NAB DAY THREE WRAP UP: SES Americom goes mobile; Red Bee swarms in South Hall

In an SVG exclusive SES Americom’s Bill Squadron, SVP media partnerships and venture investments, says SVG members should stop by the SES booth and check out a new DVB-H based mobile TV service the company is demoing with Aloha Partners. The system is using local channels 54 and 59 to deliver 24 channels of full-motion video at 30 frames per second. Picture quality was stunning, allowing for tickers on a two-inch screen to be fully legible. Squadron can also share details on the new HD SNG service that SES Americom has launched to help networks fill in gaps in HD coverage.

A late addition to the NAB exhibitor slate is Red Bee Media, a company 1,400-people strong that handles all BBC playout services and also dominates next-generation sports graphics applications in Europe and is now looking to tackle the U.S. (the Piero telestrators technology will be used for MLS coverage this season). Their booth is located in the South Hall lower level between Starbucks and Quantel and will offer a number of new tools to help enhance sportscasts and distribution.

The EVS booth is, as always, crowded with leading sports broadcast clients but it’s also beginning to attract interest from those on the studio side of operations. Nicolas Bourdon, EVS marketing and communications director, says the company has been working with automation manufacturers and others to ensure its server systems can fit into studio and news operations. “We want to bring the industry’s most robust and reactive system into new markets,” he says. Also check out IP Director v. 4.0, which allows for shot logging when ingesting feeds and has a new playlist management system and Edit2Air, a new system developed for NBC that allows for XT[2] servers to be accessed for editing while playing out to air (or on a delay) without any interruption. EVS is also offering external storage for the XT[2] system on hot-swappable drives.

Digging into video and audio files prior to air to ensure audio levels are at proper levels is finally possible thanks to Dolby’s DP600 program optimizer. Dolby’s Rocky Graham says the system is an important product in an industry fast becoming file-based. “It will definitely make it easier to maintain audio consistency between channels and programs,” he says. Also check out a new system that takes output from Holophone’s 5.1 microphone and encodes it in Pro Logic 2.

Fujinon’s Dave Waddell gave us a look at the company’s new 88-times studio lens that is shorter and smaller than previous 88x lenses. The company also revamped its auto-focusing system to make it faster and more user-friendly for U.S.-based camera operators.

Sportscasters on the hunt for a single audio unit that can handle loudness control, upmixing, managing metadata and encoding Dolby Digital will want to check out Aeromax 5.1 from Linear Acoustic. Tim Carroll, Linear Acoustic founder, says the unit acts as a safety net to help pass the original audio quality all the way through the chain. The company also introduced the Lambda, a lightweight aluminum rack unit that can monitor metadata for up to 16 channels and lets users see if there are any problems like high loudness levels at a glance.

Apple’s booth has a number of interesting technology developments. Final Cut Server allows multiple users to work on a project collaboratively and is one $999 for up to 10 seats and $1,999 for unlimited. It doesn’t include any hardware but can create customized workflows and apply them to any project. Also impressive is new color correction software that can check color in 3D space and 3D compositing and animation in Motion and tracking of objects in realtime.

Battery manufacturer IDX is offering Endura Extreme, a new battery that delivers up to 10A@110W, providing the highest energy-to-weight ratio in the industry. It’s also compatible with all existing IDX Lithium-Ion chargers, has no memory effect and doesn’t sacrifice low temperature performance.

In T&M news Tektronix rolled out the PQA500 picture quality analyzer, a system that can be helpful in predicting the quality of a video signal as it is repurposed for delivery to multiple devices. Jon Hammerstrom, Tektronix senior manager, video field marketing, says it does comparative analysis between formats and compression levels so users can ensure the small-screen cellphone or PDA experience is a high-quality one.

Camera motion control shop Display Device’s decided to take a studio-quality projector for a ride. The Arvada, CO company showed a late-prototype model for the Pyxis Dynamic Display System at their booth in the South Hall. The unit mounts a professional single-chip, Epson projector on a spinning 360-degree tilt and pan head. The result is a programmable projection control system that can throw any image into any point in a studio. The system can hold 80 tracks and presets and will start $35,000.

