Niclas Hallgren, Technical Operations Manager, Institutionen för Kultur och Media, Arcada UAS
I have been lucky to be able to attend the NAB conference and show for over 10 years – and I am constantly struck by how much the industry is changing, especially now. It is amazing how much you learn in a few days and how we can use those trends to benefit our education in the Culture and Media Department at Arcada UAS.
Take a look at this short video to better understand what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA0rpfQuwc0 (External link). If you are interested about the future of the industry, I recommend that you look at the videos from nabshow.com (External link) in this blog.
What is trending and what was new at this year’s NAB
The SMPTE ST 2110 standard (IP based workflow) is coming as more vendors start to have compliant products to offer. The problem is that it is still very expansive and requires a lot of bandwidth – and it also requires broadcast engineers who really know how IP networks and protocols work.
With IP based workflows, production moves more towards software. There are already many software based production tools available. Some companies are looking for ways to not own hardware, they are looking to rent, hire or subscribe to SaaS (Software-as-a-service) as this is the new way to do production. This might become problematic for traditional vendors as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud increase services normally used in broadcast. All the above already offer different kinds of broadcast related services and more are coming.
4K and HDR (high dynamic range) is the standard for new cameras, but there are still problems with delivering 4K all the way to our homes. Still there are only 142 channels globally (Eutelsat 10/2018) broadcasting 4K and 55 of them are in Europe.
Over-the-top (OTT) media services is gaining market. OTT revenue is expected to rise 35% in North America in 2019 according to The Convergence Research Group (http://www.convergenceonline.com/reports.php (External link)). This results in a decline in U.S. TV subscribers: -3.66 million 2017, -4.01 million 2018 and the prediction for 2019 is -4.56 million. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are dominating but many others are on the rise and much is expected from Disney’s new streaming service Disney Plus starting in November. To describe the speed that for example Netflix is growing at, you need to know that they moved from own servers to the Amazon AWS cloud a few years ago because they can’t build servers as fast as they are needed. For viewers the switch to OTT is largely due to the convenience to be able to watch what you want wherever you are, but also the possibility to get better quality than broadcast TV (4K and HDR) when watching on a large screen at home.
5G technology was almost everywhere at this year’s show. It promises low-latency fast connections that enables everything from viewers to download a HD movie in seconds and autonomous vehicle to remote surgeries. In many booths 5G was mentioned as the saver for future productions. From reducing the overall carbon footprint of traditional OB productions to new monetizing models. The future will tell if it is just hype or if there are real benefits. In the session “5G Is the Future… Or Is It?” a group of industry experts share their thoughts: https://www.nabshow.com/video/5g-futureor-it (External link)
New for this year was the “Esports Experience” in the North Hall, an interactive area that showcased the latest in gaming, including branding, monetization, streaming, in-game camera systems etc. According to Newzoo, a global provider in games and esports analytics, the global esports audience will reach over 453 million viewers this year. The expectation is that this will be the first billion-dollar year as companies are focusing on monetizing the audience. The session “The Esports Evolution: What’s Next in Gaming” will go deeper into why esports is taking the world by storm and what opportunities there are for content creators and brands: https://www.nabshow.com/video/esports-evolution-whats-next-gaming (External link)
The #MeToo movement had found its way into the halls of the NAB Show and a session on the Main Stage called “Content Creation & Coverage in Today’s Evolving Industry” talks about how the industry has changed. The session is available here and it is a really interesting to hear how women have experienced the industry: https://www.nabshow.com/video/content-creation-coverage-todays-evolving-industry (External link)
Mobile video is on the rise. LumaFusion (iOS) showcased a new version for editing on the mobile/tablet that actually seems to work quite well, take a look at the presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhuUPj8rmJs (External link). Filmic Pro (iOS and Android) brings professional video capture functionality to your mobile phone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xWuWHKDQBY (External link). Filmic Pro also now also supports the Movi Cinema robot which is a handheld gimbal for mobile phones. It stabilizes the phone to give you smoother video, presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_pyIYxUocQ. (External link) As the phones and tablets gets better cameras many broadcasters and news agencies have been switching from cameras to mobiles. This software makes it possible to produce high quality videos, but as with real cameras if you do not know your tools, the end result can and will be pretty bad.
This year there was a drastic change in the presence of VR and drones compared to earlier years, just a few companies talked about either. Augmented Reality (AR) however was still big in many booths, and the quality of the render engines had massively changed from earlier years.
Sessions and education by the industry experts
This year I concentrated on session around AI and machine learning (ML). Today AI is integrated in many products and still used for automation (not yet replacing people). The 4 sessions I attended covered transforming TV with AI, use cases in media companies, realizing the promise of AI and how to integrate AI in workflows. To be able to use AI more effectively it still needs to taught by humans. For AI to be able to work it needs large datasets of labeled data. This has to be done by humans and it is time consuming and costly. It is also difficult to archive with high accuracy. As an example, Amazon has a service called Amazon Mechanical Turk that is based on crowd working. You can upload your data and tell the service what kind of labels you want, then people around the world can do the labeling for you and get paid. Of course, you can also signup as a labeler and get paid for the work you do. There is also open source software that can be used by many for tasks like image, people and object recognition as well as speech-to-text. Amazon’s service also reports the confidence of the labels and that plays a big role as most companies do not accept labels with a confidence below 90% some even require 100% when used to identifying objects in pictures.
Another company presented how they are using AI to improve the quality of streaming content. By constantly communicating with the video player about the quality received, the encoder can make changes to the encoded stream to be able to deliver the best available experience for the viewer.
Also new this year was the BMD Training booth with 18 seats where you could get free DaVinci Resolve training directly on the show floor. Different trainers held one hour sessions for different parts of the software.
What would NAB be without the latest in technology
So many products were on display that it is impossible to cover them all but very interesting products were presented by Rode and Deity. Both presented new wireless microphones that utilizes the free 2.4GHz (WiFi) band. The interesting thing here is that they are now using adaptive frequency hopping that is searching for and jumping to the best frequency all the time. Both Rode and Deity demo-ed the microphones at NAB known to have a lot of wifi base stations and phones, and still the audio was perfect. The microphones are meant for smaller productions as only 8 can be in the same area at the same time. Rode Go review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG_n8SsM2YI (External link) and Deity Connect here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9PIYvLvhlU (External link)