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Last week, the 2014 NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention was held in Las Vegas, and I was there to cover as much as I could for AVS Forum and TWiT, the online TV station that produces my Home Theater Geeks podcast. Be sure to check out my on-camera interviews at the show here and a discussion about the convention on HTG here . But that's not all—I'm also posting a bunch of written pieces with photos here on AVS to supplement the video coverage.

 



 

You might wonder why I would cover NAB—after all, it's a trade show aimed at professional content creators, not consumers. For one thing, content creators determine what consumers see and hear, so it's important to know what they're doing in order to understand what to expect in the final product. This is especially true now that we are making the transition to UHD/4K—what standards will the pros use to create and distribute UHD content, and how will those standards coincide with the displays and audio systems in people's homes? Also, professional display and audio technologies often find their way into consumer products, so what is demonstrated at NAB today could indicate what might be available to consumers in the future, either in the home or at commercial cinemas.

 

I invite you to follow the links below to learn about some of the cool stuff I saw at NAB 2014. I'll be adding to these items over the next couple of days, so check back for new entries. Hey, what happens in Vegas doesn't necessarily stay in Vegas!

 

TWiT Special Coverage—On-Camera Interviews

 

Home Theater Geeks—NAB 2014 Wrap-Up

 

UHD Rollout Timetable

 

Sony Demos Several Forms of IP Delivery

 

Panasonic UHD LED-LCD, Laser Projector, Ultra-Short-Throw Projector

 

Red Epic Dragon 6K Camera Footage on Imax 15/70 Film

 

Sony Pure Audio Blu-ray Initiative

 

NHK 8K & 22.2 Audio

 

Christie 6-Primary Laser Projector

 

Christie Vive Audio System

 

Bitrate Reduction from Beamr & Faroudja

 

Harmonic Live UHD 60p, UHD Upscaling, UHD 120 Hz Frame Interpolation

 

Beautiful Booths

 

RealD Ultimate Screen - NEW!

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The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show is the premiere event for content creators from around the world.


This year’s NAB 2014 Show held at the Las Vegas Convention Center (April 7 – 10) brought together 93,000 professionals from 156 countries with over 15,000 exhibitors.


Unlike CES, which focuses on content consumption, NAB showcases the latest technology used by professionals from content creation, content management, distribution and delivery.


The Central Hall of LVCC was dedicated to content Acquisition/Production and Professional Audio/Radio.


Sony had the largest booth in the Central Hall, followed by Canon, Panasonic, JVC, Ikegami, Nikon, Hitachi and GoPro.


Sony surprised everyone with their new A7s digital camera that can shoot 4K video. What makes this camera so remarkable is its large full frame 35mm sensor with a relatively low pixel count of 12.2 Mega pixels. This made it possible to increase the area of each pixel to the point where the camera can shoot at a native ISO of 102,400 without introducing any appreciable grain.


This makes the Sony A7s the new king of low-light performers.


Even the mighty Canon 5D Mark III struggles beyond ISO 12,800. The Sony A7s far exceeds the low light performance of the Canon 5D Mark III and with a little digital trickery can boost its ISO a couple of more stops all the way up to 409,600.


The A7s can record standard HD (1920 x 1080) up to 60 frames per second progressive on an internal SDXC card or Memory stick.


For recording 4K video the camera needs to be paired with an external 4K recorder using the HDMI Out port on the A7s.


The ideal solution is the new Atomos Shogun 4K recorder that doubles as a monitor sporting a 7-inch IPS touch screen.


The A7s/ShoGun combo offers a portable 4K monitoring and playback package.


If you are not quite ready for 4K, Sony unveiled their new PXW-X180 1080p XAVC camcorder with a 25x optical Sony G Zoom lens, with three 1/3” type Exmor CMOS sensors.


Roland demoed their line up of Multi-Format Video Switchers including the V-40HD, V-800HD and Multi-Format Audio/Video Mixers like the VR-50HD and 4 channel Video Mixers like the V-4EX.


Roland also had their R88, an 8-channel surround sound field recorder, with a headphone out supporting DTS Headphone: X.


Ikegami showed their range of 8K products that they designed in close collaboration with Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) to gear up for 8K broadcasts beginning 2016.


8K will have a pixel count of 7680 x 4320 at an aspect ratio of 16:9 sporting high frame rates up to 120 fps progressive, at a bit depth up to 12 bit, and 22.2 multi-channel surround sound. It would support a far larger color space (Rec. 2020) than the current HDTV standard (Rec. 709).


