I dropped into the Media + Entertainment Tech Expo 2019 trade show component on its first day to catch up on recent developments in hardware and software from the point of view of the self-funded independent media producer that I am.
METexpo, for short, is the rebranded and relaunched biannual conference and trade show exhibition formerly referred to as SMPTE, not to be confused with the Australian section of the organization known as SMPTE standing for Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.
Although METexpo 2019 aimed to be more inclusive than previous SMPTE conferences and exhibitions, by “focusing on all aspects of the industry that drives the ‘creation, distribution and consumption’ of media, entertainment and technology”, this year’s version was a much smaller affair than all the previous ones I had attended and many Australian and foreign brands and retailers were missing in action.
While previous SMPTE trade shows demanded at least one full day to get through all their exhibits, I found I could see everything of interest in the space of a morning due to the many no-shows this year.
I hope that future METexpos will see their exhibitor numbers climb back up but am wondering at the wisdom of staging it every two years given the high pace of change within all the categories covered this year – “Audio Mixers, Audio Processing & effects, Audio Production, Cameras & Lenses, Capture Devices & Software, Cloud Technology, Delivery & Distribution, Digital Solutions, Esports, IP Broadcast Solutions, Lighting, Microphones, Mobile/Vehicle Production, Motion Picture/Virtual Production, Motion Picture/Production, Networking Technologies, Post Production, Set Design/Props/Furniture, Workflow Solutions”.
Two important global Australian-based brands missing from METExpo 2019 were Blackmagic Design and Miller Tripods while the long list of other absent long-established and breakthrough companies in the media and entertainment technology aka MET space included Adobe, Canon, Dedolight, Dell, Dolby, Fujifilm, Hewlett-Packard, Pelican, Think Tank Photo, Vitec Group and its many brands, while Rotolight’s only inclusion this year was one boxed-up product on display in a vitrine in the CR Kennedy stand, a Rotolight Neo 2 HSS and continuous LED light unit.
I had particularly hoped to see, touch and try Blackmagic Design’s breakthrough Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K along with a range of suitable accessories, lenses and rigging, but was disappointed.
Meanwhile other brands of interest had much smaller displays of their products than usual and were minus the on-floor speakers and try-out displays of previous SMPTE trade shows.
A sad loss given the lack of all-in-one retailers in this country and especially Sydney, places where one can see, try and buy items of interest rather than going by word-of-mouth or Youtube reviews before placing back orders or ordering online from overseas.
One long-established MET trade show tradition that remained in full force is exhibitors’ tendency to ignore females on the show floor in favour of almost exclusively paying attention to the males of the species.
Useful if one is going about making documentary photographs as I was, standing up close to my subjects while they engage with each other and ignoring me as if I am invisible, but not so great if I wanted directly engage with exhibitors to ask questions and try out new items.
The METexpo 2019 modus operandi as I and a number of attendees I watched experienced it was essentially one of being left to our own devices to gaze into display cases or accost passing floor staff in search of answers about the items within.
I enjoyed a little face time, though, with Andrew Chan of SLR Magic, discussing his company’s range of MicroPrime cinema lenses in their Fujifilm X-mount and Micro Four Thirds mount versions as well as its apparently excellent SLR Magic 82mm Self-Locking Variable Neutral Density 0.4 to 1.8 and 86mm Solid Neutral Density 1.2 Image Enhancer Filter Kit (pardon the long-winded product name!).
With Fujifilm taking Super 35 video production more seriously with its X-T3 and X-H1 cameras, and hopefully even more so with possible successors X-T4 and X-H2, the need for geared cinema quality prime lenses like SLR Magic’s MicroPrimes can only increase.
As a documentary person, 1.3 to 10 stops variable neutral density solutions like this one by SLR Magic are a must and even more so with recent cinema and video cameras having higher base ISOs than on previous generation hardware.
Given my other duties as a carer and limited funds I was unable to attend the METexpo 2019 conference and had to miss out on the Women In Industry Function and Women in Media and Technology Breakfast but hope that they may prove to be turning points for female inclusion and visibility in the MET industries and especially METexpo itself.
I made all the photographs illustrating this article with my Fujifilm X-Pro2 equipped with a Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR “Fujicron” prime lens kindly loaned to me by Fujifilm Australia’s PR consultancy, and also carried a loaner Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R prime lens as well as three of my own Fujinon lenses.
The 16mm lens’ fast back button focus and autofocus proved more useful in the circumstances than the much older 18mm lens, despite the 28mm equivalence of the latter being my all-time favourite focal length for immersive in-situ documentary photography and video.
I found that the 16mm “Fujicron” allowed me to quickly lean forward and back, left and right, in order to reframe my images as human elements constantly moved position relative to each other, and it proved quite a pleasurable experience.
Normally I would reserve the 24mm equivalence of 16mm for superwide establishing shots though I much prefer 21mm equivalent focal lengths for that purpose.
However, the Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR’s width proved an asset under the trade show floor’s oftentimes difficult lighting and limited space and I rarely needed to crop my images to exclude extraneous details.