Planer was displaying its Clarity SP70 multi-feed broadcast display unit. The system is a true 16 by 9, 1920 by 1080 display that can handle essentially unlimited monitor and graphics feeds. Better yet, the unit automatically white and color balances all its feeds automatically. Dan Wiggard, Southeast Zone Manager for Planer said the unit starts at $28,000

Hidden way in the back of the South Hall was the DynaScan: a neat cylindrical 360-degree LCD display. The unit is a working television in the shape of cylinder that rotates through space. Aimed primarily at the display industry, the prototype had 384 lines of vertical resolution, 2 million total pixels and was about 3 feet tall. Flicker will almost certainly be an issue as the unit refreshes vertically rather than horizontally, bit our hunch is some decent outboard timers could solve the problem. This very nice studio piece starts at about $15,000

Another South Hall find was P.I. Engineering. This small company specializes in custom-made human interfaces for the broadcast industry. Sports producers tired of poorly laid out switchers or redundant equipment controls might want to consider centralizing all controls one of their custom-made soft key controllers.

Adobe showed that it is looking to go head-to-head with Apple’s video ambitions. Adobe showed its new Adobe Media player and Adobe Creative Suite 3 production environments at its booth. The Adobe system is not a direct competitor to the Apple Final Cut suite of products, but it offers many powerful video editing and post-production tools which could be a nice desktop solution for niche sports production facilities looking for just a bit of video or graphics capability.

Speaking of post, there was much news in prepackaged effects. Companies such as Wondertouch, GenArt and RevisionFX showed stunning effects packages that are very affordable. Considering what we saw, most sports graphics effects are probably better done starting with a pre-built plug-in.

Here’s some interesting search news: One of the sleeper issues in emerging centralized workflow production environments will be search. It is almost a given that finding relevant material will be a hunt and peck affair. But a small company called Pictron had a nice product to meet that need. Their Media Gateway Suite uses label information as well as a mixture speech recognition, facial recognition, and other tools to catalogue video. Interesting stuff.

We liked what we saw from, the online training solution that presents production education in simple Web-based modules. The company claims it is adding teaching modules for television industry monthly.

CineForm has a really cool idea: master, edit and distribute your HD content on the Web. In a very impressive demonstration, the company showed a Web-based, HTML post production environment that required nothing more than a computer. Simply encode your dailies to their server and use state of the art post production environment via a browser to edit your clips and than distribute it from there. Very inte
resting idea.

A great show starts with a great script. Final Draft the screenwriting software people, had some interesting news for sports producers. Their Final Draft AV software. This latest riff on the classic film word processor is pointed squarely at the video production environment. Final Draft AV runs a nice two-column format that can be customized for most any script style. $199

And finally… again from Display Devices: The NapkinCAD. The ultimate in design development firmware. NapkinCAD offers effectively unlimited native resolution on a true 1×1 format. We tested the display in a 5.6 diagonal form factor and found the “PAPER” standard to be fully SMPTE, IEEE, MPEG, AAC, WMV compliant. Also tested out to be very handy for spills.

Holophone continues to amaze with its line of integrated one-piece mic arrays that deliver multichannel depth without the arduous effort usually involved in a full-blown surround setup. At NAB 2007, the H4 SUPER MINI is a must see alongside its bigger brothers, the H2 AND H3-D. The H4 is a camcorder-mountable system making for 5.1 run & gun shoots. The one-pound package outputs matrix-encoded stereo compatible with Dolby Pro Logic II and includes an auxiliary center channel XLR input for an interview handheld mic for stand uppers, a lav or a shotgun. Audio can be captured directly to a camcorder’s standard media. Multichannel monitoring is easy with the virtual surround headphone output. With battery life at 5+ hours with 4 standard “AA” batteries, it’s ready to go the distance. The pattern can toggle between full surround and “audio zoom” giving a directional effect without losing the sense of ambience. The H4 is really quite an unusual innovation and really needs to be experienced to be appreciated.

