A few years back, when the South Hall was completed at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the shuttle buses stopped running back and forth between the Sands, it looked like NAB might return to being a unified show. All of the manufacturers, traditional and “new” (i.e., software-based), were together again, and attendees had a much easier time getting around this massive event.
But the merger didn't exactly happen. The first year out, the South Hall — which featured massive anchor booths by Avid/Digidesign, Apple and Sony — captured all the buzz, and there was the “hip” factor to contend with: If you didn't understand the South Hall, then get out of the way and let the next generation take over. But over the past few years, with uncertainty during the adoption of high-def and a lack of major purchases at the show, the mood, despite the hype of new media, was still wait and see.
This year, NAB still seemed to be two shows, though the South Hall's emphasis on workflow “solutions,” content management and the like had oozed its way to established and new manufacturers alike. And this year, many of the 104,000 registered attendees were buying. Fairlight alone announced 14 console sales on the first day of the show. SSL, DiGiCo and Calrec also reported new sales and installs. Console business is back!
Other trends: HD was everywhere on booth signs, mostly video but a smattering of audio. Workflow is definitely the word of the year, as version upgrades and updates seem focused on efficiency rather than gargantuan sets of new features. And companies can still make a buzz with a single sentence, as Adobe did, kicking off the show by announcing its $3.4 billion purchase of Macromedia. Still, Mix went to cover audio, and audio was what we found.
TAKING DAWS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Everyone seemed to be talking about Apple's (www.apple.com) Soundtrack Pro, the new audio app built into the Final Cut Studio video production suite. (Other apps include Final Cut Pro 5, Motion 2, Shake 4 and DVD Studio Pro 4 authoring software.) Also sold separately at $299, Soundtrack Pro offers full multitrack editing and mixing, 50 Logic plug-ins, serious noise-reduction tools, loop-based music creation and more. Sweetening the deal, Apple announced Mackie Control Universal support for Final Cut Pro, which sent video editors to Mackie and Tascam and product reps scrambling to place orders.
While perhaps lacking the glam appeal of Soundtrack Pro, announcements made by other computer companies will have a profound impact on how audio is processed and managed. Anticipating Microsoft's announcement of its x64 OS, AMD (www.amd.com) said that all existing and upcoming single- and dual-core Athlon 64, Opteron and Turion 64 processors are fully compatible with Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition — all the better to run those virtual instruments and memory-intensive plug-ins.
Intel (www.intel.com) didn't have a booth but partnered its presence with a number of manufacturers. In the audio world, that would be Cakewalk (www.cakewalk.com) and Digidesign (www.digidesign.com), both of which are working with the company on dual-core 64-bit technology: Cakewalk has integrated it into Sonar; Digi will have more news in the coming months.
Tascam (www.tascam.com) generated lots of gawkers with its hot X-48 HD workstation. The rackmount unit can record up to 48 tracks at 96k (24 tracks at 192k), runs Tascam's workstation software and is capable of operating VST plug-ins. It comes standard with TDIF digital I/O and has card slots ready for any other I/O you need. It also includes tri-level sync for HD.
The Marantz (www.d-mpro.com) PMD671 high-resolution Compact Flash field recorder offers multiple recording modes and up to 36 hours of stereo recording on a 1GB CF card. Features include confidence monitoring, XLR mic inputs, USB 2 connectivity, an optional remote and time-shift playback that lets users back up and listen to passages while continuing to record an event.
Content providers were agog at the Sony (www.sonyproaudio.com) booth, both from its sheer size and the fact that the company released upgrades of the Vegas video and audio editing system and DVD Architect authoring program. The duo forms the new Vegas+DVD Production Suite, specifically upgraded for HDV, which also includes a Dolby Digital AC-3 encoder for 5.1 output.
BIAS' (www.bias-inc.com) Peak Pro 5 adds a ton of features, such as a new graphic view, replication-ready CD burning and DDP file export. An Extended Technology edition, Peak Pro XT 5 includes five new BIAS plug-ins: Repli-Q, Sqweez-3 and Sqweez-5, PitchCraft, Reveal and GateEx.
The Blu-Ray disc format is making slow but steady inroads. Developed in collaboration with Panasonic, Sonic Solutions (www.sonic.com) released Blu-Ray Creator, touted as the first commercial authoring system to let studios create titles for the anticipated format. In addition, Dolby (www.dolby.com) announced that Dolby Digital Plus and MLP lossless compression were officially made part of the Blu-Ray spec.