Canon demoed their high-end line of Cinema EOS cameras including the EOS 1DC, C100, C300 PL, and C500 PL models.


They showed how to get razor sharp images when mated with their flagship CN-E30-300mm EF Cinema Zoom Lens.


Canon also showed their new XF205 professional 1080p camcorder with 20x optical zoom, 3.5” OLED display and built-in Wi-Fi.


Canon demoed the vibrant pictures one can print using their large format iPF8400 color printer that uses 12 separate ink cartridges.


Canon has sold over a 100 million EF lenses worldwide from 1987 through 2014, and they were proud to celebrate this milestone with an eye-catching display.


However, Canon and Nikon cannot afford to sit on their laurels. They need to keep innovating fast, else Sony will begin to dominate the market. Sony already has the DSC-RX100ii, the best compact digital camera, and the DSC-RX1, the world’s smallest full frame digital camera, and now the A7s, which sets a new benchmark in low-light photography.


Sony sensors mated with Zeiss glass have proven to be a winning combination. Sony makes the sensors for Nikon DSLRs. It would not surprise anyone if someday Nikon becomes a subsidiary of Sony.


Hitachi showed their next generation Super Hi-Vision (8K) camera that records 7680 x 4320 images at 60 fps. It has a single CMOS sensor with 33 million pixels.


Panasonic demoed the world’s first 1-chip DLP projector PT-RZ670U that uses a Laser in place of a lamp as its light source. This lamp-free and filter-free design allows the projector to run for 20,000 hours without maintenance offering a bright 6000 lumens image ideal for large displays.


The Mobile Media Studios housed inside giant custom-built broadcast trailers were parked in the outdoor areas between the South and Central Halls.


One of these trailers was labeled “The Devil’s Playground.”


Believe it or not, it featured a 36-Node Supercomputer performing Distributed Rendering across 1,728 cores!


What takes hours to render in the gaming industry can now be done in minutes.


http://www.silverdraft.com/



The Co-Founder of this company created the world’s 3rd fastest super computer in 2003 with off-the-shelf parts.


This company custom builds the Devil and Demon systems for the demanding graphics professional.


http://devilanddemon.com/



Fairlight demoed their new EVO.Live Digital Audio Workstation designed specifically for live production and Broadcast studios. It can also double as a console for post-production with integrated HD Video, 3D surround sound panning and automation.


Genelec demoed their new 3-way Smart Active Monitors (SAM) featuring GLM Computer Control for up to 30 monitors on a GLM network.


The Genelec demo was interesting. They had a pair of their new 1238A 3-way SAM monitors featuring 15” woofers. They sounded absolutely fabulous. The imaging, clarity, high-end air, mid-range smoothness, low-end tightness was flawless. These speakers retail for $11,000 each and weigh 126 lbs. The bass response goes down to 21Hz.


Next to these large speakers, they had their 2-way SAM 8240A speakers featuring 6.5-inch bass drivers. These retail for $1800 each and weigh just 20 lbs.


Coupled with these 8240A satellites, they had their 7260A SAM subwoofer featuring a 10” woofer that retails for $3,000.


The total system price for this combo is $6,600 + $600 for the GLM software package.


What was surprising is how close this satellite/sub combo ($7,200) package sounded to the more expensive Genelec 1238A full range pair ($22,000).


The only area where this satellite/sub combination fell short was the extremely coherent bass imaging and insanely loud levels offered by the full range pair.


However, at 1/3rd the price of a pair of 1238A monitors, the Genelec 8240A/7260A combo offers an incredible value and is arguably one of the finest near field monitoring systems one can have in their personal studio.


There is a reason why Genelec monitors are so widely popular with audio professionals.


The Yamaha booth featured all their digital mixers and control surfaces. They had the O1V96i, QL1, QL5, CL1, and CL5 Digital Mixing Consoles, and the DM1000V2-VCM Digital Production Console.


The star of the Yamaha Pro Audio Exhibit was the NUAGE Integrated Audio Production System.


They housed this modular audio interface and control surface inside a separate enclosed audio booth with 5 surround sound speakers. This system is designed grounds up to work with Steinberg Nuendo/Cubase and Avid ProTools. They demoed several movie clips mixed for 5.1 surround.


This was perhaps the most elaborate audio-interface/control surface at the show. I asked the Yamaha rep what was the price of this setup? It was $65,000. I guess even if you had the money, you would still require a commercial pilots license to operate this thing!


http://www.yamahaproaudio.com/global/en/products/daw_systems/nuage/



Leyard, China’s largest LED manufacturer, showed a giant 4K LED Video Wall with a dazzling, sharp picture in broad daylight. These guys were hired to do the displays for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.


