BVE North - The Tech Event of the North

BVE North - The Tech Event of the North

Mon 14 Jan 2013


ScreenHI sent resident Director Tom Duncan along with apsiring cameraman Kevin McAloon down to Manchester to the techie event of the north to research, play with and review the latest in broadcast equipment being used in industry.

Here's what they have to say.

Tom Duncan adn Kev McAloon in Manchester

Part 1:  Arrival and First Look at Cinema Cameras

The Broadcast Video Expo in London is the go-to tech event for the media production industry. BVENorth however, is an offshoot of the main event which brings all the big names in production up to Manchester for 2 days in November. ScreenHI sent our resident Producer/Director Tom Duncan along with frequent collaborator and aspiring Cameraman Kevin McAloon to get the lowdown.

Manchester City Centre

Venue for BVE North in Manchester city centre

Tom: Over the next couple of days I'm probably going to learn a million new things I'll need to forget by this time next year. But Kev and I are going to do our best to filter through the sales pitches to narrow down the most relevant info: what hardware and software out there just now is worth investing in? As far as I'm concerned, I'm a selfshooter with tight turnarounds, mostly for the web. I need cost effective lightweight kit which can work in all environments and still look impressive. I'm interested in DSLR technology and 35mm filmmaking but it won't heavily impact my day-to-day workflow.

Kev: I'm a self-confessed camera geek so I want to see the biggest and best of BVENorth. I'm hoping to further my career in the camera department and being up to date with kit is a key part of that. I'm particularly interested in finding a camera which fills the gap between the DSLR and pro camcorder ranges. What is the next step up for a DSLR user?

Venue for BVE North in Manchester city centre

Cinema Cameras - Blackmagic and Sony

Kev at BVE North in Manchester

BVE North in Manchester

Our first stop on the Tuesday morning was the Creative Video stand where they were exhibiting the Sony F55 and BlackMagic Cinema Cameras. Over the past year, the camcorder market has been playing catch up with the DSLR revolution and these 2 cameras can be considered game-changers in their own right. The Sony F55 is lined up to rival the RED workflow which has dominated low budget digital cinema production over the last 4 years. The BlackMagic, retailing at under £2000, brings 2K RAW recording to a new market.

Tom: (Gripping BlackMagic Cinema Camera) This feels awesome. I'm impressed by the ergonomics and feel of both this and the F55 but the obvious drawback of these contraptions is the convoluted rigs required to maximize their output. I'd be worried about the internal battery too - always having to recharge on location could be difficult. The F55 shoots 4K and although it's not released until January, is expected to be priced aggressively to challenge RED's dominance.

Kev: Hmm the Blackmagic Camera, I've wanted to get my hands on this thing for a while but I've read mixed reviews. Lets start with the sensor; 15mm 2.3x crop; this means that your image is reducing your field of view by over two times. It's going to be hard to find a lens which will give you a nice wide shot. Also, it's not an “out of the box” camera. It requires plenty of add-ons, like a cage system, before you can go shooting. Many thought it was going to be a killer camera, leaving DSLRs and even some higher end cameras by the wayside but the more we learn this seems less likely. Peeking through the viewfinder however, one thing is killer and that's the image, and above everything else, people buy killer images.

Playing with cameras at BVE North in Manchester


Panoramic inside BVE North in Manchester

The busiest stand throughout the morning was undoubtedly the Canon exhibit. With a plethora of new models encircling an extravagant C300 ice sculpture, Canon have firmly established themselves at each price and production point in the digital cinema revolution We sidestepped the throbbing crowds and snuck around to the HireACamera stand, where their C300 model was rigged up to a Zacuto Recoil.

BVE North in Manchester

BVE North in Manchester

Tom: This is an incredibly compact camera system which again requires a beast of a rig. Part of this rig is a Samurai Ninja breakout box. It's used to capture higher bit-rate broadcast output - I just don't understand why this functionality isn't built in to the cameras The electronic viewfinder and wooden grips add a legitimacy and ergonomic feel to the rig but ultimately I struggled to get to grips with it, clattering into the nearby jib and almost knocking out one of the HireACamera staff.

