After spending the last week trying to process the onslaught of technology I witnessed at this years NAB, here's my brief thoughts:
So everybody makes a camera now. Sony, Panasonic, Canon, JVC, RED, Arri...yeah we've all heard about these companies. But Blackmagic, with their 2 additional iPad screens on a sensor, will now offer 5 different camera models for sale. BMD claims to ship the URSA and BSC by July...though their history says otherwise. AJA didn't want to get left out so they developed the CION (see here). This camera looks like a shoulder-mount camera persons dream. It's balanced, good dynamic range, global shutter, PL-mount, XLR inputs and on and on and on. I do wonder how this will impact AJA's relationship with other camera manufactures which they have traditionally supplemented through recorders and converter boxes....?
2. Make sure it moves
Every company now makes a portable slider, jib, and some sort of Movi knock-off. Manufacturers of sliders and jibs have been in a race-to-the-bottom as they continue to refine manufacturing processes and reduce the price. A smooth, lightweight slider can now be purchased for under $1K. I just recently purchased the Duzi from Cinevate for $400 from B&H. There's little reason for videographers and indie cinematographers not to add motion to their shots if it's needed. At the very least, price isn't the problem now.
It seemed like their were a million different Movi-like products. The most interesting of them seems to be the Letus Helix (see here). I see this part of the market taking a similar trajectory to sliders and jibs. In another 18-24 months these products will sell for under $1K and provide smooth, fluid, balanced motion. If you gotta have one now, there's plenty of good products to pick from. If you can wait then I'm sure there's even better (and cheaper) products on the horizon.
3. Manage that media
Since everybody is making a camera now and they all shoot at least 1080p, many shoot 2K/4K/6K images and all cameras shoot to solid-state media there's no better time to get serious about asset management than right now. As shooting becomes cheaper and more cost-efficient for greater and greater resolutions you better start thinking now about how to ingest, edit, deliver, and archive those assets. Whether you're looking at CatDV, Cantemo, eMAM, or something else it's time to get serious about managing your media and/or backing up that media. There is no day coming where you'll shoot less (unless you retire), ask for slower speeds, need less storage space, or not need to resurrect an old project. Everything that shot is now expected to be recalled on a whim and repurposed. Regardless of if you're in news, commercial, corporate, or event tracking your media and reusing it is only going to grow more important. So get in the habit now of maintaining strict folder structures, and creating archives of your work.
4. Blackmagic won't stop (cause they can't stop)
I already referenced BMD above, as they dropped 2 new cameras in our laps (both well under $10K). They also kicked out a slew of video converter boxes, signal routers, and a little something called Resolve 11. Yours truly from March 2013:
I might be off my rocker here, but I can't get over how close DaVinci Resolve is to a NLE. Now there are some serious limitations with Resolve as an editor compared to Media Composer, FCP7/X, or Premiere Pro. Without a doubt as it stands now, Resolve is not in the league with any of the systems from the big 4 A's (Apple, Adobe, Avid, Autodesk). Resolve's conform tab offers very little compared to the other NLE's. So I'm not comparing the product as it stands today, but more in looking at where BlackMagic could take the product. I'm willing to bet that they have an NLE up their sleeve somewhere.
A couple weeks later they showed off Resolve 10, which looked even more like a NLE. A year later, 2014, Resolve 11 shows up and it looks even more like a NLE. BMD has a serious powerful and market disrupting strategy at play here. Short-term I image most of us will stick with the paid guns that have always done traditional NLE stuff - Avid, Apple, Adobe, Autodesk. But what about the next wave of video editors, vfx artists, and colorists? If they are in high school today, they can download the same version of Resolve that "the big boys" run....and oh yeah, it's completely free. BMD is training a whole host of up and coming artists on their software. Not necessarily because it's better, but because it's more readily available and accessible.
The other A's have no choice but to drop their price in order to compete. And that's exactly what we're seeing year-over-year. FCPX - $299. Adobe moved to a subscription plan that can cost an individual as little as $20/month. Avid continues to lower the price of Media Composer, now down to old Final Cut Studio prices at $999 and Autodesk just announced a subscription service for Smoke which again lowers the price from $3,499 to $1,750 per year (you can also subscribe per month at $195 or per quarter at $545).
It seems like BMD, with Resolve, is further eroding the "make money on software" concept which was so popular in the 90's and early 00's. Now companies need to rely on additional sources of revenue to generate income - Avid sells Isis, Apple sells it's hardware to run it's software. If BMD's pace of development for Resolve doesn't slow down or their business model doesn't change I can see some serious struggles ahead for the other NLE's as they try to justify their costs in an ever softening NLE landscape. In 2, 3, or 4 years Resolve could be just as, if not more, capable than a Media Composer, FCP, or Premiere. Look at how fast FCP and Premiere have moved on product development. FCP X only came out 3 years ago and it's had several upgrades. Premiere since CS5.5 has moved at lighting speeds to add features and increase usability and interoperability. (And yes, I'm leaving Avid off this fast moving list as I still think they're a lumbering dinosaur that caters to a specific segment of the market, and not much else). Autodesk with Smoke 2013 and now 2 years later, Smoke 2015, has made drastic rewrites to its UI and UX designs. BMD certainly has the long-game in mind with Resolve as a NLE though (see Philip Hodgetts' remarks here).
So what's next? I have no idea! I do know that there's no better time to be in this industry than right now. It's becoming more affordable, with hardware/software that allows you to create just about anything. My only recommendations:
- Buy the fastest computer you can afford, it'll last longer than going cheap
- Buy as much storage as you can afford, you'll never complain about having too much space
- Manage your media. Start creating strict folder structures and naming conventions. Start backing up your data. A file doesn't exist until it exists in at least 2 places (preferably 3).
- Keep learning. There are tremendous resources for hardware or software training available to anyone willing to spend the time to learn - Twitter, YouTube, CreativeCow, lynda.com, manufactures websites, books, etc. People not knowing means they just don't want to take the time to read what's out there.
- Meet people. This is something I'm not good at. I like being behind a camera or a computer...I'm an introvert. But meeting people, networking, attending premieres, talking with vendors, etc. is part of the social experience of our profession. It's also important if you want to develop other contacts for future purchases, jobs or learning opportunities.