NAB 2000: Audio in the Age of Media Convergence

Jun 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Sarah Jones, Roger Maycock and George Petersen


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From April 8-13, a record-setting 113,000 attendees packed into Las Vegas for NAB2000, appropriately subtitled "The Convergence Marketplace." What a convergence it was, with traditional broadcasters, cable operators and new media types of all descriptions exploring technologies such as Internet distribution/transmission/Webcasting, all with an eye on getting a piece of the pie. Meanwhile, on the production side, the digital video revolution is in full swing, especially combining low-cost/high-performance DV camcorders with desktop editing/graphics systems that take full advantage of today's powerful, affordable computers and cheap data storage.

Squeezing (sometimes quite literally!) past the dozens of companies hawking PC-based video I/O cards and editing software packages-including Apple's ( wildly successful Final Cut Pro-it seems like NAB has almost become too big and too wild, a sensory overload. But there was no doubt that streaming media for the Internet was a dominant theme this year.

Microsoft ( was pushing its Windows Media Technologies as the only Internet broadband-ready platform designed for creation, distribution and playback of broadcast-quality digital media. The company was aggressively distributing its JumpStart CD, which includes the Windows Media Player, Windows Media Tools and Windows Media Services. Not to be outgunned, RealNetworks ( was actively promoting its toolset for streaming media. With a suite of truly impressive software, the company was freely distributing CDs with its renowned Jukebox, Real Player, Real Presenter (beta), Real Producer, Slideshow and Real Server software.

One of the most exciting intros at NAB was Vegas Video from Sonic Foundry ( Offering video editing and compositing, and audio recording, editing and mixing, plus a suite of encoding tools, Vegas Video takes the company's highly capable Vegas Pro multitrack audio software and combines it with various video technologies the company has developed. Supporting a wide range of file formats, real-time effects, keyframe-able transitions, video filters, and track motion, Vegas Video shows enormous potential for everything from DV production and corporate multimedia to broadcast production.

Coming right on the heels of Winter NAMM and AES Paris, NAB offered relatively little-at first glance-in terms of new audio products. Certainly, there were new audio innovations at NAB; you just had to look a little harder to find the cool stuff.

WaveFrame ( announced FrameWorks/DX-developed with Merging Technologies-a versatile DAW for recording, editing, CD mastering and surround sound mix applications. The company also showed NetWave-a media file server for WaveFrame users developed in conjunction with mSoft. NetWave is a cross-platform, networkable audio retrieval system using a Web browser-based search interface for retrieving data over a local network or remotely over the Internet. On the sales front, industry vet John Mozzi joined the company a week before the show.

Hands down, the best demo at NAB was Soundscape's (www. presentation of two of its R.Ed 32-track DAWs interlocked with disk-based video, to show clips from the theatrical version of The Omega Code starring Michael York and the Taylor Array Process System-48 discrete playback speakers playing Alan Howarth's spectacular sound design work from the film. Forget 5.1. Bring on 48.1!

DSP Media( unveiled its second-generation Postation II, intended as a complete and fully integrated workstation for audio post. Features include the 24-bit DEP audio editor, disk-based video playback and a sleek Virtual Control Surface mixer interface. Its modular 32x32 digital mix processor is scalable to 96 inputs, with multiformat surround monitoring control. Fairlight ( celebrated the company's 25th anniversary at NAB by announcing the availability of a 48-track version of its disk-based Merlin digital multitrack. SADiE ( showed RADiA, its new entry-level workstation, offering four inputs and up to 24 replay tracks at 48 kHz, supplied as either a single PCI card for user-configurable systems or as a full turnkey system with rackmount I/O and removable SCSI storage. Solid State Logic ( introduced MixTrack, an integrated 24-bit, 96-track hard disk recording option for its Axiom-MT digital console. Sonic Solutions ( announced the first professional mastering system for Internet audio. The new iMaster addition to its SonicStudio HD family of audio mastering systems will enable engineers to work in CD-Audio and DVD-Audio in high-resolution and simultaneously optimize the result for Internet delivery.

Midas(www.midasconsoles. com) launched the B2000 console for broadcast, video post and film applications. This new analog board supports mono/stereo/5.1/7.1 formats with 24- to 72-input frames. Features include limiters on each input, eight mix-minus buses, six aux buses and VCA subgrouping; options include AES/EBU I/O, AV routing interface and snapshot automation. No stranger to broadcast mixers, AMS Neve (www. showed its Libra Live Series II, which combines the ease of use of a conventional analog console with the advantages of a digital control/digital signal path. It includes 24-bit analog and digital interfacing, along with various multiformat surround options with mix-minus, GPI and other broadcast-specific facilities. During a CBS TV demo, we saw them pull the plug and reboot in 10 seconds, while audio continued passing through. Not bad! And new Version 2 software updates were unveiled for the Euphonix ( System 5 and Studer ( D950 digital consoles.

Speaking of updates, Digital Audio Research ( com) demoed a compact remote controller for the DAR OMR8 rackmount digital 8-track recorder/dubber. The Remote Edit Controller offers access to all front panel controls, including jog wheel and dedicated function buttons, but best of all, enables machine room installationofmultiple OMR8 transports.

Central Media Inc. announced, designed to expedite the delivery of spots via the Internet for distribution to radio stations, ad agencies (for client approvals) or direct Webcasting. Based on an integrated software package, the system also allows central archiving of ads for those "Hey-I-need-that-spot-we-used last-month" situations, while removing costly overnight couriers from the process.

Dolby ( previewed its DP570 Multichannel Audio Tool, a two-rackspace solution that combines the features of Dolby Digital metadata selection and receiver emulation for creating audio metadata for multiple programs. The DP570 also offers multiple speaker selection, audio channel routing (eliminating the need for an external router), separate inputs for Pro Logic decoding and 5.1-channel monitor configuration. Deliveries are slated for Q4 2000, with digital-only and analog output versions planned. Dolby's new handheld DM100 Dolby E/Dolby Digital monitor lets engineers quickly test the integrity or composition of Dolby Digital, Dolby E and PCM signals in a studio, broadcast facility or home theater. The DM100 also generates Dolby Digital, Dolby E and PCM test bitstreams.

There was much more at NAB, and we'll present other product hits in our product sections in future issues. Meanwhile NAB returns to Las Vegas from April 21-26, 2001. Mark your calendars now.

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