Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2023
By Mark Foley, Technology Editor, ProductionHUB
How do you feel 2023 has been for you? Did you shake off the remnants of 2022 and kick some ass? Did you make up for lost time? For many 2023 started out on a strong note, with productions coming on strong. Then of course then as we all know the strikes happened and many productions and projects had to hit pause. Fortunately those strikes are now behind us and we can get back to work.
If the truth be told, there were both negatives and positives that happened to all of us in some way in 2023. So, what’s next for you, me, and the industry and what do you want to do with that newfound experience and knowledge? I know some of you want to hit cruise control and regroup while others are focused on finishing up 2023 on a strong note and priming the pump for 2024. I honestly don’t think either way of thinking is the wrong way, because ultimately whatever decision you make it really is all up to you. That being said, next year is right around the corner so I wanted to take one more look with you in the rearview mirror at some key points in 2023. Then moving on, sharing some thoughts on what we will be looking at in the year ahead.
Increase in Trade Show Attendance
Unless you were living under a rock (or maybe just stuck in your editing suite), I’m sure you’ve noticed some interesting industry trends compared to the prior year. The first was a vast improvement in overall attendance in any number of trade shows in 2023. Shows like NAB Las Vegas or NAB New York were up in total exhibitors and a reported attendance gain by a strong 28%! That number alone should tell you a lot. Other shows like IBC did equally as well. I was also quite impressed with CineGear New York and Atlanta. Almost every session I attended was sold out or near capacity. What that says to me is that production people were ready to get out and get back to the business of meeting new people and talking about the latest in production.
Other notable industry events did well and exhibited growth such as Tribeca Film Festival, Sundance, and SXSW, which stood out as indicators that industry professionals were ready to come out and celebrate outstanding films and projects from content creators.
New Gear and Production Technology Takes Off
The other part of a mostly positive 2023 that was noticeable was a flood of new gear and technologies in nearly all phases of production coming out. There were many new cameras introduced (and delivered) along with significant increases in software updates, hardware for live remote and studio production and lighting. Also in this pocket, there were many developments in the world of Virtual Production. Originally born out of necessity, Virtual Production continues its meteoric growth for professionals and the introduction of many more new Volume Stages of all sizes. Companies such as Vu, Lux Machina, CarStage, and ARwall are clearly on the move and on the rise.
We caught up with Michael Huang, Senior Consultant, AOTO Electronics who has a ton of experience in this growing area. Here are his thoughts on how Volume Stages came to be and where he thinks we are headed.
“I think the term really should be firstly introduced by Epic games in Unreal Engine. They named the "LED volume" and then it got started from there. I think in the era of Virtual Production, we're not just building LED volumes; we're constructing entire worlds. LED volumes are the canvases, and technology is the brushstroke that brings imagination to life."
Virtual Production Continues to Rise
Another clear sign of the times is the Virtual Production program undertaken by the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. NYU is offering a new 36-credit Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree in Virtual Production. Students will learn at the Martin Scorsese Center for Virtual Production, opening in Fall 2024. This 9 month (September-May), full-time program will provide students an immersive, hands-on education in the emerging field of storytelling through Virtual Production.
The 45,586 square foot Martin Scorsese Virtual Production Center will live on the top floor of Building 8 at Industry City, a 35-acre innovation campus on the Brooklyn waterfront. The Center will feature two double-height, column-free stages, two television studios, state-of-the-art broadcast and control rooms, dressing/make-up rooms, a lounge and bistro, scene workshops, offices, post production labs, finishing suites, and training spaces.
As much as I love technology, I still love the practical work on set and I believe it will remain strong on many levels, and there will always be a place for remote production. The marriage of both bodes well for the future of production. While we were busy unpacking 2023, which is now behind us, for many of us it will be game on and a full on sprint to 2024!
But before we fade to black on 2023, I think it is important to hear some thoughts from two pros that I count on and that work in this field every day. Between Nick Mahar and Curtis Pair , these guys have years of valuable production experience and have weathered the ups and downs of the last few years. I believe their comments echo what many of us thought about 2023.
“I think 2023 was a weird year for everyone. Did a lot of smaller jobs, positions I don't normally work in, but still had some cool opportunities.It was nice to know that everyone was in this position however that doesn't help pay the bills. I've already been reached out to about next year so hoping with the strikes being over, it's going to be better than ever. but who knows. Everything eventually bounces back so hopefully we are on the upswing,” says Nick.
