This year's NAB delivered the usual mix of hype, new and nearly new technology, and exciting prototype products not quite ready for prime time. Even with four full days to roam the show floor, there is still too much for anyone to take in. That said, it's not too hard to catch the key trends and most exciting new products on display if you know what you're looking for. With the EventDV audience in mind, here's a list of 12 products I saw at NAB 2006 that I believe will make a major impact in our industry over the next year, and a brief explanation of why they belong here.
The criteria for getting on this list were fairly simple. The product had to be introduced or publicly shown for the first time at NAB 2006 and not available for sale previous to NAB 2006. For example, had Adobe waited until NAB to introduce its new Production Studio, it would have made the list, but since it's been on sale in use by thousands of editors, for the last three months we couldn't very well say it was introduced at NAB, even though last week constituted its trade show debut.
The items on this list are not all for sale right now, and some are not going to be for sale for another few months. This list doesn't endorse the operability of any of these items as none of them have yet been reviewed. How much can you really tell about how well a product will serve you day to day from a booth demo? This list is rewarding the potential benefit these products to the event video industry, if they live up to the promises at made at the booths. In the coming months, we hope to be looking at most of these products for in-depth reviews to see if they live up to their NAB introductions.
1. Matrox RT.X2 and MXO
The Matrox RT.X2 accelerator card is the next step up from one of the favorite cards of the video industry, the RT.X100. The RT.X2 adds real-time HDV editing to the RT.X100's acclaimed real-time DV editing. It also supports a new breakout box that now includes analog component as well as a 1394 port, so you no longer need to reach around to the back of the computer. In truth, it bears more similarity to Matrox's Axio famiy of products than the older RTX100, sharing the Axio's core engine, and new integration with Adobe Premiere Pro for adjusting transitions and effects. The RT.X2 lists for $1,995, and includes Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0.
The MXO is Matrox's first foray into the Mac platform since the company launched its RTMac several years ago. Apple itself is big on the MXO. The MXO is an external device that you connect to the DVI port of a Mac in order to output broadcast quality from Final simultaneous SDI and Component outputs in HD or SD for monitoring or recording. SDI has up to 8 channels of embedded audio and has stereo monitoring. All for $995!
2. Nnovia QCDeck
The Nnovia QC (Quick Capture) Deck is a direct-to-disk recorder that attaches via FireWire, and to camcorders to record into a number of DV codecs. What sets QCDeck apart from others such as the Firestore or Citidisk, is the ability to remove the disk from the enclosure when full and put in an empty one. The FireStore FS-4 and CitiDISK require a whole new system. The same disks are used in Hitachi's disk-based camcorder. Many options are available for remote control, including a motion sensor and even a simple cable that allows you to hook a cartridge up to a computer and start editing. The MSRP for a QCDeck with a 100GB (7.5-hour) disk is $2200. Additional 120 GB disk cartridges are $399; 40GB cartridges go for $149.
3. Sony HVR-M15U HDV VTR
Sony's new HVR-M15U VTR, the HDV equivalent of Sony's trusty DV/DVCAM DSR-11, was announced in February, and made its first public appearance at NAB. It is expected to ship in June. It accepts both full-size and MiniDV cassettes--a big step up from Sony's awkward HVR-M10U, which took only MiniDV. Now adherents to Sony's HDV 1080i can record more than one hour to a cassette. The deck will record and play back NTSC and PAL HDV 1080i, DVCAM, and DV, and also downconvert 1080i to 720p. The deck also plays back HDV 720p/30 via analog component and HDMI only. The HVR-M15U lists for $2,640.
4. Bella Catapult
Bella's Catapult is a small device that allows you to capture video footage from any DV or HDV video camera with a FireWire connection directly to an iPod or virtually any USB drive, and begin editing immediately. The Catapult includes features such as time lapse, remote trigger, and a pre-record buffer in case you hit the record trigger late. It is also capable of powering un-powered USB drives. This could be the most affordable "direct to disk" option available by a long shot. MSRP will be under $300, and Catapult will be available in the 2nd half of this year.
5. JVC GY-HD200U
Building on the success of last year's hit ProHD camera, the GY-HD100U, JVC introduced the GY-HD200U as its latest step-up model. While many users are just fine with working in 30p or 24p on the 100U, many shooters have clamored for the more fluid look of the interlaced cameras. To accomplish this, JVC introduced 60p recording in the HD200 to give the video it captures a more fluid look. The camcorder also features a number of cine-gamma adjustments. Its MSRP is $7,995 with lens.
