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NAB 2014 Tracks A Changing Broadcast Industry

LAS VEGAS, NY—NAB’s final headcount was reported as a four-percent increase over 2013, preliminarily tallied at 98,000-plus attendees representing 159 countries.

LAS VEGAS, NY—NAB’s final headcount was reported as a four-percent increase over 2013, preliminarily tallied at 98,000-plus attendees representing 159 countries. Even given those counts, and the reported seven-percent boost in space used by the exhibition at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the traditional audio players sharing their wares seemed to take up less space with fewer numbers than in years past, while the number of exhibitors working in the burgeoning Audio over IP (AOIP) sector grew instead. The Best Of Show Awards give a select sampling of the hardware and software introduced at the convention. Product categories of note included digital mixers, audio network innovations, microphones, loudspeakers, and loudness metering (and management and monitoring).

In the How-I-Did-This category, attendees had the opportunity to go behind the scenes, into the electron distribution aspects of the Winter Olympic Games broadcast worldwide from Sochi, Russia. Facing the future of broadcasting—a perennial topic at NAB in the face of ongoing rapid technological change—the threat to traditional broadcasting of the FCC’s pending additional auction of television RF spectrum was addressed (the impact of those changes on wireless microphone users is covered in this issue). Net neutrality and the broadcast impact of pending FCC rulemaking was also a topic for discussion. NAB could hardly ignore the buzz around cloud-based services, in part due to the increasing adoption by consumers of on-demand content for both home and mobile device consumption. The need for simultaneous distribution in varied formats such as broadcast, cable and wireless handheld devices has created another set of issues for broadcasters and content creators in terms of the adoption of production and delivery paradigms and protocols. As has already been felt in music production, content creators are not only looking to new workflows and technology, but also new monetization strategies as they find their audiences splintered across a range of media consumption patterns and options, placing YouTube and mobile device streaming alongside traditional broadcast and cable.

More than 98,000 people went to the annual NAB Show in Las Vegas last month to see 1,600­plus exhibitors. The number of traditional audio players exhibiting appeared to be down, while there seemed to be more AIOP vendors there than ever before. Broadcast hardware has become increasingly digital audio network-centric, and while the interconnection of devices within a facility is hardly a new trend, a movement is apace towards increased use of common networking protocols to seamlessly interconnect disparate brands of gear. The inevitable next step emerging, given the ubiquity and increased bandwidth of Internet-based connections, is a rush to embrace AoIP networking between facilities and for distribution, a role once dominated by satellite communications.

On the business side, NAB is always a place where business deals and ventures are revealed. As an example, continuing the major push to IP delivery, UK-based broadcast integrator and manufacturer TSL Products announced a strategic alliance with telecom/satellite distribution manufacturer ARG ElectroDesign to enable the development of new Audio/Video-over-Internet-Protocol technology. Tight synchronization and low-latency networking are two goals of the venture, as the companies work together to develop “innovative products that solve the new broadcast production challenges that will emerge from the adoption of the technology.”

Digital networking was also at play when Sennheiser joined the ranks of the 100-plus Dante by Audinate licensees. A Dante-capable expansion card for Sennheiser’s flagship Digital 9000 wireless microphone systems will be the first Dante-enabled product released by the mic maker, slated for later this year. Sennheiser has also signed on as a RAVENNA network partner, and is also a member of the AVB development consortium, the AVnu Alliance.

The European-based company Net Insight, a provider of media transport solutions for broadcast— typically through broadcasters’ outsourced service providers—demonstrated the intercontinental sports studio concept it created with Hibernia Networks for the recent Winter Olympic games in Sochi. Maintaining synchronization was a key goal for the system, in this case without the use of sample rate converters. Multichannel audio was transported across vast distance for the games via Net Insight’s Nimbra MST platform, utilizing AES3 and MADI interfaces and supporting migration of audio to Ethernet and AOIP.

The NAB Show returns to Las Vegas in April, 2016.

The NAB Show