Top 5 Workflow-Enhancing Products from NAB 2017

NAB 2017 has come and gone. I didn’t make it out this year (boo!), but I was keeping a close eye on all the announcements and buzz from the show floor. I’m always on the lookout for products that can make my workflow, either on set or in post-production, easier and/or faster.

This year saw some great products announced, so here are the top 5 workflow-enhancing products that caught my eye.

1. Digital Anarchy Transcriptive Plugin

By far, this is the announcement that really had me saying “Wow!” I use transcription services all the time in my work, so I’m anxious to see how this technology develops over the next few years.

Transcriptive is a plugin that looks at the audio in a sequence (either raw or edited), and utilizes either IBM Watson or Speechmatics and their respective AIs to transcribe your footage. The process happens in about a quarter of the time it would take for a human-based service to do it. At 2 cents/min for IBM Watson and 7 cents/min for Speechmatics, plus the initial cost of the plugin ($199 for pre-orders), it’s really a no-brainer to give it a try. The transcription window pops up inside your NLE and when you click on individual words, the playhead jumps right to that word in the sequence!

2. Teradek Serv

Everyone on set has a mobile device and a lot of them are iOS-based. Teradek, known for their wireless transmitters, announced Serv, a dedicated iOS wireless transmitter that sends a video signal directly to iOS devices over WiFi. Hook one of these up to your camera, and you can send your feed to 4 iOS devices with base model or up to 10 devices with the Pro model. You need to download Teradek’s Viewer app, which gives you monitoring tools such as waveforms, histograms, and false color. LUTs are supported too.

If you’re traveling light and don’t want to haul monitors around for clients, this could be a great alternative. It would also work well if other crew members (like a gaffer or audio tech) want to see what you’re shooting.

3. Blackmagic Design Web Presenter

So technically this was announced at BVE Expo in March, but it got some increased buzz at NAB. As broadcasting live becomes more popular, the BMD Web Presenter is an attempt to simply the streaming process. It’s a small box that takes any input up to 4K, downscales it to 720p in realtime, and is capable of broadcasting to all popular internet outlets including YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and Skype. It has SDI and HDMI inputs, as well as an XLR input for a mic.

If you’re looking for a simple way to use your professional camera to do live broadcasts, this is it. They’ve made it so easy. Works on both Mac and PC. If you use both inputs simultaneously, it has a mini-switcher function so you can switch between say, your camera and a computer screen. Really good stuff.

4. Adobe Creative Cloud Updates

I have to say, Adobe continues to listen to their customers and really tries to make the post-production process easier and more productive. There are a slew of new features in the April CC updates, but one in particular was sorely needed: the Premiere Pro Title tool has been totally redesigned! Finally, you can now type directly onto the Program window and create layered text objects. These layers are also keyframeable individually as well. You can even make a logo one of the layers, so mixing text and graphics in the same title is easy. I applaud this change as the Title Tool was beginning to show its age. Here are a few of the NAB presentations showcasing the new CC features:

5. Zacuto Control Grips

Zacuto is like the Dyson of camera accessories: well-engineered and reliable. Much of my camera system is built around Zacuto equipment. Their Control Grips, which have been in development for years, are solving the problem of how to comfortably control the focus, iris, and zoom of a cinema lens on a cinema camera. The Control Grip looks a lot like an Aaton handle. Paired with its “brain” backpack box, it allows you to control zoom, camera menus, and even a Gratical EVF from the handle. Their companion E-Drive grip lets you control focus. If you’re used to ENG shoulder- mount cameras and want to operate your cinema camera in that style, this device should be on your wish list.

HONORABLE MENTION: Arri Skypanel Firmware 3.0

This one didn’t quite make the top 5, as I already have quite the inventory of lighting equipment, but if I ever decided to expand it, Arri has a real winner here with their new firmware update. The Skypanel is already one of the best LED lights out there, and now firmware 3.0 adds a bunch of new features, including lighting effects. Normally these effects couldn’t be achieved unless you had a special board and DMX control, but now the light comes pre-programmed with all sorts of effects, like police lights, lightning, or even TV flicker. Super impressive and great for indie narrative and doc work.