Audio-Technica brought their entire arsenal of Broadcast Microphones. AKG demoed their legendary condenser microphones featuring the C414 XL II, the C214 and the C414 XLS models.


All the Post Production and Display Systems were at the South Hall Lower Level.


The biggest booth was occupied by Blackmagic Design, followed by RED Digital Camera, Grass Valley, Quantel, AJA Video Systems, Livestream, Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, and NewTek.


Once again, Blackmagic Design had some ground breaking products to wow the NAB attendees this year.


Blackmagic had their compact 4K Production Camera for Broadcasters for an astonishingly low price of $2995. It comes with a large super 35mm sensor, 10” touch screen, built-in SSD recorder, and Thunderbolt connectivity with a 4-hour battery life.


The 2K version is even cheaper at $1995.


Blackmagic had another surprise. They showcased their Blackmagic URSA 4K camera with a massive 10” fold out monitor, two additional 5” touch screens, interchangeable lenses and sensors, dual RAW and ProRes recorders, available for $5,995.


These guys keep breaking the price barrier each year.


The Blackmagic reps gave continuous hour-long demos of their DaVinci Resolve software. This is generally accepted as the most powerful and advanced color correction tool. Version 11 of DaVinci Resolve adds a useful set of editing tools making it effectively a full featured Non Linear Editor. The software alone costs $995. The price is $29,995 with the Control Surface.


RED Digital Cinema showed their Scarlet Dragon camera for $14,500. It is now possible to use just one camera, the Epic Dragon, for shooting 6K movies and 19 mega pixel still images.


Autodesk invited a group of industry professionals to demo how they created movie special effects and animations using Autodesk Maya and Smoke. I had no clue that all the computer graphics in the popular TV series Cosmos was done within Maya. They showed how they created a comet trail by programming the individual behavior of a collection of particles in 3D space. It was all rendered in 4K and Stereo 3D.


NAB is the only place where one can get to watch these special effects wizards unveil their trade secrets.


Adobe gave demos on their entire suite of creative tools including Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Audition, Adobe Story, Adobe Prelude and Adobe Anywhere for Video. Adobe has been gung-ho on their subscription based model. Time will tell if the industry will accept this new paradigm. Most end-users would be comfortable owning their professional tools rather than renting them.


It was all Cloud based technologies at the Microsoft pavilion. They demoed their Scalable Cloud video solutions for Live Streaming and Multi-Screen Video. Microsoft Azure was their mantra.


Christie demoed the world’s first 120Hz 4K 3-chip DLP projector. However the most stunning 3D presentation at NAB was inside the Christie Theater using their new 6P laser technology. These projectors use six Primary Color Modules that present separate left and right images to the viewer’s eye via specially calibrated Dolby 3D glasses.


Since there is no filtering or polarizing going on, the user gets to experience an extremely bright 14 foot-lamberts 3D image with a contrast ratio of 1000:1.


There was practically zero crosstalk. Scenes from the Avatar seemed like you were looking through a window with no eyestrain that is typically associated with 3D viewing.


This new technology will find its way into commercial theaters in 2015.


When it comes to discrete graphics, one cannot miss the rivalry between the red and green teams, AMD and NVIDIA.


Whether you are working with 2K or 4K or on a cloud-based workstation, desktop, laptop or mobile device, NVIDIA has a GPU custom designed for you. They had demos featuring their Quadro K2000, K4000, K5000, K6000 and GeForce GTX Titan Z GPUs.


Amazon was at NAB touting the advantages of Amazon AWS Cloud services.


Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) brought a slew of products featuring Thunderbolt technology. It appears that Thunderbolt 2 has gained a strong foothold at NAB. It has become the interface of choice for professionals while USB 3.0 has been relegated for consumer use.


Thunderbolt 2 is being actively supported by Apple, Intel and Microsoft and many others. It is the only practical interface for transferring high volumes of data mandated by a 4K workflow. Intel designed the Thunderbolt (Light Peak) technology to scale up to 100Gbps. This guarantees this protocol would not become obsolete anytime soon.


Epson showcased their portable PowerLite 99W 3LCD WXGA projector outputting a bright 3000 lumens. Side by side they were showing a Panasonic RW330 WGXA LED/Laser projector which outputs 3,500 lumens as per specs.


The picture from the Epson was clearly much brighter with vivid colors that made the Panasonic look like a poor choice especially considering the fact that the Epson model retails for $750, while the Panasonic model retails for $2,500.


However, with the Panasonic you get a lamp-free design that is supposed to last 20,000 hours.


