NAB 2007 Report: Got HDTV?

HDTV is surely the longest-running overnight sensation in the history of broadcasting. Cries of "HD's here!" have been echoing through NAB's exhibit halls
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HDTV is surely the longest-running overnight sensation in the history of broadcasting. Cries of "HD's here!" have been echoing through NAB's exhibit halls for more than a decade, but this time, the show's 100,000-plus attendees were very serious about gearing up for high-definition production and broadcast. Part of this stems from the February 2009 mandate when the FCC finally pulls the plug on analog TV and ushers in the new age of 100-percent DTV broadcasting. Another factor? Consumers seem willing to upgrade to 720p and 1080i/1080p systems, especially with prices falling on large, flat-panel LCD and plasma TVs—laying the groundwork for a substantial market of HD-hungry viewers.

The major broadcasters and content providers have been gearing up for this for years now, but the real revolution comes when the mid-market stations and producers get on board. Or as one observer put it, "Think about how many college football games are going to want to be in HD over the next three years."

CONSOLES—LEAN AND MEAN
The mood at NAB was decidedly upbeat; even the audio-dominated North Hall was packed. A popular item on everyone's 2007 shopping list was digital surround consoles, but in a buyer's market, the emphasis was more power, more inputs and more surround program outs—but in increasingly compact frames and at half the price, naturally.

Calrec (www.calrec.com) unveiled Omega, a new mid-level console that uses its award-winning, FPGA-based Bluefin high-density signal processing technology and features 160 mono DSP paths packaged as 48 stereo and 64 mono channels, and up to 24 full 5.1 surround channels. Available in 24/40/56-frame sizes, Omega with Bluefin's output complement includes eight 5.1 surround groups; 20 aux outs and 48 multitrack outs. QVC purchased the first Omega for its new 48-foot truck.

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SSL C100 HD

Keeping with the theme, SSL (www.solid-state-logic.com) renamed its C Series to C100 HD and C300 HD, doubling the inputs to 512, adding MORSE routing capabilities, updating Century processing and incorporating the workstation control from SSL's popular AWS series.

Derived from the System 5 Series, the Euphonix (www.euphonix.com) S5 Fusion digital console combines onboard DSP processing channels and extensive DAW control, with 24 channel strips and optional motor joysticks. Each channel strip has a multi-format moving fader, touch-sensitive knobs for EQ, filters, compressor, expander/gate, aux, pan and DAW plug-in control for TDM, VST and Audio Units. The high-res screens show metering, track info and routing display.

Harrison (www.harrisonconsoles.com) countered with the under-$150k Ikis-powered Trion. Over the past few months, the company has sold four in Germany and a few more in Taipei.

Studer (www.studer.ch) unveiled an optional I/O card that brings onboard Dolby Digital and Dolby E decoding to its Vista and OnAir 3000 digital consoles.

Soundcraft's (www.soundcraftdigital.com) Vi4 console includes all the capabilities of its Vi6, but in a compact package. Less than five feet long, the Vi4 offers 48 inputs on 24 faders with a total of 27 output buses and inherits the Vi6's Vistonics II touchscreen interface and FaderGlow features.

Merging Technologies (www.merging.com) gave us a sneak peak of Pyramix 6—the first-ever, 48-channel DSD recording system. Merging also showed the new, sharp-looking Ramses controller with its Oasis I/O boxes that offer DSD and DXD recording with optional mic preamps in the box. It all speaks back to Pyramix via MADI.

THE OTHER SIDE
Throughout NAB, you couldn't escape the "workflow" catchphrases: "server-based workflow," "integrated workflow," "paperless workflow," etc. It's not just better technology, it's easier. Avid, Apple, Adobe and Sony lead the way, as you’d expect, but there are plenty of other contenders in this area, from workstation manufacturers such as BIAS and MOTU to SSL with its MediaWAN.

