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2009 Mario Awards: Did You See These?
5/18/2009

Dave Amphlett, director, and Ian Muir, business development officer at Gekko
Folks are counting numbers to see if the "economic climate" made the NAB Show smaller this year. Who cares? They count badges, not bodies, and many folks wandered the floor with more than one.

Plus, there were times and places where you needed to elbow your way through, and others where a neutron bomb would've affected only exhibitors. I came to look, and, on account of no one setting off said device, I saw plenty. I ain't blue.

In "The Sound of Music," a song opens with "Let us start at the beginning." I hate to say it, but that's the only place you'll find the word "sound" in these here awards.

No audio gear pulled my strings enough, so this is going to be mostly about video. And, in the beginning, there was light.

David O'Kelly, Senior Director, professional products marketing division, Canon U.S.A.
LIGHTING THE WAY

Everyone and her sister were showing off LED lights. They're bright. They're power-efficient. But they ain't like regular lights, except, maybe Gekko's new kedo with kleer technology.

Never mind the kutesy Keystone Kops spelling. This is something that looks and can be focused like an incandescent spotlight. But, on account of the focusing (and color changes) that take place in the LEDs, it's a lot lighter, smaller, and cooler. And you can claim brownie points for being green.

EVERYBODY BROUGHT A CAMERA

John Terry, Image Engineering USA general manager
Okay, so now that someone says "let there be light," you need a camera. These ran from ice-cube size to (in some of the 3-D rigs) something like phone-booth size (if you remember phone booths). But there was something new this year.

Canon showed off a couple of single-lens reflex cameras. The bigger one is the EOS 5D Mark II, with "bigger" still being something easy to hold in your hand. If you expect it to shoot still pix, you're right. But it also picks up gorgeous HD.

Part of that's on account of the image sensor size being a whopping 36x24 mm. Let me put that another way. It's twice the size of the sensor in the Red One. That means glorious sharpness and depth of field to thrill the cockles of a director's heart. And looking like a still camera can appeal to news shooters in anti-TV areas who are feeling a little yellow.

(L-R) Hina Satra, company director of Monarch; Viren Satra, chairman and managing director; and the Satra's son, Parth
GOING BY THE NUMBERS

Just how good is that camera? I could sing all day long, and all you'd have to put into your notes is, "Mario said...." But, if you had Image Engineering's IE-Analyzer 4, you could just aim the camera at some test charts and write down actual numbers.

RCA used to have systems that did camera testing something like that. And there used to be a company at NAB shows called RCA.

That probably ain't going to happen again, but Image Engineering has taken up the slack. Use their analyzer to figure out what camera to buy or how yours are working, and you'll have it all in black & white.

CAMERAMEN NEED NOT APPLY

Dave Waddell, marketing manager of Fujinon's broadcast and communications products division
Whatever camera you use, you probably think that if you want a tracking shot you need to move the camera, and if you want to zoom in, you need a zoom lens. Heck, that's analog thinking.

The system that provided CNN's election night "hologram" was in the Stats booth, and it did all its camera moves virtually. It also cost, if I ain't mistaken, around $100,000 for a one-shot rental.

That's why I liked Monarch's Virtuoso 200 trackless virtual studio system. It also does virtual camera moves and zooms, and you could buy two of them for the cost of a Stats rental, with enough left over to buy a nice vacation. In other words, it won't put you into the red.

ANOTHER FACE IN THE CROWD

Simon Derry, Snell CEO
Fujinon's facial-recognition precision-focus tracking system might. They didn't release a price, which is usually a bad sign. But it's winning.

It finds faces in the image and then lets you label them. Tell it which one you want to stay in focus, and that's just what I'll do. It works on objects, too. If you tell it to keep Meryl Streep in focus, you won't end up with her being upstaged by some brunette.

DISCONNECTION INSURANCE

The output of a camera probably ends up in a router at some point. And you might have a backplane of maybe 2,000 BNC connectors.

Jed Deame, vice president of image processing products at Barco's media and entertainment division
Everything eventually breaks, so, someday, after the router has been installed, you're probably going to have to disconnect one of those connectors. But which one?

In addition to a string of other terrific features that I ain't got room to list, Snell's Pro-Bel 800 series routers offer Catsii. This puts multicolor illumination into every one of those BNCs.

Want to find active connections? Look for the green instead of the red. Want to identify signal types? Just look at the colors. Desperately need to change one cable? Catsii will ID it for you with a bright cross of gold.

WE DON'T REALLY NEED TO SWITCH THE SUPERBOWL

Thomas Riedel, Riedel Communications managing director
Besides routers, there are also production switchers, from little teeny jobbies right up to Grass Valley's new Kayenne. But how about in the middle?

What if you need 16 inputs, multiple mix-effects buses, and other features of the big rigs, but you can't afford their price? You might want to check out Barco's FSN.

Barco's a displays company, but the displays business has gotten into multiple formats and effects for corporate-type events, and that's where the FSN comes from. Go ahead; intermix UXGA with 1080i. Built-in scalers can handle pretty much anything you toss at it.

LOOK MA! NO CABLE PULLERS

George Morgan, regional sales manager for east broadcast markets at Avocent
So you pull up at the local arena to shoot some sports. The union business agent has visions of a new yacht from the overtime in the cable runs.

Surprise! You connect two thin fibers and go to lunch. You're done.

Okay, maybe it's still a dream, but Riedel's MediorNet has the hardware to make it happen: protected fiber paths, wavelength-division multiplexing, modems for audio, video, and data—the works! It'll take sports venues installing their end of the system to make the instant interconnect imminent, but the dream is alive, even if overtime seekers glow purple with rage.

LOOK AGAIN MA! NO COAX

Ken Miyawaki, Brother International Corp.
A computer's KVM connection doesn't seems like much compared to a complete sports interconnect. But with some of those monitors running to 1920x1200 at 60 Hz, it ain't trivial.

Enter Avocent's HMX. You've got a LAN. HMX carries KVM over that LAN. "But, Mario, did you just say 1080p over CAT-5?" Methinks I did. As an opportunity to move away from coax, it's golden.

A PORTABLE SERVICE MANUAL

Last but not least, everything breaks. When you fix it, you've got two choices. A 20 pound manual you know you left somewhere, or an online version on your desktop, 200 feet from where the problem is.

So Brother brought its new Document Reader to NAB. It's like Amazon's Kindle but big enough for full schematics. It'll store every manual for every piece of equipment you use without straining its feather weight, and that'll keep you in the pink.

That's my top-10 picks. There was plenty more, from real electronic holography to faster, shorter-life flash memories. I'd mention 4K, 3D, and mobile, but I forgot my rose-colored glasses.

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