Archive for the ‘NAB’ Category

The State of Network Broadcasting Examined

It would appear to the casual viewer that TV broadcasting and the cable universe remains virtually unchanged in the past decade.  The Nets have enjoyed a virtual monopoly in terms of spectrum allocation by the government.  Cable and Satcasters offer (ho-hum) identical products and services much in the way consumers get to decide over Coke versus Pepsi. Sure the picture quality has improved remarkably when we made the leap to Hi definition, however with the exception of terrestrial broadcasting which is still free, the cost of receiving those transmissions has gone up.  Way up. But what about the choices? Not only does the typical consumer want to maintain the number of choices of programming (despite the wasteland of info-mercials and paid programming), and they are willing to shoulder the added costs of premium services and HD channels, but they also wish to “time-shift” using their DVR’s and eliminate or fast-forward through the commercials.  They also want to watch on a myriad of new devices including iPads and other mobile devices (even inside the home). In other words if they are forced to pay more, then they expect more.

Two separate lawsuits are winding their way through the courts that address these issues.  The first is over AEREO, the start-up created by Barry Diller which allows the consumer to re-transmit local TV stations through the installation of tiny antennae connected to their computer. A U.S District Court Judge recently refused broadcasters requests to issue a preliminary injunction. Copyright experts would argue that this is tantamount to theft and that television re-transmission requires payment to the broadcasters. Comcast, Dish TV and DirecTV among others would argue that this amounts to unfair competition and it is. But I would posit that the consumer doesn’t care as to who is providing the signal, but they are certain to feel it in their pocketbook. The consumer understands by now that it is the convenience of watching, whenever and wherever they choose to that is paramount and if it costs that much less then that is the added bonus.

‘A la Carte cable programming has been given lip service by congress but no real progress has been made in the last decade. Eyebrows were raised on the recent sale of the Dodgers to a consortium for several billion dollars and questions asked as to how many cable and satellite subscribers would have to pay to subsidize this enormous deal even if they never watch a game on TV. Add to that the erosion caused by Hulu, Roku, Netflix and other streaming services, not to mention the illegal torrents.  You would think the broadcasters would be running scared and I believe they are. So what do they do? They seek relief through the courts to protect their monopoly.

Case in point is the new HOPPER system offered by Dish Network, that automatically removes the commercials that have ben recorded on your DVR.  Who doesn’t want that feature?  In U.S. District Courts in both New York and Los Angeles, Dish is in litigation with Fox, CBS and NBCUniversal who claim that their revenue base from advertising will be eroded and that re-transmission does not allow for editing of programs to exclude commercials.

Two previous landmark decisions may provide the precedent to allow Dish to continue offering HOPPER.  Most recently was the Cablevision case in 2008 which allowed for re-transmission of programming from Cablevision’s servers. The second and most profound case was the advent of the VCR back in the seventies:

“We look forward to proceeding with this case, recognizing that it has been 28 years since the Supreme Court’s ‘Betamax’ decision held that a viewer, in the privacy of their home, could record a television show to watch later,” Dish lawyer R. Stanton Dodge made in a statement. “The Court ruled that ‘time-shifting’ constituted a fair use of copyrighted television programming. Those Betamax users could permissibly fast-forward through commercials on recorded shows – just as DVR users do today. Dish will stand behind consumers and their right to skip commercials, something they have been doing since the invention of the remote control.”

It is fair to say that innovation will always win out over protectionism and it behooves the providers to come up with more convenience and better choices. The consumers demand it.  Once video made the leap to computers and hand-held devices then the genie was out of the bottle. Networks and providers will hopefully adapt or change their business plans (let the demise of the traditional music labels be a lesson) and if it results in less clutter of advertising or lower costs to the consumer then we all win.

- Scott Arundale


Has Apple dumbed down FCP X or is this a step up?

Apple just introduced a new version of Final Cut at the Final Cut Pro Supermeet during NAB 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Touted as “revolutionary as the first version” from 1999, Apple introduced the new Final Cut Pro X saying that every major broadcaster and film maker nowadays relies on FCP for their video editing needs.

Basing on live updates coming from attendees at NAB 2011, Final Cut Pro X has been built from scratch, and it’s entirely 64-bit. It’s based on technologies like Cocoa, Core Animation, Open CL, Grand Central Dispatch and it focuses on image quality. It features a resolution independent timeline up to 4K for scalable rendering — in fact, it appears the old render dialog is gone entirely as the app uses the available CPU to keep files always rendered. FCP X allows you to edit while you’re importing thanks to its new engine, and it’s also got automatic media and people detection on import, as well as image stabilization.

