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NAB Welcomed 4K, VR and The Cloud...

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...But It Was IP That Stole The Show.

BFV Editor Jacqueline Purse reports back from this year's NAB Show 2016.

At the time of writing, preliminary figures from the National Association of Broadcasters revealed more than 103,000 people attend this year's show, with 1,874 companies exhibiting at the Las Vegas Convention Centre (LVCC). In total, NAB 2016 spanned 1,063,380 net square feet, so it's probably not surprising to hear that for this to be my first NAB, I may have slightly underestimated the sheer size of the event. It was a fabulous experience, however, and I made it through unscathed to report back on just a few of my highlights from the four days.

Having been a key talking point of previous trade shows in recent times, I think it's safe to say that the adoption of 4K is well and truly underway and will remain dominant in the industry for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, wherever you looked within the LVCC, 4K was to be found.

Blackmagic Design had a host of new announcements, one of which was a new camera operating system for its URSA Mini cameras. A total reworking of the previous release, this system has been specifically designed for the high performance processing architecture of URSA Mini. It features a new user interface and heads up display, which reduces the number of menus and submenus needed to find specific settings and commands. Settings can be changed quickly, including ISO, white balance, shutter angle, iris, frame rate and frame guides. There are also custom white balance and white balance presets, along with tint control settings, plus a more accurate shutter angle selection. The issue of metadata entry has also been addressed with the new OS, providing users with a metadata entry page with predictive entry suggestions and a preloaded dictionary of commonly used terms that can be applied as metadata tags with a simple tap. The Blackmagic URSA Mini camera OS will be available later this year as a free update for all Blackmagic URSA Mini customers.

The company also announced the Blackmagic Duplicator 4K, which enables delivery of Ultra HD content to consumers by recording files to SD cards that can be distributed to customers the moment an event is finished, whether it be a concert, sporting event or conference. It features 25 built-in SD card recorders, multi rate 12G-SDI connections and a realtime H.265 encoder.

Grant Petty, CEO, Blackmagic Design, said: "Virtually all televisions sold are now Ultra HD models. Manufacturers have moved away from regular HD and customers are buying new larger high resolution TV's. But the problem for consumers is that there's very little content available so they can't take advantage of the resolution, color and detail that their new Ultra HD televisions can display. The Blackmagic Duplicator 4K is the solution to the Ultra HD delivery problem because it is an extremely affordable and convenient way to deliver Ultra HD content directly to consumers that they can play on their Ultra HD televisions today."

Sony, who had arguably the largest stand at NAB, unveiled the HDC-4800 4K studio camera which combines 4K and Wide Color Space with ultra-high frame rate (8x at 4K, and up to 16x in full HD). Developed for live sports environments, it comes with a BPU-4800 baseband processor unit which doubles as a replay server. The BPU-4800 directly integrates with other servers for instant replay using the Real Time network 'Share Play', which was first introduced on the company's OWS-4500 server system. It features a new Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor and wide colour space (BT.2020 and BT.709).

The PXW-Z450 was also revealed by Sony. This latest XDCAM shoulder-mount camcorder is capable of capturing 4K (3840x2160) picture quality from new 2/3-type Exmor R CMOS sensor. It allows standard B4-mount lenses to be attached directly onto the body without the need for an adapter, while the high zoom ratio and deep depth of field (DOF) provide pristine picture quality. The camcorder supports multi-format recording, enabling users to shoot at 1080p HD and switch to 4K 59.94p when needed. The PXW-Z450 also supports pool feed function (HD/SD-SDI), enabling broadcasters to record an external signal on SxS card, from another camera on-site without a portable deck. The PXW-Z450 is body-only, however, with no lens or viewfinder; but can be paired with the optional HDVF-series full HD OLED viewfinder. The camcorder is expected to be available by the end of 2016.

Staying with 4K, SiliconCore was another talking point in Central Hall, with the Camellia. The Camellia 0.95 is the company's smallest pixel pitch LED display to date, and offered some seriously impressive viewing. It achieves 4K resolution at 165" diagonal with contrast rations and greyscale qualities. The display uses SiliconCore's Common Cathode technology, which involves a reduced power dissipation (allowing for the finer LED pitch), yet still maintains superb brightness and image quality. The company's full range of LED displays – including the Orchid 1.9mm, Lavender 1.2mm display and Magnolia 1.50mm display – were also on show.

