NAB 2013 round up

The biggest TV show on earth didn’t disappoint yet again this year. The industry is evolving but many of the same faces were there this year but as usual there were plenty of smaller companies with new ideas, looking for a share of the business. The trend continues to be more into the software side as hardware becomes smaller and more capable. Hardware prices continue to fall and the larger resolution 4k or Ultra HD is the direction at the top end; not much emphasis on stereo 3D, although there were a few demonstrations of glasses free versions.

The other area that many were promoting is the area of audience involvement; second screen activity is growing and the monitoring and interaction with social networks is bringing the audience back to live television events. Programme makers are able to provide a stream of data and secondary action to the second screen; they can use this area to push alternative advertising, take in social comments and use polls to bring in the live audience mood.

Social streams were abundant in every hall, with many different pricing models. I’ll do a few paragraphs in a separate post.

The trend of the move towards software implementation has continued. Cameras are needed to get the pictures, video card manufacturers like Aja, BlackMagic, Bluefish, Deltacast bring the video into the system but after the video is digitised we can do anything in software. It used to be that the end result of the colour grading, the editing and video effects would be a video output signal for transmission, but now, that same transmission can be streamed direct to the Internet. There is a huge growth in live transmissions on the web and this can be done with systems like Ustream, Livestream etc. Newtek were there early a year or two ago. Livestream have actually put together their own hardware system for less than $10,000, with camera inputs, mixing desk, graphics using their internet connection direct to the viewers; not all the facilities of a modern studio, but the low price point will bring in younger producers with new ideas. Streamstar had a similar system but with a deltacast card, rather than BlackMagic. Further up market come companies such as Vidigo, with a small production suite using Flash based graphics. There are many people producing new equipment in this area, with hardware streamers from the mainstream manufacturers like Matrox but also many Thunderbolt systems starting to appear and software based studios from companies like vMix allowing low budget productions to produce high quality results. At the top end, Snell, VizRT, Chyron, EVS, Evertz, Miranda show that companies from different exhibition halls are moving towards solutions in this area; Adobe Anywhere will be a big player with DRM and a workflow integrated into the production workflow. These large companies have systems that are far more flexible. Graphics can be inserted into the streams, the bit rate can have some fine adjustment and the output is created in multiple formats for any device. These systems are built for automation and connectivity to the production workflow. They also cater for more specific targeting of advertisements on each stream, where companies such as Envivio are making their mark.

Cameras are the source of everything and they were areas with large crowds as usual. Sony, Canon and the other top players were all showing impressive resolutions at affordable prices; Fujifilm had a great demo of their slow motion camera. all the main manufacturers showing yet more improvements in the quality of image at the telephoto range. At the other end of the scale the Hero GoPro stand had huge crowds and thrilling shots from all their adventure footage. Fantastic quality and a big market. Sony have moved into this area with a very neat small camera with a positive addition of a facility to switch from the very wide angle 170 degrees, down to a useful 120 degrees; the Replayxd camera used at NASCAR also looks popular at 135 degrees. However, if you walked into the South Hall, BlackMagic and Red cameras drew large crowds and they needed the space on their large stands. The new Pocket Cinema camera for less than $1000 will be really popular, but I will be saving my pennies for the 4k version which is still only $4000 plus the cost of a lens. BlackMagic were on the next stand to the Red cameras; this is where the exciting competition is. They also had some fine footage and some great audio tracks. Red were even building cameras in a clean room on their stand. Once you have your video signal, you need to record and sent it to the web. There are now many camera mounted streaming boxes, similar to the popular Teradek; Canon can see the market as their semi-pro XA25 model has built in wifi. It will be interesting to see them working in an environment like NAB where getting a wifi connection can be almost impossible.

The main graphics operators were much the same as previous years, although the big news was the amalgamation of the Chyron and Hego teams. Their product range is complementary, with Hego coming from the European, custom productions area. Hego have some state of the art software, Chyron has the customer base. PixelPower announced their Pixel OnDemand cloud based graphics, competing with the Chyron Axis solution and possibly ChyronIP. It will be interesting to see where the Hego graphics engine goes and what products come out of the mix; we shall be watching closely for the next month or two. VizRT had their usual large stand showing a comprehensive mix of asset management, web systems, virtual studio, 3d graphics and streaming output. They were demonstrating the Kenziko gesture technology used in the recent BBC Olympic coverage. Their social engine was also a new release, competing with the Chyron Shout system. It looked as though it would be both cheaper and more comprehensive.

There are many virtual sets around as the hardware becomes cheaper. Main players are VizRT, Orad, Wasp and Brainstorm but there were many more at a lower price point, with the difference being in the cost of the tracking solutions and chroma keying hardware involved. Many, like Ross have a built in newsroom system bundled around the studio. Orad have brought new hardware to the show and looks impressive as a single supplier solution. Brainstorm have integrated the new Aston 3D character generator into their solution. It is a very capable character generator but I think they need to skin a simpler interface for new customers, in a similar way to the way that EasySet makes it easier for new virtual studio builders. Wasp were talking about a new marketing model, with an easy way for designers to get into the system. They have impressive rendering and a great programming interface and they will be pushing hard to extend their customer base into Europe and the US. Watch for news over the next few weeks. Ventuz was showing an impressive range of content from their distributors. They are now moving more into the broadcast field from their presentation graphics base, where they have been extremely successful. Quality of their graphics is top end and their connectivity is one of their skills. Their new Director playout software is being used by Fox Sports and will be available very soon. They also had an interesting portable green screen solution on their stand.

So lots to take an interest in. What caught my eye? The Corning optical fibre solution looked a bit tougher than the usual fibre. It will be available in summer. But my favourites were all the 4k screens. Although expensive, there a many new ones being announced after the show at much lower prices. I’d like to produce some studio graphics at this resolution. The Red player looked good and the BlackMagic mixer, video deck and camera give you all that is needed for production at little more than HD prices. Best of all though must be the 4k LED video wall from Leyard, which looked fabulous at 1.9 mm pitch. Brilliant, but expensive and on its way to Beijing for a BDI installation. I am still waiting for the Red high resolution projectors. No date yet and no price, same as last year. We shall ask again next year.


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