NAB 2019 the future is now
Updated: Apr 12, 2019
NAB in Las Vegas is the biggest tech event for the motion picture, television, streaming and radio industiries. This is where you can go kick the tires of all the best toys. Equipment manufacturers such as Sony, Arriflex, Black Magic Designs, Red Cameras and others tend to launch new products at NAB often with deep discount for buying at the show.. The overall takeaway from NAB is that standards in the digital age are in constant evolution. Seems obvious, but in the analog day the big manufacturers expected formats and standards to remain in place for 5 - 7 years with new features and upgrades controlled to manage competition and the pocketbooks of the television stations who were the biggest customers. Digital changed all that because acquisition formats and the editorial systems that use them have become flexible.
This is basically good news for the current generation of filmmakers and it's the reason Black Magic Designs (and many others) can sell a 4k camera for $5000.00. The video from these cameras is equal to or exceeds broadcast qualty and equal to feature film 35mm since the silent era. The tech debate about color space and resolution goes on, but we have basically passed the point where a viewer of TV or movies can tell the difference between video shot on a $5000 camcorder (plus $2k for a basic zoom) and the same subject shot with a $40k camera. Most motion picture theaters at this time project 2k.
The big convergence of low price and high end features is ongoing, and I would argue that any more development of better imaging is a matter of detail not large breakthroughs. Innovation is everywhere and we now see out-of-the- box camera designs on Kickstarter campaigns. 8K was all over NAB show floor and even 16k is being discussed. Why? Well, the imaging science and R&D is not all for or from the entertainment industry. High resolution acquisistion has a place in medical, military, satellite and other data hungry industries. VR/AR is also driving high data rate R&D since the image is 360 degrees. VR tends also to have high frame rates and ultra high resolution since the end goal of VR is to present an experince that is indistinguishable from actual experience.
Data transfer, computation and sensor technology all have to line up to allow for higher frame rates, more resolution and wider dynamic range. Different industries are all pushing for higher and better imaging and the entertainment industry is both a leader and a beneficiary in advances in imaging tech.