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NAB Diary 2004: Preview Edition

Prognostications about the show By Stephen Schleicher

Now in its fourth year, the NAB Diary will be returning to these pages in just a few weeks giving you an up close look at the action going on at the show.  While the show is still a few weeks away, now is the perfect opportunity to give you a sneak peak at the thoughts going through my head of what we might expect at the show.

It seems this was the week for many companies to start contacting members of the media about scheduling press appointments.  Unfortunately for them, my schedule is 95% full.  Theres just enough free time to walk the show floor looking for WOW items for the Wednesday edition.  So what can we expect from those Ive already made appointments with?  While the companies and PR people may be tight lipped, I have some predictions of what is about to come.


Thanks to my near death experience last year , I missed the Apple Sunday Press Conference that announced Final Cut Pro 4.  If all goes well (and the gods are smiling upon me) I will just make it to their meeting this year (invite only, sorry).  With the last two releases of Final Cut Pro, Apple has skipped the .5 increments and gone with full number releases.  Will we see Final Cut Pro 5 this year?  Probably not.  Ive been wrong before, but in this case, I dont think FCP5 will be announced. 

I think it is, however, highly probable that we will see a 4.5 release.  What could be in that release?  Yours Truly isnt on any beta program with Apple, but at last years NAB I mentioned it would be a great benefit for users to have multi-track window options (for cutting multi-camera shoots easily), and an outboard audio console that allowed the user to do audio fades and dissolves with something more tactile than a mouse and GUI.  The response from the reps then was, ?Those are both things we have had a lot of requests for?  If I were to guess what would likely be in a new release of Final Cut Pro, those two items would be high on the list.  Will it happen?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Apple has released SoundTrack (and its sibling program GarageBand) as stand alone applications.  Originally SoundTrack was only available as part of the Final Cut Pro 4 bundle.  LiveType has yet to break out of the hold, and if it does debut as a stand alone this year, that would be very good news for DV Express 2 owners.

Sunday seems to be a big day for companies doing press conferences Avid, Sony, Panasonic, Apple, and discreet all have something planned.  Avid will undoubtedly debut some new HD updates to their NLE systems, and I expect that this year will see more real-time capabilities with their HD system than the few streams produced last year.

When Sony and Panasonic are at a show, there are hundreds of different things they could be showing from cameras to monitors, and editing systems to new tape stock.  JVC jumped ahead of both of these companies previously with their one chip HD prosumer camera.  HD and the HDV format will surely be items of discussion from both of these companies this year.  Sony Europe recently posted a press release with a mock up of their new HDV camera.  While it looked like a glorified PD-170, this three chip HD prosumer camera will definitely be the talk among many.  No word on if this camera will make a US debut or not.  If it does, it will most certainly be a ?look dont touch model sitting behind ropes.  Speaking of the PD-170, looks like Sony has finally gotten the bugs out of the system and it is back in production.  While the HDV camera looks like a glorified PD-170, the PD-170 is most definitely a glorified PD-150.  It is still something I want to check out and compare it to Sonys popular work horse, the PD-150, which has been in use for around five years before this update.  If the PD-170 is a great system (and early reports indicate it is a good camera), expect it to be around just as long providing the HDV camera doesnt take off like expected.

Will Sony announce a prosumer camera with interchangeable lenses to compete with the Canon line?  I highly doubt it.

When it comes to Sony, Im more interested in the Blu-ray technology over anything else.  Debuted at last years show and having made inroads in the consumer marketplace, the DVD recordable system could see itself creeping into the prosumer/pro equipment very soon.  My only problem with Blu-ray is that it still means moving parts in your camera, which means you still have the problem of moving parts wearing out.

Speaking of no moving parts, Panasonic will have more news on their Solid State system.  If they demonstrate actual working systems (complete with NLEs) at this show, they will be the talk of newsrooms across the country.  Im still unclear as to what format the video information is encoded as.  If it is a proprietary Panasonic codec, then it will take a long time for the system to gain acceptance.  Even if Solid State is not hyped to a great extent, Panasonic will be showing off some new cameras.

What about Canon?  Yes, what about Canon? For the last three years Canon has not invited this guy to a one on one unless it was to talk about their 3D lens (and we all know what a success that was).  This year they made a request for a meeting.  Could Canon be ready to unveil something so great it will put the other camera manufacturers to shame?  Could they be ready to release the XL2 the camera rumored to be in production for several years?  Could this camera provide native 16:9, HDV, and 24p all in one?  Could they finally be releasing a camera that has XLR audio inputs instead of the inferior mini connection? Could I ask more questions in a single paragraph?  Guess well both have to wait for those answers.

Discreet has already released combustion 3 and 3dsmax 6, so look for announcements on their higher end systems.  Rumors always abound on the net, many true, many false.  One that has been circulating for a while is the rumor that discreet is planning on getting rid of cleaner.  This poor little foster child of a program has been passed off from one parent company to the next over the last couple of years, and I hope it doesnt happen again.  I can promise that Ill have more word on this after my Monday meeting with them. 

I received an email the other day from NewTek saying that LightWave 8 LW8, or L8 as it has become known to many animators - will be available soon and wanted to confirm a shipping address.  If that is the case then look for it in its final form at the show.  Booth meetings have been moved to a private suite this year, and that can mean one of two things:  either the NewTek booth is small and doesnt have a private area, or that they are going to be showing something brand new (VT4 anyone?).

So as not to give away my entire meeting list in one go, Ill close with a few comments about Adobe.  No one on one press meetings this year.  Instead, one invite only press conference Monday evening where all will be revealed.  Adobe is certainly one company that is able to keep quiet about any and all new releases.  However, GridIron software did announce their XLR8 application would be integrated into the next release of the After Effects Pro software, and it doesnt take a math wiz to put two and two together to conclude that something big is coming.   I think many many users will be pleased with what they announce.

So there you have it dear reader, predictions for what we will see (or not see) at NAB 2004.  If Im right on only half of the things Ive mentioned, then you can expect a great year indeed.


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Stephen Schleicher has crossed the country several times over the last couple of years going from Kansas to Atlanta , Georgia, and Southern California. In his time traveling, he has worked as an editor, graphic designer, videographer, director, and producer on a variety of video productions ranging from small internal pieces, to large multimedia
corporate events.

Currently, Stephen shares his knowledge with students at Fort Hays State University who are studying media and web development in the Information Networking and Telecommunications department. When he is not shaping the minds of university students, Stephen continues to work on video and independent projects for State and local agencies and organizations as well as his own ongoing works.

He is also a regular contributor to Digital Producer, Creative Mac, Digital Webcast, Digital Animators, and the DV Format websites, part of the Digital Media Online network of communities (www.digitalmedianet.com), where he writes about the latest technologies, and gives tips and tricks on everything from Adobe After Effects, to Appleā??s Final Cut Pro, LightWave 3D, to shooting and lighting video.

He has a Masters Degree in Communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. As a forward thinker, he wrote his Thesis on how Information Islands and e-commerce would play a major role in keeping smaller communities alive. This of course was when 28.8 dialup was king and people hadnā??t even invented the word e-commerce.

And, he spends what little free time he has biking, reading, traveling around the country, and contemplating the future of digital video and its impact on our culture. You can reach him at schleicher@mindspring.com

Related Keywords:NAB 2004, panasonic, sony, hdv, after effects, gridiron, adobe, discreet, combustion, cleaner, blu-ray, solid state, hi-def, apple, final cut pro, audio

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