The just concluded National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention can be summed up in a few telling words…4K for everyone, drones, dollies, sliders and rigs, LEDs, and DSLRs.
A Little Set Up
Flexible LED Panels
NAB used to be the domain of television broadcasters and the film industry, hence the name, but inthe last half decade or so, the evolution of image capture and the proliferation of more affordable, high quality, tools have pushed the association to adopt a more liberal definition of its purpose. The thrust now is toward what NAB refers to as “broader-casting.” This refers to product distribution through all of the myriad possibilities; the web, conventional television, cable, smart devices, and so on.
Even producers long associated with traditional distribution methods are devising content to enhance the primary viewing experience on television screens. The ability to distribute to second screens (devices other than televisions), and provide additional content via metadata and hidden streams of information opens up whole new viewing experiences and revenue streams for program producers. “Transmedia” storytelling, the creation and telling of a story or stories across multiple platforms to maximize audience engagement and interaction, is a growing movement that has value, not only for major commercial use, but for education as well. More on that in an upcoming post.
This broader-casting has benefited from the integration of traditional production tools and techniques with the incredible growth of digital hardware and software to truly democratize production. Now, virtually anyone with a video recording device (phone, point and shoot, dslr, or dedicated video camera) and access to editing software can create and share their ideas and vision with, quite literally, the world. For us, all of these tools makes the use of high quality video and other media ever more available to the classroom
The Big Boys
For major players in the cinematic and broadcast industries, the cameras keep getting more and more sophisticated, with resolutions getting higher and higher. We’ve rapidly gone from standard definition to high definition, to Ultra-high definition, and now the growing market for 4K resolution. And while 4K hasn’t even really established itself in the consumer marketplace, talk has already begun about 8K. Look for that in the next five years. As many have observed, the only constant is that everything will change…and quickly.
The Not So Big Boys
For the rest of us, the equipment gets smaller and smaller, and the tools that used to belong to only major players now have become accessible to all. Remember beta and VHS? In the days before Hi-8, DVDs, and DVRs, those two formats were the playground for consumers. What followed came fast and furious…videotape is a nearly forgotten medium. Now everyone can shoot some flavor of high definition on virtually lossless cards, resulting in better video quality ( though not necessarily better crafted products).
And the rest of hardware and software universe available to us has changed as well. There was a time when a tripod was the only practical camera support for the common man. Over the years, focusing rails, dollies, sliders, and cranes have become more affordable and are now ubiquitous for cameras large and small. That proliferation of tools has coincided with growing camera options and now, much of the market is now focused on video-capable DSLRs. These advances have enabled independent, corporate, and other smaller producers to raise the production values in their productions.
And the quest for better ways to tell our stories and communicate our messages has grown to extremes. Products like POV (Point of View) cameras, think GoPro, have allowed viewers to go into environments and activities in ways never thought possible a few years ago. From mountain tops to ocean depths, from insane knife ridge bike trails to frozen caverns, these hardy and easy to mount devices have broken open the story vaults and stirred whole new ways of telling stories.
In the grand spirit of discovery, once you have a tool like a DSLR or a GoPro, the search is on to see where else you can take it and what else you can create with it. It seemed like everyone was showing off a new drone…you know, those helicopters, quad-copters, and octo-copters that seem to be showing up everywhere? Manufacturers of these radio-controlled devices have spawned a whole support industry with the need for 3-D gimbals and other stabilizing devices for cameras attached to these flying marvels. While the FAA works on policies to cover their use, these devices are finding their way into more and more productions.
So, in a nutshell, creative minds around the world are creating better tools and techniques to help filmmakers, storytellers, instructors, anyone with a message, engage, teach, and interact with their audiences.