Beyond the A’s and B’s of NAB

There’s a whole big world out there in post-production-land, and most of it is pretty awesome.

When I headed to the NAB Show last week(ish), part of my (personal) mission was to learn a little more about companies I didn’t know much about. Not just ask someone or read some Wikipedia stuff, but actually get to know what their missions are in post-production right now. I found that if I just went up to an industry peer and asked about Grass Valley, they’d give me a bit of “oh, they’re still around?” I mentioned to someone that I had just been to a Quantel press conference and they quipped something about how the six people that use their stuff will be happy to see the updates.

Clearly this isn’t the case. At NAB, these two companies have two of the biggest, most prominent booths. They’re doing big business at the show but more importantly for the world of post overall, one way or another. And there are others too, like Vizrt and NewTek (who are working together on some pretty cool graphics stuff that you’ve probably seen in use) — prominently standing out on the exhibit floor that is entirely dedicated to post-production. But beyond the NAB bubble, these kinds of companies are the ones that run the backbone of post-production facilities and broadcast and live production and all sorts of other unsexy-on-the-surface stuff.

Beyond the surface, they’re doing some awesome stuff and they have been for a while. I know a lot of us don’t deal with these areas of post because we’re editors and cinematographers and freelancers. But it’s all in the same universe, and that means that these technologies can trickle down into our neck of the woods someday and solve some of our problems. And having a broader scope of the world is only a good thing for all of us.


Covering a lot of ground at NAB requires maximum comfort: dresses and sneakers.

For example, most of us are looking at NLEs and some cameras — 2K, UHD, HDR, 4K, all that stuff. We’ve been introduced to the idea of collaborative timelines in Resolve, cloud-based editing in Avid, 4K GPU debayering in Premiere. This is some of the top-billed stuff in these releases, and rightfully so. It’s freakin’ awesome stuff and it’s exciting for us to get our hands on it. It changes our every day right now.

But look a little further and see what’s already been happening. Grass Valley is providing Japan’s KTV with a full 4K editing system right now (with support for 8K later, 8 flipping K.) That means the news station is using EDIUS for real time 4K editing with Grass Valley’s HQX codec, which allows for super high resolution video with dramatically improved editing response time. And if you didn’t hear, Japan plans to actually be broadcasting 4K this summer, two years earlier than expected. And 8K broadcast is even being pushed forward, with NHK demonstrating their 8K playout at NAB and other trade shows. So while we’re discussing the validity of having 4K in the home at all, Japan is doing its thing — its thing being trying really hard to beat South Korea at technological advancements. Maybe we need a “friendly” rival again.


Grass Valley also had an interesting booth at NAB. If you’re gonna have live models on display, may as well make ’em fight.

Quantel’s Genetic Engineering 2 allows editors to open any project in any room (or multiple rooms) to work. And that’s a “2″ meaning it’s the second version because Genetic Engineering was first introduced in 2007. With GE2, a bunch of Pablo, eQ and/or iQ stations share a “GenePool” — shared storage — and that allows real time sharing of projects and guaranteed playback of multiple high resolution media streams, as well as other non-creative tasks at the same time. I don’t mean project sharing so much as having multiple editors working on the same clip in different rooms. The first version supported stereoscopic 3D and 4K, and did I mention this was in 2007? I was still editing mostly standard definition stuff in 2007. The updates at NAB added some new stuff, including 6K playback from disk to 4K outputs. Light Iron has finished at least 4 6K DI sessions with this stuff. That is bananas to me.

Post-production and technology consulting companies like Digital Film Tree are building their own proprietary cloud-based editing systems that are in use on television and film today, and not in an experimental way. Five years ago (yeah, in 2009), they partnered with Rackspace to work toward realistic cloud-based collaboration and sharing because the old Hollywood ways of looking at dailies were getting super inefficient and way costly, especially when you consider a show might be shooting 50TB of stuff a day. Instead of pushing around a bajillion terabytes of content through a bigger, more expensive pipe or grabbing more storage, they’re designing private clouds for studios powered by OpenStack to manage content sharing and collaboration. “Cloud” was a buzzword at NAB this year and lots of people are adding it to their products (or at least their product marketing), but Digital Film Tree has already been improving their own actual clouds all this time.

And I mentioned how NewTek and Vizrt are working together on some cool stuff. Vizrt makes tools to create the real-time 3D graphics and maps you see on CNN, CBS, NBC, pretty much all major US broadcasters — you probably watch football, yeah? The graphics are from Vizrt tools. Not football? How about the last presidential election? NewTek’s TriCaster (for live multicamera productions) can now integrate with Vizrt, meaning all those complex graphics can now be managed by one person and used on mobile production trucks, along with NewTek’s replay system (3Play). This means a lot more scalability for different live productions. Like, your next college football game might have a significant jump in production value.


From A to B, all the way to V..izrt.

Even though I’m not going to be using Pablo anytime soon and I’m not managing dailies on a 6K studio feature (yet), these are all fascinating updates. These are global workflows that are touching a lot of people in some way, and as they get to be old news, my NLE seems to inherit them. Some stuff changes my every day right now, but the bigger picture gives a glimpse of what my future looks like — either my current NLE or maybe a jump into something new.

I think this is especially important to mix up the usual conversation about post. So much of the discussion is dominated with regurgitating old debates or evaluating a product based on the old, trusted ways. The trusted is becoming obsolete, if it isn’t already. While some are going in circles, looking for anything in a press release to confirm their bias, the rest of the world of post has moved on to bigger and better things.

I found a lot of cool stuff at NAB this year, but I think the most important discovery wasn’t an anecdote about 8K broadcast, but rather the world beyond the companies that start with A (or B). It doesn’t change what I do in my edit room tomorrow, but it makes me optimistic for the future of my career: longevity, security, and a whole bunch of flippin’ sweet technology to play with.

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