Show report: The 2012 NAB Show

By Yasmin Hashmi, 3Droundabout

Okay, so the 3D signs and fanfare weren’t everywhere as in previous years. For some of the larger companies, the punt had not paid off and so they have retrenched back to their core activities, but for enthusiasts, 3D is just as exciting as ever, and there was plenty to see at the 2012 NAB Show.

Visitors to the 2012 NAB Show.

We gave a comprehensive preview of the show in our NAB 2012 supplement, and you can still refer to this for a great overview of what was on show. This roundup is by no means exhaustive, but covers some of the highlights and things we missed in the supplement.

Production

The big buzz was around numbers of pixels and high frame rates. The broadcast and film markets in general clearly don’t want to rest on their HD laurels, and are continually striving for better quality. As 3D specialist Ben Dolphin puts it, the aim is to ‘make the invisible visible.’

Pushing the limits in this way is not without its controversies. On the one hand we were told that increasing the frame rate gives the viewer more bang for their buck than increasing the pixel count, while on the other, we were also told that increasing the frame rate can result in unexpected artefacts in the image.


Ben Dolphin talks about shooting with the Phantom Flex high-speed camera
(video courtesy of 3DGuy.tv).

I’m sure the debate will continue, but in the meantime, Blackmagic Design caused a stir by announcing its new Digital Cinema Camera. This features 13 stops of latitude, a 2.5k sensor, a built-in SSD recorder, and the ability to capture 12-bit RAW motion picture files, all for just less than US$3000. The price includes the DaVinci Resolve colour correction system, but for stereo 3D, you will of course need to add a second camera and a rig.

The Blackmagic Design Digital Cinema Camera.

There were many rig offerings to be seen, including two notable diminutive versions. The PS-Micro Rig from P+S Technik is designed to be lightweight, stable and quick-to-set-up, while the Stereotec Nano Rig weighs just 2kg and is designed to be rugged and used with small cameras.

The P+S PS-Micro Rig (left) and the Stereotec Nano Rig (right).

SterGen was showing real-time conversion of 2D camera feeds and sports programme footage into stereoscopic 3D. With a claim that the resultant quality is similar to and often better than native 3D, we had to see it in action. Indeed it did seem to solve the ‘flatness’ problem created in wide angle shots, i.e. the high cameras.

Post-production

For stereoscopic correction or depth grading, there were a number of new developments of note. Off site, Pretend was showing the new Mac/Linux-based Stereoid. This is designed to provide simplified control of colour matching, alignment and temporal sync, with a price tag of just US$995.

On site, Emotion 3D was showing the Stereoscopic Suite X1 software with some very helpful features. One was a graphical overview of the positive and negative depth values, making it very easy to see where there are sudden big jumps and where values exceed those recommended for a given viewing environment such as IMAX, cinema, home theatre, TV etc. Another was the 3D Visualizer, which allows you to rotate the image to see the depth range between objects in any frame, almost as if it is a multi-viewpoint image.

A shot of monkeys where the frame has been 'rotated' to give an alternative view of the depth. The normal perspective of the image is face-on to the monkey at the front.

Display

RED was showing a prototype of its REDray 4k projector, that projects 3D in 4k at up to 120fps using lasers instead of light bulbs. The projector is aimed at the home theatre and digital cinema markets.


RED’s Ted Schilowitz talks about the REDray 4k projector
(video courtesy of 3DGuy.tv).

Despite research showing that young people don’t mind putting on 3D glasses at all, there is a lot of pressure to crack the autstereoscopic nut, not least for markets that involve passing traffic.

Dolby gave a preview of the Dolby 3D technology that was developed in conjunction with Philips. Designed to deliver full HD 3D content to 3D-enabled devices, including glasses-free displays, the technology made a very good job of showing a clip from Hugo on a flatscreen TV with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, and there was no fighting for the sweet spot!

The Dolby 3D glasses-free demo.

Another glasses-free demonstration was given by the Japanese national research lab, National Institute for Information and Communication Technology (NICT). This featured 3D multi-viewpoint video on a 200-inch 3D projection system with the projectors at the rear of the screen. As we walked in front of the screen from side to side, the viewpoint of the images changed accordingly, so that you could see things from one side that you could not see from the other.

The NICT 200-inch glasses-free display with multi-viewpoint 3D video.

Conclusion

Now that the hype is out of the way, we are left with a more realistic view of how 3D is growing and developing. Contrary to popular opinion, there is a lot happening in 3D, which was more than evident around every corner of the NAB show floor. We also made some great contacts at the various networking events that were organised by 3D enthusiasts, and were buoyed by the drive and vision of proponents such as James Cameron and Vince Pace. As Cameron put it, “3D is in broadcast and it’s going to explode in the next couple of years.” I think he might be right.


CAMERON | PACE GROUP: The Secrets of Making 3D Profitable

If something grabbed your attention at the 2012 NAB Show, let us know via the Leave a Reply option below.

Yasmin Hashmi is the editor of 3Droundabout magazine, EMEA’s leading publication for the professional 3D trade. If you missed the 2012 NAB Show, check out our 3D @ NAB spotlight page.

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