What’s new at NAB 2015: the best new tech for video post, VR and animation

New launches from Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, The Foundry, Blackmagic, LG, Red and more.

The NAB show in Las Vegas every April is where most of the year’s big video-related software and hardware news happens.

Whether you’re interested in 4K (or higher) cameras; video editing, VFX and animation software; tools for creating AR and VR interactive content or the workflow tools that tie it all together – there’s going to be something of interest being launched at NAB.

Here we’ve collected the most interesting news from the show, from both well-known developers like Adobe, Apple, Autodesk and The Foundry – plus smaller companies exploring innovative new areas.

Here's what we're covering over the following pages:

  • The Foundry's free version of Nuke for non-commercial use, a Nuke Studio upgrade, Modo 901 and VR/AR content creation tools
  • Blackmagic Fusion 8, DaVinci Resolve 12, URSA Mini camera
  • Apple Final Cut Pro 10.2, Motion 5.2 and Compressor 4.2
  • Autodesk Maya 2016, 3ds Max 2016, Mudbox 2016 and MotionBuilder 2016
  • Adobe Character Animator, After Effects CC 2015 and Premiere Pro 2015.
  • LG 31MU97Z 4K monitor with Thunderbolt 2
  • Red Weapon camera
  • Canon EOS C300 Mark II and XC10 cameras

NAB 2015 runs until Thursday. We'll update this story with the best new tech and products as the show progresses.

Get The Foundry's Nuke for free

The Foundry has now released free, non-commercial versions of its Nuke compositing software – as used by most of Soho's major visial effects houses, on films such as Gravity.

Nuke Non-commercial includes almost all of the creative features of the full versions of Nuke, Nuke X and Nuke Studio with what The Foundry describes as "some light functional restrictions": output limited to HD, encrypted project files so you can't open them in the commercial version, no monitor output, no third-party plugin support and no command-line rendering.

You can download Nuke Non-commercial here. The release follows the free non-commercial release of Blackmagic's Fusion 7 – which will be upgraded to version 8 later this year (see next).

The Foundry also used NAB to yesterday announce an upgraded Nuke Studio and show off VR and AR tools. More info on these later in this feature.

Blackmagic Fusion 8

As expected, Blackmagic Design has announced a Mac version of its Fusion visual effects tool at NAB, until now a Windows-only product.

Fusion 8 will be released on Windows, Mac OS X and also Linux in Q3 2015.

The Fusion 8 base application will be available free of charge from the Blackmagic Design website for for Mac OS X and Windows.

Fusion 8 Studio for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux will be available for £675 ($995), as well for download from the Blackmagic Design website free of charge for all current Fusion customers.

Current Fusion 7 Studio customers will be able to use their dongles on the Mac and Linux versions, and projects created with Fusion 8 will be compatible across all three platforms.

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With this new update, customers will be able to install and use Fusion on the same computers they use for editing and colour correction.

With a massive toolset consisting of hundreds of built in tools, customers can pull keys, track objects, rotoscope, retouch images, animate titles, create particle effects and more, all in a true 3D workspace.

Fusion can also import 3D models, point cloud data, cameras or even entire 3D scenes from Maya, 3ds Max or Lightwave and render them seamlessly with other elements.

Deep-pixel tools can be used to add volumetric fog, lighting and reflection mapping of rendered objects using world position passes so customers can create atmospheric effects that render in seconds, instead of hours, claimed Blackmagic.

The company said the node-based interface in Fusion makes it easy to build sophisticated visual effects compositions very quickly. If you're not familiar with this approach, nodes are small icons that represent effects, filters and other image processing operations that can be connected together in any order to create unlimited visual effects. 

“We’ve been working hard to bring Fusion to the Mac as quickly as possible and we’re very excited to be demonstrating Fusion running on the Mac at NAB this year,” said Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty. "This will be an exciting update and I hope it will allow more people to add sophisticated visual effects to their work."

"The node based user interface is such an easy and incredibly fast way to work when you have multiple clips, effects and layers on an effects," he added. "Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Studio will be available sometime in Q3 this year. We also hope to release a public beta before Q3."

DaVinci Resolve 12

"We have worked incredibly hard on the new DaVinci Resolve 12 and we now believe we have the world’s most powerful editor," said Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty, announcing the latest incarnation of the professional grading tool at NAB.

Resolve 12 adds support for DaVinci’s own colour managed timelines as well as ACES 1.0 transforms, making it easier to get consistent results, especially when working in facilities with managed pipelines.

The core grading and colour correction tools have also been improved with a new, easier to use curves interface, automatic colour analysis and matching between two or more clips, an accurate 3D perspective tracker, and a new 3D keyer with improved matte finesse options.

Colourists can now define their own smart filters, convert any window to a bezier, collapse multiple nodes into compound nodes to simplify their view, ripple grades across multiple clips, and flatten pre and post-group grades into a clip’s individual grade.

The update to DaVinci Resolve 12 will be available in July for download from the Blackmagic Design website free of charge for all current DaVinci Resolve customers. The full software version costs £675 fro new users. 

