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Software updates and Panasonic's 3-D camera

I was a bit disappointed when arriving at the Las Vegas Convention Center this morning that I was not handed a set of 3-D glasses when coming through the entrance of the Central Hall. Oh well, I guess they are waiting for some victorious standard to emerge out of the format wars.

One of the great pleasures of being at NAB is galloping around the press conference circuit with the other members of the press corps. If you are ever looking for certainty in your life, the gallant cavaliers of the media overflow with it. Sunday's round of press conferences filled their quivers with plenty of arrows to fire at the future of 3-D broadcasting, but the conclusion of their conjectures only spews out a cacophony of confusion.

Fortunately, in this blog we stick to the facts. One of the most hopeful facts from Sunday's press conferences was that one company at least, Quantel, has found a way to make a buck in this 3-D digital production environment. Its CEO reported that the company brought in a 10 percent return on $65 million during 2009 and topped that in just the first half of this year. Way to go, you Brits!

Mark Schubin enlivened the Digital Cinema Summit session during his keynote address by showing an image of a woman's bra, saying, "This is the real 3-D," to tumultuous laughter.

Autodesk (opens in new tab) took a whole 30 minutes in its press conference to tell the corps that it had new software versions for all of its systems. You could tell they were new because they all had the suffix "2010" at the end. But as to new functionalities, just repeat over and over "bigger, faster, better," as if we had expected anything else.

Panasonic unveiled its much-anticipated AG-3DA1 camera—with a faceplate that resembles the character Wall-E from the movies—claiming that it will enable even independent filmmakers to get into the 3-D game. It's a cute little thing, and it's even equipped with convergence adjustment control and solid-state recording. It's sure to find early adopters. In fact, the adult film industry, in the San Fernando valley outside of Los Angeles, could be heard cheering all the way across the desert.

Some in the press corps questioned whether its lenses' interaxial distance (often erroneously referred to as "interocular" separation) would enable a true 3-D effect on distant images, but I can assure you they were wrong. With a cute little faceplate that resembles the character Wall-E, how could it disappoint?

But as a wordsmith, I was most impressed by Panasonic's catch phrase for its 3-D roll-out as being "from the camera to the couch." That's almost as good as Sony's conundrum trumpeted during its press conference of "lens to the living room." Can't we all get along?

The most astonishing news out of Avid (opens in new tab)'s press conference was that the term 3-D was not mentioned at all until a frustrated member of the press corps asked about it during Q&A. Since Avid NLEs have been involved with most of the current 3-D releases, it seemed a moot point bolstered only by the fact that the NAB release of software version 5 for Avid's edit systems has no new 3-D features at all.

However, this means that its mainstream edit system, Avid Media Composer (opens in new tab), still cannot adjust the convergence angle of its two stereoscopic timelines. Since 3-D editing was introduced at last year's NAB with version 3.5 software, and this year's big announcement was version 5.0, the inability to manipulate the position of images in Z-space was a notable omission. So far, the only NLE software capable of this remarkably essential 3-D function is obtained either through CineForm's Neo3D plug-in or Tim Dashwood's 3D Toolkit plug-in. C'mon you guys, listen to your customers and give them the tools they need during offline to save bucks in online!

I still haven't seen that hoped-for 3-D display that can simultaneously present 2-D and 3-D on the same screen, but maybe that will turn up during my round of the convention center halls today. It's off to the races.