Something worthwhile at CES (for a change).

I was fortunate enough to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. This was my 15th or 16th time attending CES and probably the 4th or 5th time that I found the show worthwhile.

Don’t get me wrong, I always find something cool at the show, but most of the time it’s either not practical, applicable or affordable. But every once in awhile, I find something or some things that I think will really make an impact on our business. This year, it was items that will fundamentally change outdoor video productions. Several years ago, Go Pro changed everything by making rugged, affordable cameras that enabled people to shoot anything, anywhere, anytime. Go Pro continues to upgrade their product line by making the camera even smaller.

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With a Go Pro serving as a base for outdoor productions (as an example – saw a lot of camera options at CES), then it’s only natural that a range of specialized mounts would be developed to hold them. As cool as it is to see footage of a skier heading down a mountain from his or her point of view, most people don’t dig non-stop Blair Witch action. I saw many clever steady or gyroscope mounts which really improved the subject matter of the video. I also saw companies that took the concept a step or two further.

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The AIMe uses technology very similar to what I saw in Gulf War I to let cameras track their subjects. Basically, turn it on and it will follow the subject around – no need for a second shooter. When combined with a steady cam mount, it creates always in-frame shots of the subject. Anyone who has had to shoot a moving target from a moving target (like me) has already grasped the implications of something like this. It also means that a single person can set up a lockdown camera and then go do something stupid, or whatever, and know that it’s been caught on camera. Technology like this really improves the process by which teams shoot video, but it’s still somewhat evolutionary, because I’ve seen some amazing shooters keep people in frame. It may change the way we shoot, but not really how we shoot. Even with this type of technology at my fingertips, I would still storyboard a 1, 2 or 3 shot.

And then I saw the drones from DJI Global. Not only are their products amazing, but they take outdoor productions to a whole new level (pun intended). First of all, it changes the entire way people have to think about video production. I now have the ability to think beyond the tripod – the ability to shoot from overhead – without having rigging or a crane or adjusting a shot location to fake a shot from the air (like shooting from a roof, which I’ve done a lot).

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Even typing it out now, my mind wanders to the shots I would take using one of their devices. The best part is that these are affordable – like, really affordable. So now we have camera 1 attached to us for our view, camera 2 on a robot tracking us no matter which way we move, and camera 3 circling overhead – ideally also automatically compensating for movement and tracking us via laser or similar. The possibilities are endless! I truly envision cost-effective, high-quality, outdoor productions in the very near future. Any outdoor company that has been afraid to embrace video because of cost can now have movie-quality production at their fingertips. bk Outdoor Productions has shot some amazing footage for clients over the years, and we’re working on something really cool right now for TFO, but nothing like what we’ll be shooting in the very near future.

Not every ad agency has the expertise to do outdoor productions, but those that do are going to have to really step up their game. Shameless plug alert – our agency does, can and will, be making some amazing spots in the near future because of technology like this.

Quick CES Notes

I was going to stretch this out into 2 articles, but I don’t have that much to say about the rest of CES that you probably haven’t seen or hear a million times already. So, I thought I would just type out some random thoughts about CES – good, bad and ugly.

Good – 

The new CES badge process worked like a charm – this year, an attendee just scanned a QR code from their confirmation to get their badge. Lines moved fast – plenty of places to get badges – smooth. The badges also were NFC enabled this year, which made it so much easier to let a booth gather your information than previous years.

The Bad

Why aren’t there more charging stations at CES? It was like watching the Book of Eli or something – people grabbed outlets and camped out. I saw people barter to borrow charging cables. I want to save the Earth as much as the next person, but it can’t be that challenging to drop a bunch of power strips around the floor. I suppose this is why I kept thinking solar chargers and rapid USB chargers were such great ideas. It’s amazing what booths you will visit when your iPhone gives you the 5% battery life warning.

The Ugly

I have no idea what has happened to Vegas. I kid you not, it was like visiting a 3rd world country. Trash was strewn everywhere – everything was filthy – graffiti covers lampposts and signs and walls – even ones maintained by casinos. There were homeless people everywhere and they were much more aggressive in the past (with passers by and each other). The cabs were awful – the tram was awful – the experience was seriously sub-par. I understand recession and I understand income inequality, but Vegas looks like it has given up. It’s like watching reverse trickle down economic theory in action (or in style of the DirecTV commercials):

> The recession hits – people have less disposable income

> Less disposable income means fewer people visit Vegas

> Fewer people coming to Vegas means layoffs at casinos – less security, fewer cleaning people, less incentive to keep area well-maintained (including cabs)

> Areas not well-maintained mean higher crime

> Higher crime means even fewer people attend and the cycle repeats.

Even when there is an uptick in the economy or visits (like CES bringing in a bunch of people), a casino wants to maximize profits – so rather than staff up or make an effort to clean up, they keep their staffing levels the same. I know it won’t be in the immediate future, but mark my words, if things don’t change in Vegas soon, I believe CES will have to move. Believe me, there are plenty of cities that have gone through this and would bend over backward to lure CES. Chicago and Orlando have both redone convention areas because of this very problem. The hubris of both cities in thinking that conventions wouldn’t move cost them dearly.

PS – no, I didn’t get any free product from any company mentioned above, but I would like to.