Panasonic Lumix GH4

The GH4 has a lot going for it. The camera will record 4k internally at a high bit rate of 200 Mbps ALL-Intra frame. It needs no external recorder to record 4k like the Sony a7s. The GH4 also comes in at a great price point of $1700 dollars and will be available at the end of April. 

The new Panasonic and Sony mirrorless offerings each have their own pluses and minuses. 

For an in depth comparison between the GH4 and the a7s see here.

NAB 2014 was about the maturing of 4k hardware (cameras, displays and editing applications) with an emphasis on deliverability and content.

Full HD remains the standard deliverable for broadcast but it has become clear that material that originates in 4k will look better all the way through the pipeline when compared to material originally shot in full HD. It is more and more evident that 4k is becoming an advantageous acquisition starting point for broadcast as well as internet streaming and delivery to lower resolution devices.

Adobe announced that more updates for their Creative Cloud fleet of applications will be coming soon. On their large demo stage, Adobe revealed an impressive list of features that will be added to their next release.

AJA, a company known for video conversion boxes, encoding devices, and Kona video cards announced a new 4k camera they are calling Cion.

Anton Bauer

Promise Thunderbolt SANLink 2

Blackmagic HyperDeck Studio 2

Killer Keys Pro

Atomos Shogun

Sony a7s

Kino Flo Celeb 400

This LED unit is not inexpensive but it is an incredibly versatile soft light that burns bright with very little heat. The unit is lightweight and efficient.

The quality of light is wonderfully soft and photographic. Color temperature can be dialed in from 2700 to 5500 Kelvin.

The Blackmagic HyperDeck was introduced at NAB a couple of years ago. The HyperDeck behaves just like a broadcast tape deck. It is a great example of the type of technological innovation that allows for a much more efficient and versatile $1000.00 device to replace a $60,000 device (HDCAM deck). The Hyperdeck records in uncompressed, ProRes (HQ) as well as DNxHD mxf. It records and plays back from very fast solid state hard drive.

Anton Bauer has introduced a new design for their lithium-ion line of batteries.

The new design allows for a safer battery. There is more space for ventilation inside the casing that wraps the lithium-ion cells. This allows for a battery that runs cooler and is less prone to dangerous overheating of cells.

KillerKeys is a new product introduced by Bella.

The Ninja Star recorder has a lot to offer: ProRes recording in a very small, lightweight, inexpensive device. The dimensions of the Ninja Star are slender at only 3.5″ wide, 2.3″ tall and 0.8″ deep and it weighs a fraction of a normal recorder at just 100grams (3.5 oz). The Ninja Star is perfect for creative or extreme camera work in situations where a larger recorder is prohibitive or stealth is required.

001  4K is not going away

The big thing at NAB 2013 was a thing called 4k. The big thing at NAB 2014 was a thing called 4k.

The Promise Thunderbolt SANLink 2 allows any Thunderbolt 2 equipped MacPro or MacBook Pro to connect directly to a high speed fibre channel SAN or 10Gb ethernet SAN. There are two separate models depending on whether you want fibre channel or ethernet.

On a network, faster is better.

Anton Bauer has their gold mount which is the most widely used professional mounting type. They announced however they will now produce a battery that has the Sony V-mount. The V-mount version will be sold under the Sachtler brand so as not to confuse Anton Bauer customers. 

Both Anton Bauer and Sachtler are Vitec companies, so everything stays in the family.

Below see the new casing split open to reveal the individual power cels and an internal ribbing which provides ventilation space around the cels.

AJA Cion

005  more cool discoveries

What follows are some more cool things discovered at NAB 2014 – some new, some not so.

004  thunderbolt 2

Around the time of the last NAB, Intel announced the next generation of the Thunderbolt standard. Thunderbolt 2 doubles the throughput of Thunderbolt (1) from 10Gb to 20Gb per/sec for each channel.

At NAB 2014 there were a number of thunderbolt 2 products shown, from a number of vendors.

And, of course this year, there are rumors of Thunderbolt 3, which will again double the throughput of thunderbolt to 40Gb. Unfortunately Thunderbolt 3 will change to a connector that is different than the Thunderbolt 2 connector.

KillerKeys is a new application that virtualizes that experience. KillerKeys VR provides a virtual on-screen keyboard that shows color-coded shortcuts displayed on each key of a virtual keyboard. The keyboard is interactive, so pressing either a single modifier or a combination of modifiers will change the shortcuts displayed on the keyboard. KillerKeys comes loaded with shortcuts for over 100 applications. As you change from one application to another the virtual keyboard on your display automatically changes also.

