There was a time not too long ago when NAB show attendees tended to arrive on the show floor with only one or two fields of specialty represented in their shopping lists. Audio engineers spent every waking moment patrolling the Radio Hall exhibits; and shooters hung out among the tripods, dollies and grip stands, never glimpsing the scores of other disciplines represented at the show.
For many, the days of tightly focused specialties are distant memories. Whether driven by staff cuts and austerity programs, or simply motivated by the ubiquity of today’s technology, more and more attendees want — and need — to expose themselves to a variety of crafts. And there’s one place they all seem to be headed: to the dozens of hardware and software exhibitors who specialize in television graphics.
For broadcasters, long seen as the show’s key constituency, the graphics hardware and software shown at the NAB Show this year will undoubtedly play to several industry hot topics. In the shorter term, it’s hard to ignore the impact that the 2008 U.S. election cycle will have on local, regional and network television — and graphics developers are ready to support that coverage. Even basic character-generator packages boast add-ons, which support and facilitate results reporting; and at the higher end, powerful graphics processors augment their virtual set capabilities with direct data inputs, which turn votes into visuals.
Looking forward just a few more months, broadcasters are anticipating that the February 2009 switch to all-digital transmission will have resulted in viewers’ upgrades of their aging CRTs for new, attractively-priced LCDs and plasma displays. That’s sure to bring upgraded expectations, too — for pristine, high-definition broadcast graphics, even for the humblest of local stations. The good news: Graphics developers have spent the last few years hotrodding the performance of CGs at all levels, and almost any graphics equipment upgrade will be noticed by a broadcaster’s newly upgraded audience.
For many years, the “elephant in the living room” at the NAB shows was the immense popularity of the confab among nonbroadcasters — the video production community at large. Today, that elephant has been acknowledged and legitimized and pushed squarely into the limelight.
Production professionals attending the NAB Show are true jacks-of-all-trades, accustomed to shooting, editing, mixing and animating in the course of producing content. For them, visiting the many graphics hardware and software exhibitors takes on a true sense of urgency; the show is a one-stop opportunity to be educated and updated on technologies and trends, and a competitive edge can be gained by merely touring the exhibits.
3D animation software, once the province of specialized animation houses, has become a staple of the graphical toolkit, as artists, editors and animators look to 3D to supplement traditional “flat” television imagery. And compositing, formerly relegated to specialized, suite-based graphics processors, has found new life with the emerging popularity of multicore, multiprocessor desktop computers, which handle even complex high-def sequences with ease.
Even the seemingly smallest fish in the graphical sea — the humble software plug-in — has a safe haven on the NAB exhibit floor. Clustered into a single Plug-In Pavillion (SL2128E), developers who might never otherwise have reached the show’s 100,000-plus attendees have an opportunity to interact with their intended user base.