As we close out 2012 we took some time to chat with a few of the most in the know creators on Vimeo to get their thoughts on the new gadgetry that debuted this past year and what the future may hold. Check out their insights and opinions below-
VVS: Is there any technology that came out in 2012 that finally fulfilled something you've been hoping for awhile now?
Vincent LaForet: I was very happy to see Vimeo offer pay-per-view this year as it really opens things up for independent film makers and educators - the same goes for Tip Jar. I know that I and many others were asking for this, including many from within the Vimeo staff. On another front, as imperfect as it is - the new iPad Mini is likely the PERFECT director's tool for scripts, storyboards, scouting - you name it. Other than that there hasn't been a noticeable breakthrough technology that's changed it all for me - although I am still waiting for AppleTV to become a more mature product and potentially truly affect the way people consume media.
Joe Marine: Blackmagic Cinema Camera (while it's still not technically shipping in volume), was the first camera to really bring high quality codecs and high dynamic range to the masses for dirt-cheap. DSLRs are great, and I think they will continue to have their place, but as people become more sophisticated shooters or learn how to grade more proficiently, they start seeing the limitations of the codecs. Of course, RAW video comes with its own set of workflow issues, but Blackmagic is the first company to really put a relatively inexpensive camera into the hands of filmmakers that isn't compromising on image quality - whether that's the dynamic range or the codec options.
Patrick Moreau: For years we have been using and loving DSLRs. They helped us get the attention of the NFL, we shot A Game of Honor almost entirely with them, and their size and speed has become integral to the way we tell our stories. The Canon C100 is the first camera we've used since DSLRs where we feel like we aren't losing the strengths of DSLRs and yet we gained a whole host of features. There are tons of great cameras out there from many manufacturers, but what we've been waiting for is something that offers the feature set of a DSLR - image, size, speed - with the advanced function of a dedicated video camera - scopes, zebras, XLR audio. The C100 answered that call for us unlike any other camera has been able to do and, for the first time, it feels like we are ready to fully move on from DSLRs. For many of us, the introduction of DSLRs was a big change in the stories we tell, and it feels like a big step to now move past those and see what will happen from here.
Jonathan Yi: The Canon C300 finally hit the market in 2012 and the unprecedented low light sensitivity really changed things for me and my documentary work. It's opened up the possibility of shooting in conditions that I wouldn't have been able to in the past, and it's allowed me to follow stories anywhere at any time. It might not be groundbreaking for the cinema world at large, but it's absolutely game changing for documentary when dealing with less than ideal situations.
VVS: Was there a product that unexpectedly impressed you this year?
Jared Abrams: The GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition 4K blew me away. I was completely caught off guard with that one. The little camera that CAN! The 2.7K resolution looks amazing and the Cineform application makes converting both 4K and 2.7K a breeze for pros and novice filmmakers.
Philip Bloom: Pretty much the same for me with the FS700 and the Blackmagic. To have RAW on a $3000 video camera and 240fps in an s35 video camera for $8000 blew me away.
Vincent LaForet: No not really. More disappointments than breakthroughs this year - a lot of great products that came out but fell shy of being "groundbreaking." Some very interesting but not quite yet "mature" products include the Lytro camera, and 4K GoPro (that doesn't yet shoot 24p) Microsoft Surface/Windows 8 is a nice move for them, 3D printers have a potentially fascinating future.
Patrick Moreau: The value offered by BlackMagic's camera is pretty astounding and I think their announcement is just about as 'out of nowhere' as it gets. The camera is still hard to come by and it makes it tough to see just how much it will get taken up by the community, but it clearly offers an incredible value and it's is always great for us as consumers when a manufacturer releases something that really shakes up the industry.
VVS: In what way did technology disappoint in 2012? Was there something really hyped up that did not live up to the clamor?
Jared Abrams: 2012 was a big year for lighting as well as cameras. I must admit that I really like the idea of plasma light technology. I have yet to be impressed with the quality of light produced by this new technology. The tried and true tungsten and HMI lights still produce some of the best skin tones.
Vincent LaForet: I think Apple has been the biggest disappointment for me. They still produce amazing products - no question. They however seem to be falling off the pedestal we've all put them on - with releases like their "Maps," phones that really aren't that revolutionary (if they only said that and were honest that it's just an upgrade I'd actually prefer that but it's not their style) and a general focus on the iOS future and lack of focus on their high end creative Pros. I do hope this changes but for now they seem to be focusing on what makes the most financial sense for them, not necessarily who helped get them here. As a business they're making the best move one can ask - but I know a lot of pros feel a bit left out. Perhaps they could throw us a bone or two to let us know they still love us - because I know many of the people at Apple really do!
Joe Marine: You could put the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in this category as well, though the disappointing aspect is really that you can't buy one yet. They've shipped a few, but volume shipping won't begin until 2013. The Digital Bolex was also supposed to ship in 2012, so we'll have to wait until 2013 to really see these cameras in action.
