The theme for this year's NAB show (held April 5-10, 2003, in Las Vegas) was "The World's Largest Electronic Media Show," and judging from the packed aisles — particularly in the high-tech South Halls — NAB was right. Exhibitor turnout was about 5% less than 2002, but according to many, the “right” people made the trip. A half-world away, as U.S. troops made their statue-toppling forays into Baghdad, we advanced into the Las Vegas Convention Center looking for action. We found it.
Unquestionably, the major buzz at NAB was Version 4 of Apple's (www.apple.com) Final Cut Pro picture-editing software. More than an upgrade, FCP4 is a stunning achievement, with 300 new features, such as 32-bit floating-point video processing, RT Extreme real-time video FX, Apple's Cinema Tools (previously sold separately), Compressor (batch conversion to MPEG-2 for DVD, MPEG-4 for streaming media and QuickTime), advanced titling and more. The "more" part was the best: FCP4 offers MPEG-4 for streaming media and QuickTime, 24-track audio MPEG-4 for streaming media and QuickTime (with a full palette of Apple OS X Audio Units and Emagic Logic Platinum plug-ins) and Soundtrack, a loop-based, Acid-style app to create royalty-free production music — nearly on-the-fly — with slick features such as time stretch, tempo/key matching, and an import of .AIFF, .WAV and Acid libraries. The price? Still $999! Upgrades are $399.
Having acquired the assets of Rocket Network (already used for the DigiStudio Internet collaboration service),Avid (www.avid.com) plans to extend the technology for secure networked video collaboration. No word on continuing support for other manufacturers' Rocket-powered apps, but it's a fair bet that the network will mainly become a vehicle for Avid and Digi systems. Avid also moved all of its processing hardware out of the computer and into Avid DNA™ FireWire-connected external boxes.
Digidesign (www.digidesign.com) showed Pro Tools 6.1, with new post features such as AVoption|XL support, Avid Unity MediaNetwork shared-storage support, AAF-interchange support (with a DigiTranslator 2.0 option) and a new DV Toolkit option that adds more post functions to Pro Tools LE.
Computer giants were demonstrating more support than ever for media production. IBM (www.ibm.com) announced partnerships in digital media and entertainment, pairing up with companies such as Ancept and Encoda systems for media management. HP (www.hp.com) is integrating Avid technology into its xw8000 workstation; media companies showing in HP's booth included DMOD (www.dmod.com): Its newest networked distribution software was designed with protection for music and other media files in mind. Steinberg(www.steinberg.net) was at new parent company Pinnacle's booth and also at Microsoft. Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) was heavily promoting Windows Media 9 for broadcast streaming and showcased partnerships with Avid, Digidesign, M-Audio, Sonic Foundry and others.
Syntrillium's (www.syntrillium.com) Cool Edit Pro keeps getting better: This $249 Windows-based multitrack DAW, now at Version 2.1, added a bazillion new features such as 128 stereo tracks, 32-bit processing, 24-bit/192kHz (and higher) sampling, 45 DSP effects, 5.1 surround mixing, loop-based song creation (with thousands of free loops) and much more.
Just for Mac OS X, the $499 Peak 4 from BIAS (www.bias-inc.com) offers a sharp new user-configurable interface and upgrades, such as Audio Units plug-in support, direct CD burning and a host of new DSP tools.
NETWORKING, STORAGE AND ALL THAT
Built on Symetrix's SymNet Audio Matrix technology, AirTools Studio Matrix (www.airtoolsaudio.com) networks up to 15 pairs of single-rackspace devices, allowing hundreds of I/O signals to be routed. Studio Network Solutions' (www.studionetworksolutions.com) SANmp (Storage Area Network, multiplatform) lets users configure and share resources with multiplatform support (in any OS). Apple demoed Xserve™ RAID, the first three-rackspace storage system with a massive 2.5TB storage capacity, blazing performance of up to 400 MB/s and a low price point of just over $4/gigabyte. Dual-independent RAID controllers with up to 1GB controller cache memory provide fully redundant storage.
