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Apr292016

Podcast #737: Highlights from NAB 2016

Faithful listener and long time contributor to the show Ed Stouffer graciously agreed to be our “man on the street” - or “man on the convention show floor” if you prefer, at this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas. The show just wrapped up, running from April 16-21. For those who aren’t familiar, NAB is the National Association of Broadcasters and the NAB Show is their annual gathering to see, learn about and talk about all the latest innovations in audio and video production, broadcasting and distribution.

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Highlights from NAB 2016

Faithful listener and long time contributor to the show Ed Stouffer graciously agreed to be our “man on the street” - or “man on the convention show floor” if you prefer, at this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas. The show just wrapped up, running from April 16-21. For those who aren’t familiar, NAB is the National Association of Broadcasters and the NAB Show is their annual gathering to see, learn about and talk about all the latest innovations in audio and video production, broadcasting and distribution.

 

TV Trends – some of my views from NAB 2016 show

Edward Stouffer

 

4K going wide and deep in the broadcast market with a big push to consumers building.

This has several components, so I will try to describe them, and what they mean.

Original Content. Several presentations talked about 35mm motion picture film stock having a native resolution right about 4K. Decent prints can be scanned with minimal cleanup. Older prints will take some work, just like what happened when HD versions of older material were released. As for new material, there was a general consensus that most mainstream content is moving to 4K capture or is already there. In many cases, the editing is either downconverted to HD or that is the export In the Canon “mega-booth” – which spanned 2 levels and had amateur, pro-am and professional cameras on display - they showed excerpts from several 4K movies shot partially or entirely in 4K, along with some TV episodes, such as “Homeland.”

Distribution. The net is that while broadcasts are not 4K today, 4K streaming via Amazon and Netflix will have more options as less work in the future is required when the original material is in better shape. As for fixed media, the UltraHD BluRay players have cracked the $500 price point, with the Samsung generating a lot of interest at $399. Christmas 2015, they were $5,000, so the start toward commodity is rapidly coming. Manufacturers I talked with showing the under-$500 players said they generally expect a $250 UHD BluRay player for Christmas 2016. Also, the manufacturers expected that most of the UHD BluRay players will support 4K clients for Netflix & other services, so consumers will also use them as streaming devices for 4K.

Broadcast. The chicken’s egg has hatched! ATSC 3.0 is the new specification and it includes support for 4K broadcasts, including HDR, 24-channel audio, etc. I talked briefly with a technical director for a major US network and they are actively looking for a pilot at one affiliate this year. As I understand the spec – not close to being a SME by any measure – it takes the equivalent of 2 HD digital channels for one broadcast, depending upon compression used. (The folks in the ATSC booth said twice that it only needed a single digital channel…using the prototype CODECs and laboratory environments.) The network I was talking with said their pilot will likely be an affiliate who has unused spectrum or who multicasts some additional channels who would be willing to interrupt that for the test period. To that end, I saw an LG TV set at the show with the first ATSC 3.0 chipset included. I read through the press briefings a bit and it looks like all major manufacturers announced either future models or lines with ATSC 3.0 shipping by Christmas.

Versions of 4K. HDR displays were everywhere. “Ultra HD Premium” was being promoted - as well as HDR branding - which includes HDR, WCG and other requirements for improved black levels and luminance. I asked Sony, Samsung and others about when we could see HDR for HD TVs, and as I expected, they seemed reluctant to talk about it, with one telling me it might hurt 4K sales. One manufacturer said it could cost between 25%-50% for “true HDR” on an UltraHD set. I asked what that meant, and he said that it really required the correct display, software and enough on-board CPU. To that end, he said some “lower tier” brands would say they offer HDR, but to look at their displays beside a top-tier manufacturer and there would be a big difference. I guess one test is to look at the new Vizio 50” 4K TV with HDR and see how that stacks up.