Apple is promoting the new FCP X as a complete and total rebuild. Smart collections look very similar to iMovie, and overall there is a feeling Apple has borrowed some UI elements from the iLife application to make the general design more accessible, even for professionals. For instance, Apple has brought “single keystroke nesting” to Final Cut Pro — a new functionality that allows you to group chunks of media into a single clip in the timeline.  The “inline precision editor” allows you to make edits by revealing media with an iOS-like menu.


It’s possible that the GUI is more user friendly and the functionality has improved but based on the comments and features presented today the jury is still out as to whether or not FCP will be going head to head with the competition.  This means that ease of use may or may not improve functionality but instead lowers the playing field for all the non-editors out there.  I am all in favor of making editing easier but the roll-out today suggests a beta experience that does little to assist the professional editor in cutting a long form project.  Feels like a step backward on the time/space continuum and I always get a little queasy when the word iMovie is mentioned in the same breath as Final Cut.

-Scott Arundale

UPDATE 4.13.11

Upon watching the demonstration in full, I got the impression there were some shills in the audience shouting their appreciation for the new features.

Now that calmer minds prevail let’s look at the upside.  Instant nesting with a single keystroke. Easy keyword features. Better sync and collision options. Automatic color grading, stabilization and background rendering.  Excellent use of the 64 bit engine.  But all of this suggests Apple is more interested in the young editor cutting short form trailers than the longform editor trying to cut a feature, nevermind the hapless assistant who must keep it together.  Much of the work that FCP is trying to achieve is normally the work of the assistant but they pre-suppose that the editor is working solo.  Pity that editor if they don’t have a second pair of hands to help him or her.  I’m all in favor of having the machine do the work.  I’m ready as an Apple Certified Trainer to go back to school and re-learn how to cut faster and easier.  What I loved about FCP is that copy and paste makes it easy to move stuff around.  Apple has made it even “easier”, but again requires a new mindset i.e it takes more thought and fewer keystrokes to achieve the same thing.  If this is the future than I am in.  But it begs the question: who is the target audience for this product?  Surely not the Hollywood narrative professional.  Instead the trailer/bumper/extreme sports crowd may find these new features useful.  For improved storytelling techniques, the jury is still out.


Sony and Panasonic go head to head with 3D cameras and displays

Stereo 3D is becoming almost mundane in its ubiquity with virtually every company of note in the video space touting product which is capable of acquiring, recording, managing, manipulating, delivering or viewing 3D in some fashion. Sony and Panasonic showed off their new 3D camcorders a the National Association of Broadcasters show here on Sunday.

Cost remains the biggest Cost remains the biggest Cost remains the biggest impediment to production and Sony and Panasonic, both of whom have vested interests in 3DTV channels (3Net and DirecTV’s n3D) and a strategy to sell more 3D displays to consumers, are preparing to ship new inexpensive – and uncomplex – camcorders aimed at putting 3D production in the hands of any professional.

Indeed, by the year end both companies will have professional shoulder-mounted and semi-pro handheld integrated 3D camcorders on the market.

Panasonic’s handheld version (the AG-3DA1) is already out and will be joined in the fall with a second integrated 3D camcorder, this time with a larger imager recording to Panasonic’s memory card format P2. This unit, the AG-3DP1, is intended for use in live productions, sports, independent films and documentaries.

Panasonic claims this shoulder-mounted camera can record 80 minutes of stereo in 10 bit AVC intra to twin 64Gb P2 cards. It contains two 1/3”, 2.2 3MOS sensors. By contrast its predecessor contained 2.7 megapixel chips and records to SD cards.

Panasonic’s shoulder mount will vie for market attention with Sony’s version, which is due out at around the same time. First shown in prototype last September, the PMW-TD300 3D camcorder features a twin optical lens equipped with three ½-type CMOS sensors.

Also shipping this summer from Sony is a compact 3D XDCAM camcorder intended for videographers, events and corporate videos. The HXR-NX3D1 incorporates two ¼-type CMOS sensors, twin 10x zoom lenses and an internal flash memory of 96GB to enable around 7.5 hours of 3D recording.

Panasonic said its 3DA1was finding favour as a training tool at film schools and sports facilities, including at Florida State for college football.