Over at the AMD booth, they showcased how AMD FirePro professional graphics can be used to supercharge any 4K video production workflow. They demoed a Devil Supercomputer with 20 CPUs, 336 total cores, 896 GB of RAM, with AMD FirePro W9100 graphics and 6.4TB of SSD storage. It was housed in a casing the size of a small refrigerator.


Now, this is what it takes to render games in 4K!


They showed how to do real time 4K color correction using Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve on a Super Micro workstation running 4 AMD FirePro W9100 graphics cards.


The upper floor of the South Hall was dedicated to Distribution, Delivery and Online Video.


The AVID booth had a mind-blowing surround sound demo featuring Dolby Atmos technology with a dizzying array of Genelec monitors. With Dolby Atmos one can create a true 360-degree sound field with up to 64 discrete channels of surround sound.


The AVID engineers brought their AVID S6 control surface (starting at $22,000) showing how to create a multi-channel surround mix with ProTools 11.


Director James Cameron has teamed up with Dolby Labs and Philips to make glasses free 3D a reality. The Dolby booth had the most convincing glasses free 3D demo I have ever experienced. They were using a 4K display outfitted with a special screen in front that presents left/right 2K images to each eye without having to wear any passive/active glasses.


The reason 3D never got wide acceptance was because these glasses stood in the way. However, with 4K and Dolby 3D format it is now possible to enjoy a picture that has 3D depth without using external eyewear. This makes it a game changer.


I always felt glasses free 3D was a gimmick, until this demo by Dolby.


HP presented the Z820 Workstation for 4K editing. They also showed their new DreamColor Z27x displays ($1500) that not only covers the sRGB color space but also AdobeRGB and BT.709 the standard for HD video, and BT.2020, the standard for 4K video.


HP also had their Thunderbolt 2 cards with I/O speeds up to 20Gbps allowing simultaneous acquisition, transfer, storage and display of 4K content. You can daisy chain up to 6 devices via a single Thunderbolt port.


4K dominated NAB 2014. Exhibitors presented multitude ways to capture, store, edit, deliver and display 4K video streams on a wide range of devices. There were drone manufacturers that could fly tiny cameras on light weight helicopters tracking a pre programmed GPS flight path while taking 360 degree panoramic shots of the landscape – all automated without the need of a radio controller.


360Heros showed how they could capture these panoramas in 3D using tiny dual cameras.


http://www.360heros.com/



Toshiba showed their next generation Flash Memory Servers with 6TB of flash memory in RAID5 configuration, and occupying just 2U of rack space.


DTS went all out with their DTS Headphone: X demo. They invited audiences into their “DTS Listening Xperience” demo theater set up for 11.1 channels of surround sound using 11 Focal CMS65 speakers and a subwoofer.


They ran through several demo clips showing how these speakers could envelop you in a sound field spanning all three X, Y, and Z, axes. They went through the usual channel identification routine for an 11.1 setup (narrated by Hans Zimmer):


Left Front

Right Front

Center

Left Surround

Right Surround

Left Rear

Rear Right

Left Front Height

Right Front Height

Left Rear Height

Right Rear Height


What followed was pure audio magic. The DTS rep asked the audience to put on their headphones. They turned off the external speakers and ran the exact same channel identification through these Sennheiser headphones. It sounded eerily identical to the sound I was listening before from the Focal CMS65 speakers preserving all the spatial and height cues.


Headphone: X Technology by DTS allows any headphone to deliver a 360-degree sound field. Suddenly, there is no need to go and buy an expensive surround sound system! These Focal CMS65 speakers cost $900 each. The eleven speakers alone costs $9900.


One can buy a comfortable pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones for $90 and enjoy surround sound through the magic of DTS Headphone: X technology for less than 1% of the cost. This is another game changer.


DTS is trying to get Apple to include their Headphone: X chip on the next generation iPhones and iPads. The Vivo Xplay 3S tablet already has this chip.


Imagine this! What if you could have a 10” tablet that supported glasses free 3D via Dolby 3D technology coupled with 360 degree DTS Headphone: X surround sound? You can be immersed in your own make believe personal 3D environment.


A lot of manufacturers showed H.265/HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) encoders, which is twice as efficient for compressing 4K video compared to the older H.264 standard.


Then we have VP9, a competing format that is open source and free of licensing fees. Let’s see which one wins.


Ittiam demoed a real time HEVC Transcoder that can adapt its bitrate according to the available bandwidth. This means no more annoying buffering messages while streaming content.