Then there was 8K... with Hitachi Kokusai in the spotlight. Specifically, its SK-UHD8060 Super Vi-Vision camera. Said to be the world's first dockable 8K camera, the SK-UHD8060 is Hitachi Kokusai's fourth-generation 8K production solution and is ideal for studio and OB applications. It features a Super 35mm CMOS sensor with 7,680 x 4,320 pixel resolution, PL-mount lens, and on-board recording capabilities. It has also been designed to support advances in HDR, Wide Color Gamut and High Frame Rate standards and technologies. The SK-UHD8060 can simultaneously output multiple television standards including 8K, 4K/UHD, 1080p, 1080i and 720p, while an 8K RAW recorder can be docked to the camera for field production or used independently of the camera head to provide store-and-forward, real-time recording and playback with its own control unit. However, it will still be a few years before 8K plays a larger role within the industry, admitted John Humphrey, VP of Business Development at Hitachi Kokusai, but the images it could create were incredible and it will be exciting to see what the future holds.

VITEC Videocom was another large presence at NAB 2016, incorporating its various brands such as Anton/Bauer, Bexel, Camera Corps, Litepanels, Small HD and Vinten, to name but a few!

Autocue announced a range of prompting solutions for the Apple iPad Pro, for both the 9.7" and 12.9" versions. It should be noted that the existing Starter Series iPad Teleprompter is suited for the 9.7" version, while the latest enhancement is designed specifically for Apple's 12.9" version. The prompter transforms the 12.9" Pro tablet into a through-the-lens mobile prompting solution with readability up to 15 feet. It includes both Mac and PC QStart software, and enables the user to control the speed and direction of the prompter using an optional wired control, in addition to their iPhone or iTouch device.

"The Autocue iPad Pro Teleprompters provide a viable multifunctional option for budget-conscious broadcasters and video production professionals," explained Robin Brown, product manager with Autocue. "Instead of spending extra money on a prompter screen, which can only be used for prompting, the iPad Pro Teleprompters allow the user to utilize their existing iPad Pro."

Vinten unveiled the Hexagon System, in collaboration with Tecnopoint. The Hexagon Dolly features fast assembly with no cables outside of the track, making it suitable for high-end news studios and OB rental setups, such as concerts and sporting events. It sits just 30mm from the ground, making it less obtrusive and lessens the risk of tripping. Featuring four traction wheels with dual synchronized motors, the Hexagon System has high traction operation with virtually no slipping. It also provides an optional positioning belt for AR and VR.

For Sachtler, they updated its best-selling fluid head in time for NAB 2016 to introduce the Video 18 S2. It handles a load bearing capacity of up to 20kg – 4kg more than the Video 18 S1. While optimized, it still retains the same features as its predecessor, such as temperature resistance, Touch & Go place, parking position for spare camera screws, illuminated spirit level and the SpeedLevel Clamp, which replaces the tie down on a tripod with a push and release mechanism.

As I walked through the LVCC the technology and products on show was mind-blowing, but I couldn't help noticing that there was one topic that appeared to be dominating the show – IP. It therefore seemed fitting that NAB 2016 was the first full trade show for the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS). With a press conference early on Monday morning, the organisation revealed its vision for the adoption and standardization of open protocols in the transition to a fully IP-based workflow. AIMS also provided information and advice about its objectives and activities throughout the four days, while interoperability demonstrations were regularly available on a number of its members' booths. Interestingly, Broadcast Solutions, Sony, Fox Networks Group and Evertz all announced they had joined AIMS as part of their respective NAB news.

Sticking with IP for the moment, Hamlet unveiled the Hamlet Enterprise VX2, a one-box solution which covers IP, ASI, OTT and RF analysis requirements. It features second generation firmware, making it faster and more intuitive than before. The analysis is to IT 101.290 specifications, specifically priority levels 1 and 2, plus transport stream data.

While Suitcase TV unveiled its iphrame Vision Remote system in the US for the first time. Part of the wider iphrame suite, Vision Remote is a range of software-based solutions that enable combined SDI and IP-based operations. The solution facilitates centralised OB and live events production and reduces costs for broadcasters by allowing personnel to operate the system from virtually any location where there is an internet connection.

It took a couple of attempts before I could get near the PlayBox Technology stand in North Hall, purely because of the constant crowds of people flocking to hear the latest news. Last year, just prior to IBC, PlayBox Technology launched its CloudAir platform. However, this was its first demonstration in the American market. CloudAir streamlines workflows to deliver television from the cloud; it gives users the ability to create new television channels quickly – but without the usual preliminary investment in playout structure. Other upgrades to the PlayBox platform were on show, including AirBox Neo, TitleBox Neo and CaptureBox Neo, but another announcement of interest to visitors was the company's support for Live Production IP workflows.

The extension to the capabilities of its ProductionAirBox Neo multichannel playout server involves the integration of support for the NewTek Network Device Interface (NDI) open protocol for IP production workflow. NDI allows multiple video systems to identify and communicate with one another over IP, and to encode, transmit and receive many streams of high quality, low latency, frame-accurate video and audio in real-time. This new protocol can benefit any NDI compatible video device, including video mixers, graphics systems, capture cards and other production devices.