BVE North in Manchester

Kev: Being a Canon user myself I wanted to have a look at the toys on display and something caught my eye. It looks like the C300 but noone is having their photo taken with it. Upon closer inspection it's a C100. My first thoughts are: “Cool, it's what you buy if you want the C300 but cant afford it”. Priced at about £4,000+VAT, Im intrigued. It has the same sensor size as it's older brother, ergonomically it's a little smaller, but the devil is in the detail. This has limited options in terms of frame rates compared to the C300 Realistically I would want that for the money I'd be parting with. The search for a legitimate step up from my DSLR continues.

Part 2:  Lighting, Accessories and Sound


BVE North - Tom and Kev

One other particularly busy stand was Tiffen. With both their Merlin and Zephyr units on display, there was a queue to ʻtry and flyʼ their lower end Steadicams. The Zephyr unit looks particularly impressive. Taking over from where the Flyer LE left off, the Zephyr allows for 10kg of weight with built-in onboard monitor and balancing. The updated vest clips and adjustments guarantee a snug and safe fit, transferring the weight of the camera to the userʼs back as opposed to the shoulder heavy effect of the previous model Tom: Iʼm torn on these Steadicams. Literally. I put my back out after using one for an hour last year and have been reluctant to use them ever since. In terms of production value thereʼs nothing like them. My EX3 really comes into itʼs own on these things but I think the more cost-effective setup for purchase is a smaller Steadicam rig with a DSLR and a mega-wide lens.

Lighting - On Camera

BVE North

Our first stop on the lighting tour was Rosco. Secreted away behind the Tiffen area, Rosco offer mid range lighting solutions for the video professional. Their Lite Loop is an on-axis LED beauty light which is about half the price of the KinoFlo Kamio. Tom: This is what Iʼm talking about - I love the impact these have when you wrap them around the lens, being on-axis is key. It really gives that high-end music video feel. But alas, the build quality isnʼt up to scratch for the money. £600 all in? Iʼd be looking to pay half that.

BVE North

Kev: The impact on both your model and final image could be worth the outlay. The rep tried to convince us to add a star gobo for that music video look. A cool concept but I think it would only really work for stills. It definitely needs to shrink in price before we open our wallets.

Lighting - Interview Setups

Our first masterclass of the event was Jonathan Harrisonʼs Lighting on the Run. A keen proponent of the Dedolight range, Harrison has exchanged some of his traditional DLH4 lamps with their new LED counterparts. His basic setup includes a KinoFlo Celeb Fill, DLH4 Halo, Key and Kicker and a funky backdrop illuminated by the DP1 projector and gobo.

BVE North

Tom: This was an excellent masterclass and the best tip was to throw your backdrop light out of focus so as to draw the eye to the interviewee. I want this lighting setup but I canʼt afford a Celeb LED. I really want to know which is the best value LED panel light.

BVE North

Kev: This is the second time Iʼve seen a Jonathan Harris lighting masterclass set up. I like him...and the model heʼs using! Basically, itʼs an example of a quick 4 point lighting set up in a real life interview situation where you are limited in time, space and backdrop. Instantly, I want the Dedolights. Importantly though, this look can be just as easily achieved with other lights out there and Iʼd look around for alternatives to get the best deal. Heʼs selling them to me very well though… either that or itʼs the look that modelʼs giving me on the big screen!

BVE North

Sound - Sennheiser

Tom: Our favourite booth at the expo was undoubtedly the Sennheiser stand. Not so much because of their cutting edge technology (which apparently Leona Lewis is a huge fan of!) but mostly their production standard headphone range. Having loyally stuck to a set of HD201s for 3 years of run and gun self-shooting, Iʼm now keen to upgrade and the HMD 205s allow me the opportunity to recording my own voice through a high end mic directly in to camera to match with my on-camera shotgun or lavalier mics. Invaluable for the self-shooter who is keen to insert their own personality into shoots and avoid titling or dubbing questions later.

