Where have all the buttons gone? They’ve gone to servers.
By Jonathan Moser
For me, NAB used to be about “the buttons.” The latest and the greatest. Which black box could do what to a picture… and sound. K-Scopes, ADO, A53, DDRs…switchers with a LOT of buttons and colors. Consoles, decks, 1-inch, all the Ds (D1,D2…D5). Cool hardware. But post hardware (with the exception of some, like NewTek’s TriCaster and a handful of others) has gotten decidedly boring. Let’s face it — hard drives and ASCII keyboards just aren’t sexy.
Now, NAB post production seems to be about everything else — servers, distribution, Ultra HD (so clear most eyes can’t really discern it from HD a few feet away), Internet HD and UHD, arrays and protocols, codecs, software suites, ginormous monitors, networks, IP protocols. The glitz (and huge equipment expense) is gone.
But where is the sexiness? The joysticks, the amazing interfaces, the paradigm-shifting editing consoles…where are the buttons?
Oh, and don’t forget the drone wars. There are seemingly hundreds of manufacturers of robotic flying platforms— soon the sky will be filled with these things. Ok, those things are cool…but it’s not post. Oh yeah, Blackmagic has some cool stuff too.
This NAB made one thing clear to me: the past is dead — rigor mortis. Even the name National Association of Broadcasters implies old. Who’s really “broadcasting” anymore? Webcasting, podcasting, narrowcasting, packetcasting maybe, but the means of distribution and everything we knew are changing so fast many of us are going to lose our balance.
Trend finding in a few days at NAB is really like finding a needle in a moving haystack. The landscape is unrecognizable. And trying to pinpoint exactly where it will wind up is almost impossible. The one certainty is uncertainty and the rule is change.
It also became clear to me that anyone who holds onto the past in this technological and artistic maelstrom is doomed. To deal with this we have to embrace change, not fear it.
As an editor, I realize that nowadays the strengths and disciplines I used to hold near and dear and that defined my particular skill set (and my career) no longer apply if I want to stay relevant and competitive. I have to adapt, learn the systems, learn the graphics, learn the audio suites. I realize that ignorance of all the driving forces and the technological metamorphosis deafening the South hall of NAB is no longer acceptable… unless I want to join the fossils.
The opportunity to add to the redefining of what it is to be in broadcasting has never been as open or rich as it is now. With 10,000 modes of exposition and dissemination now available, the idea of “niche-casting” (my invention) is open to all.
Just like the democratization of the nonlinear and desktop revolution that gave every kid that came out of college the ability to call themselves an “editor” (even though it threw me out of my $100,000 dollar linear room), the opportunity to grab a piece of this increasingly divided pie is phenomenal — it costs NOTHING to broadcast today.
That’s what NAB did to me this time. Embrace the change, go with the flow and once you’re traveling along that river of change, you should be able to start seeing this onrushing landscape and redefine yourself.
But I still miss the cool buttons.
Jonathan Moser is an editor/producer out of NYC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and is open for business.
Main photo courtesy of Adrian Winter