Sony’s announcement of the a7s has generated a lot of excitement. The a7s (a is for alpha) is a new, small, 4k, full frame mirrorless camera. The camera has a lot of features that a professional will appreciate. The most important feature being an incredibly gorgeous and filmic picture quality.

The camera is designed around a new Sony sensor which at 12.2 megapixels is optimized for 4k and low light video. The size of each pixel on this sensor is larger than the pixel size found on higher resolution sensors. The large pixels allow for more light to enter each pixel. Larger pixels provide an overall higher dynamic range. The sensitivity of this sensor in low light is phenomenal. The camera has an ISO rated from 50 to 410,000. Yes, you read that correctly. A top ISO of 410,000. The camera can literally see in the dark.

The camera samples every pixel at all times even when final output from the camera is set to 1920 x 1080 full HD. This is done without line skipping or pixel binding. I have no idea how this “downscaling" is accomplished but as a result of reading every pixel there is no moire at all.

Cion is a shoulder mounted camera with an APS-C sensor that records to a solid state drive (shown below) in any flavor of ProRes you desire.

Unlike the unwieldy Blackmagic Production camera, the Cion has a form factor that may actually work for professional videographers. Design of the Cion went through at least 30 prototypes before reaching the final stage.

The camera feels well balanced on the shoulder. It will sell for $9,000 without lens or viewfinder. The Cion looks to be a less expensive alternative to the Sony F55 or maybe even the Arri Alexa. What AJA brings to the table is a reputation for delivering solid products, on time, as advertised.

This is an easily mountable recorder with fast read/write speeds that can record for up to 5 hours. It writes to CFast cards, which are sold at up to 256 GB, which means that you could record up to 2 hrs and 40 mins of ProRes footage on just a single card. The Ninja Star costs $295 and will ship late May 2014.

Promise Technology was the first company to come out with a storage device that used Thunderbolt. This year they came out with the first Thunderbolt 2 Raid Storage solution. The Pegasus 2 m4 pictured to the left is a smaller portable RAID that is very fast and will hold and playback 4TB of 4k uncompressed material. Shipping soon.

Atomos Ninja

Atomos Ninja Star

These additions include: 

Tighter integration between After Effects and Premiere Pro. 

Work within Premiere Pro using new features like Live Text Templates, enabled by After Effects. Live Text templates let you import After Effects compositions into Premiere Pro with editable text, allowing you to include high production value motion graphics into your sequences without having to go back and forth to After Effects whenever you need to change your text content. 

Powerful new masking and tracking tools make it easy to add feathered masks that follow your subjects through a shot. Blurring out faces, license plates. or logos is now a snap. Both Masking and Tracking shots and Live Text Templates can be sent back to After Effects via Dynamic Link for further refinements.

Master Clip Effect allows for application of an effect to a master track. Any effects you add to a master clip ripple down to every part of that clip in a sequence. So you can try out and add effects much more quickly than if you had to add them to each clip individually. 

Improved Direct Link offers a more flexible and robust roundtrip color grading workflow with Speedgrade CC.

New high-fidelity interchange provides greater accuracy and a smoother experience when importing or exporting Avid or Final Cut Pro projects. Let’s hope this new feature addresses the timecode issues experienced when exporting a multi-cam sequence to ProTools.

003  life beyond final cut pro

There was scant evidence at NAB 2014 that Final Cut Pro X exists.

Both Adobe and Avid had big announcements and product demonstrations at NAB.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Bella is a company that makes keyboards.  The physical keyboards come with keys pre-labeled with shortcuts for different editing applications. There is a keyboard for Final Cut Pro editors and a separate keyboard for Premiere editors and a separate keyboard for Avid etc etc.

Steve Modica, Small Tree Communications, Walter Biscardi, Biscardi Creative Media, and Bob Zelin, Rescue 1, Inc., at the Small Tree Booth, NAB 2014.

This will be known as the year of the mirrorless (DSLM) 4k camera.

Users of the highly regarded GH3 have been waiting a long time for the GH4.

Unlike the Sony a7s, the Panasonic Lumix GH4 is not a full frame camera. The GH4 has a 4/3-inch lens mount. The micro 4/3-inch sensor won’t provide the shallow depth of field that a full frame camera will but the GH4 will be easier to keep in focus when following objects in motion.