CONSOLES, CONTROLLERS AND EVERYTHING IN-BETWEEN
Digidesign was busy showing ICON D-Command, a scaled-down and less-expensive version of D-Control. Digi called it a “medium-format integrated console environment,” but we called it the “Baby ICON.” Meanwhile, the new cross-platform Pro Tools 6.9 system brings inline console emulation mode and other expanded features to ICON systems.
Australian manufacturer Fairlight (www.fairlightau.com) has been on a roll since CEO John Lancken took direction of the company a few years back. At NAB, the company was playing up its new Pyxis HD/SD nonlinear video system, but also announced its Constellation console sales and support for Waves Diamond Bundle plug-ins.
With more than 100 AWS 900 consoles sold, SSL (www.solid-state-logic.com) used NAB to show its new automation system, dubbed AWSomation. But with the emphasis on broadcast and post, the company spent a lot of time showing Version 2 of the C100 broadcast board, now with touchscreen panning, and V. 3 of the C200, which now takes advantage of the DAW control integration first shown on the AWS 900.
Harrison's (www.glw.com) Trion digital console features a traditional surface rather than a central, shared-knob control panel. Running on Harrison's IKIS™ platform, Trion uses Linux and USB technology with Ethernet connectivity. A 15-inch monitor for every eight faders offers a dedicated view of each channel's information, and Harrison's PreView™ waveform envelope display provides a visual representation of channel names, stem assignments, EQ/dynamics, aux sends, metering and surround panning.
Euphonix (www.euphonix.com) had its System 5-MC DAW Controller ready and shipping, with EuCon control of Nuendo and Pyramix, and Pro Tools, Digital Performer and Logic Pro available under the HUI protocol. Also, the company announced a partnership with SAN Systems and Hitachi to provide facility network storage.
English console maker Calrec (www.calrec.com) announced a system upgrade for Alpha, Sigma and Zeta 100 consoles called System Plus. It brings configurable TFT metering and 5.1 source input capability.
The MaxxBCL (Bass, Compressor, Limiter) from Waves (www.waves.com) brings the MaxxBass enhancer, Renaissance Compressor and L2 Ultramaximizer limiter into a two-rackspace box. The unit has analog I/O, AES/EBU and S/PDIF running up to 96 kHz for flexible interfacing.
Prism's (www.prismsound.com) ADA-8 XR converter has enhanced clocking technology and supports sample rates from 32 to 192 kHz. A range of expansion cards for Pro Tools|HD, AES, S/PDIF, DSD, Supermac DSD and FireWire allow use with applications such as Nuendo, Cubase, Logic, Digital Performer 4 and Pro Tools.
Digigram's (www.digigram.com) UAX220 pro USB audio interface features two balanced analog ins and two outs on XLRs, 24-bit/48kHz operation and zero-latency direct monitoring. UAX220 is plug-and-play, with DirectSound, Core Audio and Linux ALSA management — and it's not much bigger than a breakout cable.
There are always a few new mics at NAB. Holophone (www.holophone.com) intro'd a camera mount surround mic, the Holophone-MINI. It partners with an attachment that encodes the 5.1 feed in Circle Surround format in real time, making portable surround recording for video a reality.
Beyer's (www.beyer dynamic.com) MCE 86 II shotgun mic can be used for film/video, lectern or theater applications. It's light and rugged, making it ideal for mounting onto cameras or camcorders.
THE (UN)TANGLED WORKFLOW WEB
At Studio Network Solutions (www.studionetworksolutions.com), the emphasis was the new X-24 globalSAN, which brings iSCSI FibreChannel connection to all users. So those with SCSI, you can now connect. With the only OS X-compatible iSCSI-FC (at under $30k for 9.6 terabytes, 10 users!), SNS has a leg up on the coming boom in storage networks. And Digigram was showing its EtherSound networking capabilities for live sound and installs, with 64 channels of uncompressed audio — bi-directionally — over standard Ethernet.
Creative Network Design (www.creativenetworkdesign.com) demoed NetMix Pro 3.3, a file management system that works with Pro Tools 6.9, includes spot-to-timeline in Windows XP and includes Avid and ReWire integration. Not to be outdone, Virtual Katy (www.virtualkaty.com) announced V. 2 (coming this fall) and showed its use on The Lord of the Rings. Soundminer (www.soundminer.com) showed Soundminer 4 and announced the coming of an XP version. And finally, mSoft (www.msoftinc.com), which has made a big stake in music library and asset-management worlds, was showing MusicCue 3.6 and the new VisionClip video library server. We told you workflow was big.
NAB returns to Las Vegas April 22 to 27, 2006. See you there!