NAB 2017 – Unity Intercom

Kind of a unique idea.  This company is using iPhones to make ad hoc intercom systems.  This all happens over Wifi, and in fact you could use much cheaper iPods for that scenario.  Where it really gets cool is you can also do intercom over cellular data.

Say you’re doing a small mobile at a basketball game.  Everybody is on a wifi network in the gym, but you have an outside cameraperson shooting live scenics leading into commercial breaks.  That outside cameraperson can be cued with the same intercom, over cellular.  Essentially, that outside cameraperson could be in the capital of Mongolia and still be on intercom (although I’m not sure what the LTE signal is like in Ulaanbaatar).

The system scales, and can be tied into traditional intercom systems too.


NAB 2017 – Persistent Systems LLC

I think it’s fair to say that in just a few years, bonded cellular transmission systems have revolutionized live news gathering.  If you don’t know, these are battery powered devices which take an uncompressed feed from your news camera, heavily compress it while still retaining acceptable “news” quality, encode it, and then send it back to the station or a central data hub over the internet.  How do they get to the internet?  Well by using ethernet or Wifi if you’re near a high speed tap, but usually by combining multiple LTE cellular modems.

That last method has changed the news landscape.  No longer do stations need to have a $100,000 microwave truck to report from the field.  No longer do you have to book a fiber or satellite window for $1000 and ensure that every link in the chain is passing your signal.  With bonding systems, you pull up to live news happening anywhere there is a cell signal, and you are on the air in seconds.  A miracle.

But the problem now is that every station has multiple units of these systems.  And all of the stations, by the nature of news, all gather and want to go live from the same place.  The cell towers have limited bandwidth, and everybody is trying to use it at the same time, so two things happen.  Either they simply can’t get a signal through, or the quality is so low and has so much lag that it is unusable.

This is where Persistent Systems has been positioning their new product, the MPU5.  They establish a wireless data network over much wider areas than say, a Paralinx unit or some equivalent like that.  This network is very resistant to interference and obstacles.  A transceiver on the camera can then access that network and roam all over a live news scene.  The camera is received by another radio, and then this signal can be transmitted back to the station using traditional microwave or satellite links.  Essentially it is removing the fiber optic cable that traditionally joins the cameraman to the satellite truck.  The other interesting part of their system is that each radio is a two way transceiver of data.  The truck could conceivably send pan and tilt signals to a remote camera.  A reporter could get an “ethernet signal” while away from the truck.

I get the impression the system was developed from a military predecessor.  They told me the everything is built to “mil spec” and you could go SCUBA diving with the radio even.  I’m guessing that makes it hard to get a signal though…..😁


Full disclosure: the Persistent Systems folks gave me some booth swag as I was leaving.  They did not contact me for this video, and I’ve received no payment for this (or any) of my NAB videos.

NAB 2017 – Bokkeh

Bokkeh is based in Taiwan, and they’ve come out with an inexpensive line of primes with full frame coverage, their Bokkelux (get it?).  I had a hard time getting a straight answer out of Vincent about whether or not they were manufacturing their own glass.  I think he said that like other lens manufacturers, they gather parts from all over, and that the glass came from Japan.  Take from that what you will.  Certainly worth further investigation if you are in the market for full frame glass with an inexpensive buy in.

NAB 2017 – Pixellot

Like a lot of cameramen, I got my start shooting community sports teams.  That training ground might be going away if Pixellot has its way.

Essentially, they sell you a multi-camera array that combines the cameras into a single high resolution panoramic shot.  That shot gets sent to their control centre, and they stream it to the end user.  That end user can be your high school’s community channel, or more interestingly, individual parents of the players.  Are you a parent that wants to only watch your child and not follow the play?  You can do that.  It’s an interesting business model, and the market for it is almost unlimited.  Except for the crushing of future camerapeople 😳 , I wish them luck.

P.S. I apologize for the flicker, I’m not sure what happened there, I don’t think I changed any settings?

NAB 2017 – Decimator Design

Decimator Design’s MD-DUCC product has bailed me out of a jam more times than I can relate.  A few years ago they came out with Mac based software to program it, and that made my life a lot easier too.  They don’t make a ton of gear, but what they do make is choice.

I get the impression they’re getting some price pressure from another Australian company, but competition is a good thing as they’ve lowered the price on their quad-split by a grand to $295 U.S.!  Nice.  They’ve also launched a very inexpensive bidirectional HD-SDI/HDMI converter box called the MD-LX.  For $99 U.S., here’s a list of what it does:

1. Auto Select (Active input to all outputs or if both
inputs are active SDI to HDMI and HDMI to SDI)

Like its competing product from another manufacturer, I’m not crazy about the fact that the USB power input appears to be only soldered to the interior board and not bolted to case, but they do appear to have at least surrounded the input with the casing material.  Unlike the competition, it is bidirectional.

I generally use these boxes to convert HD-SDi to HDMI to go into the back of a consumer flatscreen.  The nice part about the MD-LX being USB powered, is the fact that most flatscreens now have USB ports, so you only need a cable and not a separate wall plug to operate these units.  Sweet!

NAB 2017 – Pro Cyc

Pro Cyc sells cycloramas for a living.  A cyclorama is studio space designed with curved corners to eliminate shadows once it’s lit.  Generally they are either white or chroma green/blue.  White can be blown out as white to give that “heavenly limbo” effect, or you can make it whatever color you want by simply lighting it with colored lights.  Pro Cyc makes the matte covering material when you are installing a permanent cyclorama.  It does away with reflections (bad when you’re trying to key) and is made of a robust plastic material.

Here, they’ve taken the covering material they use on permanent installs, and packaged it for portable use.  I’ve used chromakey cloth rolls for this, but getting the cloth wrinkle free for no shadows can be difficult and time consuming.  A 10 foot roll of paper also works, but they tend to get dirty quickly and also tear.  Pro Cyc’s solution is tough, wrinkle free and can we washed to get rid of footprints.  It’s a little pricey, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of keying, could be worth it.

NAB 2017 – softpanels

Softpanels is a company that makes…..panel lights that are soft.  They came about initially through a Kickstarter campaign that offered soft LED lights at about half the price of the “big boys” in the market.  That campaign was successful, they are in the final stages of meeting their commitments, and are now going into series manufacturing for the general public.

The company’s founder Kevin used to work for another big name in the industry, so he knows his way around LED panels.  One interesting thing about their lights is that the ballast/control circuitry is built into the yoke of the light.  They also have a unique way of color matching their output to the environment as you’ll see.