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NAB Show 2015: Tips from an NAB Convention Veteran To Make the Best Use of Your Time.

The snow is finally starting to melt, well except in Boston, so that means it’s time for the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention.   I’ve gone so many times it’s more like a family reunion than a trade show anymore.  Here’s my 2015 edition of “Tips from an NAB Veteran to make the best use of your time.”    

Bring Your Business Cards and Plenty of Them!.
More than anything else, this is the largest Networking event for creatives in the world.   I have met so many wonderful people who I now call friends and whom I call upon for answers to my questions.  Some I even collaborate with.   So beyond just trying to maybe connect with someone to get a job, connect with people who can help you out when you have questions.

Limited time to visit?  Come later in the week.
If you’ve already made your plans, it might be too late for this, but if you really want to get hands on with equipment and software in the booths and ask questions, Wednesday and Thursday are the best days.   Monday and Tuesday the crowds are the largest.   Especially Thursday the crowds are always much smaller giving you much better access to the booths.

If you are going to be there all week, my advice is to avoid the “big booths” Monday and make discoveries in the outlying smaller booths in all the halls.  Especially lighting and audio always seem to have the smaller crowds and they make great areas to visit, especially Monday all day.
Also take in the outdoor exhibits between South and Central Hall where there are remote production trucks, satellite uplinks and other very cool displays.   While you may never have the need for a remote production truck, just walking through one and seeing how they have managed to configure an entire production facility in a very small footprint can certainly give you some ideas for designing your own production space.

In Central Hall I always go in to check out what’s the latest in microphones and field recording because when a show idea comes up, for whatever reason I start thinking about the microphones I saw and how we can use them.   It was here that I first learned about Countryman Audio for example and have since started using their products.

Getting to and from the show.
NAB does a great job providing free shuttle transportation to and from the show via many of the hotels along The Strip.   Whether you stay in one of these hotels or not, as an attendee, you have access to these busses.   So look at the NAB Bus Schedule and pick a hotel nearby to pick up the shuttle, be sure to have your convention badge on you as you generally have to show it to the bus driver to get on.  Now in 2014 I did notice that traffic was MUCH worse getting to the show in the morning so I started hopping the Monorail in the morning.   If you get a one week Monorail pass, it’s a pretty good deal and I usually end up using it throughout the week to go to down to MGM / New York New York or all the way up near where Sahara used to be.

At the end of the day, I always take the Las Vegas Monorail from the show.   Busses can get swamped at the end of the day and while the Monorail costs money, it tends to move more people faster out of the event.   Even if looks like there are tons of people headed up to the monorail, they move you though pretty well onto the monorail to get out.  I just hop off at the hotel the closest to mine on the way back.  The best hotel for monorail service on the Strip is the Flamingo.   It has the shortest walking distance from hotel rooms to the station of any of the monorail based hotels, less than 10 minutes to your room if you’re on the monorail side of the hotel and about 12 minutes to your room on the other side.  It’s generally my “go-to” hotel for the show.

Dress for comfort, especially your feet!
NAB is a big show.   Let me rephrase that.   NAB is a HUGE SHOW.   As in thousands upon thousands of square feet of exhibition space.   Let me say that again.   NAB IS A MASSIVE SHOW!   You may have been to big trade shows before, but imagine walking through and around 4 football stadiums (US or European) to see everything and that kind of gives you a sense of how large this thing is.   In other words, you’re going to be walking….. a lot…… forwards, backwards, up, down and all around.

It cannot be said enough that comfortable shoes are a MUST at this show.  I wear running shoes that have fabric that breathes.  Women…. how in the heck do you wear heels?   I have no idea, yet I see you walking the show floor every year like it’s something you have to do.  No, you honestly don’t.  Same with the men wearing wingtip business shoes.  Why?  They are simply not comfortable to walk around 4 football fields or to even stand still for hours at a time.    The NAB show floor is not the place to make a fashion statement so just relax.   Remember your feet will swell up standing and walking all day long, keep the shoes comfortable!

For dress, I tend to go with comfortable jeans and t-shirts or short sleeved button down shirts.   South Lower, where most of Post Production is housed, can get a little warm on Monday / Tuesday just because of the thousands of bodies in the hall.   Check the weather forecasts before you come for nighttime temps, as oftentimes a light sweater or jacket is good at night when the temps drop.   While 60 degrees might sound nice and warm with just a T-Shirt, with no sun and a 10-15 mph wind, that light jacket you brought along will feel much better.

Beyond the jeans, the only event I know of that really requires any sort of “dress code” is the annual AJA Party which is held in an exclusive nightclub usually and does require an invitation to attend.   Other than that, it’s generally just “come as you are.”

Plan Ahead, Check out the Changes, Use Reference Points and check .
A big key is to plan ahead and then prioritize your plan.  There is so much to see that it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the show, it’s literally the biggest toy box for all of to play in with everything we’d ever need to make great shows.   All the stuff you read about on the internet and in magazines is on display.   It’s easy to get caught up spending way too much time on some really super cool toy that you don’t need, can’t afford, would never use, but it’s just so freakin’ cool and before you know it, two hours are gone.

So pick the toys you REALLY want to see, then prioritize them in order of what’s the most important thing you need  all the way down to those that would be fun to see, but it wouldn’t matter if you missed them.   You will accomplish much more and see those things that will make a difference for you in the next 12 months.

