As many of you know too well, keeping up with technology and the constant change in our business is like surfing on top of a runaway train careening down the track at breakneck speed at full throttle—exciting and terrifying all at once.
It’s just a huge part of our business and everyday creative work environment. Nothing new, to us, right? We are tasked with implementing those new technologies and thinking on our feet all the time.
Everyday, all of us are asked in some way to be ready for those production challenges on a sometimes ridiculously short notice and to respond as professionals and get the job done, even if 2021 seems to have gone by at a dizzying pace. I think for the most part we did a pretty darn good job of making the most of 2021, right?
Looking Back at 2021
2021 was a challenge, no doubt. Some productions stopped, then started, then stopped again, which felt like a never ending cycle. I know it was making some of my production peeps plum crazy. Other productions never stopped and kept going with enhanced safety protocols.
Even with that, safety protocols were and are still are different from state to state and production to production. At times production professionals have had to work hard to meet those differing requirements. In the meantime? Technology and the introduction of new cameras and other equipment continues.
Manufacturers that I spoke to were somewhat disappointed but not daunted by the limited in-person conferences that happened in 2021. Still, they continued to reach out with some very innovative virtual events and educational sessions. 2021 brought us a steady stream of new technologies announced over the stretch of a year, just not all at once. Do you think that is a good thing? Let me know!
Online announcements and press conferences continued right up to the end of the year. Let’s take a look at a few of the companies and their new products that had a big impact on 2021. I’ve also left all kinds of company and product links below, including some bonus links for additional gear I couldn’t squeeze in, just in case you want to take a deeper dive. Let’s go!
Always innovative, we can start right out of the gate with Blackmagic Design. The company consistently delivers on lots of new products, product updates, and information with their online announcements. Often I will watch the presentations twice! Sometimes online can be a good thing.
Here are two of their products that jumped out at me:
I really don’t know how Grant and the Blackmagic Design team cram so much technology in a switcher this size! The ATEM Mini Extreme is a 1 M/E switcher that features 8 inputs, 4 ATEM Advanced Chroma Keyers, a total of 6 independent DVEs, 2 media players, 2 downstream keyers, 16 way multiview, 2 USB connections and multiple HDMI aux outputs. There is also a ATEM Mini Extreme ISO model which includes all these features plus a more robust recording engine that can record all 8 inputs plus the program for a total of 9 streams of recording. Both models include a streaming engine for live streaming to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more. Again, not really sure where they put it all. Time for another review!
Building on a solid foundation, the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro is a bigger(but not too much bigger) model that includes some exceptional new features for high end production. This model includes a 1,500 nit adjustable HDR touchscreen screen, built in ND filters, and larger battery. This model also includes latest generation 5 color science, Super 35 HDR image sensor with 13 stops of dynamic range, dual native ISO of 25,600 and a popular EF lens mount. This is definitely a camera I want to shoot some shows with in 2021.
Hands down, Sony easily qualifies as one of the most interesting companies of 2021. Sony rocked out for 2021 and has new products for every discipline and every type of production. Unfortunately, I only have room for two, but be sure to check out the additional links below.
Having shot test footage with the original VENICE and an epic Fujinon lens, I can hardly wait to get my hands on the new SONY VENICE 2.
Paired with a newly-developed 8.6 K (8640 x 5760) full-frame CMOS image sensor, the VENICE 2 has 16 stops of total latitude to capture images with excellent color separation and shadow detail. The camera also inherits its color science from the original VENICE which is highly regarded for its natural skin tones. The new VENICE 2 8K CineAlta camera has a unique dual base ISO of 800/3200 which allows filmmakers to capture images under a wide range of lighting conditions. It supports everything from full-frame, full-frame anamorphic to Super35 all at a minimum of 4K resolution.
Having reviewed this monitors little brother, the Sony PVM-X2400 earlier this year(I want one of each) I can say without hesitation, I am a big fan of this group of monitors from Sony. The PVM-X3200 monitor falls into Sony's Grade 2 monitor hierarchy, suitable for viewing applications such as on set (DIT cart, video village), on location (in the field or in mobile trucks), and in editing suites and broadcast studios. Small enough to bring with you, but big(and good)enough to get the job done, the Sony PVM-X3200 packs a big wallop with a beautiful and faithful reproduction of the images you just shot, the images your are correcting, or the images that will make up your final show. Gotta trust your monitor and this one is at the top of my list for 2021.
