Thoughts on NAB 2020 – from a Non-Broadcaster

Posted on by Larry

Clayton Moore

Editor’s note: Clayton Moore is a former Apple technical support engineer, who focused on media applications.

The NAB Show. The name “NAB” (National Association of Broadcasters) had more direct relevance to the event years ago than it does today. Now it’s a name we use for a global event much of which has no relation to traditional broadcast at all. The combination of declining TV 2.0 and the rise of TV 3.0 and its army of enthusiasts.

Seems like for a while I have been hearing people (mostly the “old school”) talk about how NAB has gotten less interesting for them. I’ve not attended the show like a lot of folks have over the years so I can’t speak to that personally. However, it got me thinking, I used to attend a chapter of ITVA (International Television Association) in the town where I live.  Before long, affordable-to-the-masses DV cameras came onto the scene followed by their less experienced users. People learning to do weddings and other local events. Ultimately presentations and discussions followed that catered to the DV user and the seasoned professionals started to loose interest.

Some seasoned professionals did not even like to associate that much with the new wave of video creators, some of who were trying to cut into their business and slowly attendance dropped, now it’s gone. Add in the fact that Apple continued to release professional applications at lower and lower prices affordable to the general public. Technical support people at Apple thought “we’re screwed” We’ll be getting hammered by phone calls from amateurs who have no idea what they are doing and we’ll be forced to spend grueling hours on the phone trying to teach and handhold. In fact Apple’s hard and fast rule that training was not part of complimentary up-and-running support started to change under pressure from marketing, which always had the final say. The job  of tech support got more stressful. The desktop video revolution that helped birth TV 3.0 had started in earnest.

It all represented one more evolutionary step of high quality image creation from million dollar studios to desktop computers in home offices. More importantly, work moved into the hands of people with much less experience and expertise. Talent for sure, even vision, but no experience honed by years on the job. In 2008, the Canon 5D MKII started the DSLR revolution that ended up putting stunning images never seen before with never before seen affordability into the hands of millions. Today a mobile phone makes higher quality images than broadcast TV did 20 years ago.

Back to NAB – The show has changed over the last decade with a legion of people connected to YouTube (itself only 15 yrs old) to support and promote and entertain today’s TV 3.0 content creators, both enthusiast and professionally skilled. Equipment reviews and comparisons and techniques and pixel peeping clip after clip. It’s birthed a predictable system of celebrity within a smaller community of filmmakers and camera users. These new influencers and their followers and the new venders who have grown up to support them have to some degree, according to some, changed NAB over the last decade.

Now we face a year without NAB.

I would imagine that NAB venders this year will try to reach people by just using their own web presence, and or YouTube or Facebook Live, or something, making it up as they go along.

Things change. Some years ago Apple dropped out of NAB and it was fine. I wondered will this year nudge companies to forge something new that might impact the future of NAB? How would a virtual frontier that includes lots of OTT networks and a new generation of viewers and creators shift, scale, or re-organize how we do this? How could networking and meeting up and product announcements work virtually? If all you did was carve out the physical hands-on part of NAB, is that worth the cost of the whole event? It may be that the community writ large once this all burns out and blows over will be so happy that next year in Vegas will be HUGE.

But what will that look like? Perhaps this is an opportunity for NAB to truly re-invent itself in a way that would not have been possible without a year off to re-think the event against the backdrop of an industry that has almost completely changed from what it was.

I say let’s get out of the box and start having a conversation about this.

Larry adds: While I think NAB is as valuable for face-to-face conversations as getting your hands on the gear, Clayton makes some interesting points. As always, I’m interested in your comments.

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