If you’re thinking “Well I went last year so I know where everything is” think again.   Most all the vendors are shuffled every year except the HUGE booths like Blackmagic Design.  There have also been quite a few changes this year.  A new Aerial Robotics and Drone Pavilion has been added. The New Media Expo is co-hosting in the North Hall for content creators, I’ll definitely be checking this area out for my content.   Check out the NAB Show website to do searches on all your favorite destinations using this handy Exhibitor Search page.  Type in the name you’re looking for and it will bring up the building and finally the booth location. The show floor oftentimes makes no logical sense.   Booth numbers that go smoothly from number to number suddenly veer off into nonsense and you stand around saying “Well it should be right here, it’s the next number in sequence.” 

If you have a smartphone or tablet you can access the My NAB Show tool.  I’ve used their My NAB app for the past few years, but I’ll try this tool set this time as I don’t see the regular mobile app available on my phone.  This should offer you a good map view and also allows you to put your entire show schedule into the app to keep track of what’s going on.

Another great way to help with navigation on the show floor and to find your way back to location is to use reference points.  Pick a banner, a booth, whatever that has a high sign that you can clearly see to use as a reference point to find your way around.   I often use the AJA Video Systems booth, the Adobe Theater and one of the music libraries in South Lower as my reference points for example.    I can visually see that point and if I know a booth I’m looking for is in the general area, I can use that to find it.

In particular, use these reference points to find the bathrooms.   Small thing I know, but at least in South Hall, they are along the far left and right walls and finding these easily is a good thing.  :)

Stay tuned for the Sunday announcements.
Many companies presenting at NAB will either have press events or issue press releases on Sunday announcing their latest toys that will be on display in the exhibition halls.  Websites such as have great news feeds that help you follow along with the almost dizzying array of releases.
Make notes of the releases that are of special interest to you so you’ll know what that company is debuting, locate their booth number, and prepare some questions.  Yeah, write your questions down or put them in your phone / tablet because you’ll definitely forget what you were going to ask when you get to the booth.    EVERYTHING sounds incredible in the press release, seeing it on the show floor and asking the right questions can get you a better picture of what the toy can and cannot do.  Pay very close attention to what the product does NOW and what might come in a future release.  There’s a lot of difference between what’s ready to go now and what “might” happen at a later date.

Most of the manufacturers on the show floor are very frank about what their products CAN’T do.  They want to make sure the right information gets out and they want you to be a satisfied customer.  So don’t just take everything at face value, ask questions!   And here’s the best question to ask,  “Is this shipping now and if not when will it ship?”  Some companies have developed reputations of demonstrating really awesome stuff that’s still not available when NAB comes around again.  Heck some of it never gets released, hence the term “vaporware.”

Monday Morning
UPDATE: NAB Exhibits will open at 10:00am on Monday morning, not 9:00am as in the past.
Here’s my yearly reminder: You do not have to start lining up at 9:30am to be the very first one into the convention hall Monday morning.   Things do not start disappearing at 10:01am.   Once again, last year, there was a huge mob of people just lining up outside the gates at South Hall waiting to sprint into the convention.  Those of us working the booths call this “The running of the bulls.”  You don’t win points for being first.   Just relax, grab a cup of coffee or tea at the Starbucks and when the gates open, there will be plenty of room for everyone.   The place holds something like 100,000 people, so relax, let the mob run in ahead you and then you can just meander in behind them.

A GREAT way to avoid the mobs on Monday morning is to walk directly to the back half of the convention hall first thing.  It’s always quiet back there Monday morning because folks get hung up at the huge booths up front .   Lots of equipment and personnel available in the booth out back to get your hands on and questions answered.   Then you can wander back up to the front after lunch.

Another great tip, walk the outside walls on the left and right side of the halls, especially South Hall.  Walking down the middle is basically rush hour all day, every day, especially at the front of South Hall.  So walk along the outer walls to get around the show floor more easily.

I’ve found some really cool widgets, software and tools for my work that I never would have found without just strolling “off the beaten path” as it were, such as my incredibly awesome Anthro edit consoles.   For Post Production, the Plug-In Pavilion is always a great place to see what’s out there for effects and time savers.  There’s also something called the Start-Up Pavilion with brand new products often debuting at the show from smaller companies.  Always great to see what they have to share with us.

Pace Yourself, stay hydrated.
Unless you are only in Vegas for one day (because your cheap boss wouldn’t spring for at least two days) pace yourself, nothing is going anywhere for four days.  It’s not like those stupid day after Thanksgiving sales, there’s nothing that’s going to disappear except maybe some of the free swag that you’ll probably throw away when you get home anyway.

Many of the larger booths have chairs, small theaters with presentations throughout the day which are great to just sit and take a break for a few minutes.   Sit in on some of the presentations that are about the toys you are considering.   Sure these are well planned 15 – 30 minute presentations, but watching them can give you a good sense of whether the toy is what you expected it to be.  In addition, the presentations allow you to form questions to pose to the folks working these toys in the booth.   And there’s that sitting down for 15 – 30 minutes part that’s a good thing for your feet.
And above all stay hydrated, drink lots of water.   The air is very dry in Las Vegas and it’s easy to get dehydrated with all the walking around you’re going to be doing.   Not just at the convention, walking around the streets of Vegas will wear you out if you don’t stay hydrated.    One of my first stops every year is to CVS pharmacy or small shop on the street to pick up a 6 pack of bottled water that I can refill as the week goes on.

Remember that Vegas also uses a lot of forced perspective, so things that appear to be right down the block are actually 1/2 mile or more away.   For example what looks like a short walk from New York, New York Casino to Treasure Island is more like a 50 minute walk up the street.

Evening Events.
Many manufacturers and groups have evening and after hours events.   These are as simple as meet and greets to the world-renowed AJA VIP party.   Some are free and some cost to attend.  For the most part they’re fun and these are generally the best place to simply hang and meet up with your peers.   You’ll find many of the bloggers, the writers, and folks who post on the various forums and tweet away all year long.  And don’t be shy at these events, just walk up and say hello.