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Apple Computer's Soundtrack Pro 2

The big talk at NAB was the $1,299 Final Cut Pro Studio 2 production bundle from Apple (www.apple.com/finalcutstudio). Highlights include Final Cut Pro 6, which introduces Apple's ProRes 422 format for uncompressed HD quality at SD file sizes and Soundtrack Pro 2, a complete revamping of this audio editor/creator with new tools for multitrack editing, surround mixing and conforming sound to picture. STP2 also ships with 5,000 pro Foley and sound effects, some 1,000 surround SFX and multichannel music tracks, and 50 plug-ins—many in true surround, including the Space Designer convolution reverb.

Digidesign's (www.digidesign.com) Pro Tools Version 7.3 adds support for high-def video workflows, including a secondary time code ruler that displays HD frame rates, for viewing positions in both HD and SD timebases and nudge in half-frame increments. Also in 7.3 is the ability to tag AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) file exports with HD frame rates for compatibility with Avid video workstations. In other Pro Tools news, a Windows Vista version is coming this summer.

Also shipping this summer, BIAS' (www.bias-inc.com) Peak Pro 6 editing/processing/mastering/delivery software features a redesign of the GUI, and enhancements to the playlist, including new crossfades and the ability to tweak volume envelopes. Other interesting features include Pitch Envelope, Convolve Envelope, Perpetual Looper and Vbox Link. Retail is $599.

NAB had no end of software apps designed to increase efficiency in the production and broadcast environments. Providing file-based workflows and project management for post facilities using Pro Tools, Virtual Katy's (www.virtualkaty.com) VK Connect bridges the gap between the sequence-oriented picture editing and session-structured audio post. The company also unveiled VK Version 2.5, an update of its popular software, now with expanded format support.

Dolby (www.dolby.com) is now shipping its Dolby Media Producer suite of encode/decode/media tools. DMP supports all Dolby audio technologies for disc-based media formats, such as HD DVD and Blu-ray, as well as standard DVD-Video and DVD-Audio formats.

Minnetonka's (www.minnetonkaaudio.com) Audio Tools Batch Pro offers an automated processing environment for many audio-related tasks, including editing, encoding, plug-in processing and processing through external I/O.



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Studio Network Solutions (www.studionetworksolutions.com) showed Postmap, a Mac/Win search/management app that helps users instantly locate files on their entire storage systems: SAN, LAN, CD/DVD and FireWire drives. Postmap includes a powerful metadata management and workflow engine that can be configured to address the needs of any workgroup.

WIRELESS WORLD
With as-yet-unresolved FCC frequency allocation changes in the wind (see “The Sky Is Falling” in the April 2007 issue of Mix). NAB attendees had more than a casual interest in new wireless developments. Here are some that caught our attention.

Sony Pro Audio (www.sony.com/proaudio) showed its digital wireless system featuring a digital modulator and encryption scheme. The system—now in use working a reality show in L.A.—is capable of 12 channels simultaneously on a 6MHz bandwidth TV channel. An innovative Sony codec chip helps the system deliver 24-bit/48kHz digital transmission quality with reliable, secure, low-latency operation and up to 50-percent more simultaneous channels than conventional analog systems.

Mipro (dist. by Avlex, www.avlex.com) is shipping its single-channel ACT-81 and dual ACT-82 digital wireless systems. Both use a sub-band ADPCM algorithm that's said to eliminate compander noise. Price is roughly $3,500 per channel.

Ideal for use with shotgun mics (handheld or boom), the plug-on Zaxcom (www.zaxcom.com) TRX700 recording transmitter stores up to 12 hours of timecode-referenced audio on a removable miniSD card. Offering some safety in these days of crowded airwaves, this patent-pending feature provides an automatic back-up of the system's RF transmission.

Audio Technica (www.audio-technica.com) touted its 1800 Series dual-channel UHF wireless system with a built-in mixer in the camera-mount receiver that lets users mix two input sources in the field. The system comes with either a beltpack transmitter or mic-end XLR transmitter, plus the receiver/mixer. Some 996 UHF frequencies are available and single-channel systems are also offered.

Sennheiser (www.sennheiserusa.com) showed its EK3241 camera-mount portable receiver with 32MHz switching bandwidth and 7,200 available frequencies. A new Command Channel function can open a secondary audio channel for use in a variety of broadcast applications. 

