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SVG@NAB Viewpoints: Live-Sports Production Continues to Drive Tech Innovation

April 28th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Fergal Ringrose

Team SVG was out in force during NAB 2015, with nine reporters scouring the show floor and checking out the latest in technology as well as sitting down with dozens of industry leaders on both the exhibitor and attendee side. These reports from the entire SVG editorial staff offer nine individual perspectives that, collectively, form a single vision of what NAB 2015 meant for today and, more important, tomorrow.

What did we learn from NAB 2015? First, that sports and live-production workflows are the primary drivers of technology innovation in this industry. More than ever, it is the insatiable demand for more live content, higher-quality live content, and always-on live content that is providing the engine of change and growth.

The key vendor mergers and acquisitions announced at the show were centred on live– and near-live–workflow solutions. Vendors that, in the past, were not interested in the sports-video market have done a smart U-turn and are in the game.

So here’s the conundrum: (1) there’s an insatiable demand for more content and higher-quality content, but (2) the production community cannot keep physically expanding to meet current and future requirements. The reasons that “live IP production” and “4K/UHD roadmap” were the two hottest topics at NAB 2015 are intertwined with this content conundrum.

4K is a key driver of at-home production and centralised workflows for live events. But the broadcast and OB communities have in recent years re-equipped for HD and are just not in a position to start again with trucks and equipment for higher-quality thresholds, including 4K. So, to deliver live content in higher-quality formats and maintain revenues and profits, they must streamline to prevent bottlenecks and more efficiently deploy people and resources.

With emerging compression algorithms and new centralised (IP- rather than SDI-based) workflows associated with at-home production, the potential for cost-saving may make the 4K/IP roadmap navigable. Or non-negotiable: we can’t keep adding trucks and people and screens — capital and operating expenditures — so we need a paradigm shift instead. A game-changer.

What we learned from NAB 2015 was that the vendors get it. They do get the message, and they’re listening hard. Some are even gaining real-world experience in delivering (hybrid) IP-based infrastructures, while others are still talking the talk — making it difficult to figure out whether they really know what they are talking about (we at SVG can help with that).

And who would have thought we’d see so much action around the camera in Las Vegas? If you entertained thoughts that we’re somehow reaching the physical limits of lenses and sensors and other acquisition technologies around the camera, perish those thoughts: NAB 2015 was witness to a dramatic explosion of innovation in this space.

A bewildering variety of new camera bodies, technologies, and techniques were introduced. It may make for a rather terrifying ride for the vendors, but it’s fantastic for the camera-user community at all levels of broadcast and video production around the world.