 

As much will be lost as made

There are a lot of big – and costly – bets being made on the future path and as some are against one another, they cannot possibly all succeed. I saw multiple DRM systems being advertised. While some use the same encryption standard, they are incompatible with each other, as things like key distribution infrastructures are sold as a whole system. One prediction I heard from an architect at a major encoding vendor was that “Netflix was the next MySpace.” Think about that for a moment: when is the last time you used MySpace? I asked for more and he said to compare what happened to HD-DVD. He said it was the better format, was cheaper to produce media, but when Sony flexed its muscle on content, it lost. So, he said, if one or more studios either raise prices on content to Netflix or deny it altogether in favor of any company, Netflix can get starved out.

 

Private Copy cDVR cannot stand

Private copy – having your own copy of a recorded show stored in the cloud - gets very expensive very fast. In Europe, shared copy is widely used. It allows a single copy to be recorded, with pointers to each customer who indicated the desire to “record” that content. You can cache shared copy. The technology to splice ads into playback of a DVR recording is already here, so a provider could either restore the original ads, insert new ones or do a hybrid per market, per customer. Now it’s a matter of the carriers/MSOs to stand up as a group and say they cannot afford to install exabytes of storage in support of private copy, as the US content owners are against shared copy generally. Ericsson estimates that each 100,000 customers using Cloud DVR require about 33 Petabytes of storage.

 

Line between TVs and Projectors continues to blue

I watched Leyard’s 31’ wide 8K TV and wanted to take it home. It was made of 64 panels, meticulously assembled. Not to be outdone, a new generation of short throw projectors is out, which allows them to be 2’ from the front of the screen and still do a 100” image. Also rear-projection versions of them exist. Epson has said they hope to get this down to 1’, which is getting close to putting a projector inside a closet or small recess behind the screen, rather than 5-8’ today.

 

3D still a novelty, sort of

One manufacturer was showing a 50” 3D no glasses TV. If you sat just right, 2 rows of 3 folks in the demo, it did look pretty good. If you did not, it looked distorted and made me dizzy. There has been at least one of these at every CES for the last few years, and while there’s a lot of consumer interest, going beyond the prototype has been the challenge. Sharp also showed a model, but didn’t give many details on price or availability. Since their business has essentially been sold, it’s unclear what the future of R&D is on items like this.

I also looked at the Nokia Ozo demo, which is a 360 degree camera (16 cameras on a sphere) designed to pair with VR goggles. I looked through a pair of Oculus Rift and was able to watch the live concert being held outside and noticed the soundstage moved around as I turned my head. The camera has a pretty high bitrate, so likely a high bandwidth satellite application, or it will light up the fiber to your home.

I also watched a higher-resolution movie where I went 40km up in a weather balloon with full 360 degree view and it was outstanding. For gaming and special events I could see wearing the goggles is compelling. For continual TV viewing, I think the “no glasses” TV is the only option, but they have to fix the viewing angle and price point.

 

Bit Rates Seesaw

When you try to take into account where bitrates are going, it is very much like a seesaw. Sony had this gorgeous display of compressed 4K sources being played. They said this was 4K with HDR at under 10 Mb/s using HEVC encoding. When I asked, they admitted this was multi-pass processed, and yes, this was not suitable for live TV. I further asked about what HDR was doing, and their answer was “well, if the source material gets bigger, then the output will too.”  To which I asked if the improvements in HEVC were offset by the HDR movement and they simply smiled at me. If 4K VOD goes there, it would be a big improvement for that, at least.

 

So what of 8K?

Commercial tests start in Japan on August 1 with the Olympics, with NHK expecting full deployment by 2018. NHK was showing a prototype camera, TV and projector. Besides the Leyard uber-tron, I spent some time looking at the 85” NHK OLED protype with a live feed and it looked pretty darn good. I pressed for a price target, but got nothing in return, except that it could be “millions of yen.” If it follows some of the early OLED and 4K, I predict a $100K entry price. I also sat through an 8K recording of a symphony with the NHK 8K projector, using 22.2 channel sound. While it was not the most dynamic content, the audio was good and 15’ from the screen, we could see the conductor’s individual hair and scratches in the wood stands.

Ikegami, not to be outdone, was showing both an 8K handheld and an 8K studio camera they said was in production. Canon showed 2 8K prototype studio cameras. This was my one disappointment with Canon: their 8K demo content was disappointing, not looking much better than 4K demos they showed.

