Hunting Disruptors At The NAB Show

Bob Caniglia from Blackmagic Design accepts the MARIO Award for the company’s Pocket Cinema Camera.

You might not have noticed, but… disruptors aren’t just for Klingons any more.

How ‘bout that language of ours? Just when ya think ya got it down pat, somethin’ changes. Looks like it’s back to school for ol’ Mario, for more “EFL” (English as a First Language).

I ain’t a swearin’ man, but I’d swear (figuratively, that is) that Mama used to look at me and say, “Ah, Mario, my little disruption.” And all through school, when report cards rolled round, there was that word again: “DISRUPTIVE” in big red capital letters. And I knew perfectly well what that meant.

(L-R) First Cut Pro’s Moyo Oyelola, Scott M. Akers, Waytao Shing, and Sri Sonti accept the MARIO Award given for the company’s First Cut Pro edit workflow collaboration. At least I thought I did—until I started seein’ it tossed around like last Sunday’s fettuccine. Seems like these days that the Bright Young Geniuses who think great thoughts about innovation, technology and such, have taken to calling new ideas “disruptive.” I used to say “clever”… what did I know? The trick is, that to earn that moniker, you really need to disrupt the status quo—shake ‘em up, fly in the face of tradition! And the more I heard, the more I liked it. “Disruptive”… that’s my new thing.

N-A-B, Plus “D.”

What better place to go huntin’ disruption than that little free-for-all in the desert—the one they call the NAB Show. Two million square feet of convention center, 93,000 of my closest friends, and—for my part—a list of 10 mighty disruptive new products. I stayed up all night alphabetizing them… so let’s go:

Blackmagic Design: Pocket Cinema Camera—Every few months, our Aussie friends at Blackmagic seem to disrupt things big time. Last time around, they disrupted the world of expensive cinema cameras by skipping the expensive part. Result: thousands of shooters making beautiful pictures who never thought they could afford that sort of thing. This year, Blackmagic delivered a bigger, yet smaller, surprise—a Super 16-format, interchangeable lens camera that’s about the size of your phone. Pictures are pretty, and the form factor is killer… talk about “goes anywhere.” And it may not be Super 35, but that Super 16 sensor is bigger than the chip in any TV camera I’ve ever owned, including high def.

(L-R) Freefly System’s Shane Colton, David Bloomfield, Hugh Bell,Tabb Firchau and Nick Holins accept the MARIO Award presented for the MoVI M10 camera stabilizer/gimbal.First Cut Pro: First Cut Pro Edit Workflow Collaboration—All right now, kiddies… quick quiz: What group of professionals are the worst interpersonal communicators in the world? Yes, you guessed it—professional communicators! We’re a pitiful bunch, and we need to be disrupted. And that’s where First Cut Pro comes in. It’s an entirely Web-based service that connects editors, producers and end-clients in an environment that’s seamlessly designed for making notes and comments, and delivering results. Sweet interface, crazy amounts of information, instantly available, and talks to your edit software. Plus, it’s got a flex-priced, choose-your-level monthly pricing model – my favorite.

(l-r) Sony’s Wayne Zuchowski, Deon A. LeCointe and Alex Rossi accept the MARIO Award for the company’s Anycast Touch production switcher.Freefly Systems: MoVI M10 Camera stabilizer/gimbal—If you’re really a shooter, then you know about this already, cause the MoVI M10 was burnin’ up the viral video airwaves for weeks before we all got to Vegas. If you already make swiveling camera mounts (a gimbal)—like Freefly does, for remote control copters—then all you do is add stabilization, and voila, you’ve got a small, lightweight handheld rig that delivers like a motion-controlled jib. The MoVI M10 makes you shoot differently – faster, better – and that’s disruptive.

Kessler Crane: Pocket Jib Traveler—They do it smaller, lighter, smoother, better… that’s the Kessler story. If you were a machinist, and into making your own camera mounts, sliders and so on, you’d be Kessler—making things work well, weigh less and pack smaller. So when they call something the Pocket Jib Traveler, you know it’s gonna be rigged for travelin’—one skinny little 27-inch bag that gives your small camera 72-inches of jib action. Integral counterweight, and did I mention inexpensive? The D-word, for sure.

