This year’s NAB will have fewer product launches and more focus on streamlining workflows and reducing costs. But there will still be plenty to get tech buyers excited.
If there’s a single clear trend among all the manufacturers attending NAB, it is a response to the profound changes driven by rapidly shifting consumption habits.
“Today’s technology needs to do more than allow for technology migrations, such as the transition to HD or from manual to automated workflows,” says Snell chief executive Simon Derry.
“Manufacturers need to allow broadcasters to do more with smaller budgets, and yet give them the ability to create, manage and deliver content across multiple platforms, and to monetise their media assets.”
Translating that widely accepted assessment into product is tricky, with several firms saying they want closer dialogue with clients, and many seeking tighter integration between software and applications to overcome traditional silos.
Expect fewer individual product releases and more talk of ways to streamline workflows and costs.
Management and systems
In what is expected to be a significant NAB for Snell, Derry claims the company’s new products are not just different to anything currently around but are “truly game-changing”.
Integrated Content Engine (ICE) is an integrated playout platform that is said to be the only one that can scale from a single channel to 100+ channels while maintaining the same user interface.
“Unique to ICE is a content validation feature that analyses source material as soon as it is available to prevent invalid formats or impaired content from getting on air,” says Derry.
“This feature is critical for broadcast operations looking to avoid incompatibilities as their file-based workflows continue to change.”
Another show launch is Momentum, Snell’s media management and workflow system, and Vega, a new routing switcher that allows any combination of inputs and outputs in a mixed coax/fibre environment - something Derry believes “redefines its product category”.
Harmonic vice-president, product management, Tom Lattie says the industry is in the middle of moving from the traditional “island” approach of system design and management to a more holistic, IP-based infrastructure.
“We will showcase cost-effective, high-performance workflows that bridge the gap from traditional broadcast to next-generation multi-screen services,” he says, highlighting the debut of ChannelPort, an integrated channel playout device for its Spectrum servers.
At Harris, the theme is ‘deliver the moment’. Mathias Eckert, vice-president, sales and services, explains: “The evolving nature of how consumers digest media has transformed the way broadcasters operate, requiring solutions that automate workflows, simplify content management and support multiplatform delivery.
Harris is helping broadcasters transform signals into ‘media moments’ that inform and entertain their audiences.” Harris will introduce QuiC, a range of quality control tools for analysing video files, and HView SX Pro, a multi-display management system designed as a compact signal processing and monitoring option for control rooms.
“Live production has become increasingly complex as the number of signal sources rises, increasing the need to simplify monitoring processes across facilities,” says Eckert.
Miranda Technologies is presenting new systems to more effectively address loudness compliance and offer smarter signal management, while reducing operating costs for broadcasters and playout providers.
It will also introduce systems that automate VoD mastering, better integrate playout and simplify social media graphics, says senior vice-president Marco Lopez.
Acquisition and production
Unmissable in this category is Canon’s recently released EOS C300, which offers digital 35mm imaging in tandem with the Canon EF lens range loved by cinematographers.
Although the resolution is HD, the image starts life at almost 4K because of its 8.3 megapixel sensor. Given the way Canon derives colour information, there is little aliasing or chromatic distortion when it comes to the final image.
The latest (Mark III) version of its bestselling 5D DSLR will also be on show, and could offer high enough bitrate (50Mbps) to support HD delivery.
Canon has also promised to deliver by the end of the year a DSLR featuring a 35mm full frame CMOS sensor that supports 4K video, and it may be previewed at the show.
There is stiff competition from Nikon, whose D800 has begun shipping, and a number of relatively inexpensive largesensor cameras including Sony’s F3 and FS10, Panasonic’s AF101 and the Arri Alexa.
According to Arri business development manager Milan Krsljanin, the manufacturer will unveil “interesting developments and products that will strengthen Arri’s market leadership”.
Sony is likely to row back on 3D amid reports that it is to scale down its LA-based training facility, the 3D Technology Centre, and concentrate on developments in 4K.
Like 3D, Sony has a business that encompasses not just the front end of 4K production but also the consumer side, where it hopes to promote 4K cinema systems, 4K-capable TVs and home cinema projection.
Backing higher resolutions requires filmmakers to acquire content in the format, and central to these plans is Sony’s F65 4K camera, shipping since January with roughly 400 pre-orders worldwide.
In May, Sony will also launch a new camcorder aimed at high-end videography. The PMW-100 will cost around £3,322, sports a new sensor design, has a single 1/3-inch chip and records in the XDCAM format at 50Mbps HD422.
3D and high resolution is core to the direction of Meduza, which will announce at NAB that the Titan camera for HD 3D TV is ready to buy. However, plans to deliver its bigger brother, the MK1, which was announced a year ago, are on hold pending development of a 4K sensor.
JVC will debut a range of newsgathering cameras that are said to be smaller and lighter than current models, and deliver better sensitivity in low-light environments. Key is the ability to instantly transfer files back to a TV station without a microwave link.
According to Gustav Emrich, JVC Europe product manager, the new technology should be particularly appealing for one-person ENG operations that need to get footage on air immediately. “The technology to instantly move files to the newsroom directly from the camera will fundamentally transform the way news is gathered,” he predicts.
Post, distribution and delivery
Grass Valley says its customers are shifting from a focus on a particular technology towards a more strategic view of how tech investment can affect their business models.
“This is a very important time in the evolution of our industry and customers want to talk about the problems they are facing and the business opportunities they want to go after,” says Grass Valley executive vice-president of marketing Jeff Rosica. “We want to be much more of a partner.”
For Grass Valley, fundamental to addressing this is Stratus, a software platform integrated across the company’s product line and intended to make collaborative working easier. Released at NAB 2011, it is now operable with the firm’s K2 Dyno Replay System, which means metadata created with the Dyno will be immediately available to other operators working on the same network.
Avid director of solutions development Kevin Usher says he believes customers “increasingly need a trusted, more consultative partner to help them handle ever-growing content demands”.
The company will focus on news, where Avid has a set of integrated, web-based software tools, and sports, where it is seeing increased demand for quality content to be pushed out to fans during a game.
“Scoreboard highlights, promotions and classic clips can now be delivered in-stadium to enhance fans’ experience,” says Usher.
“To make this happen, stadiums are investing in high-quality, collaborative, media production tools.”
For Dolby, the main challenge is understanding the impact of delivering content to a wide number of consumer playback devices.
“Content creators want to ensure their content reaches the consumer in the best quality possible, even when the content creator doesn’t know what all the end devices will be,” says Dolby marketing manager Venkat Venkateshwaran.
Part of the solution might be Dolby Digital Plus, which is capable of delivering high-fidelity audio from iPods to home cinemas in up to 13.1 channels of discrete surround sound. HBO Go, Vudu and Netflix have all licensed the technology to deliver their OTT services.
Disrupting distribution patterns on both sides of the Atlantic, Netflix has become a major player as a conduit for streamed premium film and TV content on connected devices.
It even has a fund for original content, so it will be interesting to hear what chief content officer Ted Sarandos has to say at a Q&A session on Tuesday 17 April.
European broadcast veteran Gerhard Zeiler is also on the bill. The chief executive of RTL Group is on the verge of joining Turner Broadcasting System as president of its international division, and will doubtless have something to say about the strength of channel brands in an era of OTT video and apps.
The SMPTE-sponsored conference on digital cinema that opens the trade show could throw up some interesting points.
It will have fresh perspectives on 4K and will take stock of advances in high frame rates, a technology touted by director James Cameron, who will deliver a session titled ‘The Secrets of Making 3D Profitable’.
This article is taken from the March/April issue of Broadcast TECH.