Events, Reviews

360 Video and Beyond: The 11 Coolest Things We Saw at NAB 2016

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The National Association of Broadcasters convention gathers in Las Vegas each year in April to introduce new companies, technologies, and products in the broadcast and A/V spaces. Over 103,000 attendees and 1,700 exhibitors from over 160 countries were in attendance at the 2016 NAB Show, including Pond5. We initially launched at NAB in 2006, so this year’s event also marked our 10-year anniversary. Our team spent time in the booth celebrating and introducing the crowds of technophiles to our new brand and membership products, and also walking the floor exploring the nearly two-million-square-foot convention center and all of its varied wonders. We had team members from our video, audio, and visual effects teams in attendance, and these are some of the most exciting things we found.
 

VIDEO AND 360/VR

 
Project Beyond by Samsung

Project Beyond by Samsung

We got a sneak peek at a 360 VR camera system under development by the folks at Project Beyond and Samsung. This neatly designed UFO-looking system is the first ever true 3D 360 VR camera, able to capture Stereoscopic 360-degree video at 4K resolution. It’s capable of real-time stitching and allows live streaming, which we experienced ourselves and were pleasantly impressed. The Samsung development team knows the industry, and they fully understand needs of content creators out there. We’re hoping this will simplify workflows and take the 360 VR medium to a whole new stage.
 
ARRI’s New ALEXA SXT

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The newest offering from ARRI is the ALEXA SXT (Super Xtended Technology) camera line, absolutely beautiful cinema cameras capable of delivering 4K and UHD in ProRes444 while offering in-camera 3D lookup-table support.

The cameras are built on a solid Alexa Base but somehow seem more stable and well-rounded than any of their predecessors. Additionally, we were that SXT can deliver up to 120fps, which is more than enough to play with and get super-smooth slow motion. Overall, SXT feels like a great line of devices for serious cinematographers ready to invest in cutting-edge gear.
 
DJI Osmo Update

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Osmo has been on the market for a while, and has gathered quite large customer base, but everyone who owned the device agreed that battery life and stabilization while walking was far from desirable. So the folks at DJI sat down and rolled out firmware recently that minimized internal fan usage and improved battery life by 30%. At NAB, we saw a solution for the second problem as well. The Z-Axis stabilization add-on that is added between the gimbal and X3 camera minimizes the up and down motion while walking and turning, gives a whole new breadth to Osmo system line. Kudos to DJI for their impressive and quick response to customer feedback.
 
The CamDolly

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Whether you need a tabletop dolly, a fully rideable tracking camera dolly or anything in between, the CamDolly Cinema System lets you configure it all in just about 15 minutes. You can set it up as a Ride-On Track Dolly, Ride-On Doorway Dolly, Heavy-Duty Slider, Table-Top Dolly, or 360-Degree Orbit Dolly. Its two flexible, solid, 50 foot rubber tracks will take you where you need to go, up to a payload of more than 550 pounds.

The entire system weighs in at 145 pounds but it’s packaged in three individual cases – the heaviest of which is less than 50 pounds, so you can easily check them on a plane. The rideable protocols can also can carry two operators, a tripod and camera, or even a mini-jib. At $2,995 USD for the standard model and $4,495 USD for the full kit (with one SnakeTrack rail, cases, foam inserts, and optional mount adapters), it’s an affordable and versatile system to get dynamic footage.
 
DSLR Optimizer Pandora

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Do you own a DSLR and wish that it was better suited for run-and-gun scenarios? The Pandora by DSLR Optimizer is almost here. Their indiegogo campaign last year was hugely successful, a sure sign for sufficient demand in the market.

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Basically, this product will replace your Beachtek 2 channel XLR adapter ($299 USD) and your Canon dual battery grip ($150-ish USD), and will counterbalance the weight of your lenses, which will especially come in handy if you’re using heavy, fast glass. It uses 10 lithium 18650 batteries and has a solar charger built in to give you a little extra power. The Pandora will begin shipping in June at a sticker price of $799 USD.

 

AUDIO

 
Countryman Associates A3 Podium Mic

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Countryman Associates launched their new A3 podium mic at NAB and Mr. Countryman, their head engineer, was on site to give demos. This mic has three modes, depending on how you’re going to use it: omnidirectional, perfect for ambient sound or space or a roundtable discussion; cardiod, best for 2-3 people presenting an award; and hypercardiod, the best mode for a single presenter like in a church setting. In trying this out, we pounded on the desk and ruffled papers and the hypercardioid mode was excellent. Specs: Omnidirectional, 60 Hz to 18 kHz; Directional, 70 Hz to 16 kHz.
 
Earthworks Unreleased Prototypes

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Earthworks was showing off two early prototypes of studio-vocal and on-air radio broadcast mics. They also had a couple of old favorites we’d be remiss not to bring up. In particular, the QTC 40 is a sleek, futuristic and frankly sexy mic for “quiet sources.” It’s recommended for everything from recordings in nature to a full orchestra blend. We tried to give this mic a go for singing and weren’t quite happy with the sound, but were then reminded of the room: a busy, honking show floor. We’d love to give this mic a try in a room we love, because it will pick up the room as much as it will the primary sound source. QTC 40 Specs: 4Hz to 40 kHz.
 
DPA Microphones Slim 4060

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DPA was awarded a Best of NAB 2016 from VideoMaker for the Slim 4060 Omnidirectional, which was released back in October 2015. This mic is designed to go anywhere you don’t want to see a mic, so, not surprisingly, it’s used mostly in television and theater and has a remarkable pickup range; this mic can be 100% hidden and still pick up sound.

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The Slim is part of the d:screet series and works with most wireless mic solutions, such as Lectrosonics, Sennheiser, Shure, and Sony. It comes with a host of accessories that can be configured to fasten it to your collar, beneath a button or behind your ear. DPA also launched a couple of new vocal mics, but this little guy stole the show.
 

Visual Effects

 
Maxon/Cinema 4D

Maxon was on site at NAB doing live demos of C4D usage in various productions and third-party integrations. The big hype around Pixar’s RENDERMAN integration left viewers with high hopes for even more efficient workflows for creating beautiful images in 3D space.
 
Video Copilot

Having worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, along with being established rock stars in the field, Video Copilot were a big name at NAB, where founder Andrew Kramer discussed the team’s work on the movie. Their free plug-in Saber was released recently and the hype around making your own blaster/lightsaber VFX is back! So much for rotoscoping a thousand frames of wannabe Jedi.
 
Boris/Mocha

The fabulous Mary Poplin put on a slew of amazing demos of the various uses for Imagineers’ Mocha product. Watching a master of the product at work will always show you how key proper motion is when upping your VFX game; get ready for demos on VFX within 360 footage, which are right around the corner.

– James Wright, Avtandil Chachibaia, Dani DiCiaccio, and Brett McAfee contributed to this report

Were you at NAB this year? If so, what else did you see that had you talking? Let us know in the commments!