William Maynard (L) and Damien Egan accept the MARIO Award for Solid State Logic’s ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement).Radiant Images: Novo Digital Cinema Camera—Now this is just too ideal to be true. You love the GoPro Hero3, right? Great little camera, but man, if only it had some pro features. Radiant Images was listening—they took a Hero3 and hot-rodded it for pro shooters. The Novo Digital Cinema Camera defeats the Hero3’s idiot-proof automatics and gives you full exposure control. It also swaps out the fixed bubble lens for a C-mount and adds the creature features that make life sweet: a thinner body, aluminum case, more mounting points, and a power system that talks to all the rest of your gear. Hats off to GoPro for letting ‘em do it; but kudos to Radiant Images for going pro, big-time.

Tiffen’s Lisa Grunert (L) and Steve Tiffen accept the MARIO Award recognizing the company’s Listec PromPTZ compact prompter.Sony: Anycast Touch Production Switcher—Small businesses…startups… those are the kind of guys we expect disruption from. Imagine ol’ Mario’s surprise, when I see one of 2013 NAB Show’s freshest, most unconventional products issuing forth from the hallowed halls of Sony! No question about it—it’s a switcher for a modern era, with built-in streaming functionality, flexible inputs, even PTZ control. And you know how your fingers fly over the touchscreens in your life—what could be more efficient than tapping your way through a couple of menus to reconfigure digital effects, then back to the program/preset bus, then off to the titler. This ain’t grandpa’s triple re-entry mega-switcher; it’s a re-imagined version that works for today’s go-anywhere culture. Disrupt us some more, Cousin Sony.

Eric Kessler accepts the MARIO Award for Kessler’s Pocket Jib Crane.SSL: ScreenSound ADR—Cobbling together an unrelated set of software tools is a lot of work, especially when they don’t play well together. That’s why it’s always good to latch onto an integrated set of applications when you see one, and I saw one at the show. Automatic Dialogue Replacement (ADR) has come to mean an awful lot more tasks than just… well, replacing dialogue and SSL’s ScreenSound ADR package does ‘em all. My personal favorite is SpotShot, which not only logs the takes, but actually preps the scripts, assigns the parts to different talent, and generates on-screen notes and copy before handing over session control to the SpotFire module. If it sounds like you’ll put about 12 people out of work, just remember—it’s really only you who’ll be working less.

P&S Technik’s Anna Pifel accepts the MARIO Award for the Radiant Images Novo digital cinema camera from TV Technology’s James O’Neal.Tiffen: Listec PromPTZ Compact Prompter—A one-man-band isn’t usually my favorite way to work. Why? Too much to think about, too much to do, and who builds any equipment for the solo practitioner? Well, Tiffen’s Listec prompter group does, and it’s such an obvious solution it makes me grin. If you recognize the letters “P-T-Z” (no, it’s not “praise the zebra”), you’ll guess that this system is optimized for remote pan-tilt-zoom cameras – the kind used with studio-in-a-box packages—as well as other compact setups. Need to prompt that statehouse reporter in her broom closet studio? This is the rig. It folds down pretty small in between uses, or you can screw it to the wall.

Vidpresso’s cofounders Randall Bennett (L) and Justin Caldwell accept the MARIO Award for the Vidpresso Social Media for Broadcasters product.Vidpresso: Vidpresso Social Media for Broadcasters—You know you need it; you know they want it. Your audience can’t live without a constant stream of social media bombarding them—how else would they know what they’re supposed to think? So if you’re smart, you’ll roll social media into your newscasts, your morning talk, sports—anywhere they’re throwin’ around opinions. But how? Ask Vidpresso; they know. They’ve got a Web-based, subscription model system that gets you on the air quickly and cheaply. And the interface is so simple that even senior staffers can harvest posts and Tweets with the speed and aplomb of a 16-year-old. It’s a disruptive method of disrupting your broadcasts… a “double-D.”

(L-R) Radu Corlan, Rick Robinson and Phil Jantzen accept the MARIO Award for the Vision Research Phantom Flex 4K high speed cine camera.Vision Research: Phantom Flex 4K High Speed Cine Camera—Raise your hand if you remember when high-speed cameras were a novelty (back when the only reason to use ‘em was to see things explode in slow motion, and back when the quality was miserable). But hey, not bad for a novelty shot, I guess. If you remember those things, forget ‘em, because Vision Research, king of all things high speed, has a no-excuses, top-of-the-line cinema camera that makes drop-dead gorgeous pictures in glorious 4K. You may think you’ll never need high-speed 4K; but if and when that possibility arises, just remember the Phantom Flex and you’ll look like a genius.