2019 NAB Show Wrap-Up: The Challenges & Opportunities of Broadcasting . ....

2019 NAB Show Wrap-Up: The Challenges & Opportunities of Broadcasting . . . and the Gear


The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show is the world’s largest annual convention encompassing the convergence of media, entertainment and technology. This year’s show had “storytelling” as its theme. Slogans like “Every Story Starts Here,” “What’s Your Story,” “Any Story Is Possible” and “Your Story Your Way” were all over the exhibit halls. Storytelling really is the essence of what broadcasting is all about. The show was expansive, but we’ve done our best to give you the gist with our NAB Show Wrap-Up.

2019 NAB Show Wrap-Up

In his opening keynote speech welcoming broadcasters, content creators, producers, distributors and technology companies, Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, noted that free over-the-air broadcasters are more important than ever, especially for local communities. He noted that, with the demise of many community daily newspapers, local broadcasters are vital to keep the community informed. Broadcasters provide quick, accessible, accurate information to local communities on essential topics.

“In this digital age, when people can access virtually anything from virtually anywhere, from millions of sources of information, broadcasters’ role in every community has become even more critical as people search for a trusted and reliable news source.” 2019-NAB-Show-Logo

NAB took up all of the Las Vegas Convention Center. According to preliminary figures, more than 1,600 companies from around the world had their products and services on display. A total of 91,460 showgoers attended. Moreover, some 24,000 of those attendees were international visitors from 160 countries.

Beyond the Briefing Room

One of the panels presented on NAB’s Main Stage was called Beyond the Briefing Room. Moderated by Smith, the panel featured members of the White House Press Corps, including PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor, NBC’s Hallie Jackson, CBS’s Steven Portnoy and ABC’s Cecilia Vega. The focus was on covering the president; the reporters presented a somewhat contradictory picture of their assignment.

On the one hand, President Trump regularly attacks the media, questioning its credibility and calling it the enemy of the people. On the other hand, in spite of limited formal press conferences and few briefings, he’s more accessible to the media on an informal basis. Correspondents concurred that he is a difficult president to cover. Moreover, in spite of the difficulties, fair and accurate administration coverage now is more important than ever.

Another Q&A panel discussion included members of the Trump administration. Three FCC commissioners, Geoffrey Starks, Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly, focused on the diversity, or the lack of it, in television ownership. Of the 1,300 stations nationwide, only 102 are owned by women, 62 by Latinos, 12 by African Americans and 10 by Asians.

Other Main Stage panels covered topics such as Content Creation & Coverage in Today’s Evolving Industry; Autonomous Cars and Amazing Experiences; Safety, Content & Connectivity; and 5G Is the Future…Or Is It?

While NAB is a broadcast show, it isn’t an entertainment content driven show. It doesn’t focus on over-the-air national networks or cable-based broadcasters. It isn’t a venue for seeing the lineup for broadcaster’s next season, or who’s going to be starring in what episodes of what sit-com.

Local Focus

Rather, as Smith alluded in his speech, NAB focuses more on local broadcasters, in particular, on the issues these broadcasters face and the products, equipment and services that they need.

One of the issues broadcasters are dealing with is the new ATSC 3.0 Next-Gen TV technology standard. It makes it possible for local TV stations to broadcast programming over the air, not only to TVs, but also to next-gen-enabled tablets and cell phones, without going through cellular networks.

Sinclair Broadcasting’s executive chairman of the board, David Smith, called ATSC 3.0 the single biggest opportunity ever available to the broadcast industry. Moreover, he predicted the new broadcast capabilities will keep broadcasters afloat for the next generation.

Another issue broadcasters are facing is frequency changes. A number of local television stations have already switched to new frequencies. In addition, by 2020 more than 1,000 stations will have to change their broadcast frequencies.

VR, AR, AI, Etc.

Besides traditional broadcasting, NAB also touched on specialty topics. These encompassed virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence; streaming video and podcasting; and cloud computing.

NAB Show Highlights Blackmagic_Pocket_Cinema_Camera
Blackmagic Design 4K Pocket Cinema Camera

The selection of products on display also was impressive, ranging from simple coaxial cables and antenna towers to cameras, lenses and lighting gear. Also included were complex content creation software as well as entire studio production facilities. Then there were news-gathering units, such as vans, satellite trucks and camera-equipped helicopters.

The companies represented were a who’s who of the elite manufacturers of the broadcast industry. Blackmagic Design, one of the leading companies in both broadcast hardware and software, had its usual massive display space on the showroom floor. On the hardware side, the company showed everything from its Micro and 4K Pocket cinema cameras (priced at $995 and $1,295, respectively) to high-end field and studio cameras. This included the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 next-generation digital film camera with RAW capabilities, high-speed frame rates to 300 fps and direct recording to USB-C disks. It has a suggested retail price of $5,995.

