The Digital Journalist
Observations From NAB 2007
May 2007

by PF Bentley

Gigantic, colossal, enormous, and overwhelming are just some of the adjectives to describe the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Electronic Media Show's yearly trade show in Las Vegas. With 108,000 attendees and more than 850,000 square feet of floor space, it takes over the entire Las Vegas Convention Center and the town. The ambitious attendee usually walks about seven miles a day for the four days and leaves brain dead on techno input overload.

The Walking Dead: One quarter of one aisle in one of four halls at NAB.

This is THE venue for manufacturers to show off new products and wow the industry.

The WOW for Dirck and I actually began on Sunday with The Apple Special Event.

Well, it almost didn't happen, since there was an uncharacteristic Apple mix-up with our media badges (we really did need their stinking badges this time!) and the two big-shot, award-winning ex-TIME magazine photographers who were used to hanging out on Air Force One and in the backrooms of power on Capitol Hill were left outside the hall like normal everyday people. The indignity of it all.

Luckily for us, an angel came to our rescue in the form of Cameron Craig, Apple's Platform and Pro PR Manager, who snagged us two media credentials which allowed us to promptly go from being nobodys outside the Venetian Hotel Grand Ballroom to getting front-row seats. All in 45 seconds. Life was good once again.

The event began at 11 a.m. and it seemed that all of Final Cut Pro's 800,000 worldwide users where in this ballroom. It was packed. For almost the next two hours I was mesmerized and felt like I was listening to one of those late-night ads that say, "But wait, there's more!"

I'll get to the end and work backwards – open a new browser right now and order Final Cut Studio 2. I'll wait for you right here; just do it.

Okay, what did you get? For the $499 upgrade price, your editing life has just gotten a lot nicer, and I mean A LOT nicer.

New features with FC Studio 2 include ProRes 422, a new format the offers HD quality at SD file sizes, Open Format Timeline that lets you mix and match different formats and frame rates in one timeline, better tapeless format support and workflow, Motion integration with editable templates and Smooth Cam, a stabilization tool which may have implications for how video journalists shoot without a tripod, Compressor 3 (which will change our compression output workflow – I'll be going through that in detail in a future column), new SoundTrack Pro features along with 150 royalty-free music tracks,1000 new sound effects and a new program called Color that will rock your world, featuring pro color grading, and 40 preset color effects. These are just a few of the new things in the package. It ships in May and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

We walked out of there dazed but giddy with excitement at the possibilities. And the actual show did not yet begin for another day. Everything else would be a bonus.

NAB has halls of gear that Visual Journalists have no need for: satellite trucks, miles of weird cables, lots of electronic boards that light up and do whatever broadcasters need to do, helicopters with a gyro-mounted HD camera on the front (Dirck and I did buy two HD choppers for our new proposed Aerial Platypus Crash Course), etc.

But amidst all this chaos, I found some interesting useful products for us.


These compact, lightweight LED daylight- or tungsten-balanced lights that produce beautiful soft light, emit no heat, do not need softboxes or umbrellas, are AC or battery powered, and very portable just could be the videojournalist's dream lighting set-up. You can order them in either flood or 20% spot configurations to suit your needs.

My set-up with these lights would be one 1x1 panel as the main light, a MiniPlus 20%spot for a hair light and another MiniPlus, but this one a flood for background or kicker illumination - all 5600 daylight. In addition the MiniPlus can be used as an on-camera light.

The MiniPlus units can also be powered by standard DV camera batteries from Canon, Sony or Panasonic.

I'm going to have a full review, including photos from the field on this very impressive product, next month.

For more information go to


This Toronto-based company has some for the VJ shooter.

How many times have you not used your wide-angle lens adapter because you either had no time to put it on or was just lazy? Well, those days could be over with the Quick Swing, which makes switching between wide and normal lenses very fast and easy.

The best way to describe Quick Swing might be a wide-angle lens attached to a moving gate that can swing in and out of position on the normal lens. VF Gadgets has Quick Swing to fit all current HDV cameras. The lens hood then moves back to the lens after you change from wide angle or to wide angle.

That one hot shoe adapter atop most video camera these days does not always do the job, especially if you want to attach your RF receiver and a light at one time. VF Gadgets' HDV Handle Bracket is a simple and clean solution which adds up to four more accessory mounts for use. So you have a light attached to the hot shoe mount in front and put your RF receiver holder into the HDV Handle Bracket. You can also use the bracket to mount your camera to a reversed tripod head. According to VF, the bracket is strong enough to hold 77 lbs. – but I'll take their word for it!

For more information go to

Anyway, I've got tired feet, I'm brain dead, but I'm a happy man. Next year's NAB dates are April 14-17. Plan ahead, book now and I'll see you there.

One more thing –buy really comfortable and really padded shoes.

Please Read Dirck Halsead's Special Report from NAB 2007.

Coming Up:

Next month: I go on the road with LitePanels. Also, a new hot tip for taming those flickering lines in FCP using Photoshop.

July: We'll go back to the basics of this column and get into the new Compressor 3 workflow and a test of FCP 6's Smooth Cam feature - will it mean less tripod use or not?

© PF Bentley

PF Bentley is lead Final Cut Pro instructor at the Platypus Workshops. We won't bore you here with his 12-page bio & resume.