This year Sim Digital put on another great showcase of some of the latest technology on the market. There is always lots to see but I’m only going to mention the items that I found to be interesting or innovative to me. I’ll also pick my best in show product at the end of the post. This year had a much larger focus on lighting and electrical products including new distribution and LED lighting solutions. There was also the same big showing of digital cinema cameras as last year with one exception; the Amira by Arri, which was bigger than expected but I didn’t wait around to check out the weight. There might have even been a RED Dragon camera in the bunch too.
The first thing that actually caught my interest was new dimmer packs that claim to be smaller, lighter and completely silent. Silent dimmer packs are a huge innovation because the packs don’t have to be cabled miles away from set which ultimately saves money. Why do I care? Because now I can make a stronger case for dimming lights because these packs don’t require as much labour and cable to install them.
The next item of notice is that the Cabrio set of lenses have added a new 14-35mm to the family which ads ultra-wide focal lengths. This is a great series of lenses and I highly recommend using them if you find an opportunity. On the topic of lenses, Angenieux has introduced a new successor to their legendary Optimo 10:1 (25-250) The new lens is called the “DP” for Digital Production and it’s marketed as a budget line below the Optimo 24-290 and 340 pieces. I spoke to the representative and she told me this lens will be released in the fall of 2014 for a price of about 45K. I asked her what compromises the DP line made and the only thing mentioned was speed. The new DP 10:1 retains the T3.5 of old but pretty much improves on it in every other way. The optics are better, the breathing has been eliminated and best of all the rep mentioned there is “no” ramping at the far end of the zoom. I really like having a zoom somewhere in the 250 range because the 290 can be a little big and clumsy at times. I thought this lens was the runner up for my “best in show” pick.
The product I found to be “best in show” this year was an LED lighting product. These days, the LED space is rammed with cheap offshore “me too” knock-off products that I barely pay any attention to. People claim they like to use LED lights because they are smaller, cooler, take up less space and power. These are all true advantages of LED tech but those attributes have nothing to do with the quality of light they emit. For news and travelling documentary LED lights are a God-send but for the kind of work I do, these attributes don’t account for much. LED tech still has a long way to go with usable outputs and decent colour rendering, but it is definitely getting better with each passing year. Today, I was introduced to two new LED products that were very impressive. The first was a soft light LED panel called the Area 48 which is very similar to the Kino Celeb that promises to be every bit as good for half the money. I’ve heard that rhetoric before a hundred times from other companies but I saw the light from this unit first hand and it was truly bright and clean looking. I didn’t have a set of meters with me so my impressions are purely subjective. Even better was an ellipsoidal, ETC source IV knock-off that appeared to be equally as good as the soft light panel. One thing I loathe about ellipsoidal lights is the strange colour fringing you commonly get around the edges of the beam. To me this has always been a deal breaker and I’ve disappointed a few good gaffers who love to use them on set. This LED iteration of the source IV didn’t exhibit any of that crazy colour fringing. The beam was bright and uniform from edge to edge. It was punchy and had a crisp, sharp edge. This is one LED I’ll be using in the future because the LED tech offers an improvement to the actual image quality in a tangible way. I was so impressed with the ellipsoidal that not only did I name it my best in show, I also forgot to take pictures! But I did one better and dug up some videos on these products for you to check out.