 8

The Kodak Super 8 camera is a look back when everyone is going forward. The only film camera announced at CES, the Kodak Super 8 camera aims to rekindle the magic of making a movie and telling a story with film. With a detachable mic, digital audio recording to an SD card, an electronic viewfinder and a post-processing ecosystem that includes both film prints and digital scans, the Super 8 blends old-school look and feel with modern conveniences.

Despite requiring film processing and a shift in your post-production workflow, the Kodak Super 8 camera represents a unique way for people to tell their story by combining the old with the new — and that’s what we find is worth writing about. We’re excited to see what challenges and stylistic trends the Super 8 camera brings to our field. We can’t help but remember some of the most well-known directors of our time and the 8mm medium that they originally fell in love with. For being one of the most talked-about products at CES, and one we’ll certainly want to keep track of, we award the Kodak Super 8 camera a Best of CES 2016 Spotlight Award.

Spotlight Award: Livestream Movi

Not to be confused with the Freefly MoVI gimbals, the Livestream Movi is a camera designed for live production and streaming. Building on the strength of Livestream’s live video knowledge, the Movi connects with an iOS app capable of controlling up to nine Movis at once. Using the app, you can digitally pan, tilt and zoom the camera, giving your stream the appearance of a multi-camera production with just a single Movi. The Movi comes with a 10-foot USB cable, 16GB microSD card and a universal mount, and costs a cool $400. It is available in black or white and in a pro package that adds a power boost accessory and a stand.

We have to recognize this jump into streaming video. Many of us dream of streaming multi-cam video, and the Movi puts that dream into motion. We know where we want to keep a trained eye, so we’ve selected the Livestream Movi for a Best of CES 2016 Spotlight Award.

A Better Future

Congratulations to all of our Best of CES 2016 award winners. We saw a ton of exciting tech in Vegas, so honing our list of favorites down to just 11 awards took quite a bit of effort. These outstanding products, however, caught our attention and our imagination, promising a better future for video production and earning them each a spot in Videomaker’s Best of CES 2016. We look forward to keeping up with these products as they are released into the marketplace. We can’t wait to see how they will be put to use!

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Susan is the Art Director at Videomaker and YouTuber Magazines.

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