Live from NAB – Day Two Digest

As opening show keynotes go, the twin line-up of James Cameron and Vince Pace is certainly guaranteed to produce a standing room only crowd, and so it proved on Monday at NAB. Both were unsurprisingly banging the drum for 3D, and both were heard to utter the phrase “Broadcasting is the future of 3D,” which should help make the next few years in the industry fairly interesting.

Cameron had plenty else to say on the subject too. “As sports [broadcasters] were dipping their toe in the water — like ESPN — they would set up a 2D team here and a 3D team over there. The 2D team had 20 cameras and 15-20 years of experience,” Cameron pointed out. “And the 3D team were 3D-specialized people who didn’t necessarily know how to shoot that sport. They’ve gotten leftover camera positions. They were treated like the red-headed stepchild, and then everybody cried that it was costing way too much because there were two entire crews.

“That business model doesn’t work,” he continued. “You have to go beyond that to a single 2D-3D production. Ultimately, within the next couple years, everything will be a 3D camera, and the 2D feed will be extracted from it.”

More on all that here.

It took a while for 3D to dominate the agenda of NAB 2011, but it certainly made the most of thing once it did. We have our own part to play in that, as not only did we partly organise the Cameron/Pace extravaganza, but we also had our own session looking at the Sony Open in 3D. As David Dukes, senior director of technical operations for The PGA Tour Entertainment sees it: “3D brought a greater sense of really being there at the Wailea course, with its elevations and undulations – that all gets flattened in 2D. Also, 3D puts the TV audience into very close contact with the players, which is a major attraction for golf fans. 3D must be about the event; we needed to let the golf convey itself.”

Then there was Steve Schklair from 3Ality Digital showing off a range of new goodies from his company. Dubbed the 3space line, the idea is that it will provide automation and flexibility in the 3D production chain, and in turn, that automation is designed to enable the creation of better, faster, less expensive 3D. “You no longer have to drag those extra 10 people for a 10-camera show, and the show is actually better without the convergence pullers because the computer never gets restless or sneezes, so it’s actually smoother,” Schklair says. “One guy can run all of the cameras. He controls the depth of the scene and the cameras follow his demands for what the depth is.”

And JVC became the latest company to launch an integrated 3D unit, with the GY-HMZ1U ProHD 3D camcorder.

Take 3D out of the equation, and probably the single subject dominating proceedings was, happily enough for us all here, sports. “The sports business is increasing, and we’re getting clients who never went with our products before,” says Isaac Hersly, president of Vizrt Americas. “A lot of folks buy only one of our major product lines, but they come back because the components bolt on in a very nice way.”

Grass Valley is also ramping up its commitment to the sports market, according to Ed Casaccia, director of product marketing for servers and digital production. “We are broadening our support, toolsets, and integration across multiple workflows for live sports production,” he says.

Audio’s been a popular subject today too. Utah Scientific SVP, Richard Hajdu, has been talking embedded audio. “There is so much embedded audio out there now,” says Hajdu. “But, if it stays embedded, you can’t do anything with it or manipulate it. So this new [signal-processing technology] allows us to basically disembed the audio, manipulate it, and re-embed it — all within the video router.” Audio-Technica Director of Product Management, Mike Edwards, has been talking stereo audio, and namely the stereo microphones that are showing a lot of sales strength in the sports-broadcast market, thanks to demand for well-balanced stereo effects and ambience sound beds on the part of networks. And Keith Watson, marketing director, mixing professional division, at Harman, has been talking resurgent audio. “In the last 12 months, we’re seen a nice resurgence in broadcast [sales],” he tells SVG. “Broadcast took a lot of pain early in the recession because of its big capital requirements” at a time when credit suddenly became tight three years ago. “But we’ve really seen the order book pick up in the last three months, and the indicators that we use — sales, trade-show traffic and sentiment, the media — are all pointing in the right direction.”

As indeed, are we, straight towards tomorrow’s digest. See you then.

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