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David Danto's A View from the Road: NAB Show 2011

May 5, 2011 | William Zimmerman

As my airplane began to descend out of the sky towards the Las Vegas airport I couldn't help but notice that we were traveling through clouds - which made for a very bumpy ride.  Little did I know at the time that this was to be a metaphor for the 2011 National Association of Broadcasters conference - or, as many of us called it this year, Cloud City.

NAB 1 Cloud Power.jpg

No, there weren't Imperial Storm Troopers, elevated landing platforms or even Darth Vader, but there were sure a lot of sales guys and engineers with their head in the clouds.   Everyone had a cloud story - editing in the cloud, graphics in the cloud, asset management in the cloud, virtual production in the cloud, etc.  Regrettably a cloud is not usually something you can identify when you're in it on the ground - it appears more like fog than anything else - and the fog here was trying to identify who had real cloud based products and services and who had (might as well finish the pun) - vapor.  There were many offerings, with Microsoft's Azure leading the way.  I'm not really going to spend a lot of time detailing all of these offerings as I don't really know if any of them are real.  I mention it to point out how there was no big "theme" for the show as there has been in years past.  It seemed like what was once the annual "must attend event for all things broadcasting" has become a show in search of it's place amongst the shifting tides of technology.  No one seemed to be sure if it was a video event, an IP product event, a services event, a hardware event, a telecommunications event, or just an event destined to be caught in the confusion as the media and broadcasting world redefines itself.  I'll let you decide for yourself, but the NAB reported  that the attendance was 92, 708 - up almost 5,000 from last year.

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There was supposed to be a big Telepresence expo at NAB this year.  There wasn't.  (In all honesty I don't think anyone understood why the loose relationship between broadcast video and video collaboration warranted a presence here anyway.)  At the final count there were only a handful of telepresence exhibitors present.
 
NAB 2 Howards HPL.jpg

The Human Productivity Lab's Howard Lichtman tried to help pick-up the slack with a booth and with filling-in as a presenter for a few loosely attended sessions. 
 
NAB 3 ATT.jpg

AT&T had a booth with a Cisco TelePresence system - and held a virtual broadcast with singer / songwriter Jewel.
 
NAB 4c Cisco.jpg
Cisco had a legacy Tandberg EX-90 in their combined products and services booth under the banner of "Cisco TelePresence for Broadcasters"

Soapbox and shameless plug warning:  If you do want an in depth view of the world of Telepresence and Unified Collaborative Conferencing please join us at InfoComm in June.  I think it's best for all if the NAB event remains as a conference where actual broadcasting technology is the focus.

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Now speaking of Cisco, while this show was taking place Cisco issued a press release detailing how they will refocus their company away from the consumer products that they had recently embraced with gusto.  They're outright killing the Flip camera (which no one understands as they could have sold it off), moving the Umi home TelePresence system into the enterprise TelePresence division and making other similar changes - including the layoff of 550 people.    Again, this comes only 16 months after John Chambers announced at CES that Cisco would be making a huge push into the consumer markets.  It is a tremendous about-face for the firm and a big black mark against the previously visionary direction of CEO John Chambers.  What I hear from sources close to the company is that these are only the first of the expected changes.

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As for the actual hardware at the show - there were a number of terrific new products shown this year:
 
  • Wohler showed their AMP2-16V - An audio / video monitor for QC and other testing that they describe as "the last audio monitor you will ever need." 

NAB 5 Wohler.jpg
 
It has two 4.3" OLED screens that are fully customizable to display any image or test pattern for audio / video while seamlessly routing any of 16 input signals to two independent outputs.  What makes this really new and unique is that Wohler can customize the chipset for any signal types you may need and get it shipped out in a few weeks.

  • Extron showed two new video over twisted pair extenders - the DTP HDMI 301 for HDMI and the DTP DVI 301 for DVI. 

NAB 6 Extron.jpg

These units can extend video and stereo audio up to 330 feet.  The HDMI version is fully HDCP compliant.