Now the same suggestions for the main show, also apply to the evening events.  Primarily, pace yourself.   There are a LOT of evening events, pick and choose a few, if you don’t make them all, so what?   It’s ok.   And manage your intake of alcohol.   Yes everyone likes to party and have a beer or two, but I’m amazed at the number of folks revert back to frat college days and get completely wasted to the point where you really don’t even want to be around them.   Remember, you are representing yourself at all times and it’s best to remain coherent and professional when you’re in public.  As many of the beer companies remind us, “Drink Responsibly.”   And at most of these you’re going to do a lot of standing, so again, wear comfortable shoes!

My absolute favorite event each year is the Media Motion Ball.  It’s a smaller gathering, costs a bit more money because they serve a very nice buffet sit down dinner and is more low key than some of the other larger gatherings.   It’s quieter so we can all chat and it’s a very friendly atmosphere.   The sponsor tables are also usually in the same room and are very approachable.  Often you’ll find the folks from the “big booths” like Blackmagic Design where you can meet more one on one with the product folks than out on the floor.

The biggest event for the Post Production industry is always the SuperMeet.  Part carnival, part demonstration, always entertaining.  Home of the one of the largest raffles in all of NAB.   It’s also a great place to find out if there are any Post Production User Groups in your area as they do a parade of user groups as part of the event.  Personally I go for about the first 1/4 to 1/2 of the event spending more time out in the sponsor area as it’s a great place for me to catch up with a lot of my friends and to meet many of you from the CreativeCow, my blog and Twitter.

For those of you arriving by Sunday, #PostChat will be hosting a casual meet up at 8pm. Check out their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter for details..

Most manufacturers and groups will have events posted on their websites or at the booths so check them out and decide if anything works for you. And if you don’t want to go out and party, then don’t, there are so many great restaurants and food joints all over town, go enjoy yourself at one of those. 

I forgot my hard drive, power cord, etc… and portable cell phone chargers
The Fashion Show Mall (weird name I know) located near Treasure Island and the Wynn hotel has an Apple Store and other electronics stores that should have whatever you left behind or lost on your way to Las Vegas.   Other good stores and a great food court in there as well.
Your Cell Phone will NOT last through the entire day.  NAB Show days and nights are LONG!  So bring a few back up batteries so you can recharge your phone during the day.  There are many USB portable charger units around like these, I have three of them here and plan to bring all of them to have on me during the day.  (Thanks to Dylan Reeve for the reminder on this tip)

By the way, bring a small power tap or power strip so you can recharge all that electronic gear you need at night.
Beyond the Show, my suggestions for food and fun.
You’re in Las Vegas, there are literally tons of things to do besides gambling.   Quite honestly gambling bores me, I used to work in the largest casino in the world and slot machines and such never interested me.  I do place one bet each year on the weekend NASCAR race, but beyond that, not much else.    So here’s some thoughts beyond the obvious gambling and drinking.

I can’t over emphasize how good the restaurants are both on and off the Strip.   Buca de Beppo is wonderful off the strip.   Our favorite buffet has been the Spice Market Buffett in Planet Hollywood although the Bacchanal Buffet in Caesars Palace was just insanely good last year.  Pricey, but amazing and it features ice cream from our good friends at High Road Craft.    

The best grouping of restaurants in one hotel is the Venetian with Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio being the standout, but there are a lot of great choices in that one hotel including the Grand Lux and an awesome Mexican Cantina.  If you go downstairs in the Shoppes at Palazzos you’ll find an absolutely killer Espressamente Illy coffee house / gelato shop.  My favorite coffee in Vegas.

One fun thing that presents tons of photo opportunities is the Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in the Venetian Hotel.   What makes it so fun is that nothing is behind glass, it’s all out so you can stand and pose with the wax people.   It’s silly fun with something like 54 celebrities or so to get your picture with in a walk at your own pace style.

Of the “big shows” in I’ve seen in Vegas, “O” at the Bellagio simply takes the cake for spectacle.  I spent as much time enjoying the show as I did marveling at the staging and just trying to figure out what sort of a warped mind can actually create some of this.  Simply stunning both creatively and technically.  Mystere at Treasure Island is still my favorite Cirque show and although I’ve yet to make it, The Beatles Love at Mirage is supposed to be spectacular.  Penn & Teller come out to the lobby after every show to meet and greet for any guest that wants to say hello.

The show is what you make it.
Simply put, NAB Show is what you make it.  You’re around somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 people for a few days.   The way you make connections and the way you network is to walk up and say “hello.”   That’s how I got to know so many people over the years.   I’ve read their blogs, their articles, watched their companies grow, etc….  and when I saw them on the show floor, I just walked over and said “hello” and gave them my card.
Some folks I never heard from again.  But those that did reach out have turned into some of the most valuable resources and best friends I could possibly ask for.   Networking and meeting new people is the main reason I attend most years.   Yeah, Vegas itself gets to be boring when you go every single year, but what keeps me coming back is simply getting the chance to see everyone in one place each year.

So don’t be shy, don’t be rude either, but if you want to say hello to folks, say hello.  If you want to say hello to me, you can find me on the show floor, at the #PostChat event and definitely at the Media Motion Ball.  I’ll post my schedule in a separate blog when my schedule is finalized.

If you want to get a sense of how much fun NAB is, there's a series of #WallyCam videos on my website blog with a slew of my selfie videos from the show both last year and in 2013.  This one with Marco Solorio is one of my favorites from last year.

There you go, some tips and tricks from a veteran of the Las Vegas NAB Scene.   Again: Bring lots and lots of business cards, shake a lot hands and make yourself some new friends you can call upon when need advice.   Most importantly have fun.  We’ll see you there!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:39:31 am NAB, Tips

Should be an interesting April for Apple Color

So NAB is rapidly approaching and as par for the course, we know nothing about Apple's plans for the event. We know they don't have a booth planned but will they announce anything at all?

Last year we had a completely underwhelming (you might say embarrassing) presentation by Apple at the SuperMeet. What will we see / hear this year?

In particular I'm curious what is going to happen to Color. Apple has really done zero to promote this application since it was acquired. When it was purchased I felt strongly, and still do, that it was a mistake to roll a $25,000 application into the $1,000 price of Final Cut Studio. By doing that, it created a lot of confusion with the end users who:

1 - Complained it doesn't operate like other Apple products
2 - Didn't take the time to learn the proper workflows.
3 - Complained the application doesn't support all the codecs / workflows of FCP.
4 - Complained the application was too hard to use.
5 - Compared it to Davinci, Baselight, Scratch and others, many of whom could only say that the others were realtime while Color was not.

There are many more examples of what the over 1 million end users who suddenly had this $25,000 color grading application complained about. Not to mention a lot of Colorists who felt threatened that 1 million plus users suddenly had a very powerful color grading application dropped into their laps.

Add all of this together and what you end up with is a very negative net value for Apple Color. People didn't even want to try it because of all the negativity associated with what is a very easy application to use and works brilliantly so long as you follow the proper workflow.

If Apple had kept it a stand-alone product priced at $999 or even $499 the people who wanted to use it would have had to make an investment into the application. When you make an investment into an application, you generally take the time to learn it properly. When it's simply an add-on to a major editing system like Final Cut Pro, it's just a freebie throw-in that I'll open up and if it doesn't work in a few clicks, well then it's trash and I won't bother.

The silence from Apple on the future development of the overall Final Cut Studio Suite in 2010 was deafening and no more so than with Color. NAB 2011 will be the point at which I will have to make the decision for our company as to whether we continue with the Apple suite of products or transition over to either Avid or Adobe CS5. We're essentially using the same software that was released back in 2009 and the production world has changed greatly in those two years, particularly with tapeless workflows and codecs that are not supported natively in FCP.

One of the big reasons we stick with Studio Suite is because of Color and the ease of use in moving projects in and out of that application. We literally run hundreds of projects each year through that app. Yes we have Davinci Resolve now as well because it makes sense to have both with the new pricing, but Color is still our primary color grading app.

I'm very curious to see whether Apple intends to keep the development of Color moving along. When Apple purchased it, we were ready to start beta testing Final Touch 3.0 which was scheduled to have some really nice features that have yet to appear in renamed Apple Color. April 2011 will be a very interesting month.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 13, 2011 at 5:20:20 amComments (28) NAB, Apple

NAB and the Trade Show: Making a Resurgence?

In 2006, the National Association of Broadcasters Convention had over 108,000 attendees in Las Vegas. That dropped to 82,600 by 2009 amid cries that the big trade show is rendered useless in today's internet connected world. All you ever need to know about your business and “what to buy” and “how to do” can be found on the internet without all the hassles and expense of traveling. In 2010 attendance crept back up to 88,044 for one of the most dynamic shows I have ever experienced.

I have to say, I’ve missed the last three shows myself. The first one by choice, the other two due to the work schedule. This year I made a decision that my schedule would be cleared for the event, particularly with the buzz around 3D. The decision was made even easier when we saw the lowest hotel rates in Vegas we’ve ever seen!

But back to the show. A 6,000 person increase is a modest jump when you consider the size and scope of this event and quite honestly, I was of the mindset that with resources like there really was NOT much of a need to get out and attend the show. It’s four (or more) days of a lot of walking, coffee, standing, talking, coffee, more walking, listening, coffee, walking, coffee and coffee. What can I say, there’s Starbucks all over in there and I’m drawn like a moth to flame.

I was reminded this year of just WHY these trade shows truly are still relevant and important to all of us in the production industry. There really is no other way to see everything you want to see, in person, operating at one time. What makes Avid unique from Adobe? What’s the difference between the new Panasonic and Sony small cameras? What kind of microphone can go underwater and still keep working? Are LED lights really any good or do I still need HMI? Why is the Grass Valley booth bathed in green light? (never got the answer to that one)

You’re spending money on equipment, software and you need answers on what will work for you in your budget. You have questions on how to do certain workflows, there are literally thousands of experts in one location. The internet is sweet and it certainly has empowered many of us to make decisions we could not otherwise have made from glossy brochures and sales pitches. But nothing beats the ability to literally compare two, three, ten similar products in the space of a few hours. Watch demo, use the product, ask questions, get answers and then have the ability to go back and ask more questions.

Nor is there any other place where you can stumble on to products and ideas you’ve never heard of. I’m starting two original television series here and I’m interested in some new Panasonic cameras and Canon Lenses. On the way there, I found a whole series of LED lighting setups. Lower power consumption, bright lights and potential HMI replacements. Prices ranged from $250 to thousands of dollars. What’s the difference in the brands? From what I could tell it was really the ruggedness of the frames, the rigs and the electronics. Some felt flimsy and fragile while one brand they literally slammed the lights on the desk to show they’re almost unbreakable.

We might be producing a new fishing series as well and I found a microphone company that was dunking one their products in water and the mic was functioning perfectly AND it was much less than the mics I had been looking at online. They pointed me to another company that had a reasonably priced waterproof transmitter. I never would have found either if I wasn’t walking the show floor. Yes I could have asked about this on the internet and would have gotten some really good advice from pros in the field. But this was nice to see, hear and touch.

So with this uptick in interest in 3D particularly, it seems to be that the Trade Show might be even more relevant in today’s internet world than ever before. We can make reasonably informed decisions based on the information we get from the internet. We can make completely informed decisions based on a combination of information from the internet AND first hand experience at a Trade Show. If I did not attend the show this year I would not have believed that, but it’s just true. Also, I can’t tell you how many people would tell me, “Did you see such and such? No? You have to go check this out in Booth....” We see this all the time with internet forums where one question leads to advice to look at an alternative. At a show like NAB you can not only look at the alternative but make a reasonable decision very quickly whether it’s a good alternative or not.

If you looked at Twitter, and many other sites during the 4 day run of NAB this year, those sites were just completely flooded with requests for more information, please test this out, please look at this, is this really as good as they say it is, etc....  People were begging for information that was on display right there on the show floor.   Does it cost money to go to a Trade Show?  Yes.  Is it money well spent?   Again I have to say Yes.   With the incredible changes our industry is going through, you simply can't afford NOT to attend these events at least every other year.

If you did not make NAB this year, plan to come out in 2011 as 3D should be in full swing. If you are in Europe, plan to attend IBC and check out what is on the horizon. At the very least, try to attend one of these Road Shows from the various manufacturers, though I do find them somewhat of a waste of time. You only get the one perspective from those, you really can’t compare and contrast what you’re seeing in the road show vs. another manufacturer.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 18, 2010 at 1:21:29 pmComments (3) nab, final cut pro, avid, adobe, trade show

The Three A's; Avid, Adobe and Apple

The 2010 National Association of Broadcasters convention had the Post Production world buzzing about the Three A's of the industry.  Apple, Adobe and Avid.   Well, really more Adobe and Avid since they were actually at the show and had something to demonstrate.

Adobe brought their CS5 creative suite to the show with some incredible announcements.  Not the least of which to me is the ease of integration with other NLEs like Final Cut Pro and Avid.  Adobe has decided to "play nice" with with their competitors to make it easier for Post Houses like mine to get projects into and out of After Effects for one.  Right now this requires plug-ins like the Automatic Duck Importer for AE (which is totally awesome by the way), but with CS5, we could essentially take an FCP timeline, send it to Premiere and then send it over to AE.  Ok, the Duck plug-in is around $500 and Premiere is $799 so it’s a bit silly to even consider Premiere just for this functionality.   But......

Premiere has taken a huge step forward with their 64bit enabled Mercury Engine.  Much more realtime functionality and you can see in their online demos 4k and 2k material scrubbing and playing back in the same timeline.  You will have to install CS5 in a 64 bit system to run and run an Adobe Certified graphics board in order to take full advantage of the Mercury Engine functionality.  But the functionality of Premiere is very much on par to what Final Cut Pro based facility are used to and the real-time functionality of the CS5 package simply blows FCP out of the water.  

Avid brought us Media Composer 5 and what really got the show buzzing was their support of Quicktime.  More specifically, Apple’s ProRes codec.  So now there is the very real possibility of Avid working right alongside Final Cut Pro in the same facility or for sharing projects across facilities.   
Not only that, Avid’s H.264 native editing support refutes everything we’ve been saying about that codec and Final Cut Pro for the past few years.  Whenever someone said they could not get H.264 to edit well in FCP (such as from a DSLR), we would inform them that it was not a proper editing codec, it was a finishing / delivery codec.  Transcode it to something else like ProRes.  Avid (and Adobe for that matter) is now showing that assumption to be false.  Take the H.264 and start editing right away in realtime.

And like Adobe, Avid has a much more seamless P2 / tapeless workflow that does not require transcoding, wrapping to be able to edit with this material.  Simply bring it in and start working pretty much instantaneously.  

Now the one thing Avid has NOT really done is open up the platform to third party hardware.  Right now you can use the Matrox MXO2 Mini for display only.  So you can watch your project on a monitor and do a crash record to a VTR or DVD Recorder but that’s pretty much it.   No support for the AJA Kona Boards or the BlackMagic boards at this time and Avid was very vague on whether that would come in the future.  “The MXO2 Mini is the first step” is what I was told during a meeting, but that was all they said.   What I would ideally like to do in our situation is install the Avid Media Composer 5 software to work on our AJA Kona 3 based systems.  This would allow me to hire any freelancer whether they want to work with FCP or Avid and we could work in one universal codec, ProRes so any system could access the media.  This is going to be a wait and see with Avid to see how willing they are to really open up the software to third parties.  Short term I might install one copy of the software with the Mini so an editor could use Avid in our shop and we would lay back to tape using a Final Cut Pro workstation utilizing Automatic Duck to move the project over.  Right now to really use the Media Composer software fully, you still need the Mojo hardware and I’m not going to spring for that.

So that leaves us with Apple.  (sigh) Apple’s lone appearance was at the Supermeet.  Note I said Supermeet and not FCPUG Supermeet.  That’s because the FCPUG part of it was dropped and in this case, for good reason.  Apple sent up Steve Bayes, Sr. Product Manager for Final Cut Studio to give a presentation.  Mind you, this followed the two jaw dropping presentations from Adobe and Avid.  Steve starts off with “I’ve got a secret” and proceeds to tell us really nothing at all about Final Cut Pro.  There was no secret, just more marketing buzzwords about how wonderful Studio is and how many production partners are using Studio or something along those lines.  See I can’t even remember much about what he said because it was basically meaningless.

Your two strongest competitors take the stage in what used to be the Final Cut Pro Users Group Supermeet, completely knock it out of the park, and all you can do is whiff?  I would like to say we heard crickets in the room, but that would be a disservice to the Rio Hotel so it was more or less silence that greeted this earth shattering “secret” from Apple.