MICS, MICS, MICS!
NAB featured a multitude of interesting new mics for high-res and multichannel production. DPA (www.dpamicrophones.com) showed its first shotgun, the 4017, an 8.3-inch, 2.6-ounce unit with 130dB SPL handling, a built-in 50Hz roll-off and switches for a 300Hz roll-off and a 5k to 8k boost.

Sony (www.sony.com/proaudio) unveiled the feather-light ECM-680S, which can function as a shotgun, stereo or mono mic. If one side of the stereo feed goes out, the mic adjusts and sends the output as dual mono for worry-free field recording.

HHB (www.hhbusa.com) expanded on its original FlashMic—which combines an omni Sennheiser capsule and a broadcast-quality Flash recorder—with the DRM85-C cardioid model. Both FlashMics feature 1GB Flash memory for more than 18 hours of recording, USB audio transfer, full manual or automatic gain control and nine user templates for configuring the unit using the supplied FlashMic Manager software.

A new, affordable model from SoundField (www.soundfield.com), the SPS200 can produce simultaneous phase-coherent stereo and 5.1 if required, decoding its output to the required formats via two cross-platform plug-ins. The mic also features remote control over pickup pattern and orientation without moving the mic.

Sanken's (www.sanken-mic.com) WMS-5 delivers phase-coherent surround sound with five discrete outputs (L/ C/R/Ls/Rs) from one compact 9.25-inch/8.3-ounce body. The "M" capsule is used for both a shotgun-directivity Center and front Left/Right. The "S" signal is utilized for both front Left and Right and rear Left Surround, Right Surround. A rear "M" capsule is used for Left/Right Surround.

Beyerdynamic (www.beyerdynamic.com) debuted the MCE 72 PV CAM camera-mountable stereo mic. Based on the consumer MCE 72, the new MCE 72 PV CAM runs on 11- to 52-volt phantom power for a hotter output signal and includes a cable with standard 3-pin XLR outputs.

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Digidesign RMS active monitors

MONITORS—AUDIO AND MORE
Digi monitors? Developed jointly with PMC, Digidesign's (www.digidesign.com) RMS series active bi-amped monitors are offered as 5.5-inch two-way (RM1) and 6.7-inch two-way (RM2) versions, both with DSP-based digital crossovers and XLR analog and AES/EBU digital inputs. All models employ PMC's Advanced Transmission Line technology. Shipping in May 2007, the RM1s are $1,249/each; the RM2s are $1,749/each.

Genelec (www.genelec.com) announced that the speaker management software for its DSP driven monitors is now available for both PC and Mac. The software lets users run Genelec's AutoCal room correction and control up to 25 8200 speakers and five 7200 series subs via standard Cat-5 cabling.

Mackie (www.mackie.com) unveiled the second generation of its HR monitors. The new THX-approved HR824mk2 and HR624mk2 have a cast-aluminum enclosure with a Zero Edge Baffle for minimal diffraction. Both have 1-inch titanium dome tweeters paired with 6.7-inch (HR624mk2) or 8.75-inch (HR824mk2) woofers and a passive radiator.

A "different" kind of monitor, DK-Technologies' (www.dk-technologies.com) new Starfish display for its MSD600M audio meters shows levels for each of the surround channels, along with the perceived acoustic level. The Starfish's colored contour reflects the correlation between neighboring audio channels, making unwanted effects easy to track down, and stereo/mono downmix signals are displayed to ensure compatibility.

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MORE LATER
We'll provide more coverage of new products from NAB in future issues and online at http://mixonline.com. In the meantime, NAB returns to Las Vegas next year, April 12 to 17, 2008. Book those hotels now!

MIX CERTIFIED HITS
It wasn't easy, but listed alphabetically, here are our choices for the Top 10 audio products at NAB.

Apple Soundtrack Pro 2
BIAS Peak Pro 6
Calrec Omega
Digidesign RMS Active Monitors
DK-Technologies MSD600M Starfish Display
DPA 4017 Shotgun Microphone
Euphonix S5 Fusion
Merging Technologies Pyramix 6
Sennheiser DRM85-C FlashMic cardioid
SSL C100 HD/C300 HD