2014 NAB Wrap Up

Still photographers and motion shooters love to get a “first”  look at “new gear”. Here are a few interesting items I saw last week at the NAB Show (National Association of Broadcasters):


  • Black Magic Ursa A 4K camera 2014 NAB Showat an affordable price (around $6,500) that will be shipping in July. They’re calling it the first user upgradable-camera because you can change the sensor and the lens mount. It looks like this will be a great camera for filmmaking and documentaries.
  • Sony A7s Sony’s latest mirrorless camera features a wide-dynamic-range sensor and amazing sensitivity. With this camera, Sony didn’t jump into the megapixel competition against other camera manufacturers, but instead concentrated on image quality at staggering ISO’s. I would use this camera more as a still camera, but it’s small and it also shoots 4Kvideo.
  • GoPro  This company continues to innovate and make products that provide shooters with the tools that allow them to come up with incredibly creative solutions, especially in sports/action content.


  •  Atomos has created the Ninja Star, a tiny ProRes Recorder for theGoPro Hero 3 that has an HDMI-out port and allows you to loop the signal through the Ninja Star and out to a monitor for composition or review. Atomos also debuted their Shogun, a combination seven-inch monitor and recorder with 4K capability.
  • G-Speed Studio by G-Techology This product, a hardware RAID 4-Bay Thunderbolt 2 storage solution, won the “Best Storage of NAB 2014 Award.” 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; at a lesser amount, the sustained 660MB/s transfer rate will get your files going quick.


  • Kessler Unidrive This is a motion control system (slider) that’s automated to enhance your production values.
  • Shape ISEE 1 Camera Stabilizer for GoPro A very cool device to stabilize your action GoPRo footage. The SHAPE ISEE I is a handheld gimbal-based stabilizer for GoPro cameras and smartphones. The powered, self-calibrating ISEE I enables steady shots with the GoPro and features a joystick for up/down tilting of the camera.
  • DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision Plus with Gimbal and GPS The latest addition to DJI’s quadcopter lineup gives you stunning images at a super affordable price ($1,000, or $1,099 for a version with extra battery). The copter has a 1080P camera that supports Adobe DNG RAW, which is great for workflow. There are also features that allow you to stream video to your smartphone in real time and to synchronize your phone with the quadrocopter through WiFi up to 700 meters away.
  • Syrp Genie Time Lapse & Magic Carpet Slider This is a motion controller coupled with a simple slider that provides a relatively low-cost solution for great time-lapse photography.
  • GimbalGunner A new device designed for run-and-gun video shooting. It’s essentially a cross between a two-axis gimbal and shoulder-mounted rig.


  • There were hundreds of booths demoing software, but perhaps the most impressive of the bunch for me was the iZotope RX 3 2014 NAB ShowThis audio postproduction software will take away your fears about working with sound. I saw a demo in which it fixed substantial audio issues with the push of a button. Technology continues to make our lives easier. There is an incredible deal on the software until May 1, with prices slashed from $749 to $249. I don’t advocate capturing bad audio, but you’ll want this repair tool if you do.


  • Litepanels This company launched its new Hilio series, versatile panels that emit a raw, narrow beam that provides high-intensity light for long throws.

The Story and Hereafter

I recently watched the movie Hereafter, another film where Clint Eastwood shows his amazing creativity and ability to tell a story. It’s a film that lingers in your mind and keeps you thinking on many levels.

The official synopsis:

“A drama centered on three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. George (Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might-or must-exist in the hereafter.”

It’s actually three stories that come together at the very end of the film. Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland. Frost/Nixon) were brilliant in the way they introduced us to the characters in one of the stories within the movie. We see two adolescent twin boys in a photo studio having their portrait taken.  The photographer is chatting them up, trying to get expressions out of them. We know within the first minute of dialog how vastly different the two boys are, even though they appear to be identical. A simple yet powerful way to set up the story for that particular part of the film.

The cinematography was extraordinary and a reason in itself to see the movie. In the beginning of the movie is some of the most vivid underwater cinematography I have ever seen as the camera captures the ravages of a tsunami.  The footage was vivid and real, yet poetic and surreal at the same time. It was also incredibly intimate. In fact throughout the entire movie I felt like I was inside the film or a part of it because of the intimacy of the cinematography.  I’d like to watch the film again and just try to look at it with my eye on the craft of cinematography.

As far as the story structure, it’s not easy to make a film that is made up of separate stories, yet connected in an organic way. Connected in a way that makes sense to the viewer and doesn’t feel forced. One great example of a film that does this well is Love Actually. Eastwood also pulls it off in Hereafter. He  is a master storyteller and he seamlessly brings us back and forth between the three stories leaving us wondering how at times how they are connected to one another yet not being distracted by it.

I’ve been reading a lot about storytelling and story structure lately and I can appreciate when I see it done well in a film or a book or even at a party.  I think sometimes we take the art of storytelling for granted because when it’s done well it goes unnoticed.  Go see Hereafter.  Clint Eastwood continues to amaze.

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Does a Canon 5D Mark II Make You a Cinematographer?

I read somewhere that a recent episode of the TV show “Housewas shot entirely with the Canon 5D Mark II.  A dozen thoughts ran through my head – Who would have thought that a prime time TV show would be shot with a still camera?  – Isn’t it amazing what technology has made possible? With a big production budget, why did they choose this camera? Did they back it up – just in case?

But the biggest thought that ran through my head was that this article oversimplifies the production process and leads you to believe that now just about anyone with a few thousand dollars can become a DP on a prime time TV show. In other words – when talking just about the camera, things get taken out of context.

What about the fact that they most likely had dozens of these hybrid cameras on set, with a crew of hundreds? Or that the sound guys were capturing the audio with tens of thousands of dollars worth of sophisticated equipment.  And then of course there is the post-production aspect where the file from the camera gets tweaked, modified and enhanced by professional colorists.

I think many times still photographers overlook the fact that there is a lot more to a large scale production than just the shoot and the camera.  And most of the time it goes way beyond the capabilities and role of the individual photographer who is used to working in a solo manner as opposed to collaboration.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a big part of me that absolutely loves my 5D and my 7D.  It allows me to deliver a motion product with a stunning visual.  But after shooting motion for 11 years, in addition to my 35 years shooting stills – I know that not only do I need to think differently when I shoot in motion but I also need to collaborate with others to be able to fulfill the needs of the production.

So when you hear that an entire movie was shot with the 5D – think beyond the camera.

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