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SBE Explores the IT World at NAB

Engineering association's Ennes Foundation sponsoring day-long focus on IT future

LAS VEGAS

For broadcast engineers, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) spring convention in Las Vegas is the nation's largest toy show-and an opportunity to learn about, see and touch what is new and useful for keeping broadcast stations on the air and productive. But there is much more than the show floor-even before it opens, the Society of Broadcast Engineers, through its educational affiliate the Ennes Educational Foundation Trust, presents a day-long tutorial designed to bring broadcast engineers up to speed with advances in the technology and operations of broadcasting. In years past, the well-attended sessions have covered networking for broadcast engineers, centralization, digital radio and more.

This year, SBE members attending the Ennes/SBE program, "Converting Broadcast Operations to an Information Technology Platform," on Saturday April 17, will receive a $200 discount off the NAB non-member, full conference registration fee (the form is available at www.sbe.org ), saving roughly the cost of a well-bought plane fare to the show. Las Vegas remains the most popular destination for NAB, in no small part because of the low cost of airfare, rooms, meals and entertainment.

NO LIMITS

Clearly the craft of TV broadcasting is changing from cameras and tape machines to computer-based playback, distribution and storage systems, in fact becoming an application. The hardware platforms are now-or fast becoming-interchangeable, and seldom does hardware limit what we can do with our broadcast applications running on them.

The selection, setting up and modification of software, and even more important, the architecture of the data and storage networks and organization of content have more bearing on the usefulness and success of the broadcast station.

At one time, almost every station operated like every other station. Odds are that any employee could move across the country to another station and plug into a very familiar world, whatever their specific skill is. Today, the workflow can be very different, as many of the tasks from traffic to on-air talent are more highly integrated and automated. Any task can be done by any number of people and in any number of different ways.

This year, Ennes has invited inventors, broadcast engineers and manufacturers who are driving the IT conversion to talk about their successes and failures. Broadcast engineers have a good story to tell the industry, and the Ennes sessions are where it happens.

Al Kovalick, Pinnacle System's chief technology officer, starts off the day with a broad tutorial on storage architectures and connectivity, covering the often distinctive decision points that each broadcast operation must make. Kovalick worked for 25 years at Hewlett-Packard as a designer, system architect and technical strategist before joining Pinnacle, and he holds 18 patents.

Ted Mina will follow with a tutorial on the IT aspects of managing content from a service level perspective. Mina is a principal of the Technology Solutions Group (TSG) within EMC's Telco, Media and Entertainment division, delivering strategy and solutions development services to EMC's top media, telco and enterprise clients. He will focus on case studies and the best IT practices from his own experience.

Isilon co-founder Sujal Patel will describe the limitations and pitfalls of approaching a broadcast project with standard IT tools. Prior to founding Isilon, Patel spent nearly five years at RealNetworks, in part as chief architect behind the company's second-generation core media delivery system.

Considering the "what to do, and what not to do" of IT conversion, Lynn Rowe, CEO of One World Technologies, rolls up his sleeves and covers the edge where traditional IT infrastructure breaks down in the broadcast world. Rowe is well known in the broadcast industry for being on the leading edge of technology, which is where his company thrives.

Finishing up just before the lunch break, John Hoehn, from IBM's Business Consulting Services, takes up the topic of Middleware-the secret sauce that allows the islands to be combined in the IT conversion process.

AFTERNOON SESSIONS

As morning moderator Andrea Cummis, CBT, CTO, Oxygen Network Senior Vice President of Engineering and SBE board member, finishes her sessions, Bill Hayes, Director of Engineering and Technology for Iowa Public Television and author of the "Digital Journal" column in TV Technology, takes over. The afternoon sessions turn to case histories and what several working broadcast engineers have experienced. But first we cover V-ISAN and the challenge of maintaining the "card catalog" in a purely digital world. Craig Finseth, Firwood Consulting, will speak of Universal Media Identification, and the next world where central registries catalog and define content.

Clear Channel Vice President of Engineering Mike DeClue will cover the new, more flexible and reliable modes of operation Clear Channel derives from its new IT paradigm. DeClue is a long-time broadcast engineer, well-rooted in the business of operating broadcast facilities.

Kevin Ivey, who is currently serving as BBC Technology's Project Director for ESPN's Digital Conversion Project, will follow. BBCT's project team at ESPN is building the pilot and full implementation of Media Asset Management and Command & Control systems to support ESPN's new digital production center and the network's high-definition television offerings. Ivey previously held the post of Vice President, Research and Development at CNN.

Turner Entertainment, under Vice President of Engineering Clyde Smith, has made the IT move into a new 198,000-square-foot facility with an extensive IT infrastructure, and Smith has a lot to talk about with the many channels and media outlets supported.

Chris Golson, SGI's senior director of marketing strategy for the media industries, has a front row seat to the IT conversion and makes the perfect close to an IT-centric day.

SBE and the Ennes Trust provide several educational opportunities throughout the year, but NAB is an annual opportunity to gather a number of top-quality presenters together for a full day of education. We promise that you will have your share of "take away" points, making the trip to NAB and the Ennes program well worth the time and effort.