As I emerge from the customary post-NAB haze and try to formulate a coherent analysis of the 2016 show, perhaps the most striking realisation is that despite pacing the halls for four long days, I barely scratched the surface. The scale of the event, much like Las Vegas itself, is simply extraordinary, with over 100,000 attendees and nearly 1900 exhibitors. Right from the first morning of the show, my social media feeds have been full of reviews of “amazing products” and “technical advancements”, many of which I just didn’t get time to see. Here, however, are some highlights of the things I did manage to get to.
Fujinon had a number of new lenses, including the longest lens in its class, the 107x box lens. They also had their 80x lens which had a feature I really liked. Sports generally like a 95x zoom as this covers most football stadia. Fujinon made the 80x lens that covers most other sporting arenas, and as with any box lenses it has a 2x extender which doubles the magnification but significantly reduces the light passing through the lens. Uniquely, the 80x lens has a 1.2x extender in addition to the 2x extender, which gives the magnification required, and loses significantly less light than the 2x extender. There were also a couple of ENG style 4K barrel lenses launched, and I doubt we will see another HD lens launched now, such is the move to 4K.
Newtek are never backward in coming forward with new technological advancements, and they are leading the way with an open-platform NDI technology which allows for easier sharing of files. All of their products are compatible with this protocol, and I gather that over 200 companies have announced products embracing this technology. One specific development I particularly liked is their Skype Talkshow, which now allows for 4 channels of Skype to be managed through a single 1ru box. I really don’t understand why these boxes have not been adopted more widely. Skype is used universally, and these boxes significantly improve the image quality and workflow of Skype in a broadcast environment.
Whilst walking the halls, it’s possible to become a little immune to the incredible equipment on show. Mind-blowing technology and resolution that a non-industry person would find dazzling has become the workplace norm for us. I confess I felt this sense of ‘tech fatigue’ until I saw the Cooke Anamorphic zoom lens. It gave me that real “Wow” factor from the moment I saw what it produced. It’s a front anamorphic lens, not a rear anamorphic lens, meaning the “squeezing” lens is in front of the iris. And it’s a consistent T3.1 throughout its 35-140mm range. But that’s just detail. Immediately, as I sat in front of the lens I was suddenly in a feature film, such was the effect that the lens gave on screen. And with a standard set of Cooke prime lenses covering the same range as this one lens costing over twice as much, I see this lens being in huge demand, despite the c18 month lead time. Great, innovative work Cooke.
As for a general show theme, some standardisation would be helpful. David Ross in his Ross Video opening statement spoke about there never having been a more confusing time for the broadcast industry. HDR is gaining huge momentum with every broadcaster manufacturer involved, but which version? There are already 3, and maybe even more by the time you’re reading this. 4K has become mainstream…or is it UHD? New protocols, more K’s, and certainly less D’s. My back of fag packet equation for good TV reads something like this… 3D -1D + HDR + 4K + quality content + a good camera operator = fabulously immersive TV. VR and 360 shooting seems to be gaining some momentum. Clever image stitching software seems to be making this the likely next big thing. TVU were even able to transmit a live VR image over a mobile phone network with only a 6ish second delay.
I was reading recently about the advances in AI, and far from technology reaching a pinnacle, we need to brace ourselves for ever greater change. Our view of what is possible is governed by what has happened, not the rate at which it happened. Ever heard of the Law of Accelerating Returns? Put simply, it means that more advanced societies develop faster than less advanced societies precisely because they are more advanced. Think of the film Back To The Future. Marty was amazed at the changes that took place in the 30 years between 1955 and 1985 in TV formats, the style of music, and the price of a soda. These are big changes, but not unimaginable. Move on 30 years from 1985 and the internet has transformed our lives. We take for granted Google, Facebook, Uber, online shopping, amazing medical advances, Wifi, Bluetooth, iTunes, Amazon, Bitcoin, 3D printing etc. These advances are exponentially greater than the changes between 1955 and 1985, and it follows that the next 30 years will see advances greater than we have seen in the last 30 years. It will not stop. Food for thought here. Here is a link to the full article. On my fourth day in this industry, back in April 2000, I spent a day at Sony learning about their products. The Sony Account Manager said the most ridiculous thing. He said that in 10 years, we’d be watching TV on the internet. I was pleased to hide my dismissive scoff at this ridiculous concept. Doh!
A note of praise to the NAB organisers, which resolved a huge issue for all attendees previously – the ability to collect entrance badges from the hotels saved hours queueing on the first morning. And the shuttle buses were also excellent for the attendees, if not the cab drivers. Small improvements like this transform the NAB experience.
Feel free to comment with anything I missed. I know I probably missed as much as I saw. In true Rumsfeldian terms, I don’t know what I don’t know.
Article produced for Regional, Film, Television & Production
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