NAB 2010 - Day Zero

Posted By David Cox on April 11, 2010 12:00 am | Permalink
April's here, so it must be time to escape the endless English winter and head west to Las Vegas for some sun, excessive food and alcohol and - errrrm - oh yes, NAB. I knew there was a tax deductible reason for it :-)

Our flight here was relatively uneventful until, a couple of hours before landing, every passenger on the plane was placed in “seat arrest” - that being confined to our seats with our seatbelts on, nothing allowed on our laps, rest-rooms locked and even the little digital map thing (which is so addictive on long flights) switched off. As the pilot explained, there had been a “security incident” on another flight and all flights over the US were ordered into this locked down state. We later learned it was all down to some junior diplomat from Qatar lighting a pipe or cigarette in the wash-room of his flight and sparking a full-scale “scramble the fighters” alert.

The aspect that interested me was that the pilot felt the need to tell us all there was a security risk, thus spreading fear and anxiety, rather than just telling us there was some turbulence or something. We would have been none the wiser and happier for it. At the risk of over analysing it (there wasn't much else to think about after they took the little plane-map away), our flight represented a microcosm of the role the media plays in “terrorism” and the dilemma it faces. Informing us about such events does in fact spread the terror but not informing could be seen as censorship. I guess what has changed in recent years is the immediacy of the news. In years gone by, we would have just read about such events in past tense, knowing that a disaster was either averted or never on the cards because we are being informed in retrospect with a complete story. Continual live-updates just allow us to consider the worst possible outcome from the conjecture that is being presented at that moment.

Fortunately, I just make pictures pretty so don't have to worry about it just so long as I have a little picture of a plane animating its way across a digital map.

Anyway – to NAB. It's Sunday as I write so the show starts for real tomorrow. I expect that the buzzword will be stereoscopic 3D. Certainly most of my work recently has been in 3D effects and finishing and I have been involved with 3D post for over 2 years now. I fear that every manufacturer will be making claim to 3D, however dubious, in the same way that many did to HD in its early years. I recall that one major post manufacturer with hardware-based products came to NAB back then with an HD to SD down-converter for input to their existing SD product, and a matching SD to HD up-converter for its output. With this set, they claimed their HD credentials for having an HD-ready post pipeline! My deep suspicious is that there will be a plethora of products, that by fair means or foul, will play two streams of images and thus claim to provide stereoscopic post. As I know from experience, stereo post requires much more than this. The theory that a perfect stereo image is created by two matching cameras, through matched lenses on a purpose designed rig is the stuff of fairly tales (or at least a healthy dose of wishful thinking). The truth is that images from two digital cameras are rarely the same colour, that their alignment either due to lens or rig is rarely perfect, and in any case many shots that on the face of it are perfect for “the 3D effect” are actually unpleasant to watch back without some form of post intervention.

So in short, I am on the lookout for those manufacturers who get the idea and have or are creating the tool-sets we need to make engaging stereoscopic content – and those who have slapped on a second playback stream to their existing whatever so that they can be dragged along by the stereoscopic bandwagon.

Off to find some food for the evening. There is too much choice in this town – we'll spend all night thinking about where to go!

David Cox