Interesting New Gear Showcased at SIGGRAPH 2017

As cinematographers continue to embrace the exciting new possibilities of multimedia technologies, so too are these companies looking towards high quality productions and narrative excellence. The annual SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques) show in the Los Angeles Convention Center this last August 1-3 had more than 16,500 attendees as well as over 1,800 speakers and contributors.

Featuring keynote session from Disney filmmaker and animation legend Floyd Norman, the first African-American animator to be hired by Walt Disney Studios, in 1956, there were also of course a number of exciting technologies, like artificial intelligence solutions, plenty of software and lots on the hardware side, too. 

Z CAM V1 Pro Cinematic VR Camera

Nvidia announced that the Z Cam V1 Pro, an advanced 360º imaging solution, first announced at NAB in April, would be the first camera to incorporate their latest Nvidia VRWorks SDK (software develpment kit). The Nvidia VRWorks SDK provides live-streaming of high-quality, 360 degree video directly from cameras with a stitched resolution of up to 8K x 4K at 30fps in mono or 7K x 7K at 30fps in stereo.

Vicon announced the compact and lightweight 1.3 megapixel Vertex motion capture camera with wide-angle 4mm fixed-focal length M12 lens as a smaller but also compatible mocap cam to their Vantage (with up to 16-megapixel-resolution) and Vero (for up to 2.2 megapixels) lines. 

The Vertex motion capture camera.

Largely known for their motion capture and tracking systems, Academy Award winners Vicon also released software, the “Lite” version of their Cara facial capture software. 

The Vicon Cara Lite rig in use.
The Manus VR Glove

Cara Lite builds on the Vicon Cara software and helmet-based motion capture and facial recognition system, which first debuted at SIGGRAPH 2013, to allow usage of competing helmets and mocap solutions. Dynamixyz’s Performer software for facial analysis and synthesis for film and game productions has now been integrated, as well. Vicon also demonstrated their recent VFX motion capture software, Shōgun, at SIGGRAPH, and have teamed with Manus VR to create the full-finger tracking Manus VR Glove for virtual reality gaming.

Giving Fusion Studio a demonstrable price reduction from $995 to $299, Blackmagic Design updated their visual effects, compositing, 3D, and motion graphics software to Fusion 9. With new 360º VR support, motion camera tracking for adding graphic effects, delta keyer for green and blue screen work, and planar tracking and rotoscoping for compositing and 3D workspaces, support for DNxHR, MXF, and DNxHQ formats were added for better integration with DaVinci Resolve 14. 

There is also a new playback engine and GPU OpenCL acceleration to run the new features, and Apple ProRes can now be encoded on Windows and Linux systems. Like Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 14 Studio, Blackmagic Fusion Studio requires use of a licensing dongle.The free version of Blackmagic Fusion is limited by a maximum resolution export of Ultra HD, nor does it come with many of the new tools. Find a comparison breakdown between Blackmagic Fusion 9 and Blackmagic Fusion Studio 9 here.

Blackmagic Fusion Studio 9

Another Academy-Award-winning company made a debut at SIGGRAPH. Massive Software, awarded a Scientific and Engineering Achievement for crowd simulation software, was also on hand with a “major leap” in their Massive Prime Version 9.0 update. It’s now provided with a universal plugin architecture to adopt to third-party vendors, 3D animations, or rendering applications. Other new features include a new way to assign movements to crowds and enhanced shader network for importing, editing or building existing infrastructure from software like Autodesk Maya or 3ds Max. 

With graphics such a big part of editing, animation, and multimedia, there were a number of new monitors and computing solutions on display. With two new models, the PrevailPro P4000 and the PrevailPro P3000, PNY’s latest mobile workstations will run the latest Nvidia Max-Q Quadro GPUs, making them capable of controlling playback to up to three additional UHD displays at the same time. The P4000 also supports virtual reality systems using the Nvidia VRWorks software development kit or Unreal and Unity graphics engines. 

BenQ launched the engineer-calibrated $299 PD2500Q 25" 2K QHD (2560 x 1440) LED IPS panel with 100% sRGB and Rec. 709 color gamut accuracy as well as individual monitor calibration by factory engineers. With Technicolor Color Certification and strict Delta-E and gamma tolerances, 350 cd/m² brightness, and 1000:1 contrast ratio, the PD2500Q has CAD/CAM, Animation, and Darkroom modes to address the specific dynamic range needs of different mediums. 

With pricing not yet available, the 27” BenQ SW271 is a 4K UHD high dynamic range monitor that has 10-bit, HDR-capable color depth and USB-C port for fast transfer of big 4K files. "BenQ is committed to ensuring that the finest detail is precise, so designers are never caught off-guard with their finished piece,” Steve Yang, senior director at BenQ America Corp, said about the Adobe RGB color management monitors via the press release. “At SIGGRAPH 2017, attendees will see our latest color-accurate displays, including our new PD2500Q, which meets the strictest color space standards, and the SW271, which offers photographers convenience and clarity for exacting details."

Dell was celebrating the 20th anniversary of their Dell Precision line of desktop workstations, announcing not only the $1,998 (list) 15" Precision 5520 mobile workstation, which has 7th Gen Intel processors and PremierColor 4K InfinityEdge, but also three oncoming tower models planned for order this October: the Dell Precision 5820 and the Dell Precision 7820 and 7920. Providing up to dual-socket architecture, 28 cores per processor, NVIDIA Quadro or AMD graphics, and 3TB of expandable 2666 MHz RDIMM memory, the FlexBay design has a new Multichannel Thermal design for cooling and silent operation. 

For productions, the 2U Dell Precision 7920 Rack will house up to 48TB of Enterprise class SAS 2.5" hard drives and Dell Precision Ultra-Speed drives with up to eight M.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs. “The latest Intel Xeon processors are an excellent choice for artificial intelligence (AI), with agile performance across a variety of workloads, including machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) inference and training,” according to the press release, which goes on to say that Radeon Pro SSG Graphics with HBM2 memory and 2TB SSD will be capable of supporting real-time 8K video edits. See specs for the Dell Precision models here

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