The most prevalent new audio product intros at NAB 2003 were consoles. Making U.S. debuts were several slick boards we'd seen the month before at Musikmesse and AES Amsterdam, such as SSL's (www.solid-state-logic.com) C100 and C200 digital desks, the AMS Neve (www.ams-neve.com) DFC2 film console, the Calrec(www.calrec.com) Zeta 100 and Yamaha's (www.yamaha.com) PM5000 live sound/broadcast board and 02R96 digital mixer.
But there was still plenty of new console action, such as the AMS Neve Libra Live Series II, which now operates at up to 96 kHz and allows for 5.1 mixing. Now with offices in Northridge, Calif., Stagetec (www.stagetec.com) is refocusing on the U.S. market with its Aurus digital broadcast console, offering up to 96k operation, 300 channels, 96 faders and multiple-format support. The desk features fiber connections between the DSP core and control surface. Based on its impressive Vista 7, Studer's (www.studer.ch) new Vista 6 on-air digital console features a simplified center section, comprehensive busing, optional remote bay and the ability to incorporate third-party hardware options into the console.
DiGiCo (www.digiconsoles.com) opened up the market for scalable, medium- to large-format digital consoles in the midprice range. The company now distributes the new Soundtracs DS-00 ($45,000) modular digital console, which features touchscreen control and a variety of add-on modules. Specialized additions include a $18.5k FP film section, $12k EX fader-channel extender modules and a $7.5k HD user-definable bay to fit custom controllers, phase meters, etc.
Tascam's (www.tascam.com) FW-1884 DAW controller ($1,599) provides eight 100mm moving faders, a master fader, dedicated controls and eight balanced mic/line inputs with phantom power and inserts on every channel. Communicating via FireWire with 24-bit/96kHz ADC/DACs, it includes templates for various MIDI and DAW programs. The FE-8 optional 8-channel expanders are $1,249.
COOL LOCATION TOYS
Sanken (dist. by Plus24, www.plus24.net) showed cool new mics: The CS-01 short shotgun has a bargain $799 price; the $1,850 CO-100K omni condenser has a true 100kHz bandwidth; and the $2,650 CUW-180 is a stereo condenser with twin cardioid capsules mounted on 180° swivels.
Sound Devices (www.sounddevices.com) unveiled the $4,000 4-channel 744T and the $2,000 stereo/dual-mono 722. Both are location audio recorders about the size of two VHS tapes and store 24/96k files (or dithered 16-bit) to internal 40GB hard drives and/or Compact Flash cards in .WAV or Broadcast .WAV formats. The 744T supports timecode; both units feature onboard mic pre's, analog line I/O, stereo S/PDIF and AES/EBU I/O, and MS headphone matrixing. Deliveries begin this fall.
Zaxcom (www.zaxcom.com) announced Deva III, IV and V, which are 6/8/10-channel versions, respectively, of its acclaimed field recorder. Expected to ship in the fall, the units include touchscreen interface and record to DVD-RAM (optional) or hard drive in SDII, Broadcast .WAV and proprietary formats.
HITS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
A new option card for PrismSound's (www.prismsound.com) ADA-8 digital converter adds full DSD capability, offering high-quality AD/DA for native DSD production, PCM-DSD format conversion, printing DSD masters directly from Pro Tools and more.
Videotek's (www.videotek.com) ASM-100 shows up to eight channels of analog, AES/EBU or Dolby Digital signals with surround metering and lissajous patterns for relative phase, displayed on any XGA PC monitor. A Cinetone™option verifies interchannel phase relationships and lip-sync errors.
Music/FX library-search maker mSoft (www.msoftinc.com) struck deals with seven more music libraries, released MusicCue 3.0, announced a new monthly subscription service and, with Soundminer, co-developed a stunning film and post search/organization tool.
Wohler's (www.wohler.com) AVMFlex Series does the impossible: putting powered stereo speakers and a 7-inch LCD screen in a one-rackspace chassis via a pull-out display that attaches to the main unit with a gooseneck. Incredible!
There was plenty more to report on from NAB 2003, and watch our regular new products section for more products. Meanwhile, NAB 2004 returns to Lost Wages, April 17-22, 2004. See you there!