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Innovation thrives at annual broadcast event


While there were no major breakthroughs at NAB2005, there was no shortage of innovation, contradicting a widely circulated premise that broadcasters' use of spectrum is holding up the development of new technology.

Robert Dotson, president and CEO of T-Mobile, expressed a prevalent view on Capitol Hill in his call for a hard shut-off date for broadcast analog TV. T-Mobile is part of a coalition formed recently just for that purpose.

"Certainty will allow us to build business plans that will work and open the doors to capital for entrepreneurs and innovators," Dotson said.

Two guys in the South Hall who had little more than a card table and a fabric backdrop for a booth demonstrated that digital broadcasting is not without innovation. David Blum and Michael Aryev of Helissio Technologies came to the show at the last minute, having obtained a priority date for a U.S. patent application for their AVC pre-processing technology. Blum and Aryev were running a very sharp 720p, 24fps feed at 1 Mbps, something that was considered impossible just a few years ago.


Elsewhere on the show floors, two venture companies--InPhase and Optware--signaled the opening salvo in the battle over holographic disk systems, which record on the full depth of the medium instead of just the surface of a disk. One current-generation holographic disk can potentially hold 200 GB, about 200 times the capacity of a single-layer DVD, and roughly 10 times more than high-definition disks. Second-generation holographic disks are expected to hold as much as 1 TB.

Wavelength-division multiplexing is nothing new in and of itself, but Telecast introduced a WDM device that makes it possible to transmit up to eight signals on a single fiber over any existing fiber-optic network. Evertz also expanded WDM for use with L-band distribution and routing systems.

Many of the innovations on the show floor reflected the adoption of HD and IT in the broadcasting industry. The Snell & Wilcox Kahuna was innovative in its capacity for integrating standard-definition material into hi-def material with no upconverting or scaling. The Belden 10 Gigabit Ethernet system included equalizing circuit boards built into the cable connectors. Ikegami took EditCam hi-def, as did Panasonic with P2 and Sony with XDCAM.


As for the notion that broadcasters are standing in the way of entrepreneurs, there are few places where the entrepreneurial spirit is more evident that at an NAB convention.

Seven years ago, Jay Coley and the rest of the folks at Editware were where the Helissio guys were this year--at a card table. Back then, the business was based primarily on products salvaged from the old Grass Valley Group, he said. Editware had an honest-to-goodness booth in South Hall this year, and was demonstrating a partner technology with Prime Image in Central Hall.

"Today, our business is 95 percent due to products developed at Editware within the last three years," Coley said.

Avid was on a card table in 1989. This year, they had enough floor space to bring $3,000 a month in a New York high-rise. Telestream was three-ring notebook in 1998. This year, the company occupied 900 square feet in the South Hall.

In all, more than 1,400 exhibitors showed up for the annual television pilgrimage in Las Vegas, and something like 104,000 people came to see their stuff, breaking the 100,000 mark for the first time in four years.

Greg Hansen manned the Anixter booth in Central Hall. Hansen, marketing business manager for the wire and cable distributor based in Glenview, Ill., said NAB2005 had the atmosphere of pre-9/11 days, before the 'Net economy went south, and people's aerophobias were fully engaged.

"It seems like it's made a recovery," he said.