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DaVinci Resolve 12 includes a new, high performance audio engine that offers higher sampling rates and greatly improved realtime audio playback performance, including reverse playback and tape style slow motion scrubbing during dynamic JKL trimming.

Both VST and AU audio plug-ins, along with their custom interfaces, are now supported and can be used on individual clips or entire tracks. Audio parameter adjustments can be recorded and now contain editable automation and full curve editor support. Editors will be able to export projects directly to ProTools via AAF for audio finishing.

Media Management in DaVinci Resolve 12 has been redesigned to accommodate editorial workflows.

Customers can now manage projects and media using new copy, move, transcode, relink and consolidate tools. Whole projects, including media can be archived and restored with ease.

Users can create smart bins that can display footage based on metadata tags. They can import media by dragging it in from the Finder or Windows Explorer, or by using new 'Favourites' for one click access to commonly used media folders on disk.

The new multi-camera editing feature of DaVinci Resolve 12 lets editors cut programs from multiple sources in real time.

It can synchronise camera angles based on timecode, audio waveforms, or in/out points. The source monitor displays a grid containing the camera angles and plays them all back in sync while the editor makes cuts to the audio and/or video.

In addition to multi-camera editing, there are several enhancements to the core editing tools. Edit timelines can round trip to other editing software and more of settings, plug-ins and edits are preserved.

All trim modes, multi-slip, slide, ripple and roll have been extended and editors can now select multiple points for dynamic trimming and asymmetric trimming of clips, even if they’re on the same track. Timelines can be nested, edited together and expanded or collapsed in place to greatly simplify editing of large multi scene projects.

New transition curves let editors create and edit custom curves for transition parameters and new on-screen controls let editors see and adjust motion paths directly in the timeline viewer.

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Blackmagic URSA Mini

Blackmagic URSA Mini, a compact and lightweight Super 35 digital film camera, balanced for handheld use, has been unveiled at NAB.

The URSA Mini features a 4.6K image sensor, switchable global or rolling shutter, up to 15 stops of dynamic range and dual RAW and Apple ProRes recorders.

The camera is available in four models, with customers able to choose either EF or PL lens mounts and 4K or 4.6K image sensors. Prices start at £2,149 for the 4K EF model.

Crafted from an advanced technology magnesium alloy, Blackmagic said the URSA Mini is rugged, yet extremely lightweight and comfortable enough to be used all day. It includes built in histograms, focus assist, audio level meters, high quality stereo microphones and a 5-inch fold out screen that can be used as an on set monitor

Built in sensor refrigeration ensures maximum dynamic range for clean images that have detail in both dark shadow and bright highlight areas of the picture. Images are saved using 12-bit lossless CinemaDNG RAW, or ProRes for easy post production workflows with minimum storage requirements.

The Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder features a high resolution 1920 x 1080 color OLED display and built in dual CFast 2.0 card recorders to allow unlimited duration recording in high quality.

URSA Mini features multiple mounting points so it can be easily accessorised with high quality cinema lenses, rails, matte boxes and more. An optional Shoulder Kit, which features a quick release mounting plate so it can go from handheld to shoulder or to a tripod in seconds, and the URSA Viewfinder, make URSA Mini perfect for pickup and run shooting situations, said the company

Apple Final Cut Pro 10.2

Apple isn't officially at NAB, but the release of a new version of Final Cut Pro today is clearly timed to coincide with the show.

Final Cut Pro 10.2 – a free updare to current owners – gains to tool for creating 3D titles, plus lots of templates to modify.

Also new is the abiilty to view up to four scopes at once, improved Shape Masks, GPU-accelerated playback and transcoding of Red Raw files and support for more formats including Panasonic AVC-Ultra and Sony XAVC-S.

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Apple has also released Motion 5.2 and Compressor 4.2.

Motion 5.2 gains the same 3D title tool as Final Cut Pro – plus 12 generator effects, better keyframing and controls for mask and shape creation.

Compressor 4.2 offers better encoding performance, says Apple, using GPU-based rendering. It can also create iTunes Store Packages of movies.

Autodesk Maya 2016

Maya 2016 sports a redesigned interface. Some of the redesign is purely aesthetic - flattening it to make it feel more modern and adding HiDPI support for 4K monitors, laptops such as Dell’s Precision M3800 or Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3.

Autodesk has also rearranged some of the menus and buttons so that similar tools are placed together.

Maya 2016 features better animation performance, as it can tap into the power of the host computer’s graphics card as well as its CPU. Autodesk says that more of Maya will be GPU-accelerated as updates are released. Users may need to adjust their workflow and even re-rig models to take advantage of GPU-acceleration – so Autodesk has added the Profiler tool to see what’s affecting Maya’s performance.

Mudbox’s sculpting tools have been brought into Maya 2016 – though Autodesk says that this doesn’t make Mudbox redundant. Maya’s sculpting tools are more for making tweaks to models during animation and improving interoperability between the two apps.

The Hypershade shader building system has been given an overhaul so that it no longer looks like something from the 1990s. You can try materials on sample objects including liquids, cloths and the immortal teapot.

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Liquid effects using the Bifrost procedural effects platform has been improved with adaptive foam and guided simulations.

