Product Hits of NAB 2004

From April 17-22, 2004, nearly 98,000 audio, video, film and broadcast pros went to Las Vegas for the annual National Association of Broadcasters Convention.
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From April 17-22, 2004, nearly 98,000 audio, video, filmand broadcast pros went to Las Vegas for the annual NationalAssociation of Broadcasters Convention. For five days, hardy attendeesendured jam-packed exhibit halls, interminable taxi lines and thepleasure of paying $225/night for a hotel room that just days beforewas $59. However, for those seeking the latest technologies, the questwas worthwhile. On the video side, the hot topics were affordable HDproduction systems and new tapeless ENG cameras using solid-statememory cards (such as Panasonic's DVCPRO P2 format). On the audio side,we found plenty of cool goodies. Here are a few.

Consoles: Big News!

In past years, the talk at NAB centered on desktop video, HDTV andDVD authoring. To be sure, these were all present, but this timearound, the buzz was around consoles: big consoles.

Throughout the show, Digidesign's (www.digidesign.com) booth in the Avid pavilion waspacked with people checking out its new large-scale ICON mixingenvironment for Pro Tools, which was previewed in the April Mix.Mindful of the growing DAW controller market, Solid State Logic(www.solid-state-logic.com) unveiled its AWS 900, a24-channel desk that uses the same components as its XL 9000 K Seriesconsoles. The 8-bus, $85,000 list board will be sold through GC Prodealers, and includes control of various DAW platforms and plug-ins, aswell as a serious analog console with 24 mic preamps, switchable E/GSeries 4-band parametric EQ, assignable dynamics, moving faders andmore.

Mixing film? AMS-Neve's (www.ams-neve.com) updated, speed-supercharged DFCGemini pairs its top digital film console with the new CineFile dubberto create an integrated edit/mix system for high-end facilities. A yearago, DiGiCo (www.digiconsoles.com) showed the mid-pricedSoundtracs DS-00 scalable, medium- to large-format digital console. Nowit's delivering the specialized FP-00 film section option, giving userstrue film-style control with dedicated paddle switching (recall of allpaddle functions during the session). Harrison's (www.glw.com) MPC-3D updates the original MPC, with8-band EQ per strip, integral TFT screens displaying the multi-operatorIKIS automation platform with 10 EQ shapes and expanded dynamicscontrol selectable from standard pointing devices or optional TouchPeninterface, 40-bit digital processing and up to 768 channels per digitalcore.