An eye-catching use of the camcorder will be aboard the final mission of NASA’s shuttle Atlantis this June, during which astronauts will use it to document the International Space Station and experiments in orbit.

At CES earlier this year Sony, Panasonic, and JVC all announced consumer-friendly still imaging and digital video stereo cameras as they seek to create a groundswell of interest and even user generated content in the 3D format. The cameras announced at NAB are a step up in terms of professional ergonomics and imaging quality. Nonetheless there are many critics of such single-bodied twin lens cameras who argue that the fixed interaxial distance between the lenses hampers 3D capture of events, particularly when capturing close ups.


NVIDIA Demonstrates Online 3D Streaming

NVIDIA Demonstrates Online 3D Streaming.

I saw a similar demonstration at NAB at the Microsoft booth with a live stream from a German TV station.  My experience was less than stellar.  The difference between viewing a 3D game and watching a live human seated behind a desk is considerable.  If you are talking about eye candy then gaming wins by far.

If you want to test drive the Nvidia, check out your local Fry’s Electronics.

Filmlight makes waves with affordable 3D Grading Tools

At NAB 2010, Filmlight had a warm reception for it film scan, color grading and 3D management tools having recently been awarded four Sci-Tech Oscars from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. “Baselight provides the broadcast TV-focused post facility with tools and capabilities previously only available in much higher-priced systems,” said FilmLight commercial director Peter Stothart.

Perhaps Filmlights innovative toolset will also be recognized at the International 3D Society Awards to be presented October 5th. They will be honoring technological innovations in the 3D medium at the historic Roosevelt Hotel which happens to be where the first academy awards were handed out in 1929.

RED Digital Cinema: NAB 2010

Despite the hassle at the door, one Red User got in and provided valuable insight as to the future of Red and it’s lightweight iteration, Epic.

“No 3D Cheese Please”, sez former Mouse House Katz

“If you are asking people to pay a premium price, you better deliver” said Jeffrey Katzenberg in his hastily arranged address to the National Association of Broadcasters at their annual convention in Las Vegas.  The consensus among blogsters is that 3D has arrived (or rather returned after a very long hiatus) thanks to the tireless efforts of Mr. Katzenberg.  But he reminded the industry that this is not necessarily a done deal.

In earlier comments, Katzenberg has been highly critical of cheap 2D to 3D conversions such as the recent release of Clash of the Titans, which took 8 to 10 weeks to quickly deliver.

Katzenberg noted that  a successful conversion done the right way may take up to 18 months and cost a minimum of $20 million. “Not everyone is going to have the resources to do it right.”

Sports and gaming will be the early drivers in the home” said Katzenberg suggesting that TV audiences are more forgiving when it comes to quality.

Example of a 3D Broadcast Rig

James Mathers of DCS talks to Larry Thorpe about the use of Canon lens in 3D production

Katzenberg to speak at NAB today at 2pm

You must give the man credit for pushing exhibitors to add 3D screens. We might not be where we are today if he had not insisted that all new animated features be released in both 2D/3D. But he brings a cautionary note to the proceedings.

Moderator: David Wertheimer, CEO and Executive Director, Entertainment Technology Center at University of Southern California.

Experts warn: Too much 3D can make you sterile

After attending the Digital Summit this weekend, I hate to admit this but my eyes are still sore.  I wouldn’t say that I overdid it but after on-again off-again viewing of content using the Panasonic active shutter glasses and the RealD’s (not to mention that guy who keeps popping his strobe camera off every few minutes in the dark) my vision is slightly toasty.

Like Olympic athletes,  perhaps we need to start training before these events.

On Monday, my first stop was the Autodesk booth where expert colorist, Kent Pritchett demo’d the 3D Lustre software using the luxuriant Dave Matthews concert footage that he graded recently.  He reports that hours spent in front of a the 3D console (only when wearing the glasses) may have to be reduced by 50% due to eye strain and fatigue.

UPDATE 5.07.10

Broadcast Engineers chime in on this possible health threat.

UPDATE 4.17.10

Remember when Nintendo released one their Pokemon movies back in 1997 and later withdrew it because one of the strobe sequences caused epileptic seizures in kids and small animals?  Well now Samsung has issued a warning about their stereo displays.  Being forewarned is forearmed and reduces threats of lawsuits.

“Viewing in 3D mode may also cause motion sickness, perceptual after effects, disorientation, eye strain, and decreased postural stability.”

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