NAB Thoughts from a First-Timer

The internet is being flooded right now with thoughts on NAB 2012. It was my first time attending the show, so in the interest of helping other first-timers, here are my thoughts on how I planned my trip, what actually happened while I was there, and things that have stuck in my mind since returning home.

Planning

I lead a team of four editors at the International House of Prayer, in Kansas City, MO, so deciding what to look for while at NAB required that I analyze the state of our edit suites. I determined that the three areas I wanted to focus on were editing software, asset management, and storage.

The next thing I did was scour the NAB website for free sessions to attend. The Post-Pit hosted sessions the whole week, and NAB itself offered a few open sessions. If any of them remotely sounded interesting, I added them to the NAB iPhone app. The app had a calendar function which was really helpful in scheduling sessions I wanted to attend, and it gave me a visual schedule of when things were happening.

I made a list of vendors I knew I wanted to check out (Adobe, Autodesk, Canon, etc.) and noted where their booths were. NAB also sent out emails leading up to the show that highlighted different vendors and sessions, and if something looked interesting I added it to the list.

The Show

I spent the first day getting “the lay of the land”. The convention center is massive, and it took me most of the day to figure out where things were and how to navigate through all the booths. I visited several vendors and picked up schedules of their demos.

Almost as soon as I arrived, I started ignoring my well-planned schedule. At first I felt a bit guilty, but I reminded myself that these things were just to give me structure. If I found something else more interesting, I gave myself the liberty to stick with it. Of course, at a show like NAB you could easily get distracted, and that’s where those three areas came into play. They provided a general focus for the trip, which kept me from getting lost down bunny trails, but I also gave myself freedom to explore and stay with what interested me.

One quick tip: get a Monorail pass. It’s the simplest and fastest way to get up and down the strip. If you get a room in a hotel that connects right to it, even better.

Booths & Sessions

My favorite booths were by Manhattan Edit Workshop and Adobe.

MEW offered training for all the editing platforms, and I quickly signed up for Avid, Premiere, and Final Cut Pro X workshops (note: before the show). The instructors at the booth were awesome and everyone was willing and open to have talk. I missed the workshop for FCPX but I dropped by later and had a great conversation with two of the instructors. They also hosted a Q&A session with Michael Tronick, the editor of Act of Valor. It was fascinating to hear Michael talk, and he also was very open to talking. Much thanks to MEW for hosting that event.

Adobe’s booth was unbelievably awesome. Not only were they demonstrating the newly announced Creative Suite 6, but most of the demos were done by people using the software in their projects. I could have stayed at the Adobe booth the whole time, not just seeing a new piece of software but also learning how to use it and how to better tell stories. A large crowd was always clustered around the booth.

Other notable booths were Autodesk and their presentation of Smoke 2013; the guys at Small Tree were really open to questions and explaining how their products work; Canon had all of their cameras set up, with sets and actors to test things out; and Avid also did presentations all day.

I was also able to meet with a few people I’ve connected with on Twitter. Walter Biscardi was incredibly generous with his time and even bought me some hot chocolate; I chatted with Shane Ross while he was demoing at the AJA booth; and Chris Weatherly was a fellow church-creative that I had a good chat with. If you know people from Twitter will be at NAB, send them a message and see if they have time to meet up.

One thing that I found helpful when meeting people was to have some something to talk about. We all know how awkward it is to walk up to someone and say, “Hey, thanks for your tutorials! Uh… well… yep, thanks! Okay, bye.” I found it really helpful to think of some topics to talk about before meeting. With Walter I asked about managing editors and projects, and with Chris it was talking about what he did for his church and me working at IHOP-KC. Just like the entire NAB trip, planning beforehand what I want to talk about really helped in making those meet-ups not less awkward.

A quick word about sessions: I paid to attend a breakfast Tuesday morning, only to discover that it was an awards ceremony for vendors. I had a good conversation with people from ARRI, but I felt a little out of place since I wasn’t there with a product. If you’re paying to attend something, make sure it’s what you think it is.

