NAB Show 2020 Was Canceled, But NAB Show Express Offered Great Content Anyway

nab show express

Like so many trade shows this year, broadcast mega-event NAB Show, originally planned for April in Las Vegas, could not happen due to COVID-19. In its place, NAB organized its virtual NAB Show Express.

I registered and attended part of the online event to soak up some industry education and see what the showcase would be like.

NAB Show Express was positioned as “a new digital experience.” By registering, you could build a custom schedule over the show’s two main days (May 13-14), see exhibitor content broadcasted “live” across four channels, and view both live and on-demand videos at your leisure. The show’s Resources Library was populated with industry whitepapers, ebooks and guides contributed to by NAB’s partners.

By the way, according to NAB, registration will remain open (so you can view all the content retroactively) through August 2020.

1,479 exhibitors

Some familiar faces were featured exhibitors of NAB Express, including Black Box (high-performance KVM, professional AV, video wall technology, signal distribution, and extension and switching solutions), Blackmagic Design (video editing products, digital film cameras, color correctors, video converters, video monitoring, routers, live production switchers and more), Epiphan Video (AV hardware and cloud services for a wide range of applications, from live event production to real-time AI transcription to lecture capture), Haivision (H.264, H.265 and HD/4K encoding, decoding and transcoding technologies supported by the SRT open-source protocol), Legrand | AV (distributor of professional AV equipment and devices), Lumens (manufacturer of document cameras, videoconferencing cameras, and 4K and Full HD PTZ cameras now integrated with Extron control systems), Magewell Electronics (hardware and software solutions for media capture, processing, conversion and streaming), Premier Mounts (display mounting solutions), PTZOptics (live streaming and broadcast cameras with HDMI, HD-SDI, USB 3.0 and IP streaming), Ross Video (a full range of production solutions) and more.

200 sessions

There were around 200 sessions on the NAB Express site — most prerecorded and available as on-demand videos (also streamed “live” across the show’s four broadcast channels, 24 hours a day for two days) and some actually broadcasted live as Zoom sessions May 13-19 (which required a separate, but free, registration to access the webinars via the Zoom platform). After a good skim of the on-demand video library, I was particularly interested in a few sessions. Here were some that caught my eye from the AV industry side of things:

  • Audio Streaming: A New Approach. This was a downloadable presentation targeted to streaming professionals; the presentation went through a standards-based method of live streaming audio with decreased operating costs, increased reliability and better UX. The presentation was created by Greg Ogonowski, president of Modulation Index.
  • Delivering 8K Content to Consumer Homes. This panel talked about both the technical issues and business fundamentals needed to see an 8K streaming service for consumers. A takeaway: the delivery of 8K content to consumers will take more bandwidth, which explains the number of new codecs (like EVC, VVC and LCEVC) in development. We learned that “companies are also working on ways to smartly encode 8K content into a 4K stream for smart upscaling by 8K TVs. This could provide an interesting alternative to native 8K streaming.” Experts in this discussion included Thierry Fautier of Harmonic, Bill Mandel of Samsung Research America, Scott Smyers of Xperi and Chris Chionnock of 8K Association.
  • Sennheiser Evolution Wireless G4 Tutorial. Sennheiser Ambassador Geert Verdickt (CEO and creative director of Director’s Cut) led this video demo of Sennheiser’s evolution wireless G4 series and provided “best practices when working with wireless.” We got a deepened understanding of wireless audio in addition to an overview of the G4 series product features.
  • Taking Your Event Virtual. This one I was really interested in having just worked on a virtual event for rAVe called LAVNCH WEEK. A snippet of the session description, produced in partnership with StoryTech: “What are the opportunities in this brave new world for all event producers, exhibitors and sponsors as we all adapt to new trends in events?” Presenters shared tools, techniques and tactical opportunities to succeed in the virtual world of conferences.
  • 4K Live Streaming and Cameras + eSports in Education. I was particularly excited to see this session too, as I noticed a familiar face, Paul Richards from PTZOptics, leading the dual-sided panel. This hour-long talk covered 4K live-streaming and cameras and then (halfway through, transitioned over to) esports in education. In the second half, we heard from Bubba Gaeddert of the Varsity Esports Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, and Nick Smith (VP of technology at distributor JB&A), who called himself “a nerd first, a geek second and a gamer third.”

Broadcasted sessions

NAB Show Express’ streaming window aired the sessions in real-time over the two virtual show days, May 13 and 14. A session I particularly enjoyed was about leadership in a time of remote work and videoconferencing. The session, “Focus on Leadership – Can You Hear Me?” was led by Nick Morgan, founder and CEO of Public Words. In it, I learned about the theory of proprioception (i.e., keeping track of where people are in the space), which — like videoconferencing — can be stressful on the mind. To aid in this, Morgan says, we can “dress our set” to create depth perception on a 2D screen, as seen in his backdrop with his posters:

Some of Morgan’s additional tips for working in the virtual world: Create virtual “safe places” within your meetings — allow people to share how they’re doing mid-meeting or at the end of the meeting; assign an emcee to lead your conferences, both audio and video — if participation is equal, quality is higher and people are more likely to hang with the team; take the temperature of your team — the figurative temperature, he means — an easy way to do this is to ask people how they’re doing via the “stoplight” analogy (how’s your day?: are you feeling red, yellow or green?); quick and simple video updates from leadership can do a lot to replace the water-cooler chat we’re used to having in person; and, lastly, use emojis to better uncover intent virtually.

Live sessions

Lastly, the live sessions of NAB Show Express (the ones I mentioned that required separate registration via the Zoom webinar platform) were/are as follows:

Like most trade shows, I felt overwhelmed but excited about all the information presented — there was so much content available, I couldn’t possibly view it all live! Thankfully, NAB said that content will remain online and registration will remain open through the month of August. I’ll rewatch some of these videos later.

As of May, NAB Show New York is set to take place Oct. 21-22 in New York City at the Javits Center.