NAB 2002 Report: Broadcast and Beyond

From April 6-11, 2002, tens of thousands of broadcasting and production professionals made their annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the National Association
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From April 6-11, 2002, tens of thousands of broadcasting andproduction professionals made their annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas forthe National Association of Broadcasters convention. The word"broadcaster" has become far-reaching at these conventions, with950,000 square feet of technologies for traditional radio/televisionuses, coupled with tools for film and video production/post-production,audio creation, multimedia, the Internet, satellite andtelecommunication applications.

After years of upwardly spiraling attendance, NAB 2002 was slightlyoff–reportedly 15 to 20% down from last year–but exhibitorswe spoke with felt the quality of the showgoers was quite high, withfewer "tire-kickers" and more serious buyers looking to upgrade orexpand their production capabilities. Certainly one bright spot was theunveiling of the new South Hall, which nearly doubles NAB's availableexhibit space. Populated with key anchor destinations, such as Sony,Apple, Microsoft, Avid, Digidesign and Dolby, the South Hall was NAB'shotbed of activity, just as the Sands Expo Center had been severalyears ago during the multimedia boom. This year also marked NAB'sfarewell to the Sands, as all of next year's NAB exhibits will belocated in the LVCC, making this large show much easier to digest.

Audio releases at conventions tend to run in cycles, with productssuch as microphones, tube outboard gear or near-field speakersadvancing and receding in the consciousness of the audio public. Thistime, the focus seemed to be on consoles, software, and solutions formultichannel delivery, digital broadcasting and/or networkingapplications. Here are a few that caught our eye...

BIG BOARDS!

The most talked about console at NAB wasStuder's (www.studer.ch) Vista 7 Digital Mixing System(below), which uses Vistonics™ technology and incorporates rotaryand pushbutton controls that protrude through a flat-screen display,resulting in a fast, non-fatiguing worksurface. A stunning achievementin ergonomic design, Vista 7 allows multiple channel strips to bealmost instantly ganged or shifted for easy access, while the operatorhas full control–even mid-session–in determining whetherswitches (such as mutes, solos, talkback, etc.) can act as latching ormomentary controls. This 96kHz/40-bit internal-resolution console isavailable in configurations from 20-a to 70-channel faders, andstandard amenities include Autotouch Plus automation (also availablefor Studer's flagship 950 console), virtual surround 5.1 panning withmotorized joysticks, machine control and a simple one-finger I/Orouting matrix.

SSL's (www.solid-state-logic.com) XL 9000 K Series madeits public debut at NAB. Designed specifically for the needs ofDVD-Audio, SACD and surround sound mixing, this high-performance analogconsole (SuperAnalogue engine) includes discrete, low-noise preamps,ultrawide bandwidth and an advanced approach to surround panning. Formore details on the K Series line, see the March 2002 issue ofMix.

Intended for post, film, DVD and music production, the new Logic MMCconsole from

AMS Neve

(

www.ams-neve.com

) is based on the popular Logic 2digital audio console, but combines features from its legacy of musicand DFC film consoles. Designed to provide the familiar workenvironment and Encore automation used in its VR, Logic and DFCconsoles, the board adds a new suite of 96kHz-capable I/Os, DFC-stylemonitoring, full machine control and up to 500 signal paths availableat 48 kHz.

Finally,

Fairlight

showed its DREAM console for music andpost, which was sneak-peeked at AES in December. Other big news at thebooth included the announcement that the company had acquired theintellectual property of DSP Media (namely, the A/V Transfer fileexchange utility and V-Motion random-access video) and had resuscitatedLightworks, the editing package with more than 2,100 loyal users stillout there.

BROADCAST CONSOLES GO AFFORDABLE

With ever-lowering prices and second-generation designs, a number ofconsole manufacturers showed new products targeted toward the growingmiddle-America station market. The

Calrec

(

www.calrec.com

) Sigma100 offers many of the features of its larger Alpha 100 board, but in asmaller format package with 5.1 and stereo monitoring, Dolby Eintegration and Mix-Minus outputs.

Wheatstone

(

www.wheatstone.com

) covered both bases by launchingits new high-end D-8000 console, as well as the more affordable D-4000that is based on Wheatstone's popular D-5000. The 96-channel Max Airfrom

Euphonix

(

www.euphonix.com

) shares the technology of thecompany's award-winning System 5 flagship, such as an integral MADIrouter, touchscreen control, onboard diagnostics, and a wide range ofI/O options–MADI, AES/EBU, S/PDIF, TDIF, ADAT, Pro Digi and ProTools digital.

Harrison

(

www.glw.com

) unveiled a new version of its top-endTVD digital broadcast console, the TVD-SL, which offers the same powerbut doubles the number of physical input faders. Harrison alsointroduced the Pro950-EX, a compact analog board for on-air and postduties.

