Looking at the NAB website, one would get the impression that the show starts on Monday.  For those that think that, you would be wrong.  There are so many announcements many announcements made on Sunday, that getting here early really pays off.  Here is a recap of my first day in Vegas(baby!).

Attendance Up
NAB reported that nearly 110,000 people are registered for this year’s event.  From the first day of events, it is clear that good things are going on.  Taxi lines are longer than I remember, there are more people out and about, and at 8,000,000 square feet, the convention show floor should be a bustle with activity.  The plus to waiting in a taxi line?  The temps in Vegas(baby!) this year are surprisingly mild.  Highs this week are only supposed to be in the mid to upper 70s.  That makes it nice for those of us who will walk to the show instead of waiting in those long lines.

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What happens in Vegas(baby!) doesn’t have to stay in Vegas(baby!)
Unlike the visitor’s convention advertisements, what happens in Vegas(baby!) doesn’t have to stay here.  In fact, there is so much great information from the Sunday events, they have to be shared.

Apple
If you remember the tragic events from last year, terror at 14,000 feet prevented me from reaching the first press event of the day.  Once again my luck of having DIA (Denver International Airport, yo), keep flights on time prevented me from attending the Apple press conference.  From all reports, this was a heavily attended event.  DMN Producer David Nagel said from his estimate at least 1000 eager people there.  And what did Apple have to show?

I was quite wrong when it came to Final Cut Pro only being released as a .5 upgrade.  Instead Final Cut Pro 5 – now called Final Cut Pro HD, made its debut.  The major significant improvement in this release is, as you might have guessed from the name, HiDef.  And not just any HD, HD over Firewire.  Yes, that’s right dear reader, native HD without having to use an uncompressed board.  From early reports this was a very slick presentation by Apple, and a great move on the NLE front.  I meet with Apple later in the week, and will have a more detailed report on everything Final Cut Pro HD can do.

The big buzz coming out of the Apple camp Sunday afternoon was their new motion graphics application.  From the looks of this offering from the Cupertino fruit company, Motion will be able to handle most, if not all, of your compositing and motion graphics needs in an Apple environment.  At only $299, some are calling this the After Effects killer, while others are simply saying it does a good job for what it is, but it’s a long way from competing with the Adobe compositing app, and is definitely not a Shake-lite.  I do have a few hours to kill today (Monday), so you can bet I’ll make an appearance at the Apple booth at some point to check this new marvel out.  Even if Motion is not an AE or combustion killer, the price point is something that initially sits in heavy favor here.

Panasonic
Panasonic is not just a camera company, but probably the biggest news this year is the broad use of the P2 camera.  If you remember from last year, this solid state (no moving parts) camera promises to last even under the toughest conditions.  While they did not have a demo unit on display at the press conference, they did point out that the 5 PCMCIA card unit (which retails at around $20k), has been in wide use in the newsgathering community for months now.  In addition to the camera, which you can hook directly to an Avid, Quantel, Grass Valley, and other editing systems, Panasonic also announced a supporting “deck”, and hard drive for connecting the cards too.  There was no mention of what you should do with your media assets once you are done editing off the cards, but as other companies have pointed out, you need to move them off these expensive cards in order to archive your media.

A crowd gathers outside the Panasonic Press Conference

Panasonic did make a very bold statement, which essentially said analog (YUV) was dead.  And in this growing world of digital and HD, they aren’t far from the truth.

Discreet
I ran over to the ICE club to catch discreet’s presentation (which included a surprise volunteer appearance by yours truly) to see what the company had to say about their high end systems.  Yes, lustre, flint, flame, smoke, and the rest of the high end apps have had a really good year.  I hate saying, “New and Improved” because something can’t be new and improved, but discreet did talk about new features and improved features in their high end units.  Screen shots of some of the new features were shown, but no working demos were done.  Everything is being demonstrated at the booth this year; so again, I’ll have more as the week progresses.

Combustion was mentioned briefly, and I’m sure discreet will be pushing their entry level compositing application as an assistive product for their high end systems in the near future.  Why?  Well you see flint, flame, smoke, etc. are all pretty high end (“bling-bling”) and even though you may be a highly successful post house, can you really see spending all that money on an application you essentially want your entry level people to use for rotoscoping and simple composite work?  In those instances combustion will serve quite well and works in the entire pipeline.

