The NAB 2017 Show Recap and Blurred Lines Between Broadcast and Brand Experiences
Of the flagship industry events that we as an agency make an effort to attend each year, NAB is always one of them.
The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show is different from CES, C2, EMS, InfoComm and the rest, because it really is geared towards broadcasters. So why would a brand experience agency want to know what's going on in the world of broadcast media (news, sports, Hollywood)? Well with the revolutionary onset of live social video as an experiential marketing channel, the lines between broadcast, B2B events and activations, and consumer video programming, are becoming more blurred.
Where broadcasters push the limits in the realms of on set LED installations and camera technology, we know from experience that event marketing and the wide world of experiential brand messaging will follow. In addition, speaking to the video production arm of Cramer that is Motion Studios, we are always looking to stay on the forefront of new trends, new gear, and new ways of monitoring, capturing, delivering video. The following were our four big takeaways.
1. The Way Professionals Create Virtual Reality and 360 Degree Content is Changing
Just as VR and 360 degree video hit new strides—from both creation and adoption standpoints—in the last two years, we are now undergoing a dramatic shift in camera technology enabling the exponential progression of these video types. We're talking about 8K, 360-degree video, with ambisonic spatial sound. Rather than needing to stitch together a makeshift camera rig (like we have in the past using 6 or 8 GoPros) to capture 360-degree VR content, cameras are being made to stitch seamlessly on board.
Yes, most people know about the Samsung Gear VR or the Ricoh Theta S, but those were the entry level consumer grade cameras doing this. Looking to models like the Insta360 Pro, Sonicam Apollo, Orah 4i, professional grade standards are jumping to new heights. The Orah 4i is actually made for live streaming 4K, 360-degree video, and that's mind blowing. That also brings us to the next big takeaway.
2. The H.265 HEVC Codec is Making 360-Degree Video Streaming Possible
H.265 HEVC (high-efficiency video encoding) is the new kid to hit the codec block. Compare a .h264 codec, at 2 megabytes per second, to a .h265 stream at the same rate, and it will look just as good if not better, yet need nearly 50% less bandwidth to push that same amount of data. A 50% reduction in bitrate required for a professional grade live stream is huge!
With this advancement in streaming rates, video over IP solutions could replace using satellites for broadcast and professional media, as well as for delivering content to the web. Instead of needing a satellite truck in the field to run a professional grade webcast, you could have just a couple of 4G or 5G network cards and be able to send full HD or 4k footage back to the switchboard, the studio, or the web. Amidst the advancement in camera technology and streaming solutions, the whole workflow for dealing with 360-degree and VR content is changing as well. We see ImmersiaTV as one of the leaders in this space as they work to create more immersive TV experiences and multi-cam omnidirectional broadcasts.
3. Production Switchers Prioritizing Delivering Content to Web and Mobile
Broadcast media is not just about high-end TV anymore. The industry is now building for the web audience and that can't be seen more prominently than in how switchboard technology is being redeveloped. And these new, small, all-in-one production switchers ranging from $1500 to $3k, are starting to do everything, if not more, than much pricier alternatives.
New production switchers like Black Magic's ATEM Television Studio Pro HD allow you to not only cut video between cameras, but basically you can use just one piece of gear to produce your entire show. From shading video to controlling robotic cams, recording straight to an SD in the switch board, mixing audio, and direct live streaming, all from one device.
As broadcast industry powerhouses the likes of Black Magic start catering to content creators of the digital age, we see the whole way broadcast is built shift with it. Production gear becomes more powerful, more multi-faceted and capable, and less expensive, all so we can start producing studio quality shows for the web.
4. More LED at NAB Than Ever Before
In the past, the industry standard for space between pixels on an LED wall has been around 3.2mm. At NAB, we saw LED walls that broke the 1mm pixel pitch barrier, coming in at just 0.9mm. It's hard to comprehend how much better that is without actually seeing it, but it a much, much better viewing experiencing.
LED has just exploded recently, and apart from advancements in pixel construction, we're seeing such remarkable innovations like bendable LED walls. Yes, actual rubber panels. LED is getting better, more accessible, cheaper, and is now more than an accent on a set or a stage. They are becoming the set and the stage.
As cost goes down and quality improves, we'll see more and more LED in the event space. In the past, one major limitation in the world of events, was that LED walls just wouldn't look great on camera. As the technology improves, such as space between pixels decreasing, image quality becomes much sharper and more viable for having on camera.
Another limitation for widespread utilization in the event space was the time it would take to set up the panels. Connecting them, closing the seams, locking them up, to build a big wall was time consuming and labor intensive, which made these very expensive to use as part of a show. There are now a couple of LED manufacturers that are solving this problem. For example, Absen is making LED panels on a track system that utilize magnetic positioning plates to lock in place, while the data and electricity moves through the panels from the track as opposed to hard wiring across panels. And that, is a game changer.
As always, The NAB Show was filled with interesting ideas, passionate industry professionals, and amazing technologies. Future facing conversations echoed across the convention floor, like the two-way street that is TV and digital convergence, to how ATSC 3.0 will transform how targeted TV advertising is delivered to valued audiences. Cramer will continue to look to our complimentary industry sectors to bring the best from the worlds of broadcast media, brand experiences, marketing and technology together in a never ending quest to perfect the craft that is experiential.