More from the NAB Convention: the most promising new technologies

11

JULY 2017

Part 2 of a series

As I explained in the first post of this series, betting on new technologies at the National Association of Broadcasters convention might be the fastest way to go broke in Las Vegas. There are more than 1700 companies exhibiting, and each one will tell you their newest innovation is the number to bet on.

How do you know which one the ball is going to land on?

I have some clues, based on the history of similar technological breakthroughs. In the last post I weighed the strengths and weaknesses of current virtual reality systems. Now I’ll take a look at the other major innovation at NAB 2017.

Why 8K may offer a zero payoff

One popular NAB venue was the “8K Living Room.” My reaction: Are you serious?

The odds of 8K happening anytime soon in the U.S. are worse than the payout odds at an airport slot machine. It’s simply not enough of an improvement over what consumers can enjoy now with HD and 4K.

8K TV Technology

To truly notice the difference between a 60” High Definition (HD) TV and a 60” 4K TV, you would need to sit about 6 feet from the 4K TV. But notice the different between a 60” 4K TV and a 60” 8K TV, you would need to sit about 3.5 feet from the 8K TV—or buy a 120” 8K TV. I’m not sitting that close to the TV! And who has a blank wall (or bank account) large enough for a 120” TV?

And it’s not just a matter of pixels and nits—it’s a matter of value. Consumers won’t pay more money for more pixels. They will only pay for a better experience.

Why did high definition succeed?

HD succeeded because Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD) made it accessible. Consumers always wanted large TVs, but before LCD technology, most TVs larger than 32” required an awkward projection apparatus. Then LCD came along, and you could get a much larger TV without breaking your bank to purchase it (or your back to move it).

Once LCD made larger screen sizes and higher resolution easy, HD was a no-brainer.

Most people don’t need extra pixels to get the experience they want out of their content. They want brighter (and more) colors. Take my dad, for instance. He has a large HD television, but for years he didn’t even realize he wasn’t watching an HD signal. (Don’t worry—I set him right.)

Does the average consumer need 4K to give them a better viewing experience than HD? Maybe for some, but not for most.  And 8K? Yes, Japan is already broadcasting 8K content, I just don’t think consumers need it or want it right now. I’m certainly not ready to bet on it.

Derivative technologies were the best bets at NAB17

So what would I bet on? Derivative technologies—the tools that help create virtual reality and 8K TV.

Until some brilliant engineer figures out how to add a “convert to VR” button on an edit system, you actually do have to create content specifically for VR. This means you need a 360-degree camera—or, even better, a 360-degree stereoscopic 3D camera. (We have one, by the way … you’re jealous, I know.)

So, while people might not be keen to strap on the VR headgear, the capture technology used to create VR content is a good bet. If you can put together a workflow for volumetric capture, you can create some amazing content that’ll make your jaw drop.

With lightfield technology, you can get rid of greenscreen and stop making actors wear those funny green MoCap suits with ping pong balls attached. Granted, the last camera I saw that can do this is that size of a craps table, but it should pay to develop workflows now for when the camera becomes manageable in the next few years.

I also love the idea of 8K cameras—assuming they include wide color gamut and high dynamic range—simply for the extra image information and the ease of applying digital effects. It’s not about pixel count; it’s about pixel quality!

These technologies are advancing VR and 8K, but they can be used for so many other applications. In roulette terms, they’re much smaller bets, distributed over a wider range of numbers. For a red chip gambler like me, I’ll take that bet.

Eric Pound

Eric Pound

Executive Producer

As the Executive Producer for StudioNorth, Eric is responsible for most things that move or make noise (video, audio and live events). Outside of work, Eric spends as much time as he can fishing and hunting, where he tries not to move or make noise.

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