NAB 2022: Pandemic Turbo-Charging Trends Across the Industry at a Smaller But Still Energetic Show – Below the Line
By every measure, NAB 2022 was smaller than the last such convention held before the COVID-19 pandemic. After two years, enough companies and people have flocked to Vegas to gather, discuss and make deals. NAB reports that 52,468 people flocked to Vegas to review gear and catch up with friends from afar, while around 90,000 attendees attended NAB 2019. Fewer attendees didn’t shake exhibitors, who were excited by the quality and the serious intention of the visitors to the stand and the participants. enjoyed less cluttered aisles and easier access to everyone and everything on the show floor.
In his opening remarks, the President/CEO of NAB Curtis Le Geyt hailed local broadcasters as “a leading voice in helping communities sort through a multitude of information and emotions, while striving to find common ground and common good” during the pandemic, civil unrest and extreme weather events. He urged Congress to “curb the ability to control Big Tech behemoths that are stifling the local news economy,” pointing to a 2021 study that “found local broadcasters lose about $2 billion a year when our content is accessible through Google and Facebook.” He added that “Google and Facebook control about 77% of locally targeted digital advertising” and encouraged Congress and the FCC to “take a fresh look at whether these decades-old regulations help or hinder competition in broadcast and media diversity.
The NAB Show is a destination for standards and political groups to announce their news. Terri Davies, the new chair of MPA’s Trusted Partner Network (TPN), outlined her plan for a complete change in the organization’s assessment program. With TPN now in the cloud (a trend elsewhere at NAB), the expanded Gold Standard streamlines assessor accreditation and provides a single standard, reducing the need for multiple security assessments. TPN has also added the Blue program, with supplier self-attestation and alternative certifications. “Security threats are becoming more insidious and sophisticated even as working in the cloud becomes the new normal,” Davies said. “TPN’s expanded program will… [make] it’s easier for service providers to meet security standards and for content owners to make more informed independent vendor selections from a more accessible and centralized source.
SMPTE Hollywood and the IMF (Interoperable Master Format) HPA Working Group also held a panel (which I moderated) describing the growing adoption of IMF as a standard for deliverables, offering best practices for workflows IMF working paper and describing the benefits for content owners. as technology and service providers.
On the ground, what has quickly become apparent is that technologists have spent the pandemic perfecting existing tools and creating new ones to enable trends such as remote workflows, shift to cloud , virtual production, automation and speed via machine learning/artificial intelligence and 8K. /12K and HDR (as well as an expanded color spectrum, with Baylor University’s 6P Color spin-off).
12 companies connecting the dots for remote workflows/production were the big winners of the NAB 2022 Best Product Award, with products from Vizrt Group, Net on Live, Cobalt Digital, studio Network Solutions, Bridge Technologies, TV Pro Gear, LiveU, Advanced Image Robotics, Chyron, ftrack, Panasonic and Nextologies .
Workflows included dailies with Colorfront launching its Colorfront streaming server, which it dubs “a cost-effective live streaming device offering color fidelity and real-time performance” for post-production. MTI Film, which offers digital film restoration, daily workflow and transcoding software, has introduced a frame rate converter in Cortex that will allow legacy content owners to remaster to and from any frame rate pictures; Cortex also packages IMF renditions for delivery.
Teradek has unveiled its Serv4K which is aimed at real-time 4K HDR workflows. It also automatically sends low-bandwidth, timecode-accurate 4K 10-bit HEVC proxies from many digital cinema cameras to Frame.io, to streamline dailies. Frame.io also introduced apps for Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Apple TV 4K; camera-cloud integrations with Filmic Pro (acquired by Adobe), Atomos, Viviana Cloud, FDX FilmDataBox and “a new native integration with FilmLight’s Baselight”. Teradek also launched its Prism Flex, a compact and portable multi-I/O H.264/H.265 encoder/decoder for streaming to any destination up to 4KHD.