Adobe
While Motion from Apple will be have a lot of buzz at this year’s show, don’t be surprised if you hear an equally large buzz surrounding Adobe’s new offerings – four new offerings to be exact.

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We start with Premiere Pro 1.5.  If Apple can do HD on the desktop, why not Premiere Pro?  In addition to being able to do HD easily (and affordably I might add), new features for the entry level editor (like one click color correction), tighter integration with other Adobe products (AE, Audition, and Encore), and the ability to export in both the EDL and AAF formats make Premiere Pro 1.5 an awesome upgrade for current and future users. Check out Charlie White’s NAB Report elsewhere on these DMN sites for more about the Premiere Pro 1.5 demo.

Even better than Premiere is of course the announcement of After Effects 6.5.  I’ve been waiting for months to talk about this.  While only a .5 upgrade, there a literally hundreds of new features for you to take advantage of.

For those of you who continually ask about how to take a flat video layer and turn it into a sphere, you no longer have to ask.  Adobe has totally reworked the Cycore effects to work with this newest release, and effects like Sphere, Mr. Mercury, and the rest will be a god-send to many frustrated compositors.  For those of you who want a better particle engine, After Effects 6.5 does include Particle World, which allows you to do 3D particles.  This engine is pretty robust, and while the controls are the similar as the old AE particles, the renders look a hundred times better.

Premiere Pro 1.5 has a really tight workflow with After Effects 6.5.  Now you can highlight a range of clips in your Premiere timeline, copy them, and paste them into an After Effects comp.  All the clips (complete with trim points) and effects come in as their own layer, and allows an editor to quickly flip back and forth between the two applications.

After Effects 6.5 also include the many simple color correction presets in this release, but also includes Color Finesse for those who need greater control.

Color Correction made easy in Premiere Pro 1.5 and After Effects 6.5

If you are matching grain from a film shot or old analog video, grain filters have also been included to aid you in matching mixed media shots, or even composting 3D elements on a video layer for a seamless look.

After Effects 6.5 also allows you to create a composition that will eventually (and easily) become a DVD menu.  In AE6.5 you create your moving layers, buttons, highlights, etc.  and then with a simple click, you can rename the layers to a standard that Encore understands when you import the project.

While all of this is good, what most users will instantly be cheering about is the text animation presets.   When the new Text Tool was introduced in AE6.0, it was clear that this was a very robust and versatile tool.  Unfortunately, the controls were a bit daunting for many users.  To help you out, After Effects 6.5 includes nearly 300 animation text presets.  You simply click your text layer, apply your text preset, and BAM!, instant, fluid motions, that your clients will love.  What’s more, these presets actually apply keyframes, and any other effects to the text layer, so you can twirl down the properties to see how the effect was built, or modify for your specific project.

Users will love the Text Animation Presets.

While this is only a brief look at the new AE6.5, I will have an in-depth first look next week.  You won’t want to miss this one.

Audition 1.5 was also demonstrated in this invite only event, and some of the highlights include tighter integration with Rewire and VST plug-ins, enhance support for video, a slew of sound enhancement tools, and a growing library of new royalty free loops.

Encore 1.5 also comes out of the gate with a bang, by offering enhanced library palettes, DV previews of your menus, project checking, and what many users will get a kick out of, background rendering.  This means you can continue to work on your other client needs, while your DVD is being authored.

These upgrades are simply amazing, and the price point works too.  The new Adobe Video Collection is $995 for the Standard Edition (this means AE 6.5 standard), or $1499 for the Professional Package (AE 6.5 Pro).  The difference of $500 is nothing here, and you are going to want to go pro.  For those of you who already own these applications as stand alones, you will be able to upgrade each of them for $99 each, or you can upgrade your Adobe post house in a box for a mere $249.

While a rather small event, booth demos will sure to be crowded as people flock to see these new improvements.  And again, I’ll be doing an in-depth first look of AE6.5 next week after I return from the show.

