Happy New Year to all of our readers! It’s that time of year again, and Cinema Without Borders has put together a list of our Top 13 Products of 2013. As in years past, we have encountered these select products in our tests—as well as personal use—and would like to share our joy with you! The following is a list of CWB’s favorite tools-of-the-trade released within the last year, chosen by our esteemed staff of tech-geeks and software-junkies.
Two standout companies this year are HP and Acer, both of which made an impact with more than one outstanding, innovative product. . HP has been producing the best workstations for professionals in the film industry, and Acer steps in a ground-breaking developer for the consumer section (nabbing three spits of our top ten).
Next week, CWB will have special recognitions for HP Workstations and Acer.
Without further ado, here are our top 13 products of the year for 2013 (in alphabetical order)!
1. Acer Aspire 7600U-UR24 – This all-in-one desktop is a beauty, with a sleek and sexy design once reserved for Apple products only. This system comes with Windows 8.1, 64-bit version, an Intel Core i7-3630QM processor (2.4GHz/3.4GHz w/ Turbo Boost), 8GB DDR3 memory, a 1TB hard drive, 32GB solid state drive, and a 27″ Full HD edge-to-edge LED-backlit touchscreen (1920 x 1080) –and all of that is packed neatly into the slim frame. With the 7600U-UR24, Acer has put together a very powerful consumer system which can easily handle your video-editing while doubling as a gorgeous HDTV.
2. Acer Aspire S7 – We have spent more than six months with this amazingly light, thin and powerful ultrabook, running all sorts of production-related software meant for traditional workstations. Needless to say, we were impressed with the powerful punch that this small device provided! The S7 runs on the 64 Bit version of Windows 8.1, and the latest version has improved battery life along with support for Microsoft’s wireless display and screen mirroring features.
3. Acer Iconia W7 – This 11.1” Full HD tablet is a bit thicker and heavier than other tablets of today, but it offers so much more to separate itself from the pack. It comes with 4 Gigs of RAM, 128 GB of internal SD storage, an Intel core i5-3317U 1.70 GHz, a USB 3.0 port, a mini-HDMI port, and a headphone jack. The Iconia W7 package includes a Bluetooth keyboard & mouse, a stand/USB hub (with three ports), and a carrying case. What else do you want?
4. Actiontec ScreenBeam Pro: If you don’t have a smart TV, consider getting an Actiontec SBWD100A01 ScreenBeam Pro Wireless Display Receiver. This is amazing little device enables you to connect your WiDi and Miracast enabled devices to any HDTV. We had no problem connecting our Kindle Fire HDX (via mirroring) and Surface Pro 2 to an HDTV using ScreenBeam Pro. Combine ScreenBeam Pro with an Actiontec network adapter (WCB3000N) to boost signal strength and allow for a 5Ghz WiFi connection, which will have you loving your WiDi/Miracat experience.
5. Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 – The lightest, most impressive tablet of its kind is a treasure for films fans, allowing one-touch access to any streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, as well as Amazon Prime Instant Video. There is an X-Ray feature which tells you who is on screen when you are watching a TV series or movie, and the Kindle Fire HDX’ Mayday button works like a magic lamp—bringing a tech support representative right onto your screen in a matter of seconds! The Kindle Fire HDX supports Miracast and Second Screen projection, and the price is right, at $379 for the 8.9 edition.
6. Avid Media Composer 7 – It was once just a dream for independent filmmakers to have access to an Avid Editing system, as only major studios or production houses could afford one. Recent years, however, have seen Avid Media Composer become less complex, and a pricetag that has become more reasonable. The latest version, Avid Media Composer 7, is easy to use while keeping all the strengths of this film industry-standard.
7. HP ZBook 14 Mobile Workstation – The HP Workstation folks surprise us every time they introduce a new product. Their creativity and innovations reflect in every single workstation they make. We have amazed by the new little darling of filmmakers, the ZBook 14 Mobile Workstation. This is the lightest mobile workstation that allows you to work on the road as you would do in a studio. What we loved, besides the processing power of ZBook 14, was the fact that you could open the box to change, upgrade and modify it without the use of a single screwdriver.
8. Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking: We put Dragon Naturally Speaking on our list for the third consecutive year! The new Dragon 12.5 provides improved accuracy and other refinements that helped it hang on to its spot as our favorite dictation software. For filmmakers and screenwriters who want to think aloud and dictate their ideas or scripts to a computer, iPad or iPhone, Dragon offers the best voice recognition tool on the market. Dragon 12.5 is another step forward for the program that allows for easier correction and editing, more control in text-to-speech, and an overall faster experience—so you can actually get some work done!
9. Reallusion’s CrazyTalk 7.3 builds upon a solid foundation to bring us their latest program for creating lip-syncing and facial-animation creations from photos. Reallusion’s software offers amateurs and professionals the ability to animate characters with the power of their voice with the company’s Auto-Motion technology. You will be impressed by CrazyTalk’s animation tools (facial recognition/control), character creation (custom eyes, teeth, hair), and the aforementioned auto-motion technology (auto-lip sync from audio or text). Reallusion has taken revolutionary steps in the field of animation creation tools and is continuing to innovate with a new product coming soon: Crazy Talk Animator.
10. Sling Media’s Slingbox. If you want to access your TV Programing away from your home, Sling Media still offers the best solution on the market with its new SlingBox hardware, compatible with a wide array of devices including iOS, Android, Windows, Roku Box, and Kindle. Sling Media products are consistently a step ahead of the competition, and Slingbox is currently the best way to access your live TV away from home—no matter what device you use.
11. Sony SLT A99 – This full frame camera not only produces jaw-dropping images and stunning videos, but also has the best auto-focus feature found on any camera of its kind and quality—great news for documentary and on-the-go filmmakers. Add access to a line of Carl Zeiss lenses—some of the best known in photography and film—and you have yourself a dream set-up.
12. Toon Boom Harmony continues to amaze with every new version. There is no other software on the market that even begins to have the repertoire that Harmony provides for both Amateur and Professional 2D animators. From 2d/3d integration, to particles and advanced curve tools, Toon Boom once again has proven why it is the industry choice.
13. Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi5510L – Once again, CWB has chosen a Verizon Jetpack MIFI as one of the best products of the year. In this day-and-age, the internet-anywhere device is irreplaceable. The Verizon 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi5510L can connect up to 10 Wi-Fi-enabled devices in 4G LTE coverage areas. In simple terms, the Verizon MIFI is super-fast and reliable! We’ve tested the device around the country with little to complain about. This is a can’t-miss device for the on-the-go film professional, allowing you to edit (uploading/downloading footage without a hitch), watch movies online, and enjoy the freedom of a reliable mobile internet connection.