With NAB fast approaching, speculation is growing about the forthcoming launches and announcements we can expect there. Logic (and Moore’s Law) dictates that at some point we will see a 4K, 3 x 2/3″ sensor B4 mount camcorder, and my expectation is that Sony will get there first.
They’re first to market with a studio camera version, the increasingly popular HDC-4300, so it would be a shrewd move on their part to use this competitive advantage. I’m curious as to the form factor. Given the B4 mount, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a “traditional” shoulder-mount camcorder, rather than the cinematography-style C300 / FS7 / Alexa Mini style. Whilst there is a plethora of third-party accessory kits to make these cameras shoulder-friendly, it’s hard to beat a well-designed camcorder. I just hope they also have the camera operator in mind and come with a range of quality viewfinders to give a fighting chance of getting the focus right.
The ever-influential Geoff Boyle recently commented that “Arri has a problem”. The problem he’s referring to is that the big OTT drama commissioners, chiefly Netflix and Amazon, are insisting that all their content is acquired in 4K. This is interesting to me. Fundamentally, can anyone tell the difference, particularly for small screen delivery? Most big-budget feature films for cinematic release are shot on Alexa, up-ressed to 4K, and look amazing. So quite who is going to notice the difference on a small-screen streaming service is beyond me. But, as Geoff quite rightly says, if the commissioners holding the purse strings have bought into the 4K mantra, then ultimately it’s a moot point.
Proportionally, the share of commissions from these 4K dogmatists (this really isn’t the right word, perhaps purists is better? ) is still relatively low, but will inevitably grow, so I would expect Arri to announce a 4K sensor (or possibly even skip 4K altogether and go straight to 6K or 8K) either at NAB, or the next IBC. Regardless of whether the punter sitting at home will notice any difference, it’s an obvious chink in Arri’s armour, and one on which its competitors are trying to capitalise. This has not stopped the demand for Arri cameras though, with their cameras at the top of most hire company shopping lists this year.
Panasonic’s new Varicam LT is interesting, and seems to be gaining some marketing traction. It will be interesting to see their stand at NAB, and always fascinating for a European to go to NAB and observe the different market share that Panasonic enjoys in the US. It certainly has a far greater share of mainstream TV production than it does in the UK, and across Europe in general. The new Varicam LT has the same cinematic-look sensor of the Varicam 35, has dual native ISO’s, and interchangeable mounts so either EF or PL mount lenses can be used, which is clever. For a hire company, the ability to swap the mount of the camera easily to meet the client demand is a very useful feature. The camera does have some limitations such as a reduced frame rate from the Varicam 35, and the P2 media is still relatively expensive, but it looks like the type of camera that could give Panasonic a good shot at winning some market share.
Canon are very keen to push their new C300 Mk2 and the pan-European offer of 0% finance announced at BVE is showing some signs of helping convert clients from the ubiquitous Sony FS7. When you have the XDCA back with the FS7, which makes it a fair comparison with the feature set of the Canon C300 Mk2, the price difference isn’t as significant as commonly assumed. As mentioned in previous articles, Canon launched its new camera a little late for last year’s shooting season, but with a form factor familiar to so many Mk1 users it should do well. Fujinon introduced its new 20-120 PL mount zoom lens at BVE recently, but I’m sure it will have much more fanfare around it at NAB, particularly at the £10k price point indicated. I’m also sure that Canon will need to respond as the proposed price for the Fujinon lens is significantly cheaper than the Canon CN7 with a strikingly similar spec. I’d expect a new lens from Canon fairly soon.
Cooke has developed an Anamorphic/I wide angle zoom lens which they describe as “funky”. I’ll certainly be checking that out. Also good to see that Carey Duffy is now with Cooke, which is a great move for both parties. Cinematic lenses like Cooke are an amazing business case study, as they are the only product that appreciates in value. A set of Cooke anamorphic lenses might take 18+ months to arrive from date of order. So if a production needs them sooner, it has to either hire in the lenses while the new ones are being made, or buy a second-hand set, which might be more expensive than a new set but are immediately available. If the uplift in the cost of the second-hand set is less than the hire cost it makes sense to pay more for second-hand lenses. There is no other product like this in our industry. And as a finance company, we’ll finance lenses all day every day, and 3 times on Sunday.
Moving on to post-production, I’d expect AVID to make some changes to their storage line-up in the not too distant future. The ISIS 1000/5000/7000 line up is popular, and I’d expect a more flexible way of building large storage infrastructures at some point. I’d also expect a progression into Cloud-based storage solutions, with Editshare perhaps moving more in to this type of offering, as well as their traditional local networked storage solutions. They were very vocal about their 24Tb of storage for under £10K offering at BVE recently, and I’d still predict that this will be a popular choice.
Sony’s BVM-X300 continues to be the monitor of choice for most grading and colouring suites, and is still available on a 2 year 0% finance deal from authorised resellers.
The newishly-formed SAM (Snell Advanced Media) is making quite a stir in the mixer market with some very interesting and low-entry level 4K mixers. Of course the term “pricing from £X” should always be taken with a pinch of salt as you don’t know what it comes with as standard, but the two companies, Snell and Quantel, which merged to form SAM were both technically strong, so I am sure the mixers will be well thought out.
Ross Video are sure to be at NAB in force, and being on their home turf (ish) – they’re one of Canada’s best export stories – they will be keen to maintain their momentum. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some additions to the Carbonite switcher range and some enhancements to their already well-equipped flagship Acuity mixer. I’ve always loved Ross’s Dashboard concept, which allows a single interface to control every piece of Ross equipment on an entire network. That’s really clever, and for large infrastructure organisations, it can save a huge amount of man-power. And it comes free with every piece of Ross hardware or software which is a really astute commercial strategy.
As for broader issues, Brexit is the elephant in the Board room, with the industry seemingly as unsure of the implications of an EU withdrawal after the June 23rd referendum as the rest of us. The Culture Secretary John Whittingdale currently seems to be backing the ‘VoteLeave’ campaign. Such uncertainty is always paralysing for business, with crucial decisions being delayed until the outcome is clear, and that’s never a good thing. Recent reports show that the value of shows and formats to the EU is worth around £380M per annum to the UK economy, and there is an obvious concern about anything that threatens this.
The other key issue, not unrelated to the above, is the issue of equipment price rises. At the time of writing, sterling is close to a 7 year low against the US Dollar, and at a 12 month low against the Yen and Euro. So I’d expect some price rises soon. Therefore, if a product does what you, and your customers, need it to do, get your order in now, or at least stay close to your reseller of choice who should be aware of any impending price changes. And clearly this will make our Vegas golf rounds and Mall trips even more expensive.
In closing, I should also mention that Azule has just set up a Central London office near Trafalgar Square. Being in the heart of London means we can get to see even more of our clients at short notice.
The Azule team will be at NAB this year, so please do get in contact to arrange a meet up.