Curtis followed, echoing Nick’s sentiments. “2023 brought well-deserved attention to two different unions. Both ended strikes with favorable results for both sides. I'm hopeful 2024 will bring a tremendous amount of work in the motion imaging field to include motion pictures, television, corporate and commercial projects.”
Pushing Forward to 2024
As 2023 comes to a close, what are you planning to do with a whole new set of opportunities and 12 awesome months of 2024 ahead of you?
Now is a great time to take a good look at all your gear, from every camera and lighting kit right down to your edit suite, software, and mics. Ask yourself a few of these questions: When did you buy it? How much did it help grow your business? Is it old or in constant need of upkeep and repair? Did you use that gear or is it sitting in a corner? Take inventory and see if it’s time to rent or purchase new gear. You can always visit ProductionHUB to jettison seldom used gear and look at updating your tech. Once you have taken stock of what you have on hand, it’s time to update! I know how easy it is to get complacent with what you have, but if you aren’t constantly looking at opportunities to update how you work and the tools you are working with, I am genuinely worried that you and your business might get left behind.
7 Pieces of Gear to Consider for Your Next Update
With that said, here are six noteworthy items to look at when it comes time for your big gear update. Yes, I know that there were so many more new products in 2023 but again, this is just a small sample of some new gear that you might want to consider for 2024.
Adobe Premiere Text to Edit
If I was a full time video editor, I couldn’t get my hands on text to edit fast enough and I choose Text to Edit as my tech “pick of the litter for 2023”. Text-based editing has introduced us to new and genuinely transformative editing workflows, making editing simpler, easier, and faster. Yes! Editing technology continues to move at a tremendous pace. Developers are constantly improving editing software, enabling a faster and more efficient workflow. Text-based editing workflows certainly reflect that.
The Adobe text-based editing workflow allows editors of all skill levels to transcribe their footage and create a rough cut based on an automatically generated transcription. Then, with that text-based workflow, an editor can rearrange the words on a transcript, and software will reflect the changes on the video timeline.
Updates in 2023 the LUMIX S5 llX will make it a great fit for a lot of content creators based on quality, ease of use and affordability. With a new and improved set of user-friendly features the LUMIX S5IIX is very easy to handle. With a big 35mm full-frame (35.6mm x 23.8mm) CMOS sensor the imaging is fantastic, and the improved image stabilization and autofocus helps eliminate costly reshoots.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to work with and review the LUMIX S5IIX. Again, the original LUMIX S5 has been around for a while, but this refreshed version is in a class all by itself. I would recommend adding the SmallRig Cage which would be an extra expense but a worthwhile investment and a handy place for the SSD. Know that you need to use a LUMIX suggested SSD from their approved list, which is important to know if you are going to be recording/working in ProRes. A worthy addition to our new equipment list for 2024.
Canon R5 C
While we are in new camera acquisition mode may I suggest a strong and long look at the flexible and affordable Canon R5 C? Canon refers to the R5 C as a hybrid camera, and that's accurate but there is so much more to this camera. The Canon R5 C, with its full frame 8K sensor fills in many of the requirements of today’s video professional and is another affordable camera option that I think would be a great addition if you are a small and upcoming shop or if you have the need to be able to take stills and shoot high quality video 8K video.
One of the great things about AJA besides the great people that work there is that they never stop innovating and updating their product line up -2023 was no different. The latest news talking about the AJA ColorBox being certified and working with RED Cameras certainly speaks to that. One of the things I find exciting about the AJA ColorBox is that it makes color correcting a living work in progress. In other words, you can be shooting on a RED and since the ColorBox is in the workflow, color correction happens live, so when you are shooting all day the color the correcting process is done when you call a wrap. I think if you are doing this the right way, you will figure out just how much overall time and money one can save.
AJA’s ColorBox, a color management and color conversion solution, has been certified as compatible with RED’s lineup of cinema cameras. The AJA ColorBox passed rigorous and comprehensive testing with the RED family of products to ensure compatibility across the product line. “ColorBox is the first RED certified product for video processing, and this certification is a huge stamp of approval for color workflows built on RED technology,” shared AJA president Nick Rashby.
ColorBox’s certification for RED covers a wide range of RED cameras and ensures that production pros can use their preferred camera to capture and color correct footage live. This can be done with RED look-up tables (LUTs) using the AJA Color Pipeline or RED Log3G10 processing supported by AJA ColorBox’s optional Colorfront license.