Thoughts on my Three Areas of Focus:

Editing Software. Since the infamous announcement of Final Cut Pro X at NAB 2012, I have been thinking about what our edit suites will do in terms of software. Part of my goal at NAB was to look at Avid, Adobe, and Autodesk to see if they were viable options for our edit suites as we move on from Final Cut Pro 7.

I attended a session at the Avid booth and also a workshop at the MEW booth. I have never fully edited on Avid, but as most of the industry can attest to, it looks like a solid NLE. However, having seen the new version of Premiere Pro, I’m pretty sure our edit suites will be switching to Adobe. Adobe has fixed just about all of the little things I never liked about Premiere, and its functionality within itself and within the entire Production Premium suite is awesome. We already need to upgrade to After Effects CS6 (we’re still on CS4), which means we’ll have Premiere installed as well, and I think the learning curve going from FCP to Premiere will be easier than to Avid or FCPX.

I would have loved to try out Final Cut Pro X or seen demos of it, but as usual Apple wasn’t at the event. There are stories of people using FCPX for tv shows and I would love to see how they are doing it—but they weren’t at NAB. I don’t understand how a company can say they are invested in the professional market when they aren’t at the trade show of the year. Perhaps solely for lack of interaction with FCPX, we will be switching to Premiere Pro.

In regards to Autodesk Smoke, it looks like a really powerful program. While talking to Walter, he said he’s pretty sure his five staff editors will be Smoke editors and finishers. However, I don’t think it will work for our edit suites. First off, we would still need After Effects, as my understanding of Smoke 2013 is that it’s mostly a compositing program. Also, I think it’s just more horsepower than we need or our budget can handle.

Asset Management. The only booth I ended up talking to was CatDV, the generally accepted leader for asset management. While my first reaction is that here is again something with more horsepower than we need, I think it’s possible we can install a stripped down version of CatDV and do what we need it to do. Fellow editor Kenny Miracle also discovered 5thKind, who has developed a way of managing assets in the cloud, with some great ways for producers to review footage. There is also the long-hand way that Walter described to me, which is keeping track of everything in FileMaker Pro. For our purposes, I think I’ll be looking into a version of CatDV.

Storage. I talked with the guys at Active Storage and Small Tree, and both sound like great options. Small Tree was really easy to talk to and they’ve figured out a great way to keep things simple and expandable. If our edit suites were starting today, I think I’d seriously consider Small Tree. For a more in-depth look at SAN storage, check out this post by David Gagne, our system admin.

The Travesty of Women

Being a first-timer to a trade show like this, I was also surprised, and then devastated, by the (in)famous use of “booth babes”. You could tell that these girls didn’t know a thing about the products; they were simply there to look sexy and get your attention, scan your badge, and get you into the booth. I passed one booth that was demoing cameras and green screens and the girl modeling at the news desk was leaning forward with a very low-cut top. There was absolutely no reason she needed to show that much cleavage—except to attract the men.

Imagine if I had a booth at NAB and as my camera model I used a severely disabled quadriplegic guy. I put him on display and he slobbered, moaned, and was so disfigured that you couldn’t help but look. The outrage at that abuse would be overwhelming! “How dare you abusively use someone like that to make a profit!” would be the response.

We are doing the same thing with women. Men like looking at girls so we ignore the abuse, but it’s the same thing. We do it with our test footage, we do it with our marketing, we do it at our booths to attract attention. It’s blatant and it’s shameless—and it’s atrocious.

The society that uses women to sell its products will soon move to selling the women themselves.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I’m thankful I went to the show. I had great conversations and got to see first-hand how programs are used. I returned home tired and sore from all the walking, but also excited and inspired to tell stories and use the latest technology to do it.

Hopefully I’ll get to go next year and build on what I learned this year.

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