The Arri Alexa, below, has become the camera of choice for Hollywood TV producers and Directors of Photography. This year Arri delivered on the Amira, which matches the look the Alexa, but is a lighter less expensive camera. See right.

It will be a great little recording device to use with the DJI Phantom 1.

4k is not going away.

This year it’s also more clear that there are content providers poised to provide 4k for distribution to theaters, via download for AppleTV, Netflix and YouTube streaming.  Smart people have figured out how to compress UHD for delivery on existing pipelines.

The camera is compatible with Sony E-mount lenses. What this means is that via adapters the mount will accept virtually any lens.

The camera will record at 50Mbps XAVC S 1920x1080 internally and uncompressed 4:2:2 Full HD and 4k via HDMI to an external recorder. The camera has professional time code and picture profiles including S-Log2.

Atomos, creator of the popular Ninja and Samurai external monitor/recorders, has announced a new 4k-capable model: the Shogun. The Shogun will be uniquely positioned to take advantage of the 4k HDMI output signal from cameras such as the Panasonic GH4 and Sony a7s. It is the first recording solution available that can take full advantage of the a7s’s 120 fps 720p recording mode and custom HDMI timecode with Start/Stop trigger.

The Shogun records 10-bit 4:2:2 video onto a single SSD or RAIDed HDDs using 4k/HD ProRes, uncompressed RAW Cinema DNG, or Avid DNxHD codecs. As a monitor, the Shogun features a 7" IPS touchscreen display with Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, 400 nit brightness, and multi-frequency operation (48/50/60Hz) for super monitoring and playback of a variety of input frame rates.

Other new features of the Shogun include Genlock In for synching, optional Wi-Fi for remote control from iOS and Android devices, and improved audio handling with an included LEMO breakout cable for XLR audio. Like the Samurai and Ninja Blade, the Shogun provides a variety of ways to set up your shots, including waveform and other framing, focus, and exposure assisting tools.

Atomos plans to have the Shogun ready to ship in late Q3/early Q4 of 2014, with an anticipated price of under $2,000.

Ah, another NAB, another camera announcement from Blackmagic Design. Meet the Blackmagic Ursa. The Ursa is a large and heavy (16.5 lbs. without a lens) 4k camera. The Ursa uses the same sensor as the Blackmagic Production camera. The same sensor, in a package that is hopefully more ergonomic than the retro looking box called the Production Camera. The Production Camera was announced last year. After a long delay, due to issues with the sensor, the Production Camera has just started to ship. The sensor that eventually shipped has a rather low usable ISO rating of 400. It is not a low light sensor.

Autosave to Creative Cloud was announced as a new feature. 

There are many more new features including, as always, Adobe Premiere Pro's expanded native format support. 

The Cion will output AJA Raw 4k via 4 3G-SDI outputs at up to 120 fps.

Professional audio input is via a small, add on, standard Sony XLR audio accessory that attaches via a hot shoe to the top of the camera. There is an audio out plug for audio monitoring as well as audio level controls via menus.

The a7s will shoot in full frame 35mm mode as well as an APS-C mode. Weight of the camera is 1 pound!

No ship date or price has been announced. It will be interesting to see where Sony positions this camera. Rumors are the price will be in the $2500 - $3000 range.

Blackmagic Design has done nothing this past year to polish their tarnished reputation for announcing cameras, then not being able to deliver because of production issues. So I won’t present this camera as a real product yet. Right now it is simply a curiosity.

But at $5995.00 it is an intriguing curiosity. FYI, a big selling point for the Ursa is that the sensor is removable and upgradable.

Blackmagic Design URSA.

002  drones, stabilization and movement

Smaller, lighter cameras have allowed for a number of new, innovative and inexpensive devices with which to add movement.

Why rent a crane or Steadicam when you can play around with one of these?

I will say the 4k demo video looks gorgeous.

Did you know YouTube will do 4k?

See a 4k demo video here (make sure the quality settings are set to 2160p 4k).

Also see a hands on review of the a7s here.

DJI Phantom Vision 2+

$1000.00. Camera included. Check out this video

and tell me you don’t want one of these!

Record video from your very own remote controlled drone/quad copter. Monitor a live view via wifi to your iPhone. Easy to fly. Keep track of the current flight status with the onscreen display overlay.

The integrated GPS auto-pilot system offers position holding, provides altitude lock along with stable hovering giving you constant stable flights so you can focus on getting the shots.

The flight radar can display the current position of the Phantom 2 Vision in relation to the pilot.

