Another NAB Show has come and gone, and this edition of “NAB Update” is the last for 2010. “NAB Update” will resume publication in mid-February 2011.
Before the 2010 NAB Show fades into the recesses of my memory — just one of 24 others rattling around in my head — I thought I’d share my most memorable moments from this year’s convention. I launch into this endeavor with a bit of trepidation, though, because this exercise runs dangerously close to answering the commonly asked question at NAB: “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen at the show?”
Running nonstop from press conference to press conference, booth to booth and session to session gives me a good perspective — but it’s just that: my perspective. However, I’ll dodge the danger of declaring some one thing of being “the most interesting” and instead focus on my top five takeaways from this year’s convention:
• No. 1: Incentive auction or no incentive auction? That is the question. During Julius Genachowski’s keynote at NAB, the FCC chairman sought to reassure broadcasters that reclaiming 120MHz of broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband Internet service would be done on a voluntary basis and that “incentive auctions” would be the mechanism to ensure there’s no need to use the heavy hand of government to seize spectrum. With an incentive auction, broadcasters relinquishing spectrum have a financial reason to give it up because they will share in the proceeds when the commission auctions it. But only a few hours after the chairman’s keynote, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps indicated during an NAB session that Congress probably wouldn’t go along the financial split, throwing the voluntary nature of the spectrum claw back into question.
• No. 2: Gordon Smith seems at home as NAB CEO and president and showed a remarkable flair for making the case for broadcasters on a variety of issues, and also for schmoozing with his friends and acquaintances in government. For instance, in introducing FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn during the “Washington Face-Off” session, Smith recounted the story of a golf outing in which he nailed her father, Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC, with an errant shot. The self-deprecating story seemed to put the commissioner at ease in front of her audience of broadcasters.
• No. 3: All Mobile Video’s 3-D live production truck seemed comfortably situated in the Sony area and garnered plenty of interest. Of particular note were the engineering stations onboard the truck used to tweak shots from 3ality Digital 3-D camera rigs. Sandwiched in the middle of the 53ft double expando production trailer are engineering stations where human beings actually tweak parallax and other parameters from the 3-D cameras before presenting the video to the control room section of the truck and the director. In this age of automated everything, it’s good to see the human factor is still essential.
• No. 4: IP newsgathering has come of age. For several years, file-based workflows, ENG cameras recording to solid-state media, broadband satellite network services and FTP backhaul systems via traditional microwave trucks have been pointing to the growing base of technology available to sustain IP newsgathering. This year, add a number of on-camera systems designed to transmit video over cell phone connections, MPEG-4 AVC encoding tools for the Apple iPhone and even smaller-footprint ENG vans set up for IP newsgathering into the mix, and it appears this new form of newsgathering has finally hit its stride.
• No. 5: Mobile DTV is here, but will it be on the minds of consumers and lawmakers fast enough? The ATSC-sponsored Mobile DTV Zone as well as the display of consumer devices ready to receive mobile DTV once again demonstrated at the NAB Show that mobile DTV is viable, growing and potentially a game changer for the use of TV broadcast spectrum. However, talking to broadcasters and vendors alike at the 2010 NAB Show, I was left wondering if mobile DTV’s accelerated development cycle and consumer testing would be fast enough to head off the FCC spectrum grab, or if in the end it will even matter to regulators and lawmakers with starry visions of 100Mb/s to 100 million homes in their eyes.