Studer's (www.studer.ch) new Vista 8 console combines thebroadcast features of its Vista 6 with the dynamic automation of theVista 7. Vista 8's Control Bay center section—housing a Vistonicsscreen with 40 rotary encoders, switches and 12 faders—can controlinputs, outputs or groups, and general and global functions andprovides assignable high-res metering. New versions ofEuphonix's (www.euphonix.com) flagship 5-B digital broadcastdesk allow 96 channels/24 buses on a single mixer core. The new 5-BPsupports up to 310 assignable channels with mix automation, allowingone system to handle both on-air and audio post chores. Also new forSystem 5 is a Soundmaster (www.soundmaster.com) ION option for sync and motioncontrol of up to 16 devices/transports.After three decades of supplying high-end broadcast gear in Europe,Lawo (www.lawo.ca) has established a North Americanoffice and is targeting the U.S. market with the mc2 66, amid-priced digital console merging an ergonmonic control surface with acentral core/routing matrix of up to 192 fully equipped channels and144 summing buses. It comes in 48x8, 56x8 and 64x8 faderconfigurations with a lean Linux control operating system, a 3,072 I/Omatrix and 7.1 surround support. Decidedly more affordable,Mackie's (www.mackie.com) dXb.400 post and broadcast digitalconsole features a 96x96-channel I/O matrix, 72 96kHz channels with DSP(36 at 192 kHz), 24 mic buses with dynamics, full 7.1 surroundmonitoring with fold-down function, mix-minus busing, onboard UniversalAudio LA-2A and 1176 compression and much more.DAWs: Still Hot!The PCM-H64, SADiE's (www.sadie.com) high-endmultitrack DAW for post and music, is built around the new TNG3processor card, offering real-time editing, EQ, dynamics control andfull surround mixing of 64 channels of 48kHz/24-bit audio (or up to 16channels at 192 kHz). I/O options include analog, digital and MADI atstandard or higher sample rates. The system is scalable and capable ofcarrying up to four cards, offering 12 Gflops of raw audio DSPprocessing power in a single computer.Fairlight (www.fairlightau.com) announced QDC-XT, a powerfulnew engine for its DREAM workstations and Constellation digitalconsole, and Version 3.2 software and a Virtual Studio Runner featureset that speeds communication, networked file exchange and workflowwithin the studio. Also, Fairlight's Plug-in Manager 6 hardware opensthe system to using a suite of 80 low-latency VST plug-ins. You can'tcall them a "workstation company" anymore.Adobe's (www.adobe.com) Audition 1.5 is a DAW optimized forvideo, but is also impressive as an audio-only production tool. TheWindows-only app offers ReWire and VST plug-in support, sampling ratesup to 10 MHz, 128 stereo tracks, 500 royalty-free production loops,pitch correction and clip time stretching. Other features includeunique offline panning, extensive MIDI support and an integrated CDburner.The HR Series of PCX sound cards from Digigram (www.digigram.com)feature 24-bit/192kHz converters, eight inputs/outputs, sample rateconversion and greater processing power (including extra DSP for futuredevelopments). The cards can be purchased with either digital(PCX881HR) or analog (PCX882HR) I/Os.Apogee's (www.apogeedigital.com) small but impressive XSeries-HD card piggybacks on its Rosetta 800 8-channel AD/DA interface,offering direct connection to Pro Tools|HD Core or Accel cards; inessence, tricking the system into thinking it's a Digi interface. The$599 card includes an expansion port for daisy-chaining multiple Apogeedevices. The setup also allows Rosetta to be used next to Digidesign's96 I/O, 192 I/O and Prism's Dream ADA-8.Surprises Big and SmallAs reported in the April Mix, Dolby (www.dolby.com) debutedDolby Digital Plus, an enhanced AC-3 audio-compression scheme designedto pack more audio into ever-smaller data pipelines. Just before NAB,the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) elevated the protocolto Candidate Standard status as part of its work on next-generationbroadcast and transport systems. The codec wars have been heating up asof late, with SRS, Microsoft, Telos and DTSall muscling in on delivery for broadcast, DVD and theInternet.Holophone (www.holophone.com) showed the H2-PRO, itsnext-generation multichannel surround microphone. Housed in a tough7.5x5.7-inch, egg-shaped body, the mic has inset condenser capsules(5.1, plus top and center rear) to capture discrete 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1sounds. The feeds terminate in standard XLRs for connection to yourmixer, preamps or recorder.DK Audio (www.dk-audio.com) taught its old dog a new trickwith a remote sensing platform for its modular MSD600M family of audiometers. This 19-inch frame separates the I/O and measurement hardwarefrom the user interface connected via a Cat-5 umbilical. Freed fromencumbering cables, the UI can be mounted freely in any position, evenin tight spaces.DPA (www.dpamicrophones.com) generated a lot of interestwith the debut of WindPac 4000, an ultralight (9-ounce),water-resistant windshield. The zeppelin-shaped device combines auniversal shock-mount that holds up to two mics and a collapsiblewindshield. The fabric blocks wind noise in gusts of up to 70 mph whileallowing accurate sound reproduction and audio transparency.The first name in location recorders, Nagra (www.nagra.com) demoedARES-5B, a compact field recorder that stores stereo signals to16-bit/48kHz Broadcast .WAC files on PCM-CIA or Compact Flash cards.The $2,000 deck runs on a Lithium Ion pack or AA cell, and has balancedanalog I/Os and a USB output.There was more at NAB. Watch our upcoming new products sections formore innovations from the show. Meanwhile, the convention returns toLas Vegas from April 16 to 21, 2005. Book those hotels now!