According to Beyerdynamic, their invention of a popular audio gadget known as a “headphone” some 84 years ago is now ready for new beginnings at NAB 2007. That means taking audio producers into the “Headzone” with its new portable 5.1 surround mixing system. The Headzone combines the headset, DSP/amp box and software to deliver the goods. Both the box and the headset have an antenna appendage that looks like a propeller you’d find on a beanie cap – serious geekware. The “spinney” doesn’t spin, but it enables the ultrasonic “headtracking” capabilities. As you turn your head, you move your point-of-reference through the three-dimensional audio field just as if you have a full-blown 5.1 speaker setup. The software utility shapes the audio space so producers can use it to emulate their standard studio geometry if they like, or create a novel soundspace to work in. The system also offers two headset choices, both open and closed-style, depending on how much external audio reality you want intruding on your own personal Headzone experience.

You can mark the “modern” era for the Olympic Games audio production as beginning in 1996 when Audio-Technica broke through the traditional “three mic” mindset that existed before. For NAB 2007, A-T has upgraded both the long and short versions of its shotgun mic line, the BP 4027 and BP 4029, for environmentally-friendly RoHS compliance. Also on display are the highly popular 4050 mics. There were literally ubiquitous at the Torino games with some 4,000 of them in play to create surround sound arrays. Beyond these “instant” classics, A-T is also showing the new 1800 series UHF wireless system for camera-mounted applications. The 1800 utilizes a true-diversity receiver design and comes packaged in numerous receiver/transmitter/mic combos to suit most any need.

Vinten displayed their new added features to the FHR100 Fusion range, their one-of-a-kind robotic camera. The new feature is a fully functional head that is lighter and gives the operator more control. Another feature was the FBH175S robotic pedestal. Both products are extremely cost effective and a benefit for a large crew of operators is not necessary to employ the technology. Also seen at the Vitec booth is the Artemis HD multi-format camera. Autoscript’s “VoicePlus”, a voice activated teleprompter that debuted last NAB has gone bi-lingual with Spanish support. And Vinten’s Protouch Pro6 HDV was also on display with improved three-step counter balance that can tilt 60 or 90 degrees.

EVS has a demonstration that describes how they equipped NBC with 18 XT (2) six channel HD servers and 37 IP Director logging and browsing stations. And EVS and Avid have recently joined forces to create Interplay, allowing cleaner workflow with the Avid Adrenaline and will move to a more file based storage system. Expect it to be used on the upcoming NFL season. 

Evertz a leader in display technology has unveiled the MVP 3D Video Processor with a portable mainframe. It goes for $3900 and was recently installed at Fox News, connecting up to 340 individual inputs. Evertz also added new routers and Dolby E audio.

SOS Global Express continues to be the one stop for domestic transportation. With improvements in tracking technologies SOS is in development in improving security for the many goods they send all over the country.

Over at Wohler Berne Pantaleon described the features of the Touch It technology. The original inception is 16:9, has 12 composite outputs and costs $5,100. Touch It Plus features also 12 video inputs but also includes 12 audio outputs and goes for $6,000. Both employ touch screen thumbnails on LCD screens. The newest addition to the family is Touch It Digital. It can go from a touch screen to a full-scale monitor for SDI sources and has 16 channels of SD-SDI inputs. This technology eliminates the need for CRT’s and benefits those who need to monitor multiple channels.

Lectrosonics MM400C waterproof transmitter is powered by a single AA battery, has an aluminum housing, and has a long 100mW RF range and is water resistant. Karl Winkler, Lectrosonics director of Business Development, said the transmitter can be used for fishing shows, and competitive swimming events.

Shure’s Sm89 shotgun mics are able the capture the dynamics of any sports moment. The mic closes in and captures important audio as does the Sm63 LB omni directional microphone. The shotgun microphone is $1,242, and the dynamic microphone is $225.

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