Friday, April 20, 2007

NAB, Days 2 and 3

Some of the things on display at NAB are things like helicopters, TV news trucks, big satellite dishes, and a big ultra-def theater. But my favorite thing was the sports truck. All the gear is actually in a trailer. It's the truck that shows up at a sporting event that is a self-contained television studio. Baseball games are broadcast this way, as well as football, hockey, you name it. This particular trailer was evidently most recently used for golf.

If you've ever taken the time to watch golf on TV, you may have noticed that as soon as you watch one guy put a ball in, they immediately take you to someone else on the tee, then to someone else in the fairway, then, someone else getting out of the bunker.

This is all monitored and scheduled for broadcast in this truck. It was kept very cool, by the way...

Tim may be the only person I know of who could actually sit down and know how to run this stuff. Don't worry, he's just pretending!

Here are all the preview monitors.

This is the audio mixing desk. The mixer was actually able to monitor and mix in 5.1 surround. Ahead of him (out of the frame) is a window that allows him to look into the main room where the producer/director sits.

On Wednesday, Tim and I met up with Neil who wanted to see an IPTV presentation. He is doing work on that at his company and so he wanted to see how other companies are using the technology.

So let me try to help set the stage. Most of the people who attended this tech conference were men. But many of the presenters were young, attractive women. I had no idea so many women were involved in the tech industry. Well, I'm a little slow.

This young lady is giving this slick presentation. She is representing a company who provides content and servers to companies like Time Warner, or Bellsouth. Companies that can combine content and on demand TV, telephone, internet, and wireless. The idea is that you may be sitting in your living room watching something but then need to leave to go somewhere. Using your mobile device, you can pick up where you were in your living room and continue to watch the show on your hand held. Pretty nifty. The presenter was going through this, showing simultaneous broadcasts of msnbc on both the large screen and the PDA.

I was intrigued by this, and after the presentation I began asking Neil a lot of questions about it. So he asked the presenter if we could see the PDA. We wanted to know if it was proprietary. It turns out it was, though it was running the microsoft handheld OS. I wanted to see it stream the video to it and see what other channels were available. "Sure," she said, handing me the device. "Let me know if I can answer anything for you."

So I started playing with it. I didn't want to just watch msnbc so I pushed a button that I thought would take me to a menu to view other channels. Oops. I did something. Couldn't get the channels back. I wasn't too worried, she obviously knew what she was talking about, she could reset it for her next presentation.

Oops, the device is in French (just like the GPS display on Chuck's rental, but that's another story), and she doesn't have any idea how to fix it. She plays with it for a while and as it becomes more and more obvious that she can't navigate the device any better than I can, some things come out about her.

It turns out she's just the face for the company at that presentation. She really didn't know anything about the product, what it did, how it worked or anything. She was slick, she pushed the remote at the right time, navigated the menu correctly, but outside of the presentation she was clueless. In fact, she had a little cassette recorder with an earpiece in one of her ears that actually had a recording of someone reading the script. She just repeated it to everyone. So she was about a second behind what she heard on the tape and had the ability to stop it and start it as she needed. She said that they had just completed the script two days before the show started and didn't have enough time to memorize it.

As I thought back to other presentations I saw, it began to make sense. All the smart tech guys were there to answer your detailed questions about the product, and interact with other geeks, but many of the presenters were not only not with the company, they probably didn't even know half of what the stuff they were presenting did! (In most cases, we didn't really mind).