Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Las Vegas’:

NAB Show 2016: LEDs Everywhere, But What of Their Quality?

With the 2016 edition of the NAB Show now receding in the rear-view mirror, here are my observations on the path our industry is taking.

As always, we flew to Las Vegas to support our colleagues at Dedolight as they demonstrated the innovative lights they’ve worked to bring to market this year.

Dedolight NAB 2016 Booth

This was definitely the year of LED lighting overload. There must have been at least 20 times as many companies showing broad source fixtures as last year, most of them no-name Chinese manufacturers just jumping on the LED bandwagon with no understanding of, or regard to, the quality of their products’ output. In fact, they do have appeal for the “fix it in post” crowd of shooters.

NAB 2016 LED mania 1

NAB 2016 LED mania

It’s a mindset that’s frustrating to those of us who care deeply about lighting for television and motion pictures, and who devote so much of our efforts to perfecting lighting as an art form. Teams from Dedolight, Arri, Mole-Richardson, and Rosco work very hard to develop the lights that advance the state of the art. It’s slow, difficult work, but it translates into money well spent when you see the results.

Dedolight News 2016

Dedolight catalog 2016

So it was rewarding to see the Dedolight booth filled with visitors day after day, everyone eager to discover all that’s new and to have a chance to talk with Dedo Weigert himself (when he’s not being interviewed).

Dedo Weigert interview NAB 2016

Once again, the use of DSLRs in production continues to rise, now being challenged by micro four thirds cameras. I’d even say most of the video production taking place at the show was based on the latter format. And here’s where another of my favorite companies comes into play — Fotodiox continues to expand its range of lens adapters so that just about any lens can be mounted to almost any camera body.

Fotodiox lens adapter rings

Beyond being beautifully conceived and finished, these reasonably-priced products mean that favorite optics can have a whole new life. I have an ancient Leica 90mm f/4 Elmar which the legendary Marty Forscher custom-adapted to my Nikons 30 years ago. Used wide-open, it is a remarkable portrait lens, and now is equally superb (although with an effective focal length of 120mm) on my Fuji X-E2.

Zeiss lenses at NAB 2016

And it’s just as amazing to see the range of lenses that Zeiss is producing with DSLR platforms in mind. True, the prices are sky-high, but again, it’s unfair to complain too much; in a production environment where Nikon and Canon cameras are being used for everything from commercials to feature films, the economics, speed and output quality for most shoots is a match for massive, far more costly production cameras.

Red drone at NAB 2016

As for drones, which only a few years ago were out of reach for most individuals, they too keep getting better and cheaper. Watching coverage of the violent floods and storms happening across the U.S., they have unquestionably changed news-gathering. Can’t quite bring myself to buy one, but the thought of being able to have a drone in hover mode over the tennis court and watch a sobering post-match replay is tempting.

Nanuk cases at NAB 2016

Nanuk Nano cases at NAB 2016

Finally, a shout-out for Nanuk equipment cases from Canada, particularly their Nano series. I first saw this company’s products at the PhotoPlus show in New York last year and was really happy to see them at NAB.

The latching system is innovative and very secure. The Nano cases, in a range of colors and sizes, can’t be beat for storing accessories and location must-haves. I own and have used Pelican products for many years and think they are fine, but in my opinion, the Nanuk cases reach another level.

Can’t leave without some dining recommendations, for whenever you may be in Las Vegas —

I have no interest whatsoever in big name restaurants on The Strip, regardless of who the chef behind them is, but after a long day of work here are two that you might not find on your own:

Chef Marc’s Trattoria on West Sahara is as good a Tuscan-style Italian restaurant as I’ve ever eaten at… period. Feast your eyes on some of the dishes on their website, and then find a way to get yourself in front of the real thing.

For ramen and other traditional Japanese noodle dishes, Monta has been a favorite of mine for several years. Again, visit their website, make the drive to Spring Mountain Road, and enjoy some of the best ramen you’ll find outside Japan.

Lastly, just in case you’re driving to Los Angeles from Vegas (just under 300 miles), here’s a handy tip, based on the laws of supply and demand: fuel up before you leave. Gas was about $2.25 in Las Vegas, but 100 miles west, in the desert… well, let’s just say mountain lions weren’t the only predators out there.

Gas in the desert

My NAB 2013 Impressions

Dedolight-booth-NAB-2013As in many years previous, Visual Departures was in Las Vegas last week to support the Dedolight team, as we are a major distributor of their products in the U.S. It’s always wonderful to reconnect in-the-flesh with Dedo Weigert and the rest of our colleagues; some of them having made the trip from Germany, some merely from California. At any rate, now we’re back from NAB 2013 and, once again, looking back on everything we saw there and trying to make sense of all the new technology.

