The 'cloudy' haze of NAB

Posted By Jonathan Moser on April 23, 2012 11:41 am | Permalink
By Jonathan Moser
LAS VEGAS - Trying to navigate the broadcast geek-fest known as NAB in half-a-day is about as realistic as taking in the glories of the Sistine Chapel by looking at one fresco...but I'll try.
I have to confess it's been over 20 years since setting foot in the chaotic but exciting arena of the Las Vegas Convention Center's NAB Convention, showcasing the latest, fastest and brightest in technology and trends. (The last thing I saw at NAB in 1992 was a $40,000 HD monitor with little HD material to show on it.)
There have been profound changes not just in sheer size, but in what constitutes the new Broadcast this report is seen through the smoky glasses of over two decades of change and is also limited in scope to what hit me as the most exciting trends skewed to the post production editing professional.
It became obvious I'd have to do a lot of mental filtering to try to see through the more than 745,000 square feet of exhibit space where almost 1,500 exhibitors spun their wares with me having less than five hours of time before flying back to LA.
Avid and Adobe had a huge presence. Apple wasn't on the show floor, but they did have a demo suite set up at the Bellagio showing the newest updates and partnerships.
Also clearly gone was any sign of tape as a broadcast medium... servers and other distribution methods were rampant and file-based and cloud were the whole reality. It's hard to get excited over storage solutions but there were plenty in sight. It also makes me realize that the days of tape libraries are almost closets and shelves are populated with an infinite number of hard drives, data tape and optical disks...somehow lacking the warm nostalgia of film cans and videotapes.

There were lots of innovations and products to be seen, (3D without glasses, smarter software, thousands of new distribution tools, lots of cool lights and gadgets and effects, cheaper and better cameras), but the one thing that stood out as paramount was the nascent roll out of cloud-based broadcast technologies.
Cloud is the future. Signs of its impending role in future tele-production were everywhere. I think cloud-based editing will shake up our local and world broadcast and media community more devastatingly than nonlinear editing changed the post paradigm - hold on to your seats, it's going to be a bumpy ride. My belief is that if you're a post  professional and don't hop onto learning and understanding cloud-based post now, you and your career will disappear faster than the dinosaurs did 65 million years ago. It's that important.)
Being an Avid guy, I was shown their entry into the world of cloud-based editing and saw the implications (way beyond the technical progress) into the very nature of how we've handled post and what editing has been about in the past...and its implementation will affect us in profound and very personal ways.
Avid showed me the ropes on their Sphere Interplay implementation so far. Right now this technology is geared toward news gathering but that will change. It will allow a journalist (or producer/cameraman/preditor located anywhere in the world with Internet access) to simultaneously edit on their laptop, upload and acquire assets at any other Internet-equipped location while their HD media is being uploaded in hi-res (and relinked to the final timeline) to the cloud...all in realtime and all viewable and editable anywhere else in the world. The ramifications are incredible.
Any question you may have about bandwidth allowing the streams necessary to edit quickly and accurately are reasonably moot: low-res proxy media (at H.264) can edit over the 'net through Avid's Interplay Sphere (see picture) environment in realtime. And it's only a matter of time and new compression codecs before higher def streams with full effects can also be seen. (But keep in mind that in Avid's case, all of this media is uploaded and upres'd transparently even while editing is taking place, so that the final product is full HD.) Obviously lingering questions of bad Internet connections will be raised and addressed, but the groundwork is laid.

It's clear taking this paradigm even further that physical location will no longer matter. To edit you won't have to be either near the media itself or in a post room somewhere - and the idea of editors in New York, LA, Hong Kong or anywhere else being tied to a favorite producer will go away. Any talent anywhere in the world could engage this technology. We will now all be in direct competition with each other around the world. And the first to get those cloud-based jobs will be those who know how to work with it.
Like it or not, it's a whole new world of competition in the post marketplace. And it's only going to get more technologically advanced and fierce.
Don't let the name Cloud fool you: It'll hit us like a ton of bricks.