Soundtracs

(

www.soundtracs.com

), distributed in the U.S. byFairlight, showed the DS-3B, a digital broadcast console based on itssuccessful DS-3, and offered in 24- or 32-fader worksurfaces withtouchscreen control. Like its sibling, the DS-3B can mount its DSPsections either in the board's central leg assembly or up to fivemeters away in a standard 19-inch outboard rack.

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SMALL BUT MIGHTY

HHB

(

www.hhbusa.com

) is now distributing the Kamesan (

www.kamesan.info

)line of audio film/broadcast products (right). Kamesan has developedquite a following among NHK producers in Japan since its inception 30years ago, and location audio products now available in the U.S.include the flagship KS-342 (4-channel) and KS-T2000 (3-channel)mixers, as well as the KS-6001 4-channel submixer/expander and KS-60024-channel EQ/compressor. Also new from Kamesan are the Moni CoughKS-4320 remote mic pre/monitor, the KS-1017 Lip Sync Checker and itscompanion piece, the KS-1018 Video Kachinko.

VIDEO POWER!

No getting around it: Audio needs to know video.

A big hit atthe show was Media 100 (www.Media100.com) and its GenesisEngine, whichprovides real-time image and signal processing of concurrent effects onsimultaneous video and key streams. On the audio side, Genesis cansupport four channel pairs of AES/EBU. Media 100's new 844/x systemoffers real-time image processing with 10-bit internal resolution forcreating complex and layer-intensive audio/video content.

The

Apple

(

www.apple.com

) booth was jammed with attendeesclamoring to check out demos of Cinema Tools for Final Cut Pro, whichsupports film cut lists and 24-frame EDLs, providing video editors anaffordable path to online hi-def finishing. Apple was also showing DVDStudio Pro 1.5, which is now optimized for OS X, with MPEG encoding andthe ability to set chapter markers in Final Cut Pro.

Microsoft

's Windows Media (

www.windowsmedia.com

) booth was also buzzing, withthe preview of the next version of Windows Media Player, code-named"Corona." The system promises a home theater-like broadband experiencethat uses professional audio and video codecs to deliver 24-bit/96kHzaudio in 5.1 at data rates of 128 to 768 kbps, with HDTV-like videoquality. Corona will also have an instant-on, always-on presence thatis said to eliminate buffer delays. Creative Labs, Echo,M-Audio/Midiman, Steinberg and Syntrillium were all in the pavilionpreviewing systems that support the new Windows Media technology.

WORKSTATION NEWS

Due to growth of its DVD business,

Sonic Solutions

(

www.sonic.com

) has spunoff a separate company dedicated exclusively to the Sonic Studio lineof digital audio workstations. Sonic Studio LLC is headed up byveterans Jeff Wilson and Eric Jorde, along with key Sonic Solutionsengineering and marketing personnel. In other Sonic news, Digidesignhas licensed the company’s NoNoise restoration technology forintegration into Pro Tools.

Speaking of

Digidesign

(

www.digidesign.com

), Pro Tools 5.3.1 offersinteroperability between Avid and Pro Tools|HD workstations. Also, SoftSampleCell (now with 96 voices!) is available in a 192kHz version, withmore third-party plug-ins offering HD compatibility.

The hottest plug-in of the show had to be at the

SADiE

(

www.sadie.com

) booth:

CEDAR

's (

www.cedaraudio.com

) ReTouchaudio-restoration/forensics plug-in (below) can identify and eliminateunwanted sounds such as piano pedal creaks, coughs, etc., and itoperates on both the temporal and spectral content, replacing mistakeswith audio matching the surrounding signal. It operates at up to 96kHz, has 64-bit internal resolution, and uses an intuitive, visualinterface with a Photoshop-style approach to cloning clean backgroundmaterial to eliminate unwanted noises or faults.

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WaveFrame Inc.

no longer exists, though its products do.

Merging Technologies

(

www.merging.com

), who designed and licensed theFrameworks and WaveFrame 7 hardware for WaveFrame, has stepped up tothe plate to support Frameworks customers by offering the opportunityto upgrade to Merging's Pyramix, the system on which Frameworks isbased; visit

www.merging.com/frameworks

for details. WaveFrame willcontinue to support WaveFrame 7 users.

Apogee

(

www.apogeedigital.com

) announced NativeTools, whichcombines Apogee's 16-channel, 24/96 converters with

Steinberg

'sNuendo software, plus the Nuendo 96/52 PCI interface. And

SonicFoundry

(

www.sonicfoundry.com

) showed a new version of SoundForge. The biggest developments in 6.0 are nondestructive editing andmultitask background rendering, but interface enhancements andvideo-rendering features are also significant.

Rocket Network

(

www.rocketnetwork.com

) announced new partners atNAB. SADiE Artemis and RADiA workstations are now RocketPowered, andTascam has developed a new application that supports both RocketNetworkand Tascam's OpenTL native file format.