Drone-2Drone-1

Firstly, it was definitely the Year of the Drone. Unless the FAA steps in soon, the skies above every traffic accident, playing field (including those for kids’ sports), and natural disaster site will be filled with remote-controlled aircraft carrying all kinds of cameras from the GoPro to full-frame DSLRs. I imagine crane rental companies will need to start offering drones very soon, if they haven’t already. Some of the larger units on display have eight rotors and cost in the thousands, but the big crowd attraction was the Phantom from DJI, who had a display with a huge enclosed tower for demos and practice flights.

GoPro-fan-Mason-Massey-at-NABThe Phantom is already fitted for the GoPro camera, whose always-packed booth was right next door. Just like last year, they’re showing the way for everyone from amateur skateboarders to network sports departments. The daily frenzy over give-aways led Mason Massey to turn himself into a walking GoPro in the hope (successful) of winning a free camera.

Abekas-AirCleanerSpend an hour watching real-time demos of the latest rendering software like Maxon’s Cineware and you may think it’s time to give up on live-action video completely.  By the way, here’s something from Abekas that should be scaled down for the dinner table when your kids suddenly discover inappropriate language: the “AirCleaner” profanity elimination system.

With new lenses by Zeiss and Schneider, the use of DSLRs for video shows no signs of slowing down (or does it?) I didn’t get to see it in person, but the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera ($995 without lens), which uses Micro Four Thirds optics generated a lot of buzz. This will definitely be the tool of choice for journalists working in difficult environments. One of my colleagues also came back reporting on a rig for using the iPad as a production camera; hope it looks a bit less embarrassing than this.

And through all this, the marketplace for LED lighting just gets more confused. While Dedolight and other great, established companies like Mole-Richardson and Arri produce superb LED fixtures (both flat-panel and focusing Fresnel-type), there seem to be dozens of companies making really bad, cheap lights in the belief that everything can be ‘fixed in post.’ This is not the attitude people ought to take towards their craft.

Spend many hours at a show like NAB, and you eventually have to take a break to rest your feet and eat something. Fortunately, the location of the Dedolight booth made sure you were tastefully lit while you sat on the floor with an overpriced sandwich.

When in Las Vegas, enjoy al-fresco dining at NAB by the Dedolight booth

More from NAB 2011: Heliopan Vario ND Filters and Good Times at the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum

While at NAB, I spent some time with Bob Salomon at the HP Marketing booth. The company has been around a long time and is well-known as the distributor for Novoflex and for Heliopan filters, among other quality products. I’ll be writing about some of them in coming posts. But at the top of my list was borrowing Heliopan’s Vario ND filter.

Heliopan ND Filter effect

In an earlier post, I wrote about using filters with the Canon G-series camera, using the adapter that Canon makes (and which too few photographers knew about until recently). So when our Northern California sales rep, Bill Hodges, sent me a press release about the Heliopan filter, I knew I had to get a sample for a field test.

The primary use of NDs is to allow greater control of depth-of-field, particularly in the field and in strong light. They are also essential if you’re looking to shoot subjects like moving water and need longer shutter speeds. So the idea of being able to ‘dial in’ the exact amount of ND without carrying a wide range of filters (and having to change them in the field) has great appeal. So stay tuned — I’ve got the filter in a 58mm screw-in, with plans to shoot some tests in the next couple of weeks. I’ll post the results.

Let’s return to the diversions that have nothing to do with NAB —

Here’s one that seems to be purely for Las Vegas locals — the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum. Located off The Strip, it’s a warehouse-like space with what seem to be more than 100 working machines from the 50’s (my era) to the 90’s. All the machines work and the price per play ranges from a quarter to 50 cents. Just as important, the Hall of Fame is operated as a non-profit and makes significant contributions to local charities like the Salvation Army.

One of the tables at the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum in Las Vegas

I grew up playing pinball, and I’m sure I put a lot of nickels into many of these same machines. Back then, pinball was very much a male recreation. Just how much so is clear if you look at the graphics on the ‘back glass’ and on the playing surface. Another reason to have my Canon G11 with me at all times. No efforts at apologies, those were different times. Thanks here again to my son for a ‘find’ that he knew we would both enjoy.

By the way, we made a return visit on Sunday, with Russ Carswell (VDL’s Sales Director), and once he saw they had Track & Field, the arcade addiction of his earlier years, it was ‘Game Over.’ Tim and I could have left him there and come back hours later without being missed.

One of the tables at the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum in Las Vegas