NAB-HD Shows How HD is Done

Working HD broadcast station will also include D-ENG


After a rocky first year, the NAB-HD pavilion plans to come roaring back to life with a new goal: to serve as a large, fully operational, true high-definition broadcast station that demonstrates the possibilities of live HD television.

That's the hope of Nigel Spratling, who orchestrated the debut of the NAB-HD pavilion in 2005 and has been traveling the country in the months prior to NAB2006 to garner support, volunteers and equipment donations to pull together something that some NAB attendees may have never actually seen: an HD station up and running, from ingest to broadcast.


And unlike last year, the majority of programming aired in the facility will be live.

Spratling hopes visitors come away with several key impressions after visiting the pavilion: "One, is that HD is now genuinely affordable and building a standard-definition facility makes little sense even if the final output will remain SD in the foreseeable future," he said. "Second is that creating content for mobile media and podcasting is straightforward and the tools required are not only available but simple to implement.

"And thirdly, that new technologies and delivery systems are rapidly changing the way media is produced and managed," he said. "Broadcasters and service providers that embrace these systems will be able to generate additional revenue from them in the near future."

Situated in a larger exhibit space (5,000 square feet and in the LVCC Central Hall), this year the pavilion will be anchored by a large theatre that sports a 20-foot high-definition screen. The pavilion will also include an operating broadcast facility, including an editing suite, a full production room, a post-production area and a four-camera studio designed for 16:9 production.

The design is "typical of a regular station, but we're also trying to build something that visitors may not have seen before," Spratling said, quoting an NAB statistic that 25 percent of annual NAB visitors are first-time attendees. "We see a lot of young people or people who are new to the industry, and we want to show them what HD can offer," he said.


Spratling thinks it would also be a kick to throw in a little helicopter ride, too. Not for attendees, mind you, but as an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of downlinking a live HD feed, while simultaneously illustrating the high-quality imaging capabilities of live high-definition from above the strip. A helicopter will be sent to fly above the convention center and across Las Vegas, sending a live high-bandwidth feed down into the NAB-HD pavilion booth.

With the industry in the midst of a transition to a new digital broadcast auxiliary spectrum, the demonstration will give broadcasters a glimpse into the future of digital electronic newsgathering for high-definition news.

The pavilion will showcase how equipment is used for each step of the process, and how engineers can work out kinks on the fly.

The NAB-HD broadcast pavilion will also touch on the actual business of delivering media, with special discussions on content delivery, which will include topics on mobile media, IPTV and contribution links.

"That's set to be a very big topic this year," Spratling said. "How do you go about delivering contribution feeds to a station?"

The broadcast facility is being built with equipment donated by several North American-headquartered firms, including Omneon, Sundance Digital and Miranda, and will also include equipment from an international contingent of manufacturers this year, including those from Asia, China and Europe. Volunteers from throughout the industry will donate their time as production assistants, camera operators, studio floor managers, editors, anchors and field reporters.

"The HD pavilion affords NAB attendees the chance to observe the latest broadcast technologies in operation," said Steve Krant, vice president of sales and marketing for Sundance, which is donating its multichannel Titan automation system to the NAB-HD facility to manage the schedule of on-air broadcasts and to control the video server and master control room devices. "[The pavilion] provides a valuable hands-on experience for the next generation of broadcast professionals."

The pavilion is geared towards traditional ATSC transmission processes, but will also be delivering content to mobile media devices via DVB-H, to Web-enabled handheld devices, to selected hotels around Las Vegas via IPTV and also by podcasting. "We want to show how all the components work together," Spratling said. "We want visitors to see how the system is constructed, and the value that comes from this technology."

Susan Ashworth

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.