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NAB: Network News from the Network Show
Posted Jun 1, 2003 Print Version     Page 1of 1

What a difference six months makes. The contrast between last year's near-moribund COMDEX and this year's thriving National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention couldn't have been more striking. Wandering the halls of the NAB, you could feel the energy. Everything suggests "there is work to do" for this industry.

Of course, attending NAB 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom also made it unique. During the show, network newscasts appeared continuously on big screens both inside and out—like a gigantic demo of what this show was all about—delivering meaningful content to the broadest possible audience. Nothing else could have better revealed the power and need for the broadcast industry.

From the keynote speeches and early-morning sessions, one thing is very clear—broadcasters are going to be creating a lot of new content in the near term and need both tools and talent to do it well.

It's About DAM Time
First, one of the significant events occurred almost quietly on Wednesday morning as a group of analysts, studio executives, and vendors came together to form the Global Society for Asset Management. The GSAM may be a critical link in moving content from the last generation of mothballed analog form into the next generation of repurposed and available digital content.

At least that appears to be the goal of the organization. Although it currently lacks a strong user representation, the GSAM promises quickly to move to include major end-users along with its array of Digital Asset Management (DAM) vendors. If DAM needs anything right now, it is a clear voice and even clearer information on what it does, how to use it, and how to make it happen.

And DAM is going to be a must, according to Disney's Michael Eisner. In his remarks to the assembled NAB multitudes, he noted the unmistakable irony of major studios' protracted public efforts to protect their content from pirates, while doing little to distinguish potential customers from potential offenders. "We spend billions promoting a desire for our products," said Eisner, "and now we are supposed to spend millions more to discourage access to them?"

Disney is clearly not waiting for more protectionism. Eisner announced a new content distribution trial to take place in Salt Lake City and other cities in the country. By using broadcast airwaves, Disney's MovieBeam service will send encrypted content to special hard-disk-equipped set-top boxes. Consumers can then purchase this video-on-demand and have immediate access to that content, rather than wait for it to download as with other technologies.

Highlights from the Floor
With all of this demand for content, it is great to see vendors responding with new tools—software and hardware—at price points that truly open new horizons. So I am happy to report on a few I found compelling:

My "They Get It" award goes to Medéa for their AudioRack and VideoRack server products. With the plummeting cost of hardware, it makes perfect sense to tailor solutions to their content. Here, Medéa has crafted higher-performing servers for audio content or for larger video files rather than attempt to make "one size fits all" servers as other vendors do.

We mention elsewhere Pioneer's new PRV-LX1 professional DVD-Video recorder ( This is my "No Brainer" award, since Pioneer has really done their homework on this one. It's an "order this immediately" solution with a standard DVD-R/RW recordable drive with real-time recording capabilities. The killer here is that the unit uses a Linux-based operating system, making future upgrades not just possible, but realistic. Congrats, Pioneer.

I give Globalstor a much-deserved "Exquisite Innovation" award for the DVDTransPro. The TransPro makes creating digital dailies on DVD-Video a reality, even for a novice. Honest, I did it myself with just a bit of help from Globalstor. (See Geoff Daily's "Daily Planet,"

The "Best Network Product" award I give to Envivio for their wonderful streaming MPEG-4 solutions. Their 4-Caster product can make any production house a broadcaster over IP networks cheaper and more easily than anything I have seen.

My "Great Software" award goes to SmartSound's Sonicfire Pro soundtrack software. While there are plenty of other soundtrack creation and editing tools on the market, Sonicfire has something I have never seen before that makes it a "must-have" for those of us less musically inclined—a "make-it-fit" option. When using other software, when you have a shorter video clip than the music cut, you have to do some skillful editing to make the selection work or risk having the music end abruptly or have awkward transitions. With Sonicfire, you can tell the software to make the soundtrack fit a shorter length of a given clip. SmartSound has gone to the trouble of integrating some real music intelligence into the software, so the resulting shortened soundtrack works perfectly—rather than ending abruptly or recycling. Wow. (See review,

Shining Technology earns a quick "Well Done" award for their version of one-step DV recording to hard disk with the DV-Pro units. The nice thing here is that you can buy your own hard disk (laptop or desktop-style) to fit into the external DV-Pro chassis.

My "Best Bang-for-the-Buck" and overall "Gotta Have It" hardware award simply has to go to Apple for its upgraded Xserve line. It is a little difficult to choose which product in the Xserve family most deserves the award. Not only is the base Xserve greatly improved (with built-in DVD drive and faster processor), it is now joined by a RAID version with up to 2.5TB of storage. For me, though, it was the subtle announcement of the Xserve Cluster Node box that will likely have the greatest impact for digital studios. No other vendor comes close to providing a cluster solution with as much power and at as low a cost as Apple with Xserve. This should make a killer rendering farm possible for almost everyone.

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