Harmonic showed what could be done with the 4K format when taken to its extreme. The NAB attendees got a glimpse of what an Ultra HD picture could look like when delivered at a super high frame rate of 120Hz. It was a jaw-dropping visual treat.


24Hz is woefully inadequate for Ultra HD when it comes to motion sports. 120Hz is ideal to remove any motion blurr.


Ultra HD (4K) supports a resolution of 3840 x 2160 (8,294,400 pixels), four times the pixel count of HDTV at 1920 x 1080 (2,073,600 pixels).


Japan’s NHK has been experimenting with Super Hi-Vision (8K) that has 16 times the pixel count of HDTV with a resolution of 7680 x 4320 (32,961,660 pixels).


Ultra HD presents the opportunity of not only delivering a higher pixel count and higher frame rate, but also a larger Color Space.


At present both HD and Ultra HD uses the Rec.709 color space. However, this color gamut can be vastly expanded by adopting the newer Rec.2020 color space.


Then there is the issue of compression Bit Depth.


One can get a more smoother color ramp by increasing the Bit Depth from 8 to 10 to 12 and beyond.


At the moment Broadcast 4K is focusing on delivering a 3840 x 2160 image at 60Hz, 10bit, Rec.709 color space with 5.1 channels of audio.


The next goal is to deliver a 3840 x 2160 image at 120Hz, 12-bit, Rec.2020 color space with more than 5.1 channels of audio. This may happen during the 2017-2018 time frame.


Japan has its sights set much higher. NHK will be broadcasting at 8K delivering a 7680 x 4320 image at 120Hz, 14-bit, Rec.2020 color space with 22.2 channels of audio.


However, all this improvement in picture quality comes at a price of increased bandwidth.


Legacy HDTV at 1920 x 1080 (Interlaced) at 30fps operates at a Bit Rate of 6Mbps.


Current 4K broadcasts at 3840 x 2160 (Progressive) at 30fps consumes almost double the bandwidth at 10Mbps.


When this is ramped up to 60fps, it takes up 15Mbps.


For ultimate 4K quality at 3840 x 2160 (Progressive) at 120fps, the Bit Rate jumps to 20Mbps. This is the bandwidth that is necessary for the picture to pop and create the wow factor.


Cable Broadband Providers can sustain this bandwidth.


Japan’s Super Hi-Vision (8K) system consumes 85Mbps. One would need to have something like Google Fiber to stream 8K content. The US is lagging way behind the rest of the world when it comes to accessing high-speed Broadband.


The North Hall had all the Content Management & Systems Exhibitors.


The largest booth in the North Hall was occupied by Harris Broadcast, followed by Miranda Technologies, Ross Video, Evertz, Snell and NHK.


Evertz had a monitoring solution for every format encompassing UHDTV, 3G, HD, SD, Analog, IP, HDMI and 10-Gigibit Ethernet.


The most jaw-dropping presentation was at the NHK pavilion.


They set up a giant theater with a 350” diagonal screen with an array of 22 speakers and 2 subwoofers to demonstrate what Super Hi-Vision (8K) can deliver today.


They showed clips from a fireworks scene, a short movie called “Move” captured on their handheld compact 8K Cube Camera, clips from the Sochi Olympics, the Tokyo fashion show, and the FIFA soccer finals.


The picture was stunning, and breathtaking for its depth and clarity. The 22.2 channel audio enveloped your senses. It was not loud but rather very natural the way you would feel if you were in a large open space.


At this level of technological refinement, you forget all about the electronics and your senses gets pulled into the content in front of your eyes.


You feel you are not just watching a game on the screen, but rather you become a part of the audience in the large stadium overlooking the field. It is the next best thing to being there. This beats the IMAX experience.


The 8K Cube camera, about the size of a handheld camcorder shoots 8K movies at 7680 x 4320 pixels, 60 frames per second Progressive on a single chip Super 35mm CMOS sensor. NHK has plans to up the frame rate to 120Hz progressive.


They set up a studio with two models and showed how the 8K image appeared on a native 8K LCD set. The image was better than real life.


NHK showed the world’s first Super Hi-Vision (8K) real time encoder using HEVC/H.265.


The input/output resolution and frame rate was 7680 x 4320 at 60P


They were able to squeeze the bandwidth down to a constant Bit Rate of 85Mbps. If you were to watch 60 seconds of this video, you would consume over 5 Gigabits of data. If you were to watch 1 hour of this stream, you would consume over 300 Gigabits.


NHK will be broadcasting the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 in Super Hi-Vision (8K).


Looking forward to InfoComm 2014 in June.



Best regards,


Tapas Das
 
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