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2013 NAB Show Key Takeaways

Gencom's NAB show takeaways

1.    4K is here, with a whimper: At January’s Consumer Electronics Show, all the hype was around 4K displays – largely because the TV manufacturers are hoping that 4K or Ultra-High Definition (UHD) will reinvigorate sales the way HDTV did (and not the way 3D failed to do). Unfortunately the lack of 4K content creates a chicken-and-egg problem for the industry, and going into NAB we were interested to see what broadcast technology companies were doing to enable 4K production and distribution.
What we found is that a number of manufacturers have added features to support 4K resolution, and the tools now exist to create a respectable 4K workflow. However, these features weren’t what everyone was talking about. Pre-show marketing hype aside, customer interest was lackluster and it now seems that 4K support is just a box to be ticked. For those few of us that really appreciate the enhanced clarity and vivid detail that 4K offers, there will be increasing opportunities to produce and consume content in that format over the next several years. For most consumers, however, the value proposition of 4K content is just not that great; and we don’t feel that mass market adoption will happen anytime soon.

2.    Online video is growing up: In contrast, multiscreen content delivery was everywhere, and buzzwords like OTT, multiplatform, and adaptive bitrate are evolving into meaningful dialog about quality of service, monetization, and subscriber management. High Efficiency Video Coding was being demonstrated on a number of booths, and the efficiency gains are impressive. We saw HEVC (H.265) content at 2mbps that looked better than AVC  (H.264) content at twice that bitrate. On the average, content publishers should be able to save at least 30-40% on bandwidth while delivering the same or better quality than they do today.

3.    Connected Workflows are the Next Big Thing: One thing that was clear wherever you looked, is that with digital acquisition and multiscreen delivery becoming the norm, being able to automate workflows and connect different products together efficiently is essential. If baseband routers form the backbone of a broadcast operation today, the facility of the future will be built around workflow engines. There are numerous products out there today that will allow users to create intelligent workflows for dynamic routing of file-based content, including complex decision logic, automated notifications, and review/approval cycles. But these are often focused on one core piece of infrastructure, such as transcoding, MAM, or file delivery; and making sure these systems play well together, and managing them in a centralized way, is not a trivial prospect. Designing solutions that integrate workflows across the production chain is going to become increasingly important as IP takes a bigger role in broadcast operations.

4.    There’s a Cloud on the Horizon: Software-as-a-Service and cloud-hosted technology is increasingly making its way into broadcast environments, often when benefits of low upfront cost and ease of deployment outweigh concerns about security, reliability, and control. However the definition of “cloud” and the range of options available are evolving, and options such as SaaS services that utilize on premises hosting, and other “private cloud” models are gaining traction. More and more manufacturers are moving to embrace cloud-based deployment options, and broadcasters need to understand their options and what they really mean in terms of cost, risk, and ROI.


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