6. Apple MacBook Pro 17"
With Apple moving to Intel's speedy Core Duo processors, and the ability to use their Bootcamp application to make a Windows XP partition and run Windows-only applications on the Mac, you get the best of both worlds. If you are a PC guy who can't justify buying a Mac for the few times a year you may need it, this may be your justification. This laptop has a top-of-the-line 2.16GHz Core Duo CPU, 1GB RAM, PCI Express-based ATI Radeon X1600 with 256MB of dedicated video memory, a double-layer DVD burner, two USB 2.0 ports, and support for both FireWire 400 and 800. The MacBook Pro 17" lists for $2,799.
7. Anton/Bauer ElipZ
The introduction of Anton/Bauer's ElipZ battery system marks the first time the company has offered a battery system specifically for the 7.2-volt world of the smaller pro and prosumer camcorders such as the Panasonic AG-DVX100B, Sony HVR-Z1U, and Canon GL2. About the size of one of Anton/Bauer's Dionic 90 batteries, the ElipZ attaches to the bottom of the camcorder with its own tripod-like shoe that connects to the battery. There are holes one the bottom of the ElipZ to attach to a tripod. When ordering, you need to specify the camcorder you use in order to get the appropriate power adapter cable. With a 10-watt camera load, the ElipZ can run for 7.5 hours on a single charge. It ships with a standard overnight charger. Additional options include the ElightZ 6-volt camera lights in 5, 10, or 15-watt configurations and EgripZ bendable camera support handles. The battery and charger sell for $299.95.
8. SmartSound: Sonicfire Pro 4
With the new Sonicfire Pro 4, Smart Sound now gives users even more choices for creating custom audio tracks. With the new version, once you decide on the type of music and the length, you can refine the mood of the music by adjusting the intensity of the particular musical element. SmartSound calls this feature "mood mapping." Sonicfire Pro 4's $199 MSRP includes two Mood Mapping-capable CDs. Other bundles with more discs are available at additional cost.
9. Tapco (Mackie) Link USB
Tapco's new Link USB box will come in handy if you need a compact device for recording narration or other audio directly into your computer. It can connect two mic or line-level devices and record them directly into programs like Sony Sound Forge or Adobe Audition. It features combo XLR and 1/4" input jacks, 1/4 stereo monitor outs, headphone outs, phantom power on both channels, separate input gain controls, and a USB 2 connector for interfacing with a computer. The unit powers off of the USB port, so no additional power is needed. It also includes Mackie's Traction 2.0 audio production software. MSRP is $199.
10. Zaxcom TRX900 Digital Wireless Microphone System
Innovative, but more expensive than many event video camcorders, these are the first wireless microphones to provide integrated audio recording, up to 12 hours of audio directly to a 2GB flash memory card and then transfer the files to either a PC or Macintosh for postproduction. While a lot of videographers are using iRivers (mic input models now discontinued) and the like instead of wireless mics, I prefer to know I'm recording something, and have the flash memory as a backup in case I get signal breakup. The TRX900 Lavaliere system with built-in recorder and 128MB flash memory lists for $1,960. The transmitter (no mic included) has an MSRP of $250 for the flash recorder option, and the receiver costs $2,000.
11. Azden FMX-32 3-Channel Field Mixer
This new product from Azden was released a month before NAB, but still qualifies as new in my book. This may be just the answer to anyone who needs more mic inputs on their camera, or in the field. The mixer features three XLR inputs, rotary gain on each channel, five segment LED VU meters, and balanced and unbalanced stereo out, and it's compact enough to mount on large camcorder or tripod. Six AA batteries will run it for 15 hours. And it's very reasonably priced at MSRP $450.
12. Sony PDW-F330 XDCAM HD Camcorder
The DW-F330 offers HD recording in 1080/59.94i, 50i, 29.97p, 25p, and native 23.98p, and the operator can also select the desired bit rate to record in either 35, 25, or 18 Mbps depending on the desired picture quality and recording length. Being a dual-format camcorder, it can also record in SD mode at 25Mbps (DV) on inexpensive ($30) reusable, blue laser-based 23GB Professional Discs. The camera uses newly developed 1/2-inch HD CCDs and lenses. At $17,000 without the lens, it may be a little steep for most event videographers, but it is in the ballpark for higher-end producers.