NAB 2018: Broadcasting and Beyond!

The moment has come and gone. The 2018 National Association of Broadcasters show was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. From April 9 through 11,  a group of ten Digital Media students from the University of Northern Iowa ventured to this brightly lit city to experience and learn all that is new and progressing in the media industry. Panels about the creation of a major movement for film, question and answer sessions with famous cinematographers, educational panels about new and advancing technologies greeted us, and that didn’t include all the exhibits and companies showcasing their products and networks.

NAB 2018

On April 9th, a series of panels, titled the Creative Masters Series, spoke about the ever-changing methods that are defining the film industry. The opening panel, discussed the recent Marvel superhero film, Black Panther, and the process of making a superhero film like no other. Editor Michael P. Shawver, sound designer Steve Boeddeker, and visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Baumann answered questions about the process of creating such a culturally involved film, as well as explaining the details of creating the Marvel blockbuster. The three guests showed pieces from the film that best explained their creative process.

The second panel was a question and answer panel focusing on the director of photography, Janusz Kaminski, known for his work with many films directed by Steven Spielberg, like Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, BFG, and Ready Player One. It was eye opening experience to sit in on the discussion focusing on how cinematography has changed through the years. Kaminski talked about how quickly the technology has changed, and the different tactics used to create those scenes and shots that made these films. He explained how cinematography is an art form more than anything else, showing clips of his works that further explained his process for each movie. His shared his distaste for using CGI, and the struggles a cinematographer faces with visual effects technology.

The final panel of the Creative Master Series was titled “Jessica Jones: The Art of Darkness,” with panelists, Melissa Rosenberg, the series creator, executive producer and showrunner, Tony D’Amore, the series colorist, encore, and Manuel Billeter, the director of photography. This panel brought to light how the Netflix Marvel series itself has changed the concept of the original superhero movie through a darker plot, encompassing the strength of the female protagonist. Each panel gave insight into the film industry and the changes being made in creating  new stories.

All of the exhibits gave way to an experience of a lifetime. Being able to see all the new products that have recently came out and are coming soon to the world of broadcasting. When visiting the exhibitor hall you get a new experience at every booth. One exhibitor hall focused on the technology, with a lot of sound boards, cameras, drones, and virtual reality equipment displayed allowing viewers to mess around with the products themselves.

The NAB Show allowed ten UNI Digital Media students to see and attend sessions and panels discussing a wide range of topics. They saw and met with exhibitors from all around the world, and were given a chance to look into the world of digital media a little closer. There were hands on exhibits showcasing virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and sports broadcasting. The world of digital media is always changing, which means our students are always learning!

-Taylor Horvatich

NAB 2018: Immersing Fans in Sports Broadcasting

Sports have always been a major cornerstone of America’s favorite past time. It’s one of the best forms of entertainment and engagement for millions of people. There were a number of sports exhibitors at this years NAB Show: Sportradar, FOX Sports, Neilson eSports, NBC Sports Digital & Playmaker Media, Glory Sports International, Fan Controlled Football League, and more. They were all there to demonstrate their upcoming tech in the online sports industry.

Not only has the world of sports been changing greatly, but the way we deliver and showcase this content has revamped the way we become immersed in the game. Here are some of the things we got to experience and hear at the NAB Show!

NAB 2018 SportsWatching sports has always brought up-close action directly to fans. This has all been done with new tech, trends, production quality, non-stop sports coverage, social media, etc. Loyal fans demand only the best quality video, anywhere, at anytime. This has set new challenges for online sports agencies and how they deliver content. It has to set the new bar for quality entertainment and action that all fans can really get immersed in.

At the session “Speed, Position, Power – Connecting Today’s Sports Fans with Data” a panelist from Sportradar discussed the importance of small details that can be delivered to the audience in ways that make huge impacts on the way we watch sports. Not only data that we get from the action of the plays, but the action happening behind the scenes and in between plays. They showcased their website design and how it could take tremendous amounts of data and compress it to the point where fans have easy access to what they want to see from their favorite sports team.

Many announcements of new ways of delivering sports content were made through the week at NAB. But there was one whole brand new way to actually be part of the sports team. Fan Controlled Football League (FCFL) announced that will officially launch early of 2019 with their newest partner, Twitch. It’s the very first of its kind of interactive sports game platform.

NAB 2018 Sports 2

Real football teams ran by the fans. They control the plays, roster, and earn fan tokens throughout season. All of this is done in real time using the Twitch platform. “This is the closest you can get to managing your own football team. For the first time ever, fans actually control what they want to see.” This new type of sports platform will become the next big leap forward for the world of sports and the way we engage with it.

NAB 2018 Sports 3

So next time you sit down with the bag of chips on the couch and tune into the sports channel, be ready for some of the newest advancements in the world of sports entertainment. Between the content that is being delivered, the data being researched, or even the way fans play the game, sports will continue to be one of America’s most enjoyable pastimes.

-Nick Langel

NAB 2018: A Closer Look at Booths and Exhibits

When attending a convention the size of NAB, things can feel a bit overwhelming at times. With a whopping 1700 booths and exhibitors, an even more impressive 100,000 attendees, and three multi-floored convention halls the size of multiple football fields, at times it was difficult to know exactly where to start and what to look out for. So naturally, we explored, and with exploration comes discovery. As we attempted to scour every square inch of the Las Vegas Convention center, all while of course picking up some cool “swag”, we encountered some really interesting booths showing off their latest technology advances.

NAB 2018 Cheqroom

YI Technology, pronounced like the letter “E”, was one of the companies we encountered in the central convention center. YI is a tech company based out of China that specializes in action and mirrorless cameras, but at NAB they were there to show some of their latest advancements. In 2018, YI is planning on joining the growing trend of virtual reality as they unveiled their latest cameras capable of 3D-VR, 3D 360 degree cameras, and a specialized 3D virtual reality camera.

Talking with one of their representatives, they spoke about how YI sees virtual reality as the future of video content. “Virtual reality is really just in its beginning stages at this point in time. Who knows, we might even see schools of the future being taught completely through virtual reality.” The perspective that YI has on VR was something that really intrigued us. Right now it really does feel as if virtual reality is a bit of a niche market, but with major tech companies like YI making strong advances with the technology, we really could see VR becoming more and more consumer friendly.

Another exhibitor that stood out among the masses was the Aputure booth. Aputure is a media company that specializes in lighting technology for video production and photography. Fittingly, the booth was decked out with their latest models ranging from high end, to more consumer and student friendly lighting kits. Additionally, throughout the convention Aputure brought in many different YouTubers and Social Influencers that gave presentations on how they use lighting within their content.

On our last day of the convention Aputure brought in Levi Allen, a YouTuber and filmmaker from Left Coast Media. He gave a presentation on his various lighting techniques that he uses within his business and channel, and also showed us some live demonstrations using the Aputure lights. At the end of his presentation, his words resonated with a few of us. “I want you to all go out and create something and share it with the world. What’s the point of making stuff if you’re not going to share and let people experience in it?” His words were really inspiring, and a good way to round out the convention as we finished producing some of our own media projects about the NAB show.

These were merely two of the almost 2000 booths featured at the NAB show. Some other standouts were the Avid Booth, where they showed off their much maligned (at least by some digital media students) editing software; Cheqroom, a European company specializing in equipment checkout software; and of course the “dancing” robot presented by BOLT.

The sheer number of companies and booths in attendance really showed us students how many opportunities there are in the media industry. We were able to network, get a glimpse into some new tech we may be adding to our toolkits in the near future, and of course you know we scooped up whatever free goodies we could get our hands on. Interestingