Is NAB interested in audio anymore?
Peter Poers, CEO of Jünger Audio, give an honest take on a changing show in a changing industry
At this year's NAB, visitors interested in sound had to do a lot of walking. The audio companies were spread out everywhere - from North Hall to South Hall - and this made them quite difficult to find. In my view, it was better when audio companies were concentrated in one hall. The fact that they were so spread out begs the question: Is NAB (and its delegates) really interested in audio anymore?
Of course, it could be that the audio companies are creating this problem for themselves because they want to forge closer links with other technologies. There are still old-fashioned audio companies - microphone manufacturers, for example, and a few of the mixing desk manufacturers – but they feel like a niche market because so many other audio-focused companies are moving into other technologies such as audio over IP. This may be because technology is changing and there are better business opportunities in these en vogue areas, but it will be interesting to see who will survive. Maybe those who concentrate on a niche market will do better in the end.
I understand that NAB 2016 generated new records in terms of numbers - exhibitors, visitors, conference topics etc. It didn’t feel that busy to us, although we did notice more Chinese companies exhibiting and many more Asian visitors. There were fewer European visitors on our booth this year, which may reflect the general economic tightening of belts. I also spoke to some Americans from the East Coast who said they had to fight to get NAB accepted as a business trip because of the cost involved and the distance, which is similar to flying from far western to far eastern Europe.
I think the industry should standardise on formats before we start discussing codec system technologies and specs
Following the trends
In terms of new trends, there were some but none that were significantly improving the content being delivered. Moving away from dedicated hardware to server-based solutions is definitely a trend, as is higher resolution pictures. 4K was a buzz word, although there was discussion about which TV genres it is best for. Immersive audio and UHDTV were also hot topics as people explore the idea of personalised audio for audiences.
Object-based audio is likely to become the next challenge for audio production, and we are already getting requests for products to address this, which we are working on. For audio content, the advent of Next Generation Audio (NGA) formats means changing production methods, which I believe will improve the audio content as well.
Personally, I think the industry should standardise on formats before we start discussing codec system technologies and specs, but it seems as though the industry is working the other way around with codec system technology vendors forcing certain audio formats to create a need for new codec system technology. They really ought to be consulting the audio companies first.
IP was also under discussion at NAB. In my view, it could work for audio but won’t work so well for video – and not at all if real 4K is the next target. Even for audio there are too many different protocols, including AES67 which promises interoperability between previously competing audio-over-IP systems and long-term network interoperation between systems. Although IP, standards and formats were being discussed everywhere, we have to wait and see what we end up with because we don’t yet know which protocol will perform most universally for audio and video.