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Photo: Media Circus?
Media Circus at the NAB '99 Convention?

NAB '99 Review

The Biggest, the Most, the Best...

By Gary Stigall, CSTE
SBE Chapter 36 Chairman

I can't fairly report on who showed what at the NAB '99 Convention because there was simply too much for one reporter. If you have something to add here, please do e-mail it to me.


Photo: Hans Emmenegger of BMS
Hans Emmenegger of Broadcast Microwave Services proudly demonstrates his STL, which shares a DTV bitstream with a conventional analog FM channel.

Lots of "letterbox" on monitors. With mixed NTSC, HDTV, and various cinema aspect ratios, look for frequent black margins on your home monitors. Get used to someone selling those margins for advertising and information services.

Fewer call letters on badges. All the industry consolidation means that people are now working for several stations co-located under one corporate name rather that one AM/FM combo or less. The foreign broadcasters, an increasing presence, have never been much for call letters, either.

Photo: Harris Radio RF rep Ellis Terry
New Southern California Harris Radio RF rep Ellis Terry

More cell phones. About every third person now had a phone or pager they were using to keep in touch with the folks back home. Never a need to miss the loved ones.

An acquisition and mastering format seems to be emerging for television. This has little to do with broadcasters yet, but Sony and the other big guys seem to be pushing the 1080 line, 24 frame-per-second, progressive scan format. It's the lowest common demoninator for super-clean dubs to any format. I suspect they have their eyes on movie projection on this format as well. Post houses have to like the universality. The manufacturers have to like the profits of this very expensive format.

I heard the word "overwhelming" again and again. This show is BIG. It will continue BIG because many highly qualified people find you at your booth, demos are efficient and effective, Las Vegas is built for BIG conventions, and it's fun to see old friends. The NAB convention

Award Nominations

MOST OBNOXIOUS: The Discreet booth at the Sands showed video on an enormous screen with hundreds of watts of highly clipped audio to accompany pictures of out-of-focus guys with pale white made-up skin and spiked, colored hair staring into the lens. Some kind of edit system I think.

OLDEST GUYS AND PRODUCTS: Gorman-Redlich receivers. They have all the physical design aesthetic of a 1962 ARRL Radio Amateur Handbook project. Hey, if something sells, you stick with it, right? Runner-up: LPB is selling audio consoles you'd swear still have those rotary 600-ohm balanced passive ladder attenuators.

BEST TOYS GIVEN OUT: Cute, shiny little plush robots from Intel. ADC gave out nice T-shirts again. I liked the Philips DTV for Dummies books, but upon reading it later on, found that it was written for the IDG Corp. usual target audience: people at the lower part of the learning curve. This was for consumers, not engineers. See nVision for great free digital books for us.

Photo: Nigel Worrall of Tiernan
Nigel Worrall of San Diego's Tiernan Communications in front of several of their digital satellite encoders.

BIGGEST PARTY: Odetics rented the Rio, and gave out plenty of invitations. Did you go?

MOST IMPROVED SAN DIEGO SUPPLIER: "CML" or Channelmatic/Limt, formerly a cable commercial insertion automation provider from Alpine. Now part Swedish, with full-size video server solutions and in El Cajon. Like seeing a gorgeous woman at the high school reunion you barely remembered as a shy, dowdy, stay-at-home girl. The cheesy gold boxes are gone. Look for an SBE meeting there. Runner-up: Tiernan. These guys are the Qualcomm of digital satellite transmission. They have an exciting future but understandably boring demos. I wasn't the first to ask the question: When are you guys ever going public?

MOST DESPERATE SCENE: I-I n-need to ch-check my e-m-mail, or I'll j-just d-d-d-die! Folks lined up waiting for the Cyberlink@NAB99 e-mail and browser booths.

BIGGEST CAMPAIGN TO RESURRECT AN OLD NAME: Tektronix practically wiped out the Grass Valley Group brand and led people to believe they were abandoning the switcher business. This time they celebrated the fortieth anniversary of Grass with videos, prizes to people who gave them sentimental praise, and cake.

Crowding to see a Grass Valley 300 SwitcherCrowding to ride a shuttle bus back from the Sands 
LPB rotary ladder attenuator mixersPR&E consoles with AES/EBU inputs
"total on-air packages""total on-air solutions"
tubes from Sylvaniatubes from Svetlana
$3 lunches$3 ice cream bars
NBC Radio--a division of RCANBC Radio--a division of CBS
Smoke-filled roomsPerfume-filled rooms

We'd love to add YOUR experiences. E-mail to

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Web site contents ©1999 Society of Broadcast Engineers Chapter 36 San Diego. For more information, to become a member or a sponsor, or to make suggestions or comments, e-mail Write to P.O. Box 710702, San Diego, California 92171-0702.  

Edited by Gary Stigall. Posted 24-Apr-99.