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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

See What’s New from Dedolight This Year at NAB

We’ve made our yearly pilgrimage to Las Vegas to support our German colleagues from Dedo Weigert Film – better known as the team behind Dedolight products, which we’ve been proud to distribute across the US for many years. If you’re in town for the show, please come say hello! We’ll be here for the next few days in booth C11435.

Dedolight NAB 2016

NAB 2015 News: Rosco Announces LitePad Vector

The folks at No Film School visited with Rosco’s Joel Svendsen at NAB 2015. Rosco had just taken the wraps off their new LitePad Vector – a more powerful LitePad unit, available soon! – and also showed off the LED Tape product, which will arrive in the coming months. Have a look at No Film School’s video for all the details:

We’re at NAB 2015 in the Dedolight Booth

NAB Show Logo

As in many years previous, we’re in sunny Las Vegas at the NAB Show helping make people aware of new gear from Dedolight. We’d love to meet you if you’re in town! Come to booth C9835 and ask for Russ or Allen. And we’re in good company, as there’s lots of lovely gear also on display by our neighbors: Atomos, Red Rock Micro, Zacuto, and Zeiss. Looking forward to seeing you!

Learning about Dedolight at NAB 2015 Dedolight's booth at NAB 2015

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

We’re in the Dedolight Booth at NAB 2013

As we have for many years, we’re supporting the folks in the Dedolight booth at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. If you’re at the show, please drop in and see the new, gorgeous LED products from Dedolight this year in booth # C10135.

Dedolight at NAB 2013