Thursday, June 5, 2014

Three? Four? Eight? What’s next?

TNDV used Red Epic 4K cameras for live concert performances for the ABC series, 'Nashville.'

By Tom Inglesby

Trends these days seem to have numbers attached. There is 3D, 4K and now even 8K. As hard as it is to keep track of the alphabet soup of HD, SD, SSD, and who knows what else, throw in the many numbers we have to be aware of and things get complicated.

Markee 2.0 Editorial Advisory Board member Nic Dugger sees this as a challenge, but not in the way you might think. His company, TNDV, became one of the first mobile production companies with an SD/HD/3D truck when Aspiration first appeared in 2011. However, Dugger quickly recognized that the 3D element would play a nominal role in his productions at best. As the broadcast and production industry awaits the arrival of the next-generation format, he is helping his clients through creative, customized solutions that leverage current technologies with cost-effective packages.

“The 4K message was inescapable at NAB, and for good reason as the technology itself has arrived,” said Dugger. “However, with 3D we learned that nothing is assured. In reality, we are still in a lull between HD and what’s next. We think it is 4K, but from deeper conversations with vendors it’s clear that the research and development dollars are moving onto 8K. And there remains the possibility that 1080p production could pick up the slack in the meantime.”

Based on this, TNDV is putting more emphasis on custom-built flypacks, while also maintaining a fluid infrastructure across their five mobile production trucks. While the company’s philosophy has never been to force design specs on clients through fixed solutions, the need for flexibility in mobile production is at an all-time high. The ability to customize flypacks and trucks means lower costs and more options for clients, while keeping his company’s investment costs manageable until a clear next-generation format emerges.

This approach is most noticeable with TNDV’s increasing integration of 4K cameras into productions. Recent examples include a live shoot for the ABC Television program Nashville, which incorporated Red Epic 4K digital cinema cameras for concert performances. TNDV also incorporated Canon C300 digital cinema cameras into several live event productions, including Madonna and Amnesty International concerts at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Dugger is keeping costs low and remaining nimble by renting these and other 4K cameras as required, and integrating them within a proven HD production architectures to maintain reliability, redundancy and flexibility. Take for example, TNDV’s recent shoot for Taylor Swift’s “Red” music video, where the specification required several different 4K cameras married with a traditional broadcast production infrastructure.

“We’re giving our clients that want the advanced capabilities of 4K acquisition the comforts they deserve across the rest of the workflow,” said Dugger. “By bringing in multiviewers, the director of photography realizes how powerful their productions are when they can monitor all ten of their cameras. We’re providing a high-end, matrix intercom system akin to what would be found in a top-of-the-line HD production truck structure. And we’re providing a rack of AJA KiPros for backup recording, timecode-locked with audio, in the event of issues with the 4K media.”

The flexibility allows TNDV to scale for each show, designing each system around camera counts, switching inputs and other varying technical specifications. “We’re quickly moving away from the days of relying on a fixed list of components and specifications, especially as we await the arrival of the next big thing,” said Dugger. “I would rather my clients express their needs and allow TNDV to make it happen, presenting custom working solutions tailored for each show. This is really about a la carte TV production.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Buzzing Headache

By Tom Inglesby

While at the NAB show, we saw a lot of people offering illegal substances. Now, in Las Vegas, a lot of out-of-towners would expect that, considering the town’s reputation. But this was different; these were exhibitors at the show offering attendees a chance to break the law. Considering the number of people swarming these booths, it was a booming business. When asked why they were so interested in something that was illegal, several offered the classic excuse: “Well, other guys are doing it so why can’t I?”

Ah, the allure of the forbidden. And the dealers? Like good entrepreneurs, they pointed out that what they were offering wasn’t really illegal if used in the proper manner. This, of course, was the same comment you hear at gun shows across the country, or from the guy on the corner with a bag filled with OxyContin tablets. Perfectly legal unless you use it illegally.

In this case, the addiction, if you will, has hit a number of big names in our industry. Martin Scorsese, for example, has been known to partake; the results showed up in his recent film, The Wolf of Wall Street. We don’t mean to point a finger at Scorsese; he’s hardly alone. Watch a little TV these days and the commercials that pop up, the bread and butter of so many in our industry, will have images that suggest the producers are hooked on the same stuff.

They want to share that excitement with others so they offer their “stash” to their neighbors, friends, co-workers, others they’ve never met before. And the dealers of these instruments of addiction, the pushers who acknowledge their offerings can be used illegally, but that’s not their problem? They set up shops near schools and offer their product to kids!

Makes you wonder how high these folks can get while acting so low, doesn’t it? Well, legally, they have to be under 400 feet and no closer to an airport than five miles. But that’s when they are operating as a hobbyist; unfortunately, as the dealers should tell you, they can’t be used commercially at all.

Yes, the illegal substance we’re talking about comes with wings, or more often, rotors. These are the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that carry cameras aloft to film everything from car chases to picnics in the park to speeding power boats for commercials. But the FAA takes a different view of flight than a lot of film makers. To them, commercial use of a UAV is illegal, no matter how many users tell you differently. The FAA recently fined a UAV user for providing video for commercial use that was obtained with his aircraft. The case was ruled in the filmmaker’s favor, but the government has appealed the ruling. An independent journalist used his UAV to record footage of a police crime scene and was fined; the station that ran the footage was not and disavowed any responsibility.

The current status of using UAV for commercial purposes is, well, it is up in the air. On June 2, 2014, the FAA said they are considering a waiver from the no-commercial-use rule for seven aerial photography companies. If that waiver is granted, the flood gates will be open. Every cinematographer with a model airplane-loving kid will be rigging cameras to ‘copters.

The rules will be rewritten, perhaps in favor of the cinematographer, perhaps not. But the industry, including the MPAA, will be making appeals on a regular basis until the FAA sees the (camera) light. In the meantime, we hope no accident happens that makes the public – as well as the government – see filming with a UAV in a bad light.