Converging on NAB 2000

NAB, the annual trade show of the National Association of Broadcasters (which took place this year from April 8 to 13), was billed as 'The Convergence Marketplace.' This year's event was the biggest ever, with over 1,400 exhibitors and 150 sessions....
May 1, 2000

NAB, the annual trade show of the National Association of Broadcasters (which took place this year from April 8 to 13), was billed as ‘The Convergence Marketplace.’ This year’s event was the biggest ever, with over 1,400 exhibitors and 150 sessions. Convergence oozed from every inch of its digital anatomy, from ubiquitous DVD authoring and webcasting solutions to the convergence of film and video technology enabled by the proliferation of 24/25p-ready HD video equipment.

Indeed, NAB 2000 heralded the arrival of the 24p (1080 progressive/24 frames) HD format, initially developed by SONY, Laser Pacific and a team of partners. Whereas last year SONY Electronics was virtually the only vendor of 24p production equipment, this year many manufacturers touted 24/25p-ready gear, ranging from lenses and switchers, to character generators and non-linear editing systems. SONY’s 24p camera (the HDW f900), which can also record (1080) 25p, 30p, 720 p, 1080 interlaced, generated considerable buzz.

Fletcher Rentals of Chicago hosted a screening of 24p footage, including some side-by-side comparisons with 1080i and 35mm acquired footage. The audience, however, seemed divided on whether the 24p format was ready to displace 35mm acquisition. Some conceded that their ambivalence may have been heightened by a maladjusted Barco HD projector.

Nevertheless, most high-end equipment manufacturers were determined to signal their readiness for the dawning of 24p production. Hence, there were 24p-ready character generators, switchers, standards convertors, non-linear editing systems and even lenses. Most major lens manufacturers (Angeniuex, Canon, Innovision) had a selection of cine-style HD lenses on display, even Fujinon had a few new cine-style lenses, clearly aimed at anticipated converts from 35mm film to 24p video acquisition. A few camera manufacturers (Ikegami, Phillips and Panasonic) announced 24/25p cameras in development, most not available until 2001.

Another hd production breakthrough is the availability of HD field monitoring options. These include compact, camera-mounted LCD monitors from SONY and Ikegami, both in the US$10,000 range. Panasonic has a 16 x 9 SD monitor

for use with a separate, portable (yet clunky) downconverter. Quebec-based Miranda Technologies presented the most compact and affordable solution of all, a downconverter that mates with SONY HD camcorders, enabling the use of current standard-def monitors.

There were also new HD editing solutions. Quantel Discreet Logic unveiled 24p support in their high-end HD non-linear editing systems. Discreet’s new resolution-independent effects system, Combustion, will soon run on both NT and Mac platforms. That was one of a series of positive developments for the Mac. Another was AVID’s re-dedication to software parity for Macs, beginning with Media Composer.

Perhaps the biggest non-linear HD editing breakthrough showcased also utilizes the Mac platform. CineWave, from Pinnacle Systems, which now includes the Targa family of video boards, harnesses the gigaflop processing power of the Apple G4 to import/export and process uncompressed (single stream) HD video as well as digital and analog SD video. It is bundled with Apple’s increasingly polished Final Cut Pro editing software. One of the most impressive features of CineWave is its price point. A turnkey system, including 288 gigs of storage, (minus monitors and VTR) is projected to sell in the low US$30,000 range when available sometime this summer. Not surprisingly, it was Television Broadcast’s pick-of-the-show for editing systems. A new Pinnacle card which transforms a

standard PC into an HD receiver for less than $400 may prove instrumental

in creating a mass audience for HD programs as well.

While many at NAB 2000 proclaimed film’s death, film users were not completely ignored in the digital onslaught. Cintel unveiled 4k capability in its premiere C-Reality telecine and two additional hd telecines at about half its price. One, the Ursa Callisto, is an upgrade package which will enable users of the 330+ Ursa Gold/Diamond telecines to affordably upgrade to HD. A completely new model, Rascal Digital, uses the same technology as the Callisto and is deemed ‘a powerful entry level HD telecine which takes advantage of new technology developed in creating C Reality,’ said Cintel president/CEO Don Edmonson. A corollary product, the latest version of industry-leading 2K color correction system by Da Vinci now includes an enhanced tool set for secondary color correction featuring a softening/shading function.

Webcasting and streaming solutions were everywhere, with many exhibitors streaming live video from their booths or from remote sites in Las Vegas and beyond. While the video quality of many was barely VHS-grade, some, like Microcast Inc. (Danbury, U.S.), can deliver broadcast quality video and TV spot

insertion to a large PC-viewing audience. Boasting the biggest pipeline in the U.S., Microcast reached upwards of 200,000 web-viewers at peak surges during the U.S. Masters’ golf tournament, without straining their capacity or compromising quality. SONY even streamed full quality HD video from Seattle to their Las Vegas exhibit, using three parallel fiber optic channels. Others, like San Francisco, U.S.-based Obvious Technology, demonstrated seamless integration of live and archived video with graphics, advertisements and interactive text.

There were even some turnkey web-casting solutions at nab. Pinnacle’s StreamGenie is a studio-in-a-box, less cameras and VTRs, weighing only 25 pounds and priced at under $20,000. Play’s ‘Globecaster’ is also an affordable turnkey system, and is designed for use by persons with limited production experience. Web-headed entrepreneurs can buy into Play’s incipient Internet network, PlayTV, with a predilection for interactive programming. Overall, NAB 2000 offered a dazzling array of channels and tools for communicators working at all levels of resolution, from high def to low def.

About The Author