Acquisition Global Viewpoint – March 2019

NAB 2019 - Insights, Predictions and Expectations

As engineers and tech managers turn their thoughts to the spring NAB show, many ask, “What might be the really cool stuff at the show?” Unless you are part of the setup crew, show technology themes remain more mystery than fact until the exhibit halls open.

We are coming up on NAB and thoughts turn to great expectations of seeing exciting new technologies, innovations and solutions to the challenges in media production and delivery. Infrastructure is so yesterday, we are now all about virtualization and cloud. We are looking for new workflows and insights into ways to produce and deliver the next generation of media while enhancing the user experience with richer storytelling.

At a recent graphics forum I saw various demonstrations of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) being used for live major sporting events, very exciting stuff. Mixed Reality (MR) blurs the lines between AR and VR. The sports guys are also very much into big data and with the legalization of gaming (betting) there’s a lot going on and Esports is quickly growing into a significant market of its own. Look to see even more discussions and presentations on gaming and Esports at both local and national shows. Live sport uses the broadest spectrum of technologies and typically drives a lot of innovation.

Anticipate there will be a fair amount of buzz about AR/VR/MR beyond sports and gaming, all of which may eventually empower other types of video production with new tools, technology and workflows.

The EVS replay area in the Sydney hub facility, where replay clips are created for productions happening across the country before they are inserted into the live broadcasts.

The EVS replay area in the Sydney hub facility, where replay clips are created for productions happening across the country before they are inserted into the live broadcasts.

@Home Production

@Home was first introduced for the Olympics, allowing the broadcaster to reduce the amount of production equipment purchased just for the event. In addition to requiring new technology, @Home production changes workflows and operations. Using existing facilities and remotely operate equipment on site rather than building on site control rooms was a huge savings not only in equipment but in the number of people needing to travel. @Home is being used more and more in live production. In addition it is being deployed where broadcasters build satellite production facilities that are basically only the studios and the control rooms are back at the main broadcast center.

Expect Clouds

I fully anticipate NAB to very cloudy, lots of products and services. Don’t be surprised to see many familiar products now offering a cloud version. Cloud means different things to different people. There are cloud services for production, management, playout and storage. There are different cloud providers and different ways to access the cloud. Cloud has different business models and workflows.

UGC or User Generated Content continues to grow as ready for air contribution. Mobile has become an acceptable contribution technology in addition to a distribution platform. UGC typically uses a cloud service to deliver content to the destination. Expect to see lots of products and accessories to enhance UGC production.

Unmanned production

Robotics and camera automation have become commonplace in studio production and more camera manufacturers have either full robotic or PTZ camera packages. There are a number of dedicated and integrated control offerings for them.

Artificial Intelligence

“Hal – Please find my content.” Let’s not forget Deep Mind, Deep Blue, Watson, AlphaGO and AlphaMind expect to see a lot of AI at NAB. AI comes in all shapes and sizes. First there’s machine learning and deep learning, then there is recognition (facial, object, sound, etc.). We will continue seeing a lot of activity in the AI space.

HDR and lots of K’s

HDR had a pretty big presence at last year’s NAB and will have even more this year. Just as 4K was moving into the general population of production and distribution devices, NHK launched their 8K channel with 22.7 surround sound, which has set off a bit of a scramble.

A friend of mine sent a few of us an advertisement offering 55” UHD, HDR & 4K Televisions for under $500. This usually means something else is on the horizon and manufacturers need to clear inventory. NHK also mandated 8K production for the recent and upcoming Olympic events. I guess we need to wait until CES 2020 to find out.

At last year’s NAB I asked a Turner sports senior exec about 8K and he said it needed infinite focus and depth of field, claiming that the lensing for 8K needed to be commensurate with the dynamic resolution of 8K throughout the full range of the lens. This opened an interesting conversation that included Larry Thorpe of Canon. It was agreed there would be no agreement. Let’s see how much 8K product will be there.

There are a number of discussions surrounding the deployment of 5G, however there is no question it has begun. 5G will improve distribution to digital platforms as a result of improved bandwidth. Another benefit of 5G will be for cellular based contribution, so be on the lookout for bonded cell products.

Expect to see additional products and services based on ATSC3.0. The format offers broadcasters new business and signal-delivery opportunities. Perhaps best of all, it adds a new layer to multi-channel OTA delivery.

Streaming services are offering competitive programming that’s being recognized. This will be reflected in OTT products and services. There should be a number of products and services targeting the OTT industry.

The Year of IP

I can’t write about NAB without some statement on the progress happening in the transition to IP. SMPTE ST2110 is showing up in more products and the switch vendors are introducing new products to support it. I fully expect to see middleware, digital glue and transition devices that will help integrate IP technology into an SDI world.

A small interesting note is that the 2019 MPEG forum committee announced this past February that MPEG-5 will be created, produced and ratified as a standard in 2020 with proposals being accepted now. So as you are looking at MPEG-4 HEVC products and services, you might ask what the roadmap is to MPEG-5.

I will be explaining MPEG-5 in more detail coming soon in another article.

I hope to see many of you The Broadcast Bridge readers at NAB 2019.

Editor Note: Gary Olson has written a book on IP technology, “Planning and Designing the IP Broadcast Facility – A New Puzzle to Solve”, which is available from major book sellers.

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