Using the AJA ColorBox and RED together will allow for a better and more convenient workflow process on the set. Using a third-party hardware such as Cyanview control panel allows end users to control either mode with tactile controls akin to those available with broadcast cameras. ColorBox’s Red-certification status also ensures cinema production pros can seamlessly operate their Red cameras and ColorBox together on-set for streamlined.
For some of us taking that next leap of new camera faith can be kind of scary and maybe more money than you thought, but from the images I have seen, I think the Sony BURANO definitely should be on your radar.
Designed for cinematic style shooting, the Sony BURANO 8K Digital Cinema Camera offers up to 8.6K video in a compact, full-frame form. The BURANO features unique in-camera stabilization for both E- and PL-mount lenses, along with Fast Hybrid Autofocus, and an easily adjustable ND filter to enhance single-user capture and seamless image matching. If I get the chance to test one out, I will let you guys know for sure.
ARRI SkyPanel X
ARRI’s SkyPanels might be some of the best lighting instruments I have used over the last five years. Creatives and technicians have chosen SkyPanels because they do the job. Now the SkyPanel family expanded with the introduction of SkyPanel X. While the SkyPanel was designed to be a soft light for studio use, the SkyPanel X is optimized for both hard and soft light in all-weather conditions, bringing improvements in terms of lux output, IP rating, color rendition, dimming quality, and controllability. If you can try SkyPanels X, you definitely should!
Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio HD8
I am not sure how Blackmagic Design does it. Year after year they always have the new gear that I really want to use. But credit to them there is always a constant flow of cool releases. The ATEM Television Studio HD8, is a new family of all in one live production switchers that combine broadcast features with portability. These new switchers feature broadcast grade control panels with advanced features such as streaming and recording. There is also an ISO model that can record all video inputs and can connect to up to 8 remote cameras. These new switchers also support live streaming, talkback, and optional internal storage.
The new ATEM Television Studio HD is a professional live production switcher built into a broadcast control panel so it can be used for high end work while being extremely portable. This means customers can use it in smaller venues and houses of worship. That basically covers some of the gear we looked at in 2023. Of course, you get to decide the where, when, and how of your plan for your growth.
My first course of action will be to update my aging MacBook. It has been great to me, however with ever increasing needs for a bigger and better display and speed that is the direction I am being pulled in right now. In the office, I’ll stick with my little mighty Mac Mini which continues to amaze. So, like me, you can choose what works for you, but also identify other incredible industry trends? I look for an ever increasing implementation of remote production protocols.
We also heard from Dennis Buhr, Head of Production Development for SVT. Sveriges Television (SVT) is the Swedish public service television company with the widest range of programming of all TV companies in Sweden and on the leading edge of some very interesting technologies.
“In July of this year, we deployed a new GPU- and cloud-based production solution, for the broadcast production of the Royal Scandinavian Rally, our first entirely cloud-based remote live sports event. Ahead of the event we worked with long-time partner Agile Content on several tests and proof of concept projects, which led us to deploying a completely cloud-based workflow for the event, which is a new 16-stage, 185km round in the 2023 season of the European Rally Championship. The solution that we ended up putting in place – Agile Live – was the most efficient option for our event production and as its use of proxies enabled remote and distributed production, whilst not compromising on the quality of our programming. Most significantly, we were able to lower our production costs, which allowed us to cover the full three-day event with a significantly reduced budget and substantially cut the production’s environmental footprint.”
PTZ cameras also have made such gains in image quality over the last few years, and remote production facilities such as the recently opened Van Wagner facility located in Raleigh, North Carolina and the LiveX facilities in New York City and Green Bay are beyond state of the art. It was amazing to see just how many productions these organizations can control from one central location. It also changes the production crewing dynamics making it possible to call in your best local people, allowing them the opportunity to live and work where they want to.
Other productions will continue to become increasingly sophisticated with AI and Virtual Production capabilities increasing in 2024 for productions such as the Super Bowl, Summer Olympics, and the upcoming presidential elections, just to name a few.
Well, that’s up to you, isn’t it? I know that for me I am incredibly fortunate to be wrapping up another year working with so many very smart, thoughtful, and funny people. Special thanks to Briana and Layla and everyone in the ProductionHUB home office! It has been a ball. I am grateful most of all for my family and for all the things 2023 has brought me. I wish all of you a very joyous holiday season. Stay safe and we’ll see you in 2024!
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