The buzz of NAB - and the clamour for visual effects kit - was unaffected by a slight drop in visitor numbers this year.

The numbers were down to 105,259 compared with 108,232 in 2007, but, on the upside, exhibitors seemed to think that attendees were less inclined to window-shop and more likely to purchase.

At the Las Vegas show, the visual effects (VFX) stands created the most excitement. The recent boom in this sector was matched by a proliferation of developments from some of the big exhibitors.

During a demonstration of Imagineer's high-end VFX platform, Mogul, some audience members gasped at the pricing structure - a monthly subscription that reduces over time.

Co-founder of Imagineer Systems Allan Jaenicke said: “There will be low, upfront costs, no expensive unexpected software or hardware upgrades and less commitment than traditional multi-year leases.”

The company will develop software updates collaboratively with clients every week.

Other developments included Autodesk launching 2009 versions of Inferno, Flame, Flint and Smoke, as well as reducing the price of its online finishing and editing systems. Smoke 2K can now offer increased VFX capabilities after the incorporation of compositing workflow Batch FX.

Autodesk head of systems, EMEA Robin Adams said: “We were looking for new users from mid-tier post. Users of DS Nitris, for example, like using tree-based compositors and Batch FX is tree-based and should appeal to them.”

Autodesk's Inferno, Flame and Flint will also now benefit from high-quality blur and glow tools, enhancements to the 3D tracking toolset and an auto-stabilisation capability. Autodesk also added an Extension 1 to the procedural compositing toolset Toxic.

Among the procedural compositing and VFX providers, Eyeon launched Eyeon Generation, a collaborative conforming, versioning and editing front-end system.

It offers flexibility for studio pipelines and tight integration with VFX products Fusion, Rotation and Vision. It also offers edit decision list and project importing. The company also announced that it has sold 1,000 seats of Fusion to Prime Focus.

The Foundry launched Ocula, Furnace-based tools to tackle stereoscopic imagery problems.

Open architecture was a common theme throughout the show. Autodesk's releases will offer expanded format support allowing creatives to work with Panasonic P2 MXF files and Quicktime codecs.

Similarly, Nuke will support Open EXR and The Foundry has driven OpenFX - a standard for VFX plug-ins. Imagineer's Mogul features a modular workflow that is open to third-party tools, and Eyeon's Generation also benefits from an open architecture.