HHB

(

www.hhbusa.com

) showed a prototype of Portadrive,its new 8-track, 24-bit/96kHz location sound recorder. Portadriverecords onto a 2.5-inch removable hard drive that can store more thantwo hours of 8-channel 24/96 audio, and it has an onboard 6x2 digitalmixer, with six balanced XLR mic/line ins and individual phantom power.AES and S/PDIF digital I/O and SCSI, USB and Ethernet ports arebuilt-in.

MONITORING THE SITUATION

One of the ironies regarding many "surround-capable" mixers is thefact that they can create surround material, yet they offer no means ofeasily monitoring the results. Fortunately, several new productsdesigned for such situations were unveiled at NAB.

Tascam

's (

www.tascam.com

)DS-M7.1 Digital Surround Monitor Controller adds multispeakermonitoring control to consoles with only eight output buses. TheDS-M7.1 duplicates the digital console's output buses, then routes thesignal to both a stem recorder and multiple amp/speaker combinations. Acompact remote controls a rackmount processor, and the DS-M7.1 haseight channels of TDIF, AES/EBU and ADAT I/O for interfacing with astem recorder, with support for all surround formats from LCRS to 7.1(including 5.1/6.1); it can also downmix to stereo from any surroundformat. The DS-M7.1 handles sampling rates up to 96 kHz, and onboardbass management is standard.

Studio Technologies

(

www.studio-tech.com

) has expanded its line ofstereo and 5.1 monitor controllers with the StudioComm 78/79,remote/processor rack combo, which also handles 7.1 monitoring.Surround controllers were definitely in bloom, as

Martinsound

(

www.martinsound.com

) is now shipping its PanMAXautomated surround panner and MultiMAX EX multiformat monitorcontroller. Martinsound also showed FilterMAX, an outboard surround LFEfilter, which was designed in conjunction with Tomlinson Holman and TMHCorp.

Dolby

(

www.dolby.com

) debuted the DP564 Multichannel AudioDecoder, the next generation of its industry-standard DP562 referencefor Dolby Digital, Dolby Surround, Dolby Surround Pro Logic II and PCMdecoding, as well as an LTC SMPTE output, AES and optical inputs,master volume and an onboard Dolby Headphone processor.

There were plenty of other slick products at NAB and we'll coverthese in our regular product columns in the months to come. Meanwhile,NAB returns to Las Vegas next year from April 5-10. See you there!

SIDEBAR: Six Picks You Might Have Missed

With six exhibit halls packed with goodies, there's no way anyonecould see them all. Here are some cool debuts you may haveoverlooked...

M&K Professional

(

www.mkprofessional.com

) redefines the meaning ofsurround sound with the MPS-422 "Wraparound" multichannel monitor, aU-shaped array of speakers designed to fit around a standard 19-inchbroadcast monitor. Add in M&K's LFE-5 bass-management controllerand a subwoofer, and you have a complete, compact, multichannellistening package (below).

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Dolby

's (

www.dolby.com

) LM100 Loudness Meter is an analysistool that addresses the ongoing problem of loudness inconsistencies,enabling users at any point in the broadcast chain to subjectivelymeasure (and hopefully eliminate) the loudness differences betweenvarious broadcast materials, programs or channels.

Switchcraft

's (

www.switchcraft.com

) Model 555 EZ Norm 96-point TTpatchbay has tiny screwdriver-accessible switches between the upper andlower jacks, enabling the user to easily reconfigure any jack pair fornormaled, half-normaled or full-normaled operation. A variety of rearconfigurations are available, including solder lugs, EDAC multipin,punchblocks or wire-wrap interfacing.

Terrasonde

's (

www.terrasonde.com

) Digital Audio Toolbox combinesa digital signal generator, jitter meter, level meter, bitstreamanalyzer, clock/sample counter, error display, distortion meter,digital cable tester, Sony 9-pin tester and much more, with ADAT,S/PDIF (co-ax and optical), AES/EBU and wordclock I/Os, along withanalog outs, and Dolby 5.1 digital and video sync inputs.

Audio Accessories

(

www.patchbays.com

) demoed 48- and 96-point digitalaudio patchbays with 110-ohm, self-normaling TT cord patching on thefront panel and 75-ohm BNCs on the rear. A 75/110-ohm balun built intoeach jack keeps everything operating at AES3 standard for longer cableruns, less distortion and a 300MHz bandwidth.

SRS Labs

(

www.srstechnologies.com

) turned heads with itsBPP-02 Broadcast Phase Protector, a simple-to-use, 2-in/2-out stereoprocessor that allows the accurate reproduction of any stereo programmaterial without any loss of center-channel voiceinformation–regardless of any phase reversals in the distributionchain following the BPP-02–including the listener's home!