Patrick Moreau: As an Apple based studio, it feels more and more like the Mac Pros are slowly going away. With so many updates to the iMac lineup and the recent Retina Macbook Pros, it feels like the towers are hanging around without really getting a solid update. When you work with Davinci Resolve or you're handling RED footage, it is great to have the power of a Mac Pro and we would have loved to see a significant update to them this year. We are now stuck in a place where the fastest port for the hard drives on our tower is firewire 800 and yet our latest laptops have evolved beyond that.
Jonathan Yi: Apple's lack of a new Mac Pro desktop really disappointed me. We have these cameras that generate a tremendous amount of data, but we can't get a modern machine in the mac realm. I recently resorted to getting a new iMac as a result.
VVS: What do you realistically project to be some of the big product releases of 2013?
Jared Abrams: I think Black Magic will release a Super 35 sensor camera with 4K RAW. It should be totally doable. I also suspect that it will cost less than $5K.
Philip Bloom: RAW is going to become more and more common but our computer tech needs to catch up fast!
Vincent LaForet: I think there will be a lot of new technologies/products that help people consume media at home or on their personal devices, when they want to, when they have time to, and wherever they are... that excited me. I really want filmmakers and creatives to be able to create content directly for an audience that they help form.
Joe Marine: I think we'll probably see another budget camera from Sony with the new 4K sensor they've put in the FS700. RED is coming out with their Dragon sensor, which should start getting into EPICs sometime in 2013, but we may not see it in SCARLET until 2014. It would not surprise me to see more companies jump into the cinema lens market. We've got more cameras in more budget ranges than we ever could have imagined, but we're still repurposing a lot of still photography lenses for motion picture purposes.We also could see a surprise camera just like we saw with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera last year. I think the market for high quality codecs at a much lower price is still wide open, and the big camera makers have been rather slow to react to the market which is changing extremely fast.
Patrick Moreau: It feels like we've had 101 cameras come out in the past year and that the line-up is more complete and current than ever before. I'd never count new cameras out from being launched, but I would predict we will see much more innovation in the camera accessories side of things as those manufacturers now try to adapt and innovate. Seeing things like Zacuto's grip relocator for the Canon C300/C100 is exciting as it shows just how much they are in tune with the latest technology and that they are constantly pushing to find new solutions to the challenges brought forth by that technology.
Jonathan Yi: Sony's F5 and F55 are going to be huge.
VVS: What would you love to see, but don't think is likely just yet with video technology in 2013?
Jared Abrams: I would like to see inexpensive PL or Multi Mount lenses both primes and zooms. There are a few new manual focus lenses out there. It would be great to see Canon revive the old still non EF lenses.
Philip Bloom: There are so many things as camera geeks we want but as filmmakers we don't necessarily need. Almost all the features we want in cameras are available now. Just not as prices most of us can afford. This will change. Give it a year or two!
Vincent LaForet: I think it may come this year with a few companies I know - but I'd love to see a digital sensor that exceeds the dynamic range of film - not to mention the resolving power. It's not as far as people think and is the holy grail in terms of ending the film vs digital debate. That being said I saw "The Master" recently which was shot on 70mm and man... I loved it. We just need larger sensors that perform better than emulsion and that's only a matter of time.
Joe Marine: I would like to see the first affordable 4K screen for consumer use. There were rumors that Apple is working on this, but it may just be too expensive right now. We might have to wait until 2014 to see our first really affordable 4K device. It's only a matter of time either way. The distribution options for 4K are still scarce at the moment - with RED and Sony coming up with their own solutions - but those don't mean too much right now if the screen technology doesn't make its way down to the consumer level.
Patrick Moreau: For us and our style of storytelling, our wish list always starts with performance in a small and fast package. That means finding ways to run with a follow focus and geared lenses on a monopod, or something like more portable and travel friendly sliders. With all of the success of the Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 in the event and doc film markets, it would be amazing to see a Cine version come out with some enhancements and and a focus specifically geared at the cinema folks.
Jonathan Yi: An affordable and reliable way to back up all this data we constantly generate would be wonderful. The current "reliable" solutions are out of reach for most consumers.
VVS: Are there any new trends you see amongst manufacturers taking hold in the new year?
Jared Abrams: High frame rates seem to be the choice du jour. Sony has led the way with full HD high speed photography and I suspect that other manufactures will follow suit.
Philip Bloom: I think manufacturers are going to be seriously looking at RAW as the next big thing. We need a good compressed codec like cineform RAW though if the low budget crowd will have any chance of dealing with it.
Vincent LaForet: Devices will become connected to the web directly... that's a fascinating and somewhat scary thing too...
