|Last month in Las Vegas, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) held its annual conference and exhibition, the world’s largest electronic media event covering filmed entertainment and the development, management, and delivery of content across all mediums. Attendance at the show was healthy, as more than 88,000 industry professionals walked the conference halls and expo floors.
“Content professionals from around the globe flock to the NAB Show every year, and this year was no exception,” says NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton. “We’re thrilled to host the largest media and entertainment convention annually, and delighted that the NAB Show remains the premiere event for the industry.”
Indeed, the event is embraced by US and international professionals. Among the total number of attendees, close to 30 percent this year were international, with more than 150 countries represented. Similarly, on the show floor, both US and international companies debuted new products and technology or showcased current offerings.
As we have come to expect, there were a number of impressive technologies at NAB 2011, making it difficult for us to select our CGW Silver Edge Award winners. Nevertheless, there were some products that stood out from the crowd. We believe that these offerings, chosen as the best of show by our editorial staff, have great potential to impact the DCC industry. (For an in-depth look at these and other products from the show, see CGW ’s coverage in the Products section of this issue, as well as in the News section on CGW.com.)
Intel’s Thunderbolt. At 10g bit/sec, Thunderbolt technology enables lighting-fast, high-speed data and display transfers in each direction simultaneously. The dual-protocol I/O technology (PCI Express and DisplayPort) gives users the benefit of full bandwidth in two directions via a single cable. The impact of this tech is expected to be felt throughout the industry, with lighter and thinner laptops, as designers are no longer constrained to the boundaries of the chassis walls. Moreover, Thunderbolt is expected to have a large impact on mobile media creation, as well.
Autodesk’s Flame Premium 2012. What’s most impressive in this new version of the company’s 3D visual effects and finishing software are the relighting capabilities. Artists can now take advantage of the real-world 3D information inherent to their images or composites and dramatically change the look of their final scenes through a variety of lighting, shading, shadows, 3D lens flares, and volumetric light ray tools, and have the effects isolated by GMasks directly in the Flame compositing environment. Flame Premium also uses image-based lighting and camera-mapping techniques from the CG software world that, when combined with certain other relighting tools, enable artists to have total control over the final look of their imagery.
Lightbeam Systems’ Compositing Workstations. Lightbeam introduced a new version of its high-end Lightbeam System 8100/12100 Series Compositing Workstation, in addition to a brand-new product: the Lightbeam System 810/1210 Series 3D Workstation. The 810/1210 Series includes 24gb of RAM, Fermi Quadro graphics, a Blu-ray drive, eight cores, and a 1tb drive—starting under $4000. Apparently not new to the industry, this was the first time we have heard of the company and its products, which are impressively fine-tuned and optimized for specific functions. What’s so impressive is that the workstations perform efficiently and fast. So, we’re going out on a limb here to predict that this small company will eventually stake a large claim in this industry.
NewTek’s LightWave 10.1. LightWave 10.1, which will be available at any time, is packed with impressive technology and capabilities. Among the most attractive features are the stereo functions, offering access to all major stereo camera rigs—parallel, toe-in, and off-axis. It also offers interactive OpenGL off-axis adjustment of the right and left camera planes, click-and-drag convergence point adjustment in the viewport, and the ability to disable the anaglyph representation of the stereo camera in OpenGL. Additionally, the interocular and convergence points can both be animated dynamically over time to track stereo changes within a shot. Another great feature continues to be the Viewport Preview Renderer (VPR) for directly interacting with and adjusting lights, textures, volumetrics, and more within the viewport.
Adobe Creative Suite 5.5. It’s difficult not to give the Creative Suite kudos—the innovations in the pack span pretty much every facet of image creation and publishing. The new version takes DCC beyond the desktop to the mobile arena, as it focuses on the growing mobile market of tablets and smartphones. Moreover, the Mercury playback engine now supports even more GPUs, including mobile. On the pricing front, Adobe is offering subscription pricing, which will be attractive for many customers.
Blackmagic Design’s products. It’s hard not to award a company that has the kind of major product rollout at a show that Blackmagic had—yet again. The DeckLink Quad is a new SDI capture card that has four SDI inputs and four SDI outputs that can be switched between SD and HD video formats. The DeckLink 4K is a new 3g bit/sec Quad Link SDI capture card that supports SD, HD, 3g bit/sec HD, 2k and 4k capture, and playback using a single PCI Express slot (for only $595). Also, the new HyperDeck line, which includes the HyperDeck Studio and HyperDeck Shuttle, deserves attention. The Studio is an uncompressed HD disk recorder with dual SSD slots that lets users record on one SSD and then another without interruption. With the Shuttle, users can record uncompressed video directly to low-cost SSDs by bypassing the camera’s native compression and recording from SDI and HDMI.
The Foundry’s Nuke 6.3. The firm showed the upcoming Nuke 6.3, giving a glimpse of the features in this upcoming release, including new tools that reduce the need to exit Nuke for external applications. Nuke 6.3 introduces a new Deep Compositing pipeline, allowing artists to work with deep data from 3D renders, supporting new ways to approach VFX and offering more control when integrating and finishing CG rendered elements. Always a powerful compositor, Nuke continues to evolve.
The Bakery’s Relight. Designed for the high-end feature-film, television, industrial, automotive, and architectural design industries, Relight is an interactive, all-in-one lighting, shading, and rendering solution for animation and visual effects artists. The tools and streamlined workflows promise to expand user creativity and increase turnaround times by significant orders of magnitude (upward of 300 percent, according to the company). The software supports the lighters’ and shaders’ iterative process—progressive and interactive refinement of properties and details—with full-resolution feedback within seconds. This incremental methodology also enables them to match CG illumination with composited live-action elements. What’s more, the offering is designed for both stereo 3D and 2D productions, with 3D HD preview and rapid 3D rendering of left- and right-eye views.