Kev: Sennheiser, to me, is the king of the radio mic kit. Everyone has to have a
Sennheiser radio mic kit in their arsenal. I spoke to Rode earlier and they told me they wouldn’t be stepping into the market of radio mics because Sennheiser had such a firm grip on it, which is a shame really as competition to force price changes would be welcome. Everything here is of the highest quality… and expense. Except the T-shirts, which we got for free! Thanks Sennheiser!

BVE North

The Mic Store - Samson Audio

Kev: At first glance I thought Iʼd found a legitimate challenger to Sennheiserʼs vice-like grip on the radio mic kit. The Samson Mic Kit comes in at £250 and looks nifty but it only works through internal batteries. Thereʼs no way you could used them on an actual shoot, so for a good reason Sennheiser remains top. Interestingly, I learned from The Mic Store that the Samson kit operates on frequency channel 70, which is pretty close to the part of the spectrum which has just been sold off to make way for the emergence of 4G throughout Britain. Frequency and legality is something to watch out for when purchasing radio mics second hand.

Part 3:  Post Production, Live Production and Other Things

BVE North Conference

Post Production

Tom: So here's my current dilemma, I edit on Final Cut 7 and want to upgrade to handle higher res footage, motion graphics and a 3 display system. But FCPX looks terrible. Like seriously strange and I'm not sure my brain can handle it. I use plugins because I cheat a lot and they all suggest FCPX. If I want a 12 core architecture, or maybe even 16, then I've got to go back to Windows. The financial implication of a new Mac Pro with FCPX makes my eyes water. I spoke to the team from Jigsaw24 and they have steered me towards a Windows machine with Adobe Creative Suite - there's a 40% crossgrade discount at the moment and I think I'm going to jump on it in the new year!

Kev: There's not really much post kit on display here to be honest. However, I did find out that DaVinci Resolve is available online for free. It's a high end grading platform and it'll cost you nothing to get started. It's only worth your time if you pick things up naturally though, it's a serious bit of software and you need talent to get the best out of it.

Live Production

The events market is really taking off and increasingly people expect more for their tiny budgets. If you're going to get a vision-mixed, live production on the go you really need to have a crack team and access to a lot of kit. However, some of these new all-in-one systems are little businesses of their own. We really took these systems through their paces. 
Tom: The BlackMagic, TriCaster and DataVideo systems are just so compact and cool. Each of the systems come in at under £5000 and allow up to 6 camera inputs for live video mixing on location. I want to use this DataVideo one at a live event today! Today! It even has a talkback system built in. The problem is, it looks like it was designed in the 80s. There could be potential for a weekend hire though.

Best of the Rest

Guy Thatcher, MD of HireACamera walked us through the last ten years of video production. He has seen the shift from Videography to Digital Cinematography

BVE North Conference

Tom: The most exciting camera in this slideshow for me was the Sony NEX-6. It's tiny It's basically a little holiday camera which packs an unreal punch. Coupled with a very cool little monitor, it's the perfect B camera for shooting off the EX3 or more modern counterparts.

Kev: I loved Guy Thatcher's talk, I though it hit the nail on the head. He gave a good run down of the situation currently where almost everyone can afford to create something. The difference is definitely in the filmmaking talent; cameras are tools to help tell a story and should be used as such and in picking the right camera for the job you're doing. Tom liked the Sony NEX6, whereas my eye was drawn to the lens on the table, a Samyang T1.5 35mm. A so-called 'budget lens' to challenge the Zeiss ZE range; for me this is the closest I came to putting my hand in my pocket at the show, I was seriously impressed, but I calmed down a bit and decided maybe hiring one first would be wise.

BVE North Conference

Other things we were impressed with at the show were the ARRI Alexa (so good they shot Skyfall on it), the Phantom Flex slow-motion camera, (seriously impressive slow motion) and the Canon C500 on display at the AJA stand (looks like a beast especially with the new Cine Lens options and 4k capability). All in all, it was an excellent event and a great introduction to the world of BVExpo. Look out bank balance.

BVE North Conference