NAB Newbie

After spending years in news broadcasting ...
working on everything from talk shows to news wheels ...

and toiling away on various upgrades of inews, enps and mac,linux etc operating systems it was time to visit and talk to the people who make these products for the first time. There is a little bit of selfishness and onesidedness when it comes to technology in a newsroom (if a certain server goes down we gnash and whine and complain until IT makes it all better..) and I wanted to attend NAB for knowledge and gain an appreciation for the platforms I work on every single day...

Brain is on aural and visual crack as soon as you walk in but if you know what you are looking for and have built a list through the NAB website or NABShow App, you can walk in the building feeling confident that eventually, as you maneuver through the heavy crowds and process the many football fields of information, that you will set sites on your target.

I’d be hard pressed to find someone like me at this event but I know they were out there but, like some elusive rare bird, you’d need a hatchet some binoculars and a search party headed by Livingston to spot them.

To the uninitiated, you might be surprised that for a show that regularly sees tens of thousands walk through the door that it’s a relatively tightknit clique. A socially interactive bunch who are a highly specialize, informed crowd, mostly made up of tech professionals and software gurus who know about the smallest upgrades on their favorite hardware and software packages, catching up over the numerous pop up parties that occur on the floor or waiting for the after party to pseudoschmooze engaging and fun back and forth banter for those in the know.

They are on a first name basis with the CEOs and Executives (some I’ve met and can say this is the most refreshing way to do business, a frank discussion with a department head about a certain product and in turn generating ideas as to how to incorporate that technology into an existing business or even make a hybrid. These people get it but why isn’t that energy trickling down to the end users on a larger scale?

Despite all this positive energy and derring do the final end user’s knowledge is is how out of sync with the actual handson training for a lot of this new technology. It’s fast outpacing productivity, to the point that producers, editors etc need to kidnap unsuspecting operations managers and engineers and demand to get trained on this stuff.

Tech moves fast; end users need to catch up to what engineers, operations managers etc already know we are constantly in beta mode!

It’s important and vital to have a solid base in programming, news systems and new workstations like Grass Valley, Ross and ORAD knit these things together in order to talk about where the industry is heading but more importantly to be able to get excited about the smallest little upgrades and be able to marry it seamlessly into workflow when you get home. For instance think about the ratio of producers a client might have on staff who know about sending data through a cloud based system compared to the TDs, and IT on staff. Do I want to constantly ask an IT person how to send something while I’m on assignment in another country how to do this? That’s a ratio in my industry of 1:15.

“I have to go Cannes and set up a phone line to send data back to Canada” , picking over a hamburger and fries during a lunch break a TD shared his dilemma, “I’m more valuable at the office but because the producers refuse to learn about FTPs, Clouds, etc I have to set it up; I have to go.” He’s not alone. He’s channeling the subtle backlash to learning something new a passive aggressive need to stand your ground and remain neutral or immobile, frozen or suspended in time.

Hastily I have to add it’s a twoway street; some execs don’t force the issue and don’t provide the adequate training and also don’t create learning pods to staff members to get the training in order to compete at the next level. Other times it’s a budgetary constraint among other issues (companies will buy the tech but not the training packages so only a few squeeze through at a
time so individuals may feel the time warp, working on an actual computer with 20 other employees but down the hall installation of newer, flexible packages arrive that incorporate social media, scaled down broadcast hardware and fewer staff).

Tech replacing certain jobs but that paves the way for retraining in newer areas if you know where to look but it requires a closer look at the ratio of implementation of automation to employee retention.

In Part 2, I'll discuss the disconnect between engineers and regular end users; and how to be more proactive in the workplace and at conventions like NAB.