XGen has also been updated, and includes hair sculpting tools that replace Maya Fur, which has been retired.

Autodesk hasn’t said when Maya 2016 will be released.

Autodesk 3ds Max 2016

With 3ds Max 2016, there will no longer be ’standard’ and Design versions of the 3D suite. Instead you choose between Classic and Design workspace templates, and install renderers and other components as you see fit.

Speaking of templates, Autodesk has added a bunch of scene set-ups with pre-selected renderers, lighting and environments. You can create your own and share with others on your team.

The interface also supports multi-touch navigation using kit such as Wacom’s Cintiq Companion 2 or Microsoft's Surface Pro 3. This lets you rotate objects using multi-touch gestures, while modify geometry and other scene elements using the pen.

The new Physical Camera was co-developed with V-Ray’s creator Chaos Group. It simulates the controls found on real cameras such as Shutter Speed, Aperture, Depth of Field and Exposure.

XRef now lets you reference objects from other files, with the ability to animate and texture them without affecting the original file. Changes made to the original model are reflected through the projects that reference them.

Other new features include the Max Creation Graph for creating new tools within 3ds Max 2016, a new Camera Sequencer,  Dual Quaternion (DQ) skinning, A360 Rendering support, playback caching for Alembic simulations.

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Mudbox 2016 offers new sculpting tools, including the Relax Brush for smoothing surfaces, while MotionBuilder 2016 features an updated Story tool.

Nuke Studio upgrade

The Foundry has used NAB to showcase an enhanced version of Nuke Studio, expected to be available this summer.

Enhancements include multiple overlay tracks and blending modes in the timeline, simplifying and speeding up editorial effects like adding insets and product logos. A burn-in soft effect can add review information like time codes, clip name and project name directly in the timeline for use during review.

Users will be able to view an audio track waveform within the timeline, applying cross fades and fade in/out to audio tracks using handles.

There is also native support for stereo playback and new XML and AAF support for grades, non-linear retimes, transforms and cropping.

The Foundry's VR and AR creation toos

The Foundry is also previewing VR/AR content creation tools at NAB, which are aimed at companies creating live-action immersive content.

To deliver the technologies, the company is building upon Nuke, which natively supports the compositing of multi-camera live action and has been used on VR productions such as The Mission (shown here). As well as internal R&D, there have been technology partnerships and collaboration with more than 30 of the biggest players in media and entertainment, says The Foundry.

New experimental tools and workflows on show at NAB include calibration and stitching of live-action 360 footage from multi-camera rigs; live connection to Oculus Rift to review stitching, grading and depth; support for compositing with ray-trace rendering for CG placement and projections; as well as spherical aware operations and viewing with equirectangular images.

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Modo 901

The Foundry is also showing off the new Modo 901, set to deliver more than 100 new features in May and priced at $1,799 (£1,230) for new seats.

Among the new features is the inclusion of the MeshFusion modeling plugin, which delivers high-quality results when combining objects with Boolean operations. Also new is progressive texture baking, featuring a ray tracing methodology, which lets artists preview textures as they bake.

New modeling tools include Topological Symmetry, a Split and Fill Slice tool option, Quad Fill Pattern mode, Linear and Radial Align and Multi-edge slicing.

There is also layered multi-resolution sculpting, with multiple sculpt layers at each mesh level, as well as improvements to UV workflows, including better packing, transfers, straightening and alignment.

Adobe Character Animator

Adobe announced the Character Animator that lets you create animations using your face last week, but NAB gives potential users a first chance to check it out. It’s still a beta - and will be when you can get your hands on it soon - but it’s generated quite a buzz.

Character Animator captures your facial expressions from a web cam and matches them to 2D characters created in the likes of Photoshop or Illustrator. You can also animate the rest of the character using your keyboard or a physics engine.

Read more about Adobe Character Animator

Adobe Premiere Pro 2015

Adobe’s new versions of Premiere Pro and After Effects draw on the same facial capture tech as Character Animator. Premiere uses it for the new Morph Cut transition, which Adobe says allows you to create a seamlessly remove jump-cuts without having to use b-roll.

Premiere Pro also gains Photoshop-style colour correction, and an updated companion iPad app, Premiere Clip.

Read more about Adobe Premiere Pro 2015

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Adobe After Effects 2015

After Effects’s take on Adobe’s new facial recognition tech allows you to track facial features just like you track points and 3D planes. As well as using this for VFX work, you can export the tracking data to Character Animator to power facial animation in that application.

Read more about Adobe After Effects 2015

Red Weapon

NAB attendees will be the first to see the highly anticipated Red Weapon digital camera.

The Weapon is believed to be a body upgrade to the Epic Dragon and Scarlet Dragon cameras: smaller in size, quieter and able to record to the more compact MINI-MAG media, as well as featuring Wi-fi and remote control operations. It can also record ProRes video at the same time as raw footage.

The camera body features the 6K Dragon sensor (or 19 megapixel, if you’re a photographer).

Red said that Weapon adheres to the company’s dedication to 'Obsolescence Obsolete', a core operating principle that allows current Red owners to upgrade their technology as innovations are unveiled.

More details when we get them.