Impressions from NAB 2016

Posted 7/1/2016

I know you have probably seen a half dozen articles recently talking about what people found interesting in NAB 2016, as each year, there are dozens of articles written about NAB impressions. The good news is that these articles are all different, because the show is simply that big and there is such a broad range of unique aspects to explore.

I saw one recap that indicated everything being introduced that you were thinking about procuring at the show is already obsolete before you buy it. While I understand that the author was trying to be humorous, there was a valid point being made, which is the speed in which innovation is increasing. All of the vendors supporting the NAB infrastructure are working at break-neck speed just keep up with all of the new technologies.

I've been wondering what has been driving all of this innovations. There are periods where things seem to stay fairly status quo, but this year, it appeared that everyone was trying very hard to out-guess everybody else and bet on the right emerging technology.

I remember NAB 2014 where people were joking that we would be talking about 8K workflow before the end of the show, as 4K was just starting to get mentioned. Funny thing, by NAB 2015 everyone was forced to talk about supporting 8K, because it was practically here.

Many folks were wondering how did this happen so fast - and I give you the consumer. You know, the person who at the end of the day is willing to put down money for new technology. 4K displays became very affordable, but that was just one part. The other part was the revolution that was going on with cameras. Some of the big players in the NAB market decided that the prevailing price for HD cameras was too high, and they decided to develop and sell very affordable cameras capable of 4K, 5K and yes even 8K digital content are now available at unimaginable prices compared to just a few years ago.

This wouldn't have moved the needle very much unless there were other technology improvements taking place in the networking and storage areas. These new UHD files were big - many times bigger than the SD files of just a few years ago, so you needed really large disk drives to store all of the new UHD content. The storage industry answered the call, as we now have 6, 8 and 10TB rotational disk drives. These huge files take a long time to move around, so you needed to see a significant increase in networking performance and, right on cue, 40 Gbit Ethernet was hitting its stride along with 32 Gbit Fibre Channel and 40 Gbit InfiniBand. Networking technology was getting more cost competitive, making the ability to move the 4K creative content around effectively at the post-production facility not only possible, but in fact reasonable, to be on the leading edge.

Nothing stays the same, and there are competing technologies. These really large disk drives, while they store a lot of data, are so big that they are getting slower, which has opened the door for other storage technologies like SSD, NVMe SSD and Flash storage. There are poised to replace conventional rotational hard disk drives, These new technologies are really fast, but are still pretty expensive, so there is a waiting period to see what the storage vendors will choose in the new technologies race. You see a lot of hybrid solutions, as companies are hedging their bets until the market shakes things out. There is a lot of interest in the evolving Thunderbolt technology. It appears that Thunderbolt3 or USB-C is gaining traction in the local, direct markets but its unclear that it will have a big impact on the more traditional shared or big data markets.

My impressions of NAB 2016? It's a great time to be a consumer. The quality of the images that we are seeing are four times [or more] better than what we saw just a couple of years ago, and I see that trend continuing.

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