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NAB2005: Broadcasters get it

IT technology was evident in virtually every booth on the show floor at this year’s NAB convention.

After several years of trepidation and concern surrounding the use of computer-industry IT technology in the broadcast and news content creation environment, the proverbial light bulb over the heads of station engineers and managers appears to have gone off.

At this year’s NAB convention, one of the best attended shows in three years, a flurry of sales announcements and show floor conversations made it clear to stations and cable news channels that terms such as USB, Firewire, Ethernet, flash memory, Internet Protocol and TCP, now means flexibility, reliability, streamlined workflows and the ability to do more with less resources.

The NAB said more than 102,000 people were in attendance. Packed booths in the exhibit halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center were filled with network and station personnel who were there to see demonstrations of server-based shared storage digital news production systems from vendors such as Avid, Grass Valley, Leitch, Omneon, Pinnacle Systems, Sundance Digital and Quantel. Highly intelligent IT-based signal conversion and distribution products from companies such as Evertz, Grass Valley, Leitch, Miranda, Nvision, Pro-Bel and Snell & Wilcox were also popular.

Software efficiency

Walking around the convention floor, it was clear that virtually every product and system category benefited in one way or the other from software and off-the-shelf hardware efficiency. This included intercom systems, which are now employing cell phone technology to allow production crews to communicate in ways they never could with traditional party lines. Clear Com, Riedel Communications and Telex showed solutions that make what was once a labor-intensive set up process as easy as pointing and clicking with a mouse.

Digital cameras with USB, IEEE 1394 and flash memory connections, the Blu-Ray optical disc, and solid-state and computer hard drive recording systems were all seen on the show floor.

IT transmitters

Broadcast industry transmitter companies such as Acrodyne Industries, Harris Broadcast, Larcan and Thales Broadcast & Multimedia, have also begun to offer new IT-type systems that target a wider range of consumers and distribution platforms.

A European version of the Harris UHF DVB-T solid-state transmitter is currently involved in a mobile TV transmission test with Crown Castle Communications, in Pittsburgh, PA, that is sending DVB-H signals to laptops in moving cars and prototype handheld devices.

With IT-based production equipment and systems infrastructures, broadcasters’ content creation methods have improved. And signal distribution, both internally and to consumers, provides a competitive edge stations sorely need.

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