Exceed the control range of the Remote Controller and you’ll trigger the ‘Return-to-Home’ feature which will automatically fly the Phantom 2 Vision back and safely land at its takeoff point.

And if you crash you're only out a thousand bucks, not a whole lot more.

The Phantom 1, meant to fly the GoPro, is shown above.

Freefly MoVI

See a demo of the MoVI at NAB here.

Freefly announced the MoVI m5 this year. It is a smaller, less expensive version of the very popular MoVI m10, which was introduced last year for $15,000.

See the MoVI in action here.

“The MoVI is a 3-axis gimbal which counteracts the movements of a camera operator. This gives footage the ultimate, cinematic smooth move look. By the very nature of being lightweight and hand operated, the MoVI M5 is more accessible than say, some sled and vest systems or dollies. The custom design centers on a proprietary inertial measurement unit and brushless direct drive system. The fully protected wiring and tool-less balancing are design attributes that quickly elevate this rig from others. With a payload of 5lb. and control features like pan/tilt, a graphic user interface, silent operation, and a way to measure the amount of camera shake, this is a full featured camera stabilizer. The MoVI M5 itself is $4,995 with many various systems available.”

DJI Ronin Gimble

DJI announced the Ronin which is also a gyro stabilized handheld camera stabilizer.

Here is another great behind the scenes look at how a device like the Ronin can add movement to your production.

The Ronin is a similar device to the MoVI m5. The Ronin, however, can carry up to 16 lbs. at a cost of $5,000. The MoVI 10 can carry only 12 lbs. at a cost of $15,000.

Sony PMW-400 2/3” XDCam EX

The PMW-400 is a small, lightweight camera that will match the specs and look of the venerated full bodied XDCams but at less than half the price.

This camera would make a great replacement for a Sony EX3.

The camera will record to Sony memory cards at the high bit rate of 50mb in XDCamHD 422. That’s the same format that matches the top rate of larger, expensive XDCams that record 50mb to disk.

The best feature yet of the PMW-400 is that it is a shoulder mounted camera and that it has a built-in internal slot that will hold the wonderfully fast and easy-to-use Sony digital wireless receivers.

The big discovery here is that the HyperDeck can be used as a captioning device. Place a small caption file on the same SSD drive as the ProRes video file, hit the play button, and the unit will marry the caption file with the video file during real time playback. The result is a captioned show played out via HDSDI for recording to another device such as the Omneon server. The small caption file is called a .mcc file which is similar to an .scc file. The caption authoring software MacCaption can output a .mcc file.

At the large Blackmagic Design booth, Blackmagic introduced the Blackmagic Studio Camera (shown to the left). The Studio Camera is basically a Production Camera, which was introduced last year, with a larger 10” viewfinder.

What really was of interest at Blackmagic was their Blackmagic HyperDeck. I was especially interested in this device after Giovanni Galvez at Telestream MacCaption showed me how to use a MacCaption file to play captions out of the HyperDeck.  

There is a free companion iPad app called KillerKeys Express. KillerKeys Express has the same set of interactive virtual keyboards loaded onto your iPad giving you compete control over your computer and all application shortcuts via WiFi.

Rycote, the industry standard in mic windshields and suspension systems, shows its colors and introduces the Super Softie Windshield. Pictured above.

Sound Devices, the industry standard in field mixers, presents the 970. It’s a very small 64 track audio recorder.

Canon lens cleaning and re-aligning at the Canon booth.

Canon produces excellent lenses.

Below. The iOgrapher turns any iPad into an inexpensive “video shooting powerhouse”.

G-Technology introduces their new Studio series of Thunderbolt 2 RAIDS designed to look like trash cans so they match the new Mac Pros.

Caldigit introduced the Caldigit T4 RAID.

“The most affordable and feature packed Thunderbolt 2 RAID available”. Coming soon.

LaCie delivers their Thunderbolt 2 offering, the LaCie 5Big Thunderbolt 2.

. . . and the LaCie Sphere. Yes it’s a 1TB hard drive,

designed by Christofle, hand crafted and silvered in France, no power cable needed.

. . . and the Little Big Disk, self proclaimed world’s fastest portable storage. 2 SSD RAID provides 1,375MB/s.


At NAB 2013 the 4k format was defined and 4k hardware was introduced. There were basic questions about why producers would need to shoot in UHD 4k 3840 x 2160 when broadcast would be in the lower resolution of full HD, 1920 x 1080. There were also basic questions about availability of 4k content for distributors as well as basic technical questions about the deliverability of 4k.