For the US market, it looks like 8K will appear in large venues and in digital theaters. Sony said they were working on 8K cinema systems with theaters now, and they believed this would become the new standard within 18 months for new installs and upgrades. With commercial large-venue 4K projectors starting around $125K today, this will not come cheap. NHK also had a demo 8K streaming and believes they can get it down to 33 Mb/s by commercial launch.

 

Drones

Drones were also in the house. In fact, they were a good part of an entire pavilion. Also, there were some spread throughout the main venues. These went from the smaller, entry-level products to big ones that looked like they belonged to SkyNet. I asked about the price on one of the bigger ones – 6’ across, 8 rotors and a full-on commercial 4K camera cradled by it. The response I got was that it was “price upon request.” I said, “OK, I’m requesting the price.” The guy rolled his eyes at me and said $26,000 plus shipping. I asked further why 26K, and he pointed and said, “See that camera and lens? That’s $150K and 11 pounds sitting there, and we don’t want our drone to drop it or crash. We hand assemble and test each component, including making sure that this will autobalance if one of the rotors fails.” OK, a $26,000 for a $150,000 camera – I guess I get it.

There was also this crazy off-road vehicle with caterpillar treads and a 360 degree arm with a camera mount. I asked what this beast cost, and the answer was, “up to $325,000, if you want the armored version.” OK, an armored version. I had to ask. He said, “If you’re out in a place such as Afghanistan and are filming and this thing comes over the ridge, it can look like an assault vehicle to the locals. They often shoot first and ask questions later. We can only protect the camera so much since it needs a lens opening, but if you lose the vehicle, you certainly lose the camera.”

 

A few more manufacturer notes

Black Magic couldn’t be missed, even if you wanted to. They had large display ads and a good-sized booth by the doors. Much closer to what I could afford, their 4K cameras started at $1,300 and they had a number of companion products, including an SD card replicator they said would “change 4K distribution.” I had to ask: how, exactly. They said this 1RU unit would create 24 duplicates for 4K, so if you shot a wedding at 4K, you could give the guests an SD card when they left. …Now I’m not sure about the listeners, but most of my video needs editing, so I don’t think I’d shoot video and pass it out right away…. I admired one of their displays of their slightly more expensive camera as it looked fabulous – but then the guy next to me, who was professional cinematographer, said, “Look closer at the display – that’s the Dolby at $40K each. My bad takes look pretty good on that…!”

 

Epilogue

I ended up going last-minute, and I do wish I had more than 48 hours to prepare. But after sore feet from walking the massive displays, I also wish I had a bunch of discretionary money to buy some of the items on display. CES may be more appropriate for the average end-customer, but the NAB show sures gives some insight into what is coming and exposes the production side of film and video. I did get to meet and listen to some directors, editors and broadcast engineers talk about their side of the business. 21 years ago, I attended the Western Cable Show and remember going to the launch party for The History Channel. The show was all about coax versus satellite, large systems versus small systems, and who owned which sports content. Last week, looked very different: it was all about new advances in digital TV, mobile video, the continued decline of filmed productions…. I don’t think it will take anything close to 21 more years to see dramatic changes, and a redefinition of what a “broadcaster” is.

 

 

Download Episode #737

Reader Comments (2)

The pay one price model for TiVo has been available for some time - I dare say forever. In the past, it was called a Lifetime Subscription and I have had it on my Roamio since I purchased it a year or so ago.
Roamio is a great DVR and a pretty good set top box. It has the most popular apps as well as a few less popular ones. It is easy to swap out the hard drive for a larger one. I have a 3 TB drive in mine and only use 1/3 of it.
IMHO, TiiVo's biggest problem has been marketing. TiVo is what makes cutting the cord possible for a lot of us. It lets us watch what we want, when we want to watch it.
It was released this afternoon that the have been purchased by Rivo. We'll see if they can get people understanding why TiVo is a better option for a lot of people.

April 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBill C

Hi Guys,

The video recording on vinyl was Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitance_Electronic_Disc

I remember discussing this at school in the 1960s but was told it could never be done recording video on to an LP like audio. Guess I had to wait until the 1980s for it to appear.

Now do you want to know my theory of time travel :-)

May 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul W

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