NAB Wrap-Up: It Wasn’t All About 3D (Seriously!) As Exhibitors See Bounce in 2D Business

Last week’s NAB convention may have ended on Thursday afternoon, but the impact of product introductions, from mobile-DTV solutions to 3D production systems and yes, even HD products that will help improve workflows and drive revenues TODAY, is just now beginning to be understood. And for hundreds, if not thousands, of Europe-based attendees, the show has an extended engagement as they figure out how to get home with the volcano in Iceland disrupting travel plans.

So what was the big story at this year’s show that, according to NAB, drew 88,000 attendees? Leaving aside the technology innovations, it was a show floor that seemed to feature more-optimistic attendees and exhibitors. Not only were customers looking to place orders, but they had more representatives from their organizations.

“This year’s show was like it was a few years ago,” says Fred Garroy, GM, the Americas, for EVS. “Last year’s mood among customers was to try and make it to the next month and let’s see what happens next year. But, this year, everyone could see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

And in an even better sign that business may be bouncing back, multiple vendors said they were taking orders on the show floor. “Those who were at NAB have projects they are working on,” says Bob McAlpine, VP of sales for Telecast Fiber Systems. “Our Copperhead 3200 fiber-optic camera transceiver is selling well, and we took orders on the show floor.”

Wohler’s Kim Templeman-Holmes, VP of global sales and marketing, also says sales are up; the company spent much of the show meeting with TV stations ready to buy. Its AMP2-16V audio/video monitor held particular interest among attendees, with new features like Dolby Zoom to zero in on Dolby audio channels. NBC Olympics recently used the system, and BBC Sport is also taking a look at it.

“It’s a simple unit,” he says. “Put in five 3G-capable cards, and you can have 80 channels of self-sensing monitoring.” The addition of a video screen makes the system that much more useful since users can check on closed-caption data and other information.

More Than Just 3D
There is little doubt that the buzz around 3D made it the hot topic at this year’s show. “Clearly, on the sports side, there is no topic other than 3D,” says Bill Hendler, CTO of graphics-equipment manufacturer Chyron. “Last year, the big topic was remote operations, and, while it continued to resurface sporadically, there has been very good interest in 3D from the traditional networks.”

But the question facing all manufacturers is, will the buzz in 3D translate into actual equipment sales? That remains to be seen, and, on more than one occasion, vendors expressed concern that, while the interest in 3D was drawing crowds to their booths, the traditional “2D” products that drive revenues today were being passed over.

That said, a few 2D products captured the attention of NAB attendees, in particular HD camcorders designed for the lower end of the market but delivering standard features like 720p/60 recording at professional-quality bitrates. For colleges and small sports departments looking for cost-effective acquisition solutions, at least three surfaced at this year’s show.

On the acquisition side, Canon made a move into the professional-tapeless-HD-camcorder market. “A tapeless camcorder is very compelling to our industry,” says Chuck Westfall, technical advisor at Canon’s CIG Professional Products Marketing Division. “Getting clips into computer-based editing systems more quickly and the elimination of tape-transport mechanisms increase reliability.”

The new Canon XF305 and XF300 professional camcorders feature hot-swappable dual card slots and record on Compact Flash cards with the help of a proprietary Canon codec. “One of the key things with the Canon XF codec is that, during the course of its development, we worked closely with Apple, Avid, Adobe, and Grass Valley so that material is ready to go without any transcoding,” says Westfall.

Previous tape-based Canon camcorders supported HDV and AVC HD, but he says the step up to 50 Mbps and 4:2:2 allows the Canon camcorder line to support the studio environment.

And JVC’s ProHD camcorder line continued its evolution with the GY-HM790, a ⅓-in. solid-state camcorder that records to low-cost, non-proprietary SDHC Class 6 or 10 solid-state media cards. JVC’s native-file recording technology allows recording in ready-to-edit formats for Apple Final Cut Pro and other major nonlinear-editing (NLE) systems compatible with Sony XDCAM EX workflow.

“The beauty of XDCAM EX from a workflow standpoint is that the metadata can be handled by all NLE systems,” says Craig Yanagi, manager of marketing and brand strategy for JVC. “There are also very little digital artifacts, and the three ⅓-inch CCDs provide no motion-artifact issues.”

The camera records at 35 Mbps (HQ mode/variable bitrate) or 19 Mbps/25 Mbps (SP mode/constant bitrate) and ships with a Canon 14x zoom lens or without lens, accommodating a variety of lenses with its ⅓-in. bayonet lens mount.

Sony, meanwhile, rolled out its first professional camcorder that implements the AVCHD format: the HXR-NX5U, part of the NXCAM lineup. It features Sony’s Exmor CMOS sensor with ClearVid array and records AVCHD up to 24 Mbps, delivering 1920×1080 high-definition images with both interlace and progressive modes along with native 1080p/24, 720p/60, and MPEG-2 standard-definition recording. The professional NX5U camcorder includes HD-SDI and HDMI outputs, as well as two-channel linear PCM audio capabilities.

And one of the more interesting introductions at the show was Panasonic’s AG-AF100 Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) camcorder, which uses the M4/3 sensor usually found in digital still cameras. The camcorder can be used with M4/3 lenses and records in AVCHD/h.264 at 1080p/24 onto two SDHC cards. The camcorder provides new options for digital still photographers who have killer still camera lenses and want to use them to capture killer video images. Panasonic also supports AVCHD with the AG-HMC80 AVCCAM HD camcorder, which records on a solid-state drive at 1080i/60 or 720p/60.

Up next in our NAB Wrap-Up: What Really Mattered at the 2010 NAB Show: Workflow, Workflow, Workflow