Going to a trade show used to be about one-up-man-ship. Manufacturers tried to outdo their competitors with faster, more efficient or more impressive technology while broadcasters would try to get ahead of their competition by being the first to pick the ‘next big thing'. NAB 2009 feels a little different. And it's all thanks to the global financial meltdown.
From the scaled back press conferences (they used to be typically Vegas: overblown and full of hot air) to the increased amount of empty floor space (there does appear to be much larger gaps between stands than ever before) the physical differences are easy to spot. The differences in attitude are less obvious, but once you ask a manufacturer, reseller or innovator what they're up to, you can spot it a mile off.
For many, the emphasis is no longer on whistles and bells, shiny buttons or flashy dials. The key factor is now on how a piece of technology can either save a broadcaster money. Or make him/her more money. It's an obvious, but fairly seismic, shift.
JVC sums it up in its positioning statement: “In many instances, the economic downturn has delayed purchases, giving broadcasters an opportunity to look at new equipment in order to re-evaluate their purchasing budgets and determine where to best allocate capital investments. The bottom line is, stations need to purchase the right products that will deliver quality HD to air faster and cheaper in order to survive, let alone to turn a profit.”
That has been reflected in lots technology innovations that allow less people to do the same amount of work or innovations that allow the same amount of people to do more work or the same amount more efficiently, often at a cheaper price. Autodesk's new Flare compositor is a good example.
It allows more seats at a facility for doing mission critical stuff but at a price point and in a way that helps to increase ‘client attend time' and up productivity.
It might not be a purchase that keeps you up with the Joneses or something to show off to the neighbours. But it might just be a good way or getting through a difficult few months.