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Gearing Up for the 2015 NAB Show

ALEXANDRIA, VA.—This may strike you as a bit early to be thinking about the 2015 NAB Show, but it’s been on our minds here in the editorial office for some weeks. Only a month or so away, this year’s convention will be the usual cacophony of sights, sounds and ideas. It can be difficult to identify the significant among the distractions.

This year, I expect the show to burst with 4K/UHD products and solutions, from cameras to lenses to recorders to switchers to editing software and effects. Of course, there are many issues concerning 4K production and distribution to be worked out; but the marketplace is voting swiftly with its wallet to accept many 4K products.

Bob Kovacs

If you haven’t looked, the price of a 4K camera can be just marginally more than the price of an HD camera of similar overall quality—and it many cases, there is no cost difference. Today, you can buy a 4K camcorder from a well-known manufacturer for less than $5,000 and immediately put it into use shooting ENG, commercials, features or other professional applications. No, it’s not as good as a Red or Arri 4K camera costing several times the price, but the camera will acquit itself well for the typical needs of a broadcast TV station.

Editing software is also now capable of handling 4K video files, as long as you understand that you may need to update your editing computer to deal with the 4X increase in visual data that 4K represents. If your system edits HD with some lag today, it will probably be uncomfortably laggy with 4K video.

Developments in monitors have also tracked the move to 4K production, with many new 4K consumer and professional displays in the past few months. Expect that these will be all over the NAB floor, as manufacturers put their best product feet forward.

Speaking of which, a couple months ago, a product vice president for a major manufacturer told me privately that he was pushing the company to introduce only 4K-capable cameras from now on. He didn’t see a market in HD cameras when 4K is available for about the same cost.

Today’s big question about 4K is how it can be distributed and broadcast. Sure, it’s great as a production medium, but can it ever be affordably delivered to homes? There is some 4K distribution via the Internet today (notably Netflix’s “House of Cards”) and you can expect to hear more about 4K broadcasting and distribution at the NAB. It’s coming, but the standards take some time to develop.

There are many reasons to go to the NAB Show, of course. If you’re like me, you love the smell of fresh electronics; and the sub-audible hum of thousands of power supplies is the music that calms your savage breast. New products, old friends and the latest in technology trends—I hope you can make it to the show.