When Final Cut Pro came out, the industry laughed at it.  Here’s a cheap little NLE knock-off that will never get traction.  Apple proved that wrong by offering a very low-cost, yet powerful editing tool that can truly work in all manner of film and television post production.  Apple worked its way to the top of the heap in terms of users worldwide, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.3 to 1.5 million registered users (and who knows how many more “non-registered” users).  Nobody could match the suite of tools, particularly with the addition of Color, for just $999.

Well, now we’re all kind of laughing again.  Apple’s notorious silence allowed Avid and Adobe to completely leapfrog all discussion about Final Cut Studio and leaves the post-production community wondering whether Apple can keep up.  When your competitors can work with your very own codec (H.264) better than your own product, that’s a problem.  When your competitors can work with tapeless workflow better than your own product, that’s a problem.  When your competitors can work with more realtime functionality using your very own hardware, that’s a problem.   Basically Apple sent up Steve as a sacrificial lamb and really should not even have bothered.

The integration of the entire Adobe Suite has been much tighter than the Final Cut Studio suite for a few years now, but there really wasn’t anything to get me to even consider dumping FCP for Premiere.  In fact, despite the fact that many of us like to defend Final Cut Pro vs. pretty much any NLE out there by saying it’s the artist that makes the difference, not the tool, I never really considered Premiere as a viable alternative for editing.  It just never felt like a “professional editing tool” for whatever reason.  Probably just a personal bias and I just don’t hear of very many “pro users” that base their facilities around Premiere.

With CS5, the Adobe suite suddenly looks very promising as an alternative.  Even more so since it runs with all of our existing infrastructure we have in place for Studio.  The only change would be to replace our ATI graphics cards with the proper nVidia cards to support the Mercury engine.    If Avid opens up their software to all third party hardware, especially the AJA Kona boards, well then that certainly becomes a very viable alternative as well.

That’s one of the beauties of what Apple has actually created.   A very strong third party hardware market that is software agnostic.  By concentrating on just the software and computer hardware, Apple opened up the Audio / video hardware to multiple independent companies like AJA and BlackMagic who designed their products to work with multiple NLEs out there.  And as we all know, FCP / Premiere / Avid all work essentially the same way so if you know one, you can switch to another one pretty darn quickly.  

Will I make the switch?  I’m not doing anything immediately though I will upgrade all our systems to CS5 when that is released.  We run CS4 on all of our systems currently as we’re very heavy After Effects and Photoshop users so we have the Production Premium suite.  When the CS5 bundle gets here you better believe I’ll be poking around in Premiere to see how it operates and just how well it “plays with Final Cut Pro” and how it compares to working with Final Cut Pro.

No I’m going to wait to see what Apple has to show us, whenever that is.  They have to not only hit a home run, but knock it completely out of the park.  I want to see a realtime alternative to Adobe’s Mercury Engine.  I want to see the ease of use of H.264 and other tapeless formats that don’t require Log and Transfer with a re-wrapping.  I want to see very tight integration between the apps in the suite like CS5.  And I would really like to see Apple open up an “ease of use” path for working back and forth with Premiere and Avid systems.

So right now, my feeling and what I heard very often on the show floor, at the Supermeet and my various meetings with people is it’s time for Apple to put up or shut up.   They set the bar high for a full featured non-linear editing system at a very low price.  Adobe and Avid just blew right by them using the same hardware that is available to FCP facilities.   Is Apple going to move the Studio suite forward and really improve the workflow for professional editors as the other A’s have done, or are they simply going to maintain the status quo with a few updates to just continue to sell Mac hardware?   At the moment, Apple’s silence is deafening.   I'm reminded of the NFL Playoffs commercial campaign a few years ago, "Show Me Something."  Anything.....    Once I can see what Apple has to show us, then we'll make the decision on where we go from there.  We're about to grow from 4 to 9 edit suites in the next few months so what we see revealed from Apple will make the decision on where our company goes from here. I'm hoping they hit it out of the park so we don't have to change anything, but it's easy enough to make the switch if that's better for our company.

Of course the one thing Apple still has going for it is Color.  Adobe and Avid still don’t have anything to match that.   Oh that’s right, DaVinci took care of that for them, but that’s another blog entry.....

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 18, 2010 at 7:27:50 amComments (9) apple, final cut pro, adobe, nab, aja, blackmagic

Apple lays off 40 from FCP team, My Take.

“Apple lays off 40 people from the FCP development staff right before NAB 2010.
Is it doomed?”

“Apple has laid off many people involved in the development in FCP. Will FCP languish now?”

If it’s getting close to NAB, it must be time for the new “Final Cut Pro is going away” rumor to start. By now, anyone who works with Apple’s Final Cut Pro software has probably seen the “tweet heard ’round the world” that Apple has apparently laid off 40 people from the Final Cut Pro development team. So of course we have to have multiple threads appear in the Creative Cow’s forums where we have the expected “Is Final Cut Pro doomed?,” “Why would Apple kill the product?” entries.

Why? I mean seriously. Why? 40 people were laid off, and as well noted by Shane Ross in multiple threads on the Cow, the bulk of these people were external contractors, not Apple employees in Cupertino. And suddenly the sky is falling? Entire COMPANIES have disappeared over the past year, some really HUGE companies have flat out disappeared off the map and we’re all up in arms that a product might disappear because 40 people were apparently let go from Apple?

Now I’m not taking their layoff lightly. 40 qualified people were apparently let go and that’s never a good thing when people lose their jobs, especially in this economy.

