NAB2010 review


Bob Pank#
Sometimes NAB can be very predictable. For me NAB 2010, or 2010 NAB SHOW as its organisers call it, was not one of those shows. The mail that arrived at my inbox on 5 April from NAB Housing, saying there were hotel room bargains still to be had, lead me to think attendance would be well down. This was certainly not like the old days when rooms were scarce. But NAB statistics say I was wrong. Attendance was up 6.5 percent, at 88,000, compared to the quiet 2009 numbers. This was for pre-show and on-site registrations – not necessarily the number that actually attended the show, which is how IBC measures its numbers.
Back at the business end of the show, NAB had re-distributed some of the big players to new locations, presumably to breath life into traditionally dead spots. Sony proved its magnetism by pulling crowds all the way to the normally soporific far end of the Central Hall. The busiest hall was South Lower, housing post production, which was heaving all through the show with only the far end being a little quieter. Location is always important for everyone with the possible exception of the biggest industry names. Some good companies suffered in near silence at the far reaches of the South Halls – that I estimate to be over a quarter of a mile long. I made South Upper the quietest space with its exhibitors some way from filling the available hall space.
There were many signs of undersold floor space. Extra wide isles, park bench resting places and the splendid isolation of some stands in the North Hall, amid many square yards of green flooring material, as well as SU hall not being populated to its eastern extremity, were all signs of under occupancy. Perhaps the exhibition could be squeezed into one less hall in 2011. All this spare space and yet the number of exhibitors was up at 1,500 and included 200 new exhibitors.
The obvious conclusion is that most are taking less floor space and that was noticeable almost everywhere. Though this could dent the exhibitor’s ego, to my mind sized doesn’t matter, sorry Nicole. Being there and able to talk about business, technology and products is all that’s needed. All the stands I visited achieved that despite much reduced acreage. A notable exception was Blackmagic Design that had, as usual, its single very long demo wall strung diagonally across a vast floor space. Striking, yes – wasteful, definitely! I’m sure Pythagoras stated somewhere that stand area, being rectangular, increases by the square of the diagonal. In general the wide open spaces of unused carpet did not look good to me.
Some companies had set up in the Radisson Hotel just beyond the South Hall. I’m told this is far cheaper than being on the exhibition floor. That may be but being off the show floor means there’s no passing traffic – invited guests only. So making it harder to meet new prospects – surely one of the aims of being at a show?
You were nobody unless your booth had a screen with images reminiscent of analogue ghosting – but different. Whereas last year and in 2008 any such screen would have a clutch of enthusiasts donning dark glasses and closely peering at the screen, this year people were happy to natter with glasses still on the table, as the eerie images played in the background. Maybe this coolness emphasises that 3D has well and truly arrived.
Yes, the big thing was stereoscopic 3D. Those exhibitors not actually showing it at least offered ‘3D Ready’ products. What timing! Somewhere on millions of almost new European panel TV screens there’s an ‘HD Ready’ label – but no ‘3D Ready’ sign in sight. So just as HD is beginning to get serious in the UK and around Europe it’s ‘all change’ time again. Or is it?
I did a spot of pre-show research visiting the Sony store in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. In a back room I donned the heavy dark eyewear and admired the excellent footage shown on a 50-inch (I’m guessing) screen. It turns out that the screen’s picture this was running at 240 frames/s from, I thought, a 60I source – though the salesman said it was 60P... off Blu-ray Disc. The set will be available in the summer and, it seems, LCD is out and LED is in because of its faster response time. That makes sense.
At the show Sony was full of 3D talk about their involvement in the FIFA World Cup coverage, ESPN’s live 3D and Sky’s 3D. They showed some excellent promotional material as well as a sideline offering of live coverage of the US Open Golf. To me this looked to be of variable quality. Although this is truly a great achievement, the first thing I learned about the ‘new wave’ 3D was that live production is the hardest thing to do. I think the industry is still on a curve of evolving equipment and learning about 3D.
There was plenty of innovation and bright ideas. Some of which you just wonder where they will go such as the iPhone steadicam (smoothie) and other such mounts for phone camera applications. Most fun was matchbox-sized Hero HD camera. To draw attention to the tiny product they had employed two sure-fire NAB ‘honey pots’ – footage of girls surfing (shot on Heros, of course) and a real racing car on the stand. The ‘pots’ worked as the ‘bees’ stayed on to buy Heros for just $200 a pop. Recording onto an SD card, and a half-hour capacity battery this little package will find many applications – some of them in broadcast TV!
Another ‘in’ thing was iPads. They were everywhere. Cool people showed how they could pick-up video from a server, add some comments, and send it back again to the server. Although this is hardly rocket science the ‘Pad’ could well become a popular roving monitoring and/or control surface. However I wonder if it is physically robust enough to withstand the bumps and bangs of on-set operation. After all, it does blend (see www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAl28d6tbko or simply google ‘ipad blend’ and look for the YouTube offering)!

Tags: nab2010 | tradeshow | nab review | sony store | forum shops | 3d | iss041 | Bob Pank#
Contributing Author Bob Pank#

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