With a dearth of new camera announcements at this NAB, some pundits have been underwhelmed with the show. But, dig a little deeper and you'll likely find news and products that are meaningful to film professionals.
There is a common sentiment among various forums that NAB 2016 was a bust, largely because there weren't any major new cameras announced there.
There were some great new cameras on the floor; Blackmagic had its 4.6K Ursa Minis, Red had the Raven and Scarlet and Panasonic had the Varicam LT out, which are all shipping.
In other words, these camera manufacturers mostly stole their own thunder by not waiting until NAB to announce their new cameras.
More importantly, however, there was a lot be shown at NAB that should matter to filmmakers everywhere.
High dynamic range display technology is one of them. Sony and Panasonic both had dedicated pavilions within their palatial booths showing HDR footage. Panasonic's was more like Sony's from last year, where it had a Colorfront set up and a colorist there showing a comparison between what we're used to and a version from the same Varicam re-graded for HDR. Sony's was a set of displays showing some stunning HDR footage, showing off both the dynamic range and incredible color that Sony cameras can capture.
4K ( and HDR) consumer adoption
There was also quite a bit going on with the AIMS Alliance that really should matter to more filmmakers, because one of the biggest obstacles to getting 4K and HDR into the mainstream is that, right now, there's pretty much no way to share it with anyone. Netflix is requiring 4K capture, yet can really only deliver a 4K signal so compressed that it's often more pleasing to watch in HD with less aggressive compression.
Without content, 4K TVs are a somewhat hard sell, though the prices are reaching a point of affordability for a wide audience now.
ENG and VR
There were quite a few new things related to ENG on display that were, while not as glamourous as a new cinema camera, still showcased some impressive new technology.
Last year, virtual reality was barely more than footnote at NAB, with 360 Heroes being the most prominent VR gear vendor at the show. This year, VR had an entire pavilion, in addition to a palatial GoPro booth.
We've reached a point where cameras have far exceeded delivery. We can capture far more dynamic range, far wider color gamut and far higher frame rates, even in virtual reality, than we can display outside of technology demos at shows like NAB. We can capture 4K or more in 15 or more stops of dynamic range with color gamut approaching or exceeding even the Rec2020 spec, yet most of our delivery is still in HD, in rec709, and in 23.98 frames per second.
We don't need new cameras right now, even though new cameras are sexy. We have available to us professional-grade cameras that can capture considerably more than we can show at pretty much every price point, from Blackmagic's Pocket Cinema Camera all the way up to the rental-only Arri Alexa 65.
While camera technology will continue to develop and high quality cameras will continue to decrese in price, it's well past time we turned our attention back to storytelling and, even more important, connecting with our viewers.