On the software side, the company demonstrated its DaVinci Resolve multiuser collaboration software suite. Interestingly enough, the company is offering its entry-level DaVinci Resolve 16 software package totally free.

It’s surprisingly powerful for a free program. Resolve 16 provides professional editing, color, audio and visual effects capabilities. It is also capable of working in all video formats up to Ultra HD. Moreover, it’s an ideal introduction package to get started on the learning curve. A more full-featured version of DaVinci Resolve Studio 16 is available for $299.

Sophisticated Lighting

Manufacturers such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, Zeiss and Fujifilm also showed their latest selection of cameras and lenses. In addition, there was very sophisticated lighting equipment, ranging from palm-sized light cubes to massive umbrellas and high-powered studio lights, from companies like Mole-Richardson LED and Chauvet Professional.

Mole-Vari-Tener-LED NAB Show Highlights
Mole-Richardson Tener LED

For lighting, Mole recently introduced the 14-inch Tener LED, a high-output single-source, variable color temperature studio light. It’s designed around a 1500 watt LED with color temperature capabilities ranging from 2700K to 6500K. Its beam angles extend from 20º to 55º, so it can be used either as a spotlight or a floodlight. The unit is controlled by a rear touch screen and includes Bluetooth capabilities. Consequently, users can control it from the company’s smartphone app.

Cine Lenses

There also was a proliferation of new lenses, including highly specialized lenses. One of the most interesting was a macro lens just released from Venus Optics. It introduced the Laowa 24mm f/14 2x Macro Probe lens. Looking somewhat like a sawed-off rifle barrel, the 15.7-inch lens is a unique macro tool that focuses from 2:1 macro magnification to infinity.

Partly waterproof (the barrel can be submerged but not the focusing mechanism), it focuses up to 1cm away with its very small 2cm-diameter lens tip. An 84º angle of view provides a bug’s-eye perspective with a very deep depth of field. Extremely small but quite bright, LED lights around the front of the lens illuminate the scene. Moreover, the lens employs 27 elements but still only weighs a pound.

Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe

For cameras with full-frame sensors, it’s available in EF, PL and E mounts; it also comes in still imaging and cine versions. The suggested retail price is $1,499 for the still version and $1,699 for the cine model.

The company also introduced the Ooom 25–100mm T2.9 cine lens. This high-quality cinematic zoom lens works with PL/EF cameras with Super 35 sensors. It’s priced at $6,500.

There is a lot of convergence between still imaging and video, and most lens manufacturers tend to develop just slightly different still and cine versions of their lenses. Schneider-Kreuznach takes a different approach.

Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon FF 25mm T2.1

It designed its Xenon full-frame prime lens series from the ground up, specifically for cine applications. Schneider has always had a reputation for producing some of the best lenses in the world. It’s continuing to build that reputation with its Xenon cine lenses. The six lenses range from the f/2.8 18mm to the f/2.1 100mm.

Robotics & Rigs

MRMC-Bolt-Jr NAB Show Highlights
Bolt Jr. from MRMC, a Nikon Company

In addition, companies demonstrated a range of robotic and automated broadcast solutions. MRMC, a Nikon company, brought their Polycam Chat, Polycam Player and Polycam One.

The Bolt and Bolt Jr. camera robots also took up residency in both the Nikon booth and in the LVCC lobby, where they demonstrated why they are a choice for high-speed and slow-motion precision content capture.

Storage & Backup

In addition, storage is always an issue in any type of media production. Fortunately, capacities are increasing exponentially while sizes are decreasing and the per-gigabyte cost is dropping.

One of the fastest, most dependable types of storage is SSD flash memory. Lexar added to its series of SSD memory modules with the SL100 Pro Portable SSD. The small form factor external storage unit provides a 1 terabyte capacity and USB-C 3.1 connectivity. The SRP is $279.

Standout Conference Sessions

Like with most trade shows, educational opportunities were a big draw. There were dozens and dozens of conference sessions, which started a couple of days before the trade show floor opened.

Individual session series included the Broadcast Engineering and Informational Technology Conference; the Creative Master Series; and the Influencer Series: Sports and Entertainment. Other sessions focused on such topics as cloud computing, the business of media, and content strategies.

In addition, there was a series of daylong field workshops, such as UAV Cinematography and 360/VR Production. And all-day hands-on training sessions dealing with things like color correction for video editors, Adobe After Effects and DaVinci Resolve filled up quickly.

By all indications, in spite of some difficult challenges, rapidly changing competitive forces and ever-accelerating technological developments, broadcasting in the United States is thriving. The National Association of Broadcasters wants to ensure that it will continue to do so, and the NAB show is an important part of that effort.

NAB 2020 will be held April 18–22, with more days allocated for the trade show.