As Stanislav Petkov, CTO of PlayBox Technology, said: "The adoption of NDI throughout the production environment is one of the most important broadcast media developments currently in progress. IP greatly simplifies the task of interfacing products from multiple vendors by allowing device control data as well as media content to be sent across a single bridge. We have identified NDI as the most promising of the various proposed protocols... NDI will streamline our solutions and create a more user-friendly production environment than was ever possible in the SDI world."

In partnership with Burk Technology, GatesAir demonstrated the next generation of IP connectivity for remote control and monitoring of transmitters and RF systems at NAB, in a move to simplify the interface between the two transmission systems. GatesAir also added to its Intraplex range of IP networking solutions, including a model designed specifically for transporting analog FM composite multiplex signals over IP networks. The IP Link MPX is built for studio-to-transmitter link (STL) applications for FM radio broadcasters, and suitable for broadcasters that lack the network bandwidth to distribute a full AES192 digital FM composite signal. Highly configurable, it enables broadcasters to adjust bit rates for optimal bandwidth usage across a wide area network, using less than half of the bandwidth required for AES192. 
The feature set for the IP Link MPX includes multiple input and output ports for signal redundancy, decoding of audio and RDS content from either the input or output MPX signal, and the option to incorporate external SCA subcarrier signals into the output MPX signal. It also offers stream splicing, forward error correction and a trio of network interfaces for optimal stream reliability.

Moving away from the technical-heavy topics like IP, there is always some fun to be found at trade shows. One such example this past year has been the vast increase in the drone market. Various (contained) demonstrations took place throughout the halls, which always attract a good crowd of curious attendees. However, a personal highlight for me, was GoPro, and seeing it integrated alongside Timecode Systems' SyncBac PRO. Now, at one stage or another, I'm sure we've all watched some GoPro footage; whether it be someone undertaking the world's highest freefall, or seeing the world from an eagle's eye view. Or, perhaps, you read the story last year where a man from Ireland gave his father a GoPro camera ahead of his holiday to Las Vegas, no less. However, despite filming what he called an "incredible" trip, the footage was memorable for different reasons, as the father had the lens pointed the wrong way the entire time...

So, yes, GoPro. And Timecode Systems. Timecode Systems' SyncBac PRO was named as an IABM 2016 Game Changer Award Winner at NAB 2016 and is, simply, a clip-on timecode accessory for GoPro HERO4 Black and Silver cameras. The cameras are able to generate their own frame-accurate timecode, but the SyncBac PRO allows users to wirelessly sync multiple GoPro cameras – or wirelessly sync GoPro cameras with professional cameras and audio devices over long-range RF. The solution has been possible as a result of unique access to GoPro toolkits offered through Timecode Systems' participation in the GoPro Developer Program.

Elsewhere, Calrec Audio released various technology to allow broadcasters to interface with multiple protocols simultaneously. They displayed four new networking interfaces including an AES67/Ravenna interface, an AVB interface, and a modular I/O Dante card (with AES67 compatibility), plus a SMPTE 2022-7 video interface.

"We had held back on publicly stating Calrec's formal direction on AoIP until we had properly assessed the market and talked to our customers," said Dave Letson, Calrec's vice president of sales. "We strongly feel that it is not the role of a manufacturer to dictate which route to take, but to facilitate the broadcasters' choices."

Murraypro highlighted the newest model of Test Chest, as well as new additions 'TV Eye' and 'Jitter Mon'. TV Eye is an ultra-compact A&V tester, intended for portable use evaluating SDI signals in the field. It has a 3.5 inch LCD panel, is Li-Po powered, and can be held comfortably in one hand. It also incorporates eye pattern envelope, jitter waveform analysis, with conventional WFM and vector monitoring and a picture monitor mode that can incorporate histogram metering as well. A pair micro-sized stereo speakers carry de-embedded audio for presence of audio confirmation, with a 3.5 mm stereo jack, available for headphone use. Jitter Mon, meanwhile, is intended for use in small mobile vehicles where it provides confirmation of Conformance with SMPTE's jitter requirements. The unit can be used rackmounted in a 2U slot or freestanding, and is normally run from a 12 V supply. It also includes a Li-Po battery pack for use if external power is not available.

