The new kids and the old guard: what to expect at NAB 2015

With BVE all packed up and NAB looming, it feels like a good time to take stock of where the broadcast industry is at the minute, and where it’s heading.

I recently wrote a blog post about 4K so I’ll try to avoid focusing on 4K in this particular post!

Up until relatively recently, people would look to the big players in the broadcast industry, such as Sony, Panasonic and Grass Valley, to see where the industry is heading and how new and emerging technologies will advance the industry.

But there are some new kids on the block that have been ruffling the feathers of the broadcast industry for some time now. (By the way, if anyone can come up any kind of visual representation of a feathery broadcast industry being ruffled, I’d love to see it…)

You all know who I’m talking about. There’s one particular company. Yes, it’s the Marmite of the broadcast industry, Blackmagic Design. Love them or hate them, Blackmagic Design has been slowly snapping at the heels of the industry for years now and, since they began producing cameras, they’ve kind of turned the broadcast industry upside down. So whilst we’re all still excited and in anticipation about the new products people like Sony and Grass Valley will launch at NAB 2015, we’re also all – some perhaps secretly – excited to find out what Blackmagic Design will announce at NAB. It’s not just Blackmagic Design though – the likes of AJA, NewTek and Atomos for example, are also all changing the industry. These manufacturers are the new wave of the industry – they’re doing for broadcast what people like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola did for cinema back in the 70s. These manufacturers are bringing broadcast to the masses, and redefining the parameters of production. It wasn’t until GoPro came on the scene that viewers were ever privileged enough to see things a like a POV shot of a zip wire ride (hi, Coach Trip fans!)

So whilst the new wave are changing the industry from the ground up – at the shop floor level let’s say – it’s back to the grandparents of the industry, the aforementioned Sony’s and Panasonic’s to lead the industry. Their pace is slower and less ‘in your face’ as the new wave but they’re doing it, even if it’s not that obvious.

For me, the most interesting and game-changing technological advancement is the use of IP in broadcast. And I don’t just mean changing the settings on a device over IP! I mean the full adoption of IP in all areas of broadcast – acquisition, connectivity, control and so on.

Combined with more efficient video and audio compression techniques, and reduced latency, the transmission of video and audio signals via IP is becoming a viable and realistic method. High data rates – particular with UltraHD – are proving an issue, but it won’t be forever. Traditional camera cabling such as BNC, fibre and triax and standards such as SDI could be a thing of the past. For the studio and OB markets – and for anyone who works in multi-camera environments – this could be a big game-changer. Stagebox, a BBC R&D-backed device offers a method of transmitting full HD video over IP, with all the additional multi-camera functions you’d expect such as timecode, genlock, control and tally. Imagine running low-cost CAT6 cables out to all your cameras at that next multi-camera music gig and not expensive SMPTE fibre. Imagine ‘controlling’ that OB from across the other side of the world – all your video and audio feeds are transmitted across the Internet. Talkback to camera operators and so on – all over IP.

When a reliable IP standard of video signal transmission is widely adopted, it should pave the way for IP video and audio routing, switching and distribution. And such primitive things as plugging a BNC cable into a monitor will be a thing of the past!

So how much of this are we likely to see at NAB? Probably quite a lot if you look closely enough. You’ll need to wade through the more commercial and news-selling headlines that our friends at companies like Blackmagic Design will be pushing out though. Sony profiled 4K IP workflows at IBC last year so it’s likely they’ll continue to develop this at NAB this year.

Whatever NAB brings, it’ll be an exciting time. We’re all too busy with projects here to be able to go, so we’ll be glued to the Internet (and Twitter) trying to keep up to date with all the news.

But enough about us, what are you looking forward to seeing at NAB 2015?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *