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The “B” in NAB

May 3, 2018 | By
NAB 2018

Photo by James Dillon

It’s truly the “B” in NAB that signals how much the recently concluded annual event in Las Vegas has changed. Once “broadcast” shifted to also mean “streaming,” and since that includes everything digital, NAB has become a show that’s now about, well, almost everything. Everything at least, that you’d see or hear through a screen or electronic device.

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Photo by James Dillon

The night before NAB though, one event channeled both the old and new senses of “broadcast,” when Cisco took to a nearby Italian eatery for drinks, eats, and a panel, or “curated conversation” on “broadcast across all channels.” The curation brought together folks from not only Cisco, but EVS, Grass Valley, and the NBC Olympics to talk about covering the recent Winter Olympics in multi-platform fashion.

There was talk about “engaged content,” and “video snacks” – a realization that increasingly, folks will not sit down for an evening of network Olympic broadcasts if they can pick and choose the events and athletes they want to see.  But there are more practical reasons, too. As the NBC rep said, “we don’t have enough space on our linear channels,” to cover everything they want.

And they’re expecting twice the content for the summer version of the Olympics, especially with the addition of surfing (!) and the return of baseball to the games. The network also noted, that amount of digital content streamed during the Rio games “caught us by surprise.”

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Photos by James Dillon

But of course, it’s the endeavor of trying to figure out how to stay ahead of that surprise that’s fueling a lot of NAB’s attendance and programming now. And while most of our time was spent perusing new gear –  whether from JL Fisher, Matthews, lenses from Angenieux, low-light sensors debuted by RED and Canon, and much much more – we did manage to catch a little of NAB’s multi-tiered panel track (unlike colleague Marjorie Galas, who caught many more offerings), including the kind of things you used to see at ComicCon, though perhaps with a more below the line angle, like the Jessica Jones – the Art of Darkness panel. In this case, creator Melissa Rosenberg, DP Manuel Billeter, and their colorist, Tony D’Amore held court on creating the show’s look, both in line with other gritty Marvel fare on Netflix, yet reflective of its haunted lead character.

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Photo by James Dillon

Aside from more technical aspects, like D’Amore talking about “nailing exposures” in flashlight-lit scenes or Billeter praising Rosco SoftDrops to diffuse exterior lights in a Steadicam scene involving the 360-degree capture of a slowly dancing Carrie-Anne Moss, whose Hogarth character had just received devastating medical news, Billeter also talked about working with second season directors, who were all women (which might seem unusual, except no one would notice if they were all men). “It was a great experience,” Billeter noted. Not only because they were all good directors, but because he has no time to extensively prep upcoming episodes, since he’s usually shooting the current one. Each of these new directors went to find him on set, coming “early to establish a relationship.” That struck Billeter as both welcome and unusual, but was it a particularly female way of working? Would it even matter?

That same question also came up at the annual luncheon sponsored by Maxon, the company known for its “Cinema 4D” software, for 3D modeling and rendering. There is usually a roundtable discussion to go with the sandwiches and good cheer, and this year’s topic was “Women in Motion Graphics,” moderated by LA-based designer Tuesday McGowan. She noted, to her panelists, that nearly 80% of showbiz jobs – above and below the line – were filled by men, with 20% going to women.

This was also something addressed toward the end of our NAB stay, at a breakfast hosted by Women In Media. They noted the same statistic, but their panel on “How to Get Hired – an Insider’s View,” was truly gender-neutral, in the sense that it was more about comportment and job-seeking strategies, whether in production, VFX, broadcasting, or shooting film and TV.

That last niche was represented by Michael Goi, the DP who’s overseen American Horror Story.  Aside from advising younger folks to get off their phones when working on set (generational differences being more noted than gender ones), everyone emphasized that basics like simply staying in touch with people, and being willing to learn on the job were qualities that helped not only get feet in doors, but could potentially fling them open.

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Photo by James Dillon

As for the aforementioned gear perusal, other intriguing cameras including Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera 4K – shipping in the fall – which boasts not only a USB-C port as an additional option for outputting info, but its own low-light capabilities with a native ISO of up to 25,600, along with the company’s usual low price point, as well.

And as for Canon’s new Full Frame sensor, owners of their current EOS 700s don’t even have to swap out entirely, they can have have their Super 35mm sensor upgraded to the “FF” version, for a fee.

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Photo by James Dillon

Then there was our traditional stop for evening cocktails at ICG 600’s booth, to ask about what all this constantly shifting landscape of new gear and delivery systems means. Especially when you could walk around the displays and see so many attendees broadcasting themselves, using their phones as cameras, to live stream the event, perhaps unaware of the “meta layering,” of solipsistically broadcasting a show contemplating a future where everyone is a potential broadcaster.

Or as Avid’s Matt Feury told us, when reviewing how the year for Media Composer downloads has gone, (over 100,000 for the free version, while the $19.99 version with more tools sells briskly as well), “everyone’s dream” is to work remotely – at home, not having to come into headquarters, etc. All thanks to those ubiquitous digital networks.

Avid is doing its bit on the production pipeline side by making Composer content increasingly visible via Chrome browsers, and with bins “open to the whole facility.”  All of which tied in to some of the speculation amongst the ICG banter, about keeping DPs on productions longer, due to how much color correcting et al happens in Post (though that would mostly apply to features, since if you’re on a show like Jones’, you’re prepping the next shoot while the current one is posting.) Hence the need for a good relationship with one’s colorist!

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Photo by James Dillon

It all really boils down to the same question: How do you stay networked, while your content is being made, or broadcast, in different pieces everywhere?

And by capital “B” “Broadcast,” of course, we no longer mean three networks or one living room screen. Indeed, the last time it meant that, the convention was half its current size, and the site of one of the main halls (according to a long-attending TV station manager we met), was being used as a strip club.

Even Vegas changes. Just try grabbing a drink at the Sands or Desert Inn, next time you’re in town. Some things didn’t make it to the “Facebook Live” era after all, and both Facebook and Vimeo had NAB booths, too.

The question everyone’s gambling on now is: what’s next.

 

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