My Favorite Production Gear from NAB 2017!

By Joey Fameli

My Favorite Production Gear from NAB 2017!

This year I got to attend the 2017 National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas, otherwise known as NAB. This is one of the biggest production industry events bringing filmmakers, cinematographers, editors, grips, gaffers, manufacturers, business folk, and gear heads all together to talk shop and show off new gear and innovations in the industry.

This year was less about the camera announcements (which is refreshing), instead focusing more on the major leaps that the existing technologies are taking. Things like IP broadcast signals, LED lighting advancements, and HDR video.

Below are a few of my favorite things from the show floor this year.

Aputure 300d Light Storm Light ($TBA)

What Aputure is doing with LED lights is pretty incredible. They're not only making high quality and high lumen light systems, but they're exploring ways of manufacturing single LED sources (as opposed to the "grid" of LED lights) to reduce unwanted multiple shadowing. On top of that, the Light Storm lights (I currently own the 120d), have a mounting point at the front of the unit that allows you to easily add different modifiers for the light. Current options are fresnel lenses, sofboxes in different sizes, and now a cylindrical area light (made possible with the very wide and even angle that the beam comes out at).

I've been using the 120D like crazy (video on that coming up shortly), and for how compact it is, it puts out a real strong beam of light. The 300 is supposed to be double that strength; Aputure claims it's equivalent to the power of a 2k HMI, with a price point that aims to be at a fraction of what that HMI light would be. We got to high quality cameras come way down in price over the last 5 years or so, I'm really excited in seeing high quality lights do the same.

SmallHD Focus 5" Monitor ($500)

For those who have seem my review on the Sony a6500, one of things I mentioned that might be a deal breaker for vloggers is a non-reversible LCD screen. While Sony has been making really fantastic small cameras with great video features, for some reason or another, they intend on sticking with the strangely restrictive articulating screen. People have been hacking together phone setups to use as a monitor or just flying blind, not being able to see them selves as they film. Small HD is looking to step in and fill that gap with the SmallHD Focus. This is a small, very bright, crystal clear monitor, that fits nicely on top of a small camera or DSLR and can completely rotate 180 degrees so that vloggers can use it to frame themselves up, or to use it as an alternative to the usually less than perfect LCD screens of most cameras.

I'm not a fan of adding extra elements to small lightweight rigs that require more batteries and cables, but this monitor is actually doing something kind of ingenious: pass-through power. The monitor uses so little power from the Sony LP batteries, that they include an extra output so that you can run a cable out and power the camera as well. That will give your camera, which probably doesn't have great battery life on its native battery anyway, a power solution that could keep you shooting all day without having to lug around extra batteries, while having the luxury of a flexible on camera monitor.

Atomos Sumo Monitor ($2500)

Atomos is probably most well known for the Ninja recorders -- small on-camera capture monitors that allow for ProRes or DNxHD 10-bit 4:2:2 (an elegant solution to avoiding compressed codecs like AVCHD or H.264 from most prosumer cameras) -- but they've really stepped up their game with this new 19" monitor-record hybrid. This thing is big enough (and bright enough) to bring on set as a "video village" style monitor/recorder, but also versatile enough to jack into a computer and use as a color calibrated editing monitor.

The Sumo can capture 12-bit 4k as CDNG or 10-bit ProRes/DNxHD's, as well as raw options using specific cameras. One of the best features of the Sumo allow for multiple inputs and the ability to live switch and record multi-camera productions, while preserving the isolated feeds for post-production adjustments. That's pretty huge for a monitor, especially at the $2500 price range.

Blackmagic Micro Cinema Panel ($1000)

Blackmagic recently released some new color correction panels, and I finally got to try them at NAB this year. The Micro panel really has my eye: it's a small physical panel (powered and connected through USB) that maps nicely onto DaVinci Resolve color correction software. Most color corrections require very subtle adjustments to multiple areas of a picture, and with a mouse and keyboard you can only really dial in one adjustment at a time often slowing you down or making it harder to find the right tweak to normalize or grade a picture. With the panels you can ride multiple knobs for your lows, mids, and highs, while also having easy access to buttons that allow you to jog back and forth in the timeline, or toggle between the original image, adjusted image, or preview a shot comparison.

Color correction is kind of meant to be done this way, and I'm real excited that Blackmagic has made an affordable version of their panels.

This was a refreshing year to attend NAB; with no big camera announcements, I really got to spend time sitting in on two days worth of panels and sessions to get a glimpse in other professionals workflows and operations and learn a ton of new information about broadcast and cinema moving forward. Companies like Blackmagic and Aputure are now starting to bring professional gear to an affordable price so that even micro-budget productions can have a wider array of tools to tell their stories and achieve high production value at a lower cost.

I'm excited to implement some of these tools into our Tested productions, which we will have more coverage of this year.