NAB showcases the state of the industry

The rate of technological change in the industry is unprecedented which is both a cause for alarm as well as excitement, both moods likely to be encapsulated at NAB this month.

Artificial Intelligence will impact NAB
Artificial Intelligence will impact NAB

Artificial Intelligence, for example, may be just at the start of its adoption curve but there are already multiple use cases designed to enhance the viewer's media consumption experience, automate production processes, and optimise delivery of content.

Exhibited at NAB, will be AI-influenced tools for audio to text transcription (closed captioning) potentially saving organisation’s time and money; for policing unmoderated content online; and network optimisation (traffic, compression, fault warnings and redundancy). There will be plenty of intelligence added to content management tools (such as automatically tagging video on ingest and recommending clips for producers to build to stories).

Faster processing speed

For all the technology’s potential, it is also important that we first understand what A.I can and cannot do and then consider when, where and how to deploy it. Indeed, it will only truly come into its own with faster processing speed.

On which note, the millisecond latency and faster than 1Gb per second throughput of freshly standardised cellular network 5G is forecast to reshape the creation, distribution and consumption of content.

360-degree video in 8K resolution is already being lined up for demonstration over a 5G network at the Tokyo Olympics in just two year’s time – something inconceivable with current technology. Other futuristic forms of media – such as capturing and displaying light fields (otherwise known as holograms) - will also be enabled by the 5G revolution.

Augmented Reality

It is Augmented Reality (AR), though, which marks the next big shift in immersive content because the potential user base is already far wider than that for VR headsets. Everyone is waiting for the killer app to explode the AR space. Perhaps there will be a clue waiting in Las Vegas.

State of the industry

The overriding topic of conversation on the show floor could well be the state of the equipment supply industry. The market is being squeezed by consolidation on one side (the Disney/Fox merger being the latest example) and commoditisation of product and services on the other, leaving media technology vendors under pressure to maintain a competitive edge.

The good news is that the door is still open for many of them. Most media technology users – 98% according to a recent IABM poll – still prefer best-of-breed solutions. In fact, customers are still looking for the dedication, support and flexibility provided by specialist suppliers. Large IT companies have a weaker interest in this as the broadcast and media sector represents a fraction of their overall business.

This in turn necessitates that vendors forge ‘creative collaborations’ with end users and third party ‘rivals’ and a more open approach to product interoperability than ever before.

Customer focused solutions

At NAB, Rohde & Schwarz will demonstrate how collaboration and joint development can add real value to customer focussed solutions to many of today’s broadcast business challenges.

The maturation of SMPTE ST2110 will address many on-premise interoperability issues but it takes on quite a different character in the cloud because it’s software interoperability that’s the issue.

One example of solving this is the R&S Venice platform which has been re-developed as software over COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) hardware to empower users to transition their servers from an SDI environment to UHD and SMPTE 2110 IP easily, using all the inherent benefits of COTS hardware and virtualisation.

Additionally, as part of the AIMS NAB 2018 interoperability showcase, R&S will demonstrate the advanced PRISMON multiviewer running interoperable implementations of the latest drafts for SMPTE 2110 and AMWA IS-04 in a live environment.

Managing the change from SDI to IP, or the trend towards COTS hardware and virtualisation transition, in an economically viable way is the biggest challenge facing the industry today – both for customers and also for technology partners such as Rohde & Schwarz.

NAB is the chance to take stock.

Posted by Adrian Pennington, technology journalist. March 20, 2018.