But in terms of the product line, Final Cut Pro and the rest of Studio, I don’t see why people get so uptight when the read something like this. Do you really honestly think Final Cut Pro, or the rest of Studio, would simply vanish overnight due to the loss of 40 people? Do you really honestly have any idea how many people are ON the Final Cut Pro and Pro Apps team?

There’s three reasons I can see for this layoff to have occurred:

1) Apple is trimming the fat on this department. Final Cut Studio is only $999 and accounts for a small portion of Apple sales compared to the consumer products like iPhone, iPods, iMacs and MacBooks. There comes a point where cutbacks are necessary in personnel and a decision was made to release these 40 people.

2) Apple has completed a full re-write of the software package to make it fully 64 bit compliant and have released the team members no longer necessary for the new build. This is standard procedure from what I have gathered at many software and gaming companies where a team is built up for a major software title and then that team is pared back down when the job is completed. This is much like any television production or film project quite honestly. In my own company we have anywhere from 2 to 12 people working in my offices depending on the jobs in the shop at any given time.

3) Apple is considering the sale of the entire Final Cut Studio package to a 3rd party and have released these people ahead of the sale. See I just don’t believe Final Cut Studio would simply disappear, not with over 1 million registered users around the world. I do believe at some point Apple would consider the sale of Studio to a third party vendor and in my opinion it could be a good thing, particularly if this was a software centric company and not a hardware centric company. If you are only making the money off the software, then you have to be constantly pushing the limits of it and constantly updating / upgrading it to meet the user base demands. If you are simply using the software as a carrot to sell your hardware, then you can allow the software to lag a little behind in development so long as you keep the machines improving at a fairly rapid rate.

If I were to take a guess on the reality, my guess would be Number 2. The fact that these were apparently external people who were let go leads me to believe these were primarily Quality Control and Testing type of people. The folks who hammer on the software to check that it functions as expected and to catch as many bugs as possible before the product is released. They might have also been folks who were advocates for new features and such.

Do I have anything to go on besides my own intuition? Nope, just a guess on my part based on what little information we have available to us. If we see a Final Cut Studio 4 or a Final Cut Pro 8 at NAB, then we’ll know that was the case. As usual with Apple, we’ll all know the truth when we know.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 20, 2010 at 12:41:50 pmComments (3) final cut pro, apple, nab

Bypassing NAB

Just a note that I'll be bypassing NAB after all this year. Our production schedule is very fluid right now and I just can't justify the cost and time away from the office right now. I was hoping to meet many of you at the Artbeats booth this year, but it'll have to be another day. I will be creating a pretty cool demo for Artbeats that'll be online in April though.

Enjoy the show everybody!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 17, 2008 at 8:35:11 pmComments (2) apple, nab

Apple Drops NAB, follows Avid's lead for good

So after dropping NAB once then reappearing, Apple has decided to join Avid and skip the NAB show floor altogether. This is an incredibly disappointing decision for a company that supposedly supports over 800,000+ Final Cut Pro users and countless other pro-apps users.

NAB and IBC are the two shows each year where professionals, such as myself, can get the opportunity to see and try out the equipment and software we're all going to purchase for the coming year. People like myself spend thousands of dollars on these purchases and I have always found NAB to be particularly useful in making those purchasing decisions. No matter how much I read up on all the new releases from companies, there's nothing like actually seeing the product in action, even if it's a prototype.

Now apparently Apple feels they don't need to make the effort to present their products to the very professionals who are supposed to line up and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions, on their products over the next year. This is very disappointing and makes me wonder about Apple's commitment to the professional application market.

The consumer market is doing quite well with the iPod, iPhone and the incredible lineup of iMac and notebook computers (MacBook Air excluded). All of Apple's latest updates and efforts seem targeted more towards this market than the professional market.

Witness the recent 7.4 update to Quicktime that caused incredible havoc to many users of Final Cut Pro and Motion, two flagship pro-app products from Apple. Then Apple rushes out some sort of ProKit update yesterday but doesn't explain what it is supposed to fix, just that all users of Final Cut Pro should install this.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems more and more that software, OS and Quicktime updates are geared more towards iTunes, AppleTV and consumer apps than the Pro Apps. More often than not, these updates cause harm to the pro-apps. Considering I have my entire financial future tied to the un-failing performance of these pro-apps, this is a bit of a concern.

I'm not a consumer who can let a computer crash if an update messes up my quicktime player. I'm not a consumer who can let a computer get unstable if the latest OS update does something to my iTunes player. I'm not a consumer who cares a whit about the thinnest and most overpriced laptop on the planet.

I'm a video and film professional who requires stability and support at all times in order to earn a living. A computer crash can cost me thousands of dollars and lost clients. An unstable system can shut down my facilities for days at a time.

I fully expect companies like Avid and Apple to have a presence at the largest gathering of video and film professionals in the world. Apparently both feel it's not necessary for them any longer. Oh Avid says they will be at the show, but I guess you'll have to know the secret handshake or the code word to locate someone. I'm not sure Apple will have any presence outside of the SuperMeet.

So where does that leave us? Adobe, Autodesk, and Media 100/Boris FX are the three names that I recognize on the exhibit floor list and I am definitely going to check out all of them. They are taking the time and money to show up and I feel it's only right to see what they have to offer. I've always spent so much time at the Apple booth each year, I guess this will give me the opportunity to see what I've been missing.

Media 100 was my tool of choice until 2001 when I switched to FCP and I know they have lost a lot of market share, but it's time to re-visit them. Adobe has come back strong with Premiere on the Mac and from what I gather, it's essentially like FCP only with an incredibly tight integration between the entire Adobe pro line-up. Adobe has a long history with professional apps and support so I will definitely spend some quality time with those folks to really see Premiere again. Autodesk is one company I've never worked with, but they usually have a pretty cool booth, so it'll be fun to see what they have to offer.

