High-Def Training At NAB

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The media-training firm Future Media Concepts will once again be putting together the NAB Post Production World Conference, with sessions on a wide array of production and post-production topics that are critical to HD production. The event is set for the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. In an edited transcript of a much longer conversation, HD Update contributor George Winslow talks to Studio 37's founder and CEO, Gary Adcock, a consultant and producer who has long been active in high-end film and HD production, about the trends he sees in HD production and his work as the technical chair for the director of photography sessions at Post Production World.

MCN: What are you doing this year at the NAB with Future Media Concepts [FMC] for the Post Production conference?


Gary Adcock: Over the years, my work at NAB with FMC has involved a multitude of things, but I am currently the technical chair for director of photography conference that is part of what they are doing at NAB this year. For that, I bring together some of the biggest and best names of the industry to talk about the future of technology and where it is going at NAB. This year we will be will be covering a lot of technology [for television, video, film, motion graphics, animation, and new media] as well as newer things like DSLR video, tapeless acquisition, and 3D.

Gary Adcock

We have some special guests -- like Dave Stump ASC and Roberto Schaefer ASC, who worked together on [James Bond film] Quantum of Solace -- who will be there talking about anamorphic lenses and the resurgence of anamorphic technology.

I think this is going to be one of those great years where NAB comes back. It is going to be one of those great years where there's going to be some groundbreaking technology and if you are not there to see it, reading about it on the Web is not going to be the same thing.

MCN: What do you see as some of the biggest issues facing people today doing HD production?

Gary Adcock: The biggest issues we are having with HD production are getting people to understand that HD is here and now. There are a lot of places in smaller markets and outside the U.S. where I still see standard definition being converted for use as high-def, particularly for local news.
Beyond that, we are seeing smaller and smaller cameras and more of that kind of technology running on mainstream televisions.

I also think conversion technology is becoming a real important part of the future. Whether you're in a truck or a facility, you have to keep track of content that is coming from so many directions and so many different sources.
The other thing that I see moving quickly is 3D. [Three-dimensional] televisions are starting to go on sale on the consumer side and we've got six networks who have announced they are going to do 3D delivery this year. So we are going to see a lot of 3D, though I don't think 3D will be as much for mainstream television as for features and concerts and special content.

I've been involved in a couple of things with 3D for sports. While people would think that sports would be one of the most important things for 3D, a lot of times you can't do 3D [well in sports] because there is too much information. You can't pan real fast with the football or do a snap jump on something in 3D without making the viewer disoriented. So I think there has been a little pullback with sports in 3D.

Where we are going to see 3D come to life is actually in concert footage, in live events that aren't sports and in theatrical films.

Alice in Wonderland just hit the theaters and did $116 million in first weekend and 85% of that was in 3D theaters, even though 3D theaters only account for 20% of the worldwide release.

In 2009, there were 16 stereoscopic 3D films released. Two of those films were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and one of them became the biggest box-office draw of all time. It has become a usable viable media.
The other important trend is the move to tapeless. It has finally gained enough momentum that I'm seeing my major clients giving up tape for acquisition. Even the truck facilities are going that way. I've done 20 tapeless productions this year for live events. I think that is going to be one of the biggest things in the production world and in the facilities world.

MCN: What are some key things that people will take away from the conference in terms of their approach to HD production?

Gary Adcock: I think people have gotten into the habit that cheaper is better. There is a pervasive attitude with the economy the way it is that you should get by with as cheap as you can.
The problem with that is that the lower-cost tools often lose capabilities. They can force you into a kind of creativity that is not necessarily what you like or want.

For example, we have a whole session on [digital single-lens reflex cameras] where we're going to compare material from DSLRs from Canon, Nikon and Panasonic versus 35-milimeter film captures of the same thing.
The whole advantage of have digital still cameras take video is that they take great quality video and are inexpensive. It
is kind of thing where people need to see what they can do.

But you also need to see that there are limitations to using great and inexpensive. There are limitations with ergonomics and functionality and simple things like that. There are reasons why video cameras and film cameras are still heavy duty on the high end, because they are made to take that kind of wear and tear.

I think a lot of people are going to come away from that and say, "Hmm. Maybe there is a reason why I need to shoot film. Maybe there is a reason why I need to work with a higher-end camera. Maybe there is a reason why I need to work with a camera that allows me to work with very wide variety of different lenses."

MCN: Thanks to the economy, there was a slowdown in HD upgrades in 2009. Do you see things picking up in 2010?

Gary Adcock: I do. I've already started to see uptakes in things like the purchasing of new displays. And, I think this whole movement to tapeless can save a lot of money in the long run. One truck company that I recently worked with is actually looking at removing all their HDCAM decks, which were huge, heavy monsters that take up all this rack space.

If you take out a 60-pound deck, you take out an additional 40 pounds of support for it. Then you can replace it with a five-pound [tapeless recording system] that needs a pound of support.

That is a big boom to industry not just in terms of space and weight but cost. The cost of an HDCAM or HDCAM-SR deck starts at $40,000 to $50,000. If you can replace that with a $5,000 or $10,000 recorder that has 10-bit quality, it changes the way people have to look at things. The money they can save can be used building out their other infrastructure or expanding their archives for HD.

MCN: What sort of challenges for storage and archiving are created by the move to HD and tapeless?

Gary Adcock: This is one of the biggest problems in the industry. You're no longer dealing with a tape on a shelf that has Bob's B-roll. Now, you have some abstract code on the file that has been retrieved and looked at. So one of the biggest future issues is being able to handle and maintain all this data so find it and use it.

When you are talking about the high-end tools, the film-replacement systems from Red [and others] offer resolution beyond what most people understand as normal and certainly beyond what 1920-by-1080 HD is. Now that you have cameras taking 2K, 4K images, you will start seeing rebirth off-line online systems, which is something we got away from in the digital world.

So I think database management and metadata are going to be two of the biggest hurdles facing people for the next
two or three years.

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