Avid
The final event for the night was Avid, and I am glad I attended this one.  While they did show a ton of new stuff, the thing that blew my mind right away was the new DNxHD codec.  This thing is AMAZING! (note the all caps and exclamation point).  Instead of standard HD taking up a ton of space on your hard drive, not to mention the huge data rates when you are working across a network, DNxHD shrinks the video data down to the datarates and file sizes of SD video.  Reread that again.  HD at SD rates.  Do you know what this means?!!  Not only will more companies be able to handle HD workflows, using a Unity system means multiple people can be working with the same HD footage at the same time.

This also means that you can have more streams of HD footage playing at real-time on your Timeline.  Last year Avid demoed 5 streams of HD playing at real time – this year 11 were playing back at the same time, with real-time picture in picture effects, and the results were amazing.

Want to be blown away some more?  Avid has added the ability to do multi-camera editing in the application (9 cameras at SD, 3 at HD), and be able to edit live.  This means you can call up your Timeline, start it playing back, and using hotkeys edit those synced camera shots right into the current Timeline.

 

Want another mind blower?  How about being able to edit HD on a laptop?  It’s true, I saw it for my own eyes.  Using a storage pack from the new Ikagami camera, Avid’s

Doug Hansel demonstrates multi-cam HD editing.

showed how he can edit HD, real-time on a laptop you can buy off the shelf at your local Micro Center.  Too cap it all off… instead of being connected via Firewire, the Ikagami video storage pack was transferring the video in real-time via USB 2.0.

Doug can also edit HD footage on his laptop from anywhere.

What makes this all possible is the DNxHD codec.  Ikagami has made it the codec for their new line of cameras, and because Avid is giving this codec away for free (YES THAT’S RIGHT – FREE!!!) this will quickly become the de facto codec for those wanting great HD resolution at small file sizes.

The news about DNxHD had my mind reeling, that I almost missed the important information about the new Avid Xpress Studio Complete.  Not only does it include the amazing Xpress DV Pro, it also includes Avid FX (the Boris Red based graphics application), Avid ProTools LE (ProTools control for your DV workflow), Avid 3D (a version of Softimage configured for editors), and the new Digi 002 outboard audio control board.  This entire bundle, which include Mojo, will sell for $6995 with the hardware, or if you don’t want the outboard hardware (believe me you do want it) you can buy the software only bundle for $3995.
Last year, I made the comment to Apple that Final Cut Pro needed multi-camera editing support as well as an outboard audio board for controlling the audio levels in the application.  Apple didn’t listen, Avid did and came out with an editing package that while on the high end for some, will really make the DV movie and television maker’s dream come true.  Apple, are you listening now?

An end of an era
After these four major press conferences, one thing is crystal clear – HD is here.  It’s affordable for you to shoot on, affordable to edit on, and with broadcasters increasing their offerings while at the same time HD sets are coming down in price, now is a very good time to jump on the bandwagon.

During the Panasonic meeting John Baisley also pointed out another important fact.  IT and video are more closely related now than they ever were.  Instead of calling their new P2 camera an ENG camera, he used the phrase “IT based ENG” or ING (not to be confused with the financial group).  Avid pointed out this fact with their Unity based HD editing, Cisco will also be highlighting video transfers with their network routers, and many other will be showing how important it is to get video from one place to another quickly.

In the closing days of my Master’s Degree, one of my classes (including the instructor) came up with a simple diagram of how 1995 technology (Radio/TV, telephony/networking, and computers) were merged.  You can picture this as three rings that only overlap slightly.  We then predicted what those rings would look like in the year 2000.  The rings were heavily overlapped with only the fringe of each area being isolated for each industry.  This became the philosophy of the now INT Department at Fort Hays State University.  Not only does the department teach traditional media, but also networking and web development.  This university knew then what the industry is pointing out now; you can’t do it alone.  You need to know a bit of these other areas if you are to survive.

The old days are gone, a new dawn over Vegas(baby!) will begin in a few hours, and a whole new way of looking at how we do our jobs has been drastically changed.

Next Up:
I’m about to head out to see the opening day of the show floor and with it my schedule includes a brief meeting with Media100, Aja, discreet (for clarification on what exactly is happening with cleaner), Pinnacle systems, and Canon.  I’ll wrap the day up with a trip to the Media Motion Ball (sure to be a hit).  Look for the Monday edition of the NAB Diary tomorrow morning.  Until then, dear readers, envy those of us at the show…