Joe Marine: I'm hoping usability continues to get better. It's great having an image sensor in a box, but I like being able to use a camera right away without having to dig through a serious menu system. Sony is showing that they understand this, and that's why they've come up with a very Alexa-like menu for the F5 and the F55. Most manufacturers have been taking everything we've been doing for years with broadcast shoulder cameras and porting down most of the buttons and settings, but for cinema we have a different set of needs. I would also like to continue to see more cameras get ND filters. At this point with fast sensors it's a necessity in daylight, and the way different manufacturers make their sensors, not all external ND filters are created equal. Having them internal straight from the company making the camera should mean the highest possible image quality, and it also allows for a simpler rig when you need one.
Jonathan Yi: Camera manufacturers seem to be branching out to offer a variety of offerings for different generations of filmmakers and their specific preferences and price brackets, so they're actually diversifying. Apple and Microsoft, however, seem to be trying to simplify and focus on consumer electronics. So as we're being really forward-thinking in production, I worry about the post production side keeping up with everything.
VVS: Is there anything that's being focused on by manufacturers that's good enough or not that big of a deal anymore? If so, what would you rather be improved upon or made available?
Jared Abrams: The market is over saturated with DSLR rigs and accessories. LED lights are also everywhere by everyone. What we need are cheaper camera carts and better ways to transport equipment safely during travel.
Philip Bloom: I think we simply need to see more cameras with 1080p up to 60fps. This is something that has been lacking in so many cameras for many years now and should be a bare minimum.
Vincent LaForet: I think they need to stop making incremental updates and take more risk and try to make revolutionary jumps in technology. In this economy that's a tough sell though. People have to remember that risk people and especially companies take is directly proportional to how well the economy is doing... when the economy is poor people tighten their belts and become very, very conservative.
Joe Marine: I think we've got this low-light thing figured out. You can go make a movie in zero light now if you want, so while a more sensitive camera can mean less light requirements, it doesn't mean your work will necessarily look any better. I would like to see the focus on dynamic range, specifically highlight dynamic range. Sensors right now tend to have more shadow dynamic range, but the highlights can still blow out if you're not careful. With a camera like the Arri Alexa there is more highlight headroom, so that's one of the reasons you're seeing such "film-like" images coming out of it.
Jonathan Yi: I think the majority of people out there have finally given up on 3D being the future of everything. And thank goodness for that.
VVS: Last question, is digital finally catching up to film aesthetically, or does it have a ways to go? Alternatively, is that even a fair comparison?
Jared Abrams: Digital is as close as I have ever seen it to film and may even surpass film capabilities. Aesthetically it will never replace film. It just has a different feel. That time is slowly fading away.
Philip Bloom: I think the expensive cameras like the Alexa really do look like film. In the lower budget we are damn close, not quite though!
Vincent LaForet: I'm not sure it's ever a "fair" comparison. They're two different things. There is a lot of post software out there than can make a digital image look nearly identical to film and in fact lets you choose between any number of "emulsions" in post. And yes - it is definitely catching up. I think the argument is dead however because what truly made the labs and film producers stay in business were the thousands of film reels being sent to theaters across the world - NOT the film that was being shot on set. Now the majority of films are being sent to theaters on a hard drive as a DCP (a Digital Cinema Projection.) It's cheaper and "safer" and reels don't get scratched up over time. Scorsese's "Hugo" for example was only printed 300 times onto film reels... all the other "prints" were digital and sent on hard drives.
Joe Marine: Aesthetically digital will never look like film unless you do a ton of post-processing, but I think in terms of having a pleasing image compared to film, digital has finally caught up. I've seen plenty of trailers for movies and had no idea whether they were shot on digital or film. A lot of this is because film negative goes through an extensive digital manipulation process with grain removal, and the final picture is pretty far removed from the initial image. The first time I saw "Moneyball", I had assumed it was digital - turns out it was 35mm. I think that was really the first moment for me where I thought digital had finally reached a tipping point, because I wasn't paying very close attention and I had no idea. I recently wrote about seeing the trailer for the new Kathryn Bigelow film "Zero Dark Thirty" and I had just assumed she was shooting on film, but the whole film was Arri Alexa. If you did a 35mm transfer with that film, I don't think anyone would be able to tell the difference. Once digital became organic-looking enough to satisfy shooters who've been doing all their work on film, that was really the beginning of the end for celluloid. I think 2013 will be the first year where the majority of feature films are shot digitally, and only a handful of holdouts will continue on film.
Jonathan Yi: It really depends on who you ask. Some of the younger generation don't have any romantic feelings associated with film grain and the imperfections that come with the aesthetic. And even some older people have begun to prefer a super clean image over the past few years. Video has finally gotten to the point where almost anyone can admit that the image looks "good" and color grading has also improved for digital. Film and video no doubt still look different and always will. But it's no longer one being clearly better than the other. It is much like the music industry's transition from analog tape recording (which still sounds great) to digital recording. I really hope film sticks around for a while longer but I worry that the end is near considering all the advancements on the digital side.
With that we conclude these valuable insights which we hope you find useful as you navigate the world of tech. We look forward to seeing you on Vimeo and may your videos be crisp and creative in 2013! Happy new year!