As someone who was only weeks away from upgrading two of our workstations to brand new Octo Core Macs, this announcement gives me reason to pause on that decision. I want to make sure I still have solid commitment from Apple to support the Pro-Users out there as much as they want to support the consumers.

I guess NAB just isn't that important to the companies anymore. That's a shame because it's pretty important to this professional earning a living using their equipment.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 7, 2008 at 5:20:43 pmComments (2) apple, nab, final cut pro

Apple follows Avid's lead at NAB 2008?

So first we hear of Avid's pulling off the NAB 2008 Show Floor. During a lively debate in the Business and Marketing Forum, one Cow user noted that Apple had suddenly disappeared from the Show Floor Exhibit Map. I was looking over the Exhibitor List and Apple is not listed there either.

So by all outward appearances, Apple has pulled out of NAB 2008 as well. At least off the main Show Floor. Now Avid has been known to have had cash flow issues over the past few years as Apple's Final Cut Pro has made huge inroads in the Post Production community. So I attributed Avid's decision to leave the Show Floor as purely a financial move meant to better use what resources they have.

Now if Apple is truly pulling off the show floor, this is definitely different. Apple is certainly not hurting for money these days with the success of the iPod, iPhone and the resurgence of the Apple Computer products. Apple is one of the hottest nameplates in computers and electronics right now.

So does this tell us that NAB's significance for the Post Production market is slipping? Avid obviously feels it does not get a sufficient return on investment to be on the NAB show floor. Now it appears Apple is saying the same thing. As someone who has worked on the show floor in various vendor booths, I can assure you that putting a booth on the NAB Show Floor is not for the weak in the wallet. It's a very expensive proposition, not to mention hotel and travel fees for the support staff to run that booth. So if Apple truly does skip the show floor, we have to assume that Apple feels they get a much better return on investment by simply selling online and through their Mac centric trade shows like MacWorld and WWDC. And of course there is the large Reseller market and forums such as our own Creative COW Forum.

Of course, what does all of this mean for all the other exhibitors who put a lot of effort and time into this show. Apple and Avid drive a lot of traffic to the show floor and by doing so, they drive the traffic to all those other products we use in our day to day working lives and more we discover for the first time walking by their booth. If there's no Avid or Apple on the show floor, how many people will simply stay away from NAB, thus hurting all of these third party exhibitors. I know for me, it's not as desirable to go visit the show if I can can't get the latest information about Final Cut Studio and test out some of the new features.

On the flip side, if they are not there, that opens up Adobe, Autodesk, Media 100 and others to a lot more visitors they might not normally get. If you can't look at Final Cut Studio or Avid systems, why not look to see what everyone else has to offer? You might be pleasantly surprised by what else is out there.

So if Avid and Apple both say "No" to NAB 2008, who's next? I'm sure the rest of the industry will be watching the "A Team" closely as we approach the show.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jan 10, 2008 at 2:14:03 pmComments (7) avid, apple, nab

Biscardi NAB 2007 Diary - 4/13/07 4:30pm

We've arrived in Sunny Las Vegas! Checked in to the fabulous Flamingo hotel which we really used to enjoy for the penquins in the outdoor habitat, but they checked out last year so it's not quite the same. Still gotta love staying in the "original" strip hotel that started it all.

As you can see from the photo we're staying in the top of the line penthouse suite with a classic Strip view, only the best for Cow members! Laughing

Tonight will be a little rest and relaxation as we'll be taking in the Jay Leno show at the Mirage and then tomorrow it's straight over to North Hall to get my Speaker Badge.

I'm really looking forward to this show to see what Apple really has to announce for us on Sunday and then see how that stacks up with Adobe's impressive return to the Mac platform. Some things I'm most interested in this year for myself are storage, color correction and special effects / plug-ins. Though I'm going to be quite busy working this year, I hope to be able to at least get out and see what everybody is offering in these areas.

I'll give you guys daily updates (hopefully multiple updates per day) and be sure to watch out for my inaugural "All Things Apple" Podcast on Sunday shortly after Apple's event!

Ta ta for now!

Walter Biscardi's NAB 2007 Schedule

Well folks, NAB 2007 is upon us and I hope to be able to meet some of you. So if you're going to Las Vegas, here is where you'll definitely find me!

Sunday April 15 - Apple Event AM, Panasonic Event PM

Monday April 16 - AJA Booth all day, Booth SL6113 directly across from Apple.

Tuesday April 17 - AJA Booth AM, Booth SL6113.

Creative Cow booth PM, Booth SL2626. Between Adobe and Grass Valley

(on your right as you walk to the Apple booth.)

Wednesday, April 18 - Presenting "HD Finishing in Final Cut Pro" as part of the Post Production sessions.

3:30 - 4:45pm, Room N259. I'll be showing some of our production workflow for the Food Network program, Good Eats.

I'll also be at a few of the evening events, but not really sure where, so if you see me, be sure to say hi!


Ok, it's NAB time and I've been receiving quite a few of those "MUST SEE" emails touting everything from Apple to Avid to everything in between. Today I received what has to be the dumbest PR I've ever gotten from someone who teaches Avid. I'm guessing this person doubles as a Porn Spammer on the side because it has all the qualities of the endless junk email I receive. Well, here, you can judge for yourself.

I guess Avid is going all out this year to woo Final Cut Pro users, I wonder what the "private session" will be like. Swedish massage? Body oils? Lap Dance? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you my Numero Uno for worst NAB PR, and the award goes to Avid!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 30, 2007 at 2:55:54 pmComments (18) avid, television, apple, nab, technology, final cut pro

Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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