Realistic Expectations

NAB logged another 90K+ attendees at the industry's largest annual gathering. Despite its name, the show continues to evolve into a content and media creation show in which broadcasters are one part of an expanding media landscape. Our writers weigh in with their thoughts…


There seemed to be guarded optimism about what was happening in the industry. It appeared to me to be a show more about the business moving forward and less about selling sizzle. That is not to say there weren't any surprises, both pleasant and not so pleasant. The number one pleasant surprise for me came from Blackmagic Design and the introduction of their Cinema Camera.

I heard a number of people talking about 2012 being the year Mobile DTV either takes off or goes away. I am not sure that I see it quite that "all or nothing," but I do agree that products for receiving the service need to become more widely distributed. I think there is no doubt that the technology works but that it has challenges both in indoor reception and in the VHF band.

It was interesting to see a few manufacturers showing off their auto-stereoscopic 3D video displays. There is still a push from within the industry to keep 3D development moving forward but I am not certain that the consumer marketplace is all that enamored with the technology.


The buzz phrases du jour around North Hall's automation aisles were "Business Process Management" and "Service Oriented Architecture." The automation category is regrouping; to the larger multifaceted vendor, automation's one component of their asset monetization workflow; in the opposite corner, sometimes from the same source, an abundance of "do-it-all" channel-in-a-box appliances. Caught in the middle: a few automation-only survivors banking on their experience and good name to keep from being kicked off the island.

The bigger question is NAB itself. The proliferation of vertical market subcategories underscores the inescapable: Broadcasters are a shrinking slice of the attendance pie. As a trade show, NAB's becoming a content technology expo with little connection to broadcast, assuming that term's relevant in 5-10 years.


As evidenced by the abundance of solutions embracing file-based workflows, storage now appears to be just another commodity. Manufacturers now integrate their own and third-party components into an "end-to-end" solution. Branding showed big changes, adding asset management and real-time rendering to reduce the time and complexities of interstitial production.

IT-based playout is replacing traditional master control models. Integrated solutions combining ingest, automation, file management and playout are replacing dedicated video servers. Archive is a "must have" as file sizes continue to grow.

SBE and SMPTE continue to help educate our successors. Saturday's sessions supported the IT-transition for newcomers yet were broad enough for those seasoned engineers wanting to understand what they need to know going forward.


Everyone enters the annual NAB Show looking through a certain lens of interest. Mine is mostly cameras and content, and things appear to be following a somewhat predictable trajectory.

For cameras, this was the year we went from 3D to 4K with unexpected new players entering the scene, such as Blackmagic Design. Sony, Canon, Panasonic and JVC are leading the pack, but what does this mean? Not many people need 4K at the moment, but, it may signal the next wave of HD, which will spur a whole new round of equipment retrofitting, from acquisition to consumer flat screens. Constantly creating a level of production that is currently out of reach is, after all, what keeps the industry moving.


NAB may not have had the quantity of new product introductions we've seen in prior years, but the path forward is clear. Solid-state workflows are now a given and it seems like 1920x1080 is so 2011. I see a trend toward 4K and greater workflows for both cinematic as well as broadcast scenarios. With digital projection becoming more prevalent in theaters and with previews of consumer 4K projector technology, content creators will have an increasing number of beyond-HD options. Even those of us who deliver 1920x1080 will be able to benefit from the added quality of a downrezed 4K file.

Beyond-HD cameras have appeared from the show-stopping Blackmagic Design camera to Canon to the traditional Sony, Panasonic and JVC brands. We are seeing additional devices to acquire greater-than-HD along with fast data pipelines such as Thunderbolt. Maybe fewer products this year, but a lot more pixels.

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.