The annual party in the desert for the National Association of Broadcasters is really five shows in one; TV, radio, audio, 3-D animation and multimedia. Broadcasting, audio, the Internet and video are all intertwined these days and this is the show of shows for all of it.
Over 500 audio-only exhibitors showed their wares; digital audio workstations (DAW), microphones of every description, AC-3 audio encoders, audio processors, monitors, audio streaming solutions; and more were on display. The audio heavyweights were in full attendance TASCAM, Otari, Shure, Telex, Sonic Foundry, Sennheiser, Mackie Designs, AKG, Sonic Solutions and others.
Full surround-sound capability, high-resolution audio up to 24-bit at 192kHz, automation and networking features are cropping up across the board, from flagship systems on down to mid-level products. Of course DTV is not the only factor driving today's digital audio technologies like audio webcasting and DVD-A, but it isn't hurting it either. NAB2001 endeavored to offer both products and seminars aimed at helping the broadcaster find audio solutions that will solve the digital transition puzzle.
5.1 Surround Sound is coming to your home sooner or later because practically every TV set sold has a Surround Sound system onboard. Given this, NAB 2001 saw the television industry finally get serious about making decent 5.1 broadcast sound.
New products at the show also included the Logic 3SC, a networkable 5.1 audio post system. The latest generation in AMS Neve's successful Logic series of integrated post systems, Logic 3SC offers high-speed audio editing and mixing. The system features ESP menu-free mixing, giving all the channels, outputs and automation needed to deliver complex surround mixes quickly and efficiently. It was typical of the new DAW tools shown at NAB.
Euphonix showed its System 5-B, a broadcast console providing multiple channel paths of full 24-bit/96kHz digital signal processing. The 5-B offers the V2.5 software suite, which includes a modular post-production panel equipped with PEC/Direct monitor controls allowing 32 external inputs to implement console functions.
Ward-Beck offered its SerialBoxx, a versatile rack-mounting card frame and a series of plug-in amplifier modules designed to take analog and digital video signals. Ward-Beck debuted serial digital video, AES audio, analog video and analog audio cards.
Solid State Logic introduced version 2.7 if its Axiom-MT mixing software. New features include automatic mix latency through the Mix Align feature and the choice of four EQ algorithms, as well as the ability to cycle through aux pages for quick interrogation of channel auxes.
In the wireless microphone market Lectrosonics showed its 200 series wire synthesized wideband UHF wireless microphone systems.
Studer launched its On-Air 2000M2 digital mixer, which includes extended functionality with an input configuration router and a newly designed exterior.
Clear-Com offered its I-Series intercom systems. The I-Series offers 32 backlit keys assignable as talk, listen or talk with listen.
In the support arena, Wheatstone showcased its Wiremax studio integration system for cabling and connectors, Shure showed its new P4800 System Processor, and Axon offered its Synapse, a 4RU modular signal processor offering remote control capabilities. Audio-Technica showed new versions of its U100 Series camera-mount UHF wireless systems.
Calrec launched its Alpha 100 console, featuring an assignable digital control surface. The 100 provides 48 multitrack/matrix outputs, 20 aux buses, eight audio groups and four main outputs.
DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM continue to battle it out as does DVD-Audio for acceptance and implementation. The newly established DVD Forum of Manufacturers held informal meetings to further discuss the adoption of the ‘DVD-Multi’ standard, which it hopes will solve the incompatibilities between the various DVD formats. As part of the trend towards strategic partnerships announced at NAB 2001, DVD software makers Spruce Technologies, Minnetonka Audio Software and Digital Theater Systems Inc. announced the world's first integrated solution for previewing, authoring and encoding DTS surround audio into DVD creations. Both Panasonic and Pioneer introduced combination DVD-RAM/DVD-R and CD-RW recording solutions. Apple also joined the DVD and digital audio recording wars in a big way announcing the Mac would support both as base line offerings.
Traditional ATR (Audio Tape Recorder) manufactures Akai, Deva and Nagraa among others, showed new digital solutions. Fostex showed an innovative DVD audio post-production unit that will feature Ethernet connections and record in SD II or broadcast .wav without any conversion and is HDTV compatible as well.
With one of its largest booths in recent years audio industry veteran Digidesign, a division of Avid Technology, previewed DigiStudio, a new initiative that allows worldwide collaboration within any Pro Tools audio system on the Internet. It will be accessible via the Digidesign Production Network (DigiProNet.com). The new sharing system, DigiStudio-enables Pro Tools to build upon the Pro Tools 5.1 software. Users can exchange stereo, multi-channel surround tracks and mono tracks in multiple file formats directly over the Web.
Dolby Labs also showed new solutions for surround sound and continued its push for Dolby E encoding. New offerings included the DP570 audio solution for monitoring multichannel metadata information making searching a vast library audio clips a quick and simple affair. Dolby Digital, with its 5.1 separate channels, is now the backbone of the rapidly growing home-theater trend. For DVD, Dolby Digital is a standard audio format worldwide, meaning every DVD player in the world can decode it. Dolby Digital is also a fully approved audio format for DVB, as well as the audio format for the ATSC digital television standard, and the digital cable standard SCTE.
Tom Patrick McAuliffe is a former television and radio broadcaster, singer and journalist.