My Experience of NAB Show 2013

This is my first time attending NAB show and this year, it was held at Vegas Convention center from April 6th to 11th. My team (Windows Azure Media Services) shared Microsoft booth area with other products such as Surface, Office 365 and Big Data. While setting up the booth on Sunday before the even started, I took a walk in the convention center and I saw booth setups with gigantic broadcast TV screens, pro-grade camera control panel, multi-angle cameras, it felt like being in Hollywood studios or Big News TV channels. When I joined the Windows Azure Media Services a year ago,it was to work on cloud computing technologies and I never thought I will end up being associated to the broadcasting industry. NAB Show, makes this association very tangible for me now, during these 4 days in Vegas, I felt the excitement of being part of such massive and fast moving industry. Broadcast business has its magic, it captivates its audience, it’s an art that I have witnessed in Vegas.

Technology wise, last year my team announced Windows Azure Media Service in NAB, that was a big milestone for us. Since our business grew stronger and this year our biggest news was the partnership announcement with NBC. You can find the original press release here: Microsoft Teams Up With NBC Sports Group to Deliver Compelling Sports Programming Across Digital Platforms Using Windows Azure.

I spent many hours walking around the booth and talking to the participants. There were three big exhibition halls and each of them was a double deck. No wonder this event could host more than 97,000 attendees and +1.500 exhibitors.

Let me try to summarize for you some of my take-away:

  • “4K” is the buzz word of NAB 2013 and it gets really loud,
  • 4K was everywhere throughout the show floors. 4K camera, 4K display, 4K interactive screen, etc. In the video, I was with my friend standing in front of a gigantic 4K TV screen with some car racing footage. It was as if the car was just in front of us. “I want one in my living room!” My friend whispered. then immediately said “Em, probably not”. No one knows whether 4K will be successfully commercialized, or it is just another false attempt like 3D TV. on the positive, I do see very interesting usage of 4K. In Canon’s booth, they had a live shooting session, and the Canon photographer, using 4K camera, explained that the client could easily print out any single frame of the 4K camera footage. With a 4k camera, a photographer can finish a shooting within 1 day, where it took 3 to 4 days with traditional hardware.
  • Multi-screen delivery is a must
  • I swung by many tech companies booths and most of them had a collection of devices displayed with video playback. It is clear to me that the content format doesn’t matter as long as it can be displayed on all devices. Here is a video of our partner Axinom, they were demoing a play back solution on multiple devices, including gesture-controlled Xbox video application.
  • Cloud computing is still young 
  • On day 1, I was having lunch and some people joined me, among them a director and a music producer. I shared with them my works on video solution with cloud computing. These guys never heard about cloud solution! We engaged in a very interesting discussion when the producer asked me about cloud post-production software. His question was basically the following ” does it mean that by pressing a button, I can encode video in the cloud?” I told him that’s absolutely a very valid scenario. After this conversation, I realized that the transition from traditional media hardware to the cloud may take some time, but this transition will be transparent to the end user. Traditional software companies who run on-premises transcoding business, could and would potentially offer cloud solution with no impact on the end user. The existing on-premises ecosystem could move onto cloud infrastructures and it will harvest the first movers advantage in an industry where no one wants to be left behind.

The overall NAB 2013 experience has been overwhelmingly good for me and I am really excited to be part of what will transform the broadcasting industry in the future, the paradigm shift to could computing!

This is a short video I put together to capture the vibe of the event.

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