At the April 25 meeting...

News from NAB

New formats, old companies come under discussion

By Russell Whittaker

On April 25 WBZ kindly hosted out monthly meeting. Phil Ozek moderated a review of this year's NAB. (There was no May meeting.) As with the exhibition, there wasn't enough time to do justice to the many products and trends that were at NAB. Nonetheless, some of our most prominent members attempted to do just that. The Panel included Wilson Chao of Cambridge Television Productions, Bob Turner of Videography Magazine, Bob Doyle of New Media Magazine, Bob Hess of WBZ-TV, Bob Poulson of Omnimedia Communications, and Marty Polon, Audio Engineer.

The meeting started with a short video shot by Wilson and Phil at the exhibition. this was followed by Wilson's questioning of the future for companies that don't make silicon or the software to control it. This brave new world will be dominated by the heavy hitters.

Not surprisingly, the machinations of the largest companies were the first to be covered as the strategy of Sony (Beta SX) and rival Panasonic (DVC-PRO) were debated. Occasionally the technical features of these products were discussed. Yet, it became clear that at this stage, the marketing efforts of Panasonic and Sony have made a bigger impression than their engineering departments.

In spite of the record number of exhibitors, the introductions of a few companies and the abscence of one, dominated much of the discussion. Tape technology is at the heart of television production, and all other production equipment and techniques are impacted by these developments. No tears were shed for Ampex, but their legacy remains huge. Phil prodded the panelists to name the next company to fall (I think his word was dinosaur) and GVG came up. The highly respected Grass Valley Group was gone from the list of exhibitors, though their products could be found under the Tektronix marque.

Bob Paulson quickly came to the defense of Tektronix, who he feels has the vision and critical mass to survive in a hyper-competitive market.

Some people think of Bob Doyle as an anarchist. All Bob Doyle has done to get this title is advocate for amitious but under-funded users. And it seems that many of the manufacturers have been listening. Many of the formats and technologies shown at NAB have come up the food chain. Bob D. has been talking about them for quite some time. The gap between the broadcast world and its poorer relations has shrunk, and in many cases only an artificial wall remains.

Our host, Bob Hess, provided the perspective of the licensed broadcaster with numerous equipment applications. He outlined an economic justification for virtual studios when their price comes down. He may have helped breathe more life into the Virtual Studio concept. To date, the Virtual Studio has been a curiosity, noted mostly for loud theatrical productions.

Bob Turner likes people who will build a better mousetrap. Towards this end, he did an exhaustive study of the editing systems on the floor of NAB. The numbers are frightening, with over 150 this year. For the last few years, he has charted the host platform of these systems, and noted the steady migration away from the Macintosh and towards Windows and NT. If there is to be some consolidation in the industry, it is not likely to come in edit controllers....

Russell Whittaker is Sales Manager at Echolab, a switcher manufacturer headquartered in Burlington, MA. He can be reached at (617) 273-1512.

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