As the curtain falls on another NAB, what have we learned about the state of the art and future direction of the broadcast and media industry? The key themes where very much as predicted – IP/IT Migration, UHD/HDR and VR/AR/MR all had top billing both on the stands and in the conference sessions.

One of the main focal points for IP was the AES/AIMS/AMWA/EBU/IABM/MNA/SMPTE/VSF supported IP Showcase which demonstrated multivendor interoperability for a suite of IP centric implementations including draft versions of SMPTE 2110.

In addition to showcasing the equipment and technology, a number of presentations were held each day where experience was shared and knowledge transferred. It was an excellent initiative overall and showed both the commitment and enthusiasm of the industry to make the shift to IP/IT. Of course, you couldn’t pass a stand without hearing something similar from all the vendors offering products in this space.

UHD is somewhat blasé these days but there is still a lot of development and activity in areas such as HDR, WCG, HFR and NGA. Vendors demonstrated support for HDR and WCG in monitors and other display devices, while production and post-production systems highlighted better support and features for these capabilities.

VR was well represented, but as many people have now experienced headsets such as the HTC Vive, Oculus or PSVR, there wasn’t the long lines of punters queuing up at each stand that had one on display. Instead, the demos and conferences discussions had a more practical and pragmatic tone.

Sessions discussed how to shoot 360 video (and where to hide the crew), what a product ion and post workflow looks like, as well as the more commercial (who will pay for it) and existential (does anyone actually want it).

If last year’s “next big thing” was probably VR then this years might go to AI. It seemed that just about every vendor was making some claims (while having little to actually show) about how AI was going to make their software smarter, faster and generally more appealing.

Now there is little doubt that AI is a very important advancement in almost all industries, including broadcasting. There are obvious consumer facing applications in areas such as content discovery, targeted advertising and so on, while behind the scenes we can expect to see AI being used in operations, support and system optimisation – as it already is but at an early stage.

Machine Intelligence (the combination of AI and machine learning) is a definite growth area and one that could play a big role in media. How traditional vendors can adopt and incorporate such functionality into their product portfolios will be interesting to see.

Finally, there was a more tangible presence this year from the likes of Google and Amazon who both had decent sized stands (although dwarfed in size by some of the broadcast vendors – seemingly with inverse proportion to their revenues when compared to the internet giants).

And so ends another NAB which means it’s time to start booking your trip to IBC.

By Steve Plunkett

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