On the edge of technology

What began in 1923 as a national convention of radio broadcasters (and later expanded to include TV) has embraced many more media since. In the past two decades in particular, NAB has become more internationally attended and electronically inclusive than ever...
June 1, 2001

What began in 1923 as a national convention of radio broadcasters (and later expanded to include TV) has embraced many more media since. In the past two decades in particular, NAB has become more internationally attended and electronically inclusive than ever before.

The number of exhibitors touting internet applications doubled since NAB 2000, despite last year’s dot-com shakeout. Many flavors of streaming video were on display, boasting outputs in Real and Windows Media, QuickTime and MPEG-4 (at variable bit rates). Some, like Stream Fountain and Info-Libria, demonstrated new economic models independent of traffic volume, making them more economical to deliver content to audiences of variable size. 2NETFX, Hewlett Packard, SONY and others streamed HD from server to server, demonstrating the ability to move HD video from the field to the edit suite to client to display venues efficiently and quickly, raising the possibility of HD in the home in the near future.

As if to squelch the rumor that HDTV is dead before arrival, many u.s. broadcasters were shopping for hardware to meet a May 1, 2002, FCC deadline that requires 1,288 commercial stations to be broadcasting digitally (not necessarily in HD) – 1,100-plus more than at present. While the feasibility of meeting the deadline might be moot, hardware manufacturers from AgileVision (MPEG switchers/encoders…) to yem (portable downconverters… ) and Zenith had plenty of gadgets on hand to help out.

There were also many new offerings on the production side. In the HD arena, Panasonic’s two new 720p camcorders got the attention of many on the doc/reality side of the business. The variable frame rate HDC-27V may have been this year’s breakthrough camera, able to shoot time lapse at as low as four frames per second, or slow motion at 60 FPS, plus many frame rates in between including 24p – all progressively scanned whole frames, the first HD camera to do so. The similarly designed HDC-27A, operates at a fixed 60 FPS. For playback and editing, Panasonic premiered the portable AJ-HD130DC field/desktop VTR, with built-in downconvertor, eight digital audio channels and a built-in aspect ratio converter (16:9 – 4:3). Panasonic also introduced three new flat panel LCD field monitors, and an offer not to be denied: a complete 720p production package (camcorder/lens/VTR/monitor…) for just a hair over us$100,000 through mid-June.

On the 24p front, SONY unveiled an ultra-compact variation of its CineAlta camera, (featuring a detachable camera head for tight spaces), plus a studio model, the HDC-950. Samples generated by a dual-camera 3D variation on the CineAlta were also shown in the e-cinema at the SONY demo center. Fletcher of Chicago’s annual HD screening at the United Artist Theater featured repeat screenings of three features shot with the CineAlta, which blurred the lines between video and film origination. At a separate press conference, George Lucas announced he’d never shoot a film on film again after trying the CineAlta. JVC did an impressive job of blurring the film/video divide with tele-cine samples of films shot with its new DY90(D9) CineLine camcorder and a 16:9 progressive scan DV camcorder, the JY-DS200.

At its demo center, SONY detailed an end-to-end 24pproduction system including a (1080)24p/1080i switcher that also operates at 480i; a widescreen, flat CineAlta monitor for e-cinema applications; and an XPRI non-linear edit

system designed for 24p, 1080i and 480i applications. Enhanced slow-mo and effects from 1080i developed by Roland House affirmed that 24p is not the only way to shoot a flying cheetah.

Hitachi and Ikegami featured new compact, economical HD (and standard) cameras for special apps. Ikegami also introduced a DVCPRO 100 camcorder, the HDL-V90, with 1080i fit CCDs. Philips unveiled the 9.2 million pixel LDK 7000 with 1080 line progressive scanning at 24/25/30 FPS and 720 lines at 60 FPS, which Fox TV will urge its producers to use to shoot much of next season’s primetime episodics.

VTRs were clearly among the breakthrough products of NAB 2001. Besides its compact AJ-HD130DC DVCPRO100 field model, Panasonic also showed its AJ-HD150 studio VTR, which records and plays in 1080i and 720p, and plays all of the DV formats including DVCAM and mini-DV. SONY introduced a few multi-format player/recorders to handle its growing family of betacam-based formats. The HDW-M2000 recorder and HDW-M2100 player both play HDCAM and all the betacam formats, (plus SONY’s new MPEG IMX format), offering built-in up and down conversion. A new compact player, the J-3, plays all the betacam formats, except HDCAM, and was priced at us$6,000.

There was also plenty of glass through which to bring NAB into focus, including Angenieux’s new, lightweight 26X and 40X standard lenses, Fujinon’s 17X and 20X EFP HD lenses, and 17 x 7.8 and 16, 34 and 54mm prime lenses for digital cinema, plus new 87X, 72X, 60X, and 50X box lenses with an optional stabilizer to eliminate jitter. Canon unveiled its ultra-wide 11 x 4.7 HD lens, a 21 x 7.5, a 40 x 10 and a 40 x 14 HD lens (stabilized), and the 25 x 6.8, 86 x 9.3 and 86 x 13.5 (stabilized) box lenses. Century Precision Optics featured a new fisheye lens adapter for the Canon XL1′s 3X lens, plus a complete line of wide and telephoto lens accessories for the XL1, the GL1 and SONY’s VX1000 and PD150 DV camcorders, plus many standard 1/2′ and 2/3′ lenses.

Developers of desktop editing systems addressed the need to produce for today’s 601/ntsc/pal environment while capturing and even editing for an ever higher def future. Intelligent Media, in partnership with Pinnacle and Apple, showed turnkey real-time HD nonlinear editing using Final Cut Pro/QuickTime 5. This captures HD, edits in standard def for storage economy, and can later output in both HD or SD video, including 24p. Avid’s DS/HD system boasts similar capabilities on a windows platform, and is available with enough storage for four hours of uncompressed 1080i HS. SONY liked Avid’s DS/HD system enough to announce a desktop partnership despite plugging its own XPRI multi-format, HD/SD desktop system.

DPS (Digital Processing Systems) threw its hat into the HD desktop ring with DPS Reality HD for scalable HD/SD editing, graphics, logging and export to video, DVD, the internet – plus Digital Fusion HD, a resolution-independent effects package with matte/keying, filters, color correction, compositing, paint, warp, camera (un)shake, resizing, and time/motion effects. Incite Multimedia demonstrated Incite 2.8 using Matrox’s new 3D Max board with direct capture to and output from the timeline while bypassing the hard disk, plus integration with Merging Technologies surround-sound capable 64-channel audio card with real time audio mixing and EFX.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.