What to say about AJA? A stellar reputation for sure, designing and building a wide array of products for the broadcast and production industry. Also, I have to say they are great people to work with! Having either purchased or used AJA gear for a long time, I have always noticed a high amount of attention paid to the finish and reliability of their products.
In 2021 AJA continued to improve their current product line up and introduce new products. Here is one really good example of what I am talking about. Perfect name for what a product is designed for and if I had to make a mid year facility adjustment, the AJA Bridge NDI 3G Converter would be on the top of my list. Check it out.
The Bridge NDI 3G Converter from AJA provides high-capacity 3G-SDI to NDI and NDI to 3G-SDI conversion in a compact 1 RU form. Designed to fit into an existing SDI or NDI workflow, this plug-and-play converter is ideal for broadcast, sports, entertainment, and houses of worship. The Converter features include support for up to DCI 4K60 4:2:2 10-bit video, 16 x 3G-SDI input/output ports, two x 10 GigE RJ45 input/output ports, support for up to 16-channel embedded audio, and both local and remote control.
The Panasonic LUMIX GH 5 ll is a great example of a company knowing they have a great product, yet working on ways to make it better.
What do you do when you need a solid main camera or “b” camera that will get you the shots you want or need without going totally broke? I vote for the LUMIX GH 5 ll from Panasonic. Having also reviewed this camera earlier this year, I would recommend it without hesitation and I will go one step further and say if things go right will be shooting a documentary in 4K with one in the summer of 22’. The Panasonic Lumix GH5 II has an outstanding 20.3MP Live MOS Sensor with AR Coating,(can you say beautiful pictures) and the camera records DCI and UHD 4K with the full sensor area and can output 10-bit 4:2:0 internally up to 60p, or 4:2:2 at 30p. The GH5 II also offers unlimited video recording. Another no brainer on the list for sure.
2021 introduced a lot of new products. Be sure to check out our ProductionHUB Awards of Excellence and the links below. But enough about 2021, let’s move on!
2022: The Year of the Hybrid Production Model
If the last several months of 2021 are any indication of where production and production work is going, then I think it's safe to look at 2022 as the year where the word “hybrid” becomes a permanent part of the production lexicon. Not the whole picture, but certainly a much bigger piece of the puzzle.
Technologies like NDI(Newtek) and SRT have made the process of remote production reliable and more importantly, more affordable. It’s not like this is a brand new production concept. This production model has been in place for a while and worked pretty, if just with different technologies.
The current hybrid production model is full steam ahead and has been accelerated by the need to get productions done, pandemic or not. Hybrid doesn’t mean replacing people in the field, instead hybrid remote production now includes the additional questions like who is going (as in how many people we need on the actual site ) and what do we need (the amount of equipment in the field to to get the interview or segment shot and then getting it back to the studio or production facility. Some big productions will always need big crews, it’s that simple.
The beautiful part about the hybrid production model is that it is totally scalable to fit the need of the production. If you have ever had too many or not enough people on a crew you will know what I mean about getting the right amount of people for the job. As we get through to the end of 2021 we now have many more ways to create content. Whether it is REMI or in-person (or a combination of the two) smart people in our profession continue to figure it out. Production goes on, and this new way of producing content continues to alter our profession.
I am convinced we are going to get some in-person shows back. I’m hoping that it’s NAB for starters. If recent history has taught us anything, we might have to take a wait-and-see attitude. But I also think equipment manufacturers are now going to go on their own clock and release new gear when they think the should. Either way I am hopeful that we can really get the ball rolling in 2022.
Lastly, I don’t know about you but I learned quite a lot about our industry and about myself in 2021. I learned that our industry and its related technologies continues to find its way. 2021, while at times challenging, wasn’t impossible to overcome. Sure there were some (big) bumps in the road and I am sure there will be more. But I have faith that we will continue to roll up our sleeves and get the job done moving into 2022.
In closing I wish all of you much health, happiness, and big shoots in 2022!
Additional links to check out: