Leaving Las Vegas

I have been going to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention for a while. The annual gathering of over 100,000 people in Las Vegas is something I both dread and look forward to.

Besides the crowds, the dread comes from trying to find a little focus walking the exhibit halls. Over the years, I found it helps to pick a few things to concentrate on and then leave a little time on the last day to just wander. This year, I mapped out storage and high dynamic range (HDR) video.

Storage these days is truly a buyer’s market. Solid-state storage is getting faster, larger and less expensive. Spinning drives are getting larger with 10 TB drives being surpassed by 12 TB drives.

Self-contained SANs (Storage Area Networks) are also getting easier to set up and configure. Connection technology includes RJ45 connectors and copper wiring using 10g Ethernet connections. Fiber is no longer mandatory. When SANs are populated with enough drives, multiple streams of 4k are nothing special anymore.

Speaking of connections, Thunderbolt 3 is more common than last year. As Intel has moved TB3 to the CPU and reduced or eliminated licensing costs, more and more devices across all platforms are joining the crowd. That’s a good thing. Maybe I can get rid of my e-SATA and FireWire cables.

When I was at CES, HDR was everywhere. When I was at HPA, HDR was there. At NAB, I really wanted to see how things are working with HDR.

Although I’m not being asked to deliver HDR, it’s the topic of conversations at various shows. I decided to spend a day at an NAB workshop seeing how HDR is handled during production and, to some extent, how it’s handled in post. I’ll condense the production-side of things into two ideas:

  1. There isn’t an HDR switch on cameras, nor are there HDR cameras. Instead, if you have a camera that can shoot with an extended dynamic range either via shooting with a logarithmic gamma curve or RAW, then you have a camera you can use for HDR work.
  2. If you don’t have some way of monitoring HDR on set either with a true HDR monitor or a monitor with HDR preview settings, it’s going to be very difficult to properly expose for HDR.

On the post side of things, it reminds me of the early days of any technology introduction—like DVD. The tools aren’t built for everyone’s use, but maybe that’s okay. Like #2 above for production, unless you have an HDR display properly calibrated, it’s going to be difficult to know what you’re delivering.

After a day listening to all things HDR and after walking the show floor, I realized I have this year to figure it all out. Next year, it will probably no longer be just the domain of a few.