  • A company called Sound Devices had a great little product called the USBPre 2. 

NAB 7 USB Pre2.jpg

It is a high quality audio mixer that takes microphones, line-level audio and digital audio and connects and mixes these sources to a Mac or PC's USB port.  The computer recognizes it as a simple audio device - like a USB headset.   With one of these any computer can use professional audio sources for recording and communications software.  The mixer also powers from the USB port.  All for under $700.
 
  • Vaddio introduced their Squiggle Video Whiteboard Kit. 

NAB 8 Vaddio.jpg

This system turns any ordinary whiteboard into live video source that can be connected to recording or conferencing equipment.  The content can also be captured as a JPG to a local USB drive.
 
  • Not to be confused with Vaddio, Vidyo (the people that brought you the SVC engine that is taking over the world of conferencing) showed a suite of products they call VidyoCast. 

NAB 9 Vidyo.jpg

It is a low cost broadcasting system that does many things including setting-up and managing video feeds, remotely controlling cameras, providing multi-image monitoring and adding post production feeds.
 
  • A new firm called Atomos introduced two new products called "Ninja" and "Samurai."  These are compact, camera mounted devices that encode, record, monitor and playback HD video from either HDMI (Ninja) or SDI (Samurai.) 

NAB 10 Samuari.jpg

You mount one to your camera, record your images and sound on a hard drive, then dock it and edit from the content.  All this for about $1k for the Ninja and $1.5k for the Samurai.
 
  • JVC showed some future camera technology based on a chip they call Falcon-Bird.  (Apologies for the tilted images of the databoards but it was as close as I could get.)

NAB 11 JVC.jpg

While it's not a product yet, the idea of a relatively inexpensive consumer 4K2K camera will clearly be very disruptive to the high quality camera manufacturers in the industry.   More than one professional broadcaster I spoke with at this conference described a new camera / broadcast paradigm for the future - super resolution fixed cameras capturing a whole area (stage, arena, etc.) and then creating your shots and camera moves with processors and other devices across the huge pixel plane that was captured.  And we thought robotics would kill the cameraman's job...

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My "pick-hit" for this show has to be what Sony is calling "The New Black."

NAB 12 Sony.jpg

They introduced a series of OLED based monitors, some in the PVM series (like the PVM 2541), some in the more expensive BVM series (like the BVM-E250.)  Sony set-up a "display cave" on the show floor that showed CRT, LCD and OLED monitors side by side.  Everyone was just blown away.  The OLED screen was the only one that could completely shut off the illumination on effected pixels when black is shown in the image.  TV monitors have never been as true to reality as these are.  They may be pricey and have a "first generation" limited lifespan, but all anyone could say was wow.

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Finally, if you are reading this on-line you have found the new IMCCA home page and web portal - www.imcca.org.  Please take your time to look around, check out the Buyer's Guide (under development), grab the RSS feed of industry and IMCCA member news, check out our event calendar, and of course re-read all my old blogs.  A lot of people worked tirelessly over the last few months to get this done.  It is an effort we're all proud of.

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That's it for this edition of A View From The Road.  Look for the next report from InfoComm in Orlando in June where the IMCCA will again be hosting our Telepresence Day seminar along with other valuable educational sessions.

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A View From The Road is written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has spent 33 years in the audio visual and broadcasting industries. He has designed facilities for firms such as AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU and Lehman Brothers. He recently joined JPMorgan Chase & Company and is the IMCCA's Director of Emerging Technology. Email David at [email protected]

About the IMCCA

The Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance (IMCCA) is a not-for-profit user application and industry focused association with membership comprised of service and product providers, consultants, and users. Members benefit from the understanding and the use of various interactive and collaborative communications technologies in their professional and everyday lives.

For further information please contact Carol Zelkin, IMCCA Executive Director, at 516-818- 8184 or [email protected]. Visit the IMCCA web site at www.imcca.org






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