Editshare promoted their XStream EFS SSD storage solution. It employs advanced small-feature-size NAND Flash modules (SSDs) to achieve high performance, reliability and low power consumption. Equipped with either 40GbE or 10GbE LAN technology, EFS SSD can be the basis of a dedicated UHD production environment, or it can be integrated with an existing 10G or 40G production infrastructure. As Andy Liebman, CEO of EditShare, explained: "Clients can choose from a range of semi- to fully-populated server configurations as their current needs dictate. And then, as their 4K business grows, XStream EFS SSD users will have the option of pay-as-you-grow expansion."

AJA released new firmware for CION; its 4K/UltraHD and 2K/HD production camera. CION v1.3 is based on customer feedback and is available as a free software download. New features include improved highlight handling and black detail in every gamma mode, while new gamma naming conventions make the modes more closely aligned to industry standard. The new settings are available in the CION menu and include options for Standard, Expanded, Video and Cine modes.

The Xtreme T10 from Egripment was on display and while it is suitable for conventional Telescoping Crane use, it has been engineered directly towards AR/VR utilization. It uses Carbon Fiber technology, along with Cold-drawn, Rolled Carbon Bearing steel, to generate smooth crane operation.

Amagi unveiled THUNDERSTORM; a new OTT ad-insertion platform that delivers personalized and targeted advertising for premium live sports and news feeds, using a patented content watermarking technology. It allows TV networks to dynamically insert ads on the server side, as opposed to the traditional client-side insertion, monetizing video on every screen without dependence on device apps. Essentially, the THUNDERSTORM platform enables TV networks to take control over the ads aired in their content, boost monetisation and enhance viewer satisfaction.

"The dynamic nature of live sports and news broadcast on OTT platforms calls for a responsive and accurate ad-insertion capability," said Baskar Subramanian, co-founder, Amagi. "For the first time in the OTT advertising landscape, we have used watermarking-based ad insertion to simplify the broadcast workflow, increase flexibility, and eliminate huge integration efforts into existing broadcast traffic systems."

SGL launched FlashNet Infinity. It is due to be rolled out over the next 12 months and simplifies archive procedures for broadcasters and content owners, delivering a toolset for archive and restore functionality, system health, monitoring and analysis. The FlashNet Infinity dashboard provides pre-defined widgets to search, monitor and analyse archived and restored content and system health as well as admin tools to define user accessibility. Dashboard tools can be configured according to station or operator preference, providing a tailored overview of archive activity within the facility relevant to the user.

2016 sees SMPTE celebrate its centennial year, and Barbara Lange, Executive Director, gave me an update on just a few of the organisation's plans for this year. These plans include the HPA Tech Retreat, presented in association with SMPTE. Scheduled for July 2016, the event in Oxfordshire will focus on the present and future impact of recent technology in broadcast and cinema. It will feature sessions including a Game of Thrones special as well as the HPA Tech Retreat SuperSession, led by industry leaders at work in ultra-high-definition (UHD), high-dynamic-range imaging (HDR), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and more.

Then, later this year, is the SMPTE 2016 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition (SMPTE 2016), which will culminate with the Centennial Gala on 28 October and will highlight SMPTE's accomplishments and contributions to the industry, while also celebrating its future. The evening will include select awards, live entertainment, and an after-party. More information regarding this event is expected in due course.

Leaving the exhibition side of NAB, the conference aspect was just as busy. One of the highlights was a session led by Michael Schneider, entitled "FOX's 'Empire': Inside the Megahit Broadcast Series." The discussion featured Gary Newman and Dana Walden, chairmen and CEOs of FOX Television Group; Ilene Chaiken, executive producer and showrunner; and Bryshere 'Yazz' Gray, who plays Hakeem Lyon on Empire. The guests talked about casting the show, its impact on the television landscape, as well as how music informs the trajectory of the series.

As part of the Online Video Conference, Michael Paull, VP of digital video at Amazon was in conversation with Will Richmond, editor and publisher of VideoNuze, who spoke about the future of OTT content as it relates to both Amazon and the content ecosystem.

With regards to VR, the session "'Deadpool': Leveraging Technology to Create a Stunning Superhero Film", saw the post-production team behind the movie explore the processes used to bring the unconventional comic book antihero to the big screen.

Throughout NAB, social media was awash with recommendations or 'must see' tech at the show. While I saw much of it during those four days, there was still so much more to be found, and demonstrates just how important the show is to those of us within the industry.

Dennis Wharton, NAB Executive Vice President of Communications, said: "NAB Show demonstrated again its power as the preeminent destination to make headlines, launch innovative products and connect with key influencers in media, entertainment and technology. We're thrilled with the tremendous feedback from attendees and exhibitors, and we are delighted that NAB Show continues to be a must-attend event for global content creators and distributors."

With that in mind, all that's left for me to say for now, is here's to NAB 2017!

Image: VITEC Videocom at NAB 2016.

This article is also available to read at BFV online here, page 32.


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