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Between the Aisles

No industry trade show is coming out of this recession unscathed.

No industry trade show is coming out of this recession unscathed. Exhibitors and attendees alike often cut back their events budgets as soon as money gets tight. The good news for trade shows scheduled for the first half of the year (and some others) is that a lot of the coolest plans were already hatched before Wall Street took us into tailspin last fall. And you can include this month's NAB Show among them.

The National Association of Broadcasters' annual gathering in Las Vegas always draws industry luminaries. This year, the NAB plans to honor Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, and Vin Scully, for example. And while the show is clearly focused on the work of broadcasters and their colleagues, there is always reason for the AV generalist to get involved. Herewith, five things an AV pro shouldn't miss at the NAB Show 09.

1. The Military and Government Summit. This is a brand-new event for the NAB Show, and it's being produced with help from some of the top government integrators, including Harris, Raytheon, and ITT. If for no other reason, AV pros would do well to attend just to meet people from the sponsors' companies and giants like Lockheed Martin. These firms, traditionally thought of a defense contractors but increasingly IT integrators, hold the keys to myriad subcontracts for videoconferencing installs, command centers, and other AV-related business in government (see Pro AV's "Guide to Doing Business in Federal Government AV ," September 2008).

According to organizers, the summit, which takes place April 21-23, "will identify ways in which government and military officials can utilize commercial video technologies for defense and emergency response applications." Make sure you block out time to pop in on a four-hour workshop April 22 titled, "How to Do Business with the Government." Later that day will be a key session, "Adapting COTS Solutions to Military Applications." The Defense Department is often wary of off-the-shelf systems, but that's what AV pros sell.

2. The Digital Cinema Summit. As AV pros are learning, digital cinema isn't necessarily a walk in the park. The major movie studios dictate a lot of what happens in this growing area, and it can affect what an AV integrator does and doesn't do when working on a venue that might potentially show protected digital cinema content (see "Digital Cinema: To Comply or Not?" Tools & Tech, November 2008).

What we're talking about here is the gradual conversion of theaters from 35mm film to digital media. Among the issues in building systems that can show digital films–from server to projector–is how to protect the content against unlawful copying (it's one thing to try to dupe a print film; it's a another to copy it onto a portable hard drive). There are reportedly 4,000 digital cinema systems in operation today and executives from NEC, Sony, and others will give a status report on progress. There will also be an update from Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), a joint venture of several entertainment companies, on standards and compliance-testing for digital cinema systems.

Much of the rest of the summit (April 18 and 19) will be devoted to one of the Next Big Things in AV–3D. From advances in the technology to case studies of recent 3D sports broadcasts, there's something for everyone. If you need to pick your spots, consider Saturday's "Cinema 3D Projection Technology" session with representatives from Warner Bros., Sony, Dolby, and Real 3D (also see "A Multi-Dimensional Challenge," page 64).

3. "Holographic effects" in action. The two main companies that brought you those apparently holographic images during CNN's election coverage last fall will be demonstrating the technology on the show floor. STATS (booth SL5011) and Vizrt (booth SL5508) are showing the combination of the former's video processing and tracking systems and the latter's real-time tracking and rendering software for creating long-distance, face-to-face interaction that's unlike traditional videoconferencing systems (see "Virtually Real," January/February 2009).

Brian Kopp, vice president of strategic planning at STATS, which acquired SportVU (Vizrt's original partner during the election) in December, sees an opportunity for "virtual studios" where full-fledged studios won't fly. At the very least, AV pros should see how it works.

4. Digital signage systems. In its soul, digital signage is a broadcast application where a message produced centrally is disseminated to a network of screens. The NAB Show won't have its own signage pavilion or summit, per se, but there will be a lot of related technology, much of it different from the LCD on a wall. Daktronics will show off its new PS-6i family of 6mm indoor SMD LED panels (booth C12419); Mitsubishi is reportedly bringing its 140-inch LED-based Resolia indoor display (booth SL6510); and Planar Systems will demo its new Clarity Margay II 50-inch HD rear-projection displays for public venue videowalls (booth SL12016).

5. Malcolm Gladwell. The best-selling author of Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point speaks at 9 a.m. on April 22. How great is it to know that successful people like Bill Gates don't necessarily get that way just because they're really smart?



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