Virtual production was another NAB theme, with the organization’s opening night taking place on the virtual production stages of startup Vu Studios, which also hosted a hugely popular location-based “Unreal Ride” in the lobby of Central Hall, made possible via Mark Roberts Motion Control (MRMC) set up with his Bolt camera, and the composite result displayed on a huge Vu LED wall. NAB attendees waited in a long line to have a ride seated on a propeller-powered motorcycle and, via virtual production, ride through a CGI cityscape. Other companies in the virtual production space included Mo-Sys, with its StarTracker system, and Brompton, which makes video wall controllers. Disguise, previously known for its live production work, has teamed up with LED solutions company Roe to show off the integration of its XR (extended reality) workflow with LED and camera tracking technology, as well as ‘Unreal Engine, to control production from a central software. Sony showed off its B-series Crystal LED display targeting virtual production, featuring two-pixel pitch sizes, anti-reflective coating, 170-degree viewing angles and a wide color gamut.
Very high resolution cameras were also very present. Sony’s VENICE 2 and Canon Cinema EOS R5 are both honored 8K cinema cameras with a nod at the NAB 2022 Top Product. Sony’s VENICE 2 features 8K and 6K full-frame sensors and is aimed at filmmakers. Canon’s Cinema EOS is the first to combine 8K moviemaking with the EOS R System’s 45-megapixel still photo capture at burst speeds of up to 20 frames per second; as such, the new camera is aimed at multimedia producers among others. According to Canon, the hybrid camera offers a high-resolution full-frame CMOS sensor, a DIGIC X processor and the RF mount.
Blackmagic Design introduced its own high-resolution camera, the URSA Mini Pro 12K camera featuring a new sensor with a native resolution of 12288×6480 for 80 megapixels per frame. The company claims its Super 35 sensor has 14 stops of dynamic range and a native ISO of 800. These household names weren’t the only companies showing off high-resolution digital cameras. Bosma, a Chinese home security company, launched three 8K cameras at NAB 2022: its G1 Pro camera/streamer; Broadcast Camera B1 and Camera G2 “soon to debut”. The G1 is based on a 4/3 inch CMOS sensor, with 33 million pixels, and uses an MFT lens mount with adapters for PL and EF lens types. At 8K, the G1 only offers 30p; at 4K, i5 delivers 60/30/25/24 fps. The B1 is for broadcasters. Bosma hasn’t released information on the G2 or camera pricing.
Machine learning/AI has been integrated into dozens and dozens of new and existing products, including many of those mentioned above. DeepBrain AI, which released its AI Studios platform at NAB 2022. Now available in beta, the AI Studios platform “streamlines the video production process by using cutting-edge AI video synthesis to create videos with humans ultra-realistic virtual. Prime Focus Technologies (PFT) has introduced its use of AI to automate the supply chain with its Clear product. Veritone uses AI for content and monetization in the metaverse; automate media workflows; access near-instantaneous diffusion measurements; and custom solutions, including media search and discovery, captioning, and MAM/DAM integrations.
Visilink introduced its IQ Sports Producer, an AI-enabled remote production solution for live sports production and broadcast; and its vPilot, an AI-based studio content production system that doesn’t require a cameraman/director team.
Machine learning/AI was also found in a handful of the show’s captioning and translation productions. Digital Nirvana’s Trance is a cloud-based SaaS platform that uses AI to automatically generate transcripts, create subtitles, and translate text in over 100 languages, with a user-friendly interface. The company said that “subtitles can be generated by presets to conform to style guides as required by digital publishers.” EEG Video and Ai-Media (which acquired EEG in April 2021) showcased their cloud-based EEG iCap, Falcon and Lexi Automatic Captioning solutions with Ai-Media’s captioning, transcription and translation.
VoiceInteraction, a spin-off from a university research center in Portugal, uses machine learning algorithms and deep neural networks for a variety of automated speech processing technologies. Aimed at the broadcast industry, its Audimus.Media operates 24/7 and offers automated captioning and machine translation in over 30 languages, with “customer-focused vocabularies and optimal integrations”. Interra Systems’ BATON is an automated, machine-learning/AI-enabled QC platform for VOD content in the cloud or on-premises, including caption QC and closed caption verification.
Although NAB offered fewer vendors than in pre-pandemic years, there were still 900, from around the world (with pavilions for the UK, France and South Korea, among others). In other words, too many companies and products for one reporter to cover. From my perspective, NAB 2022 showed that technologists have been busy throughout the pandemic producing products that have helped customers survive and thrive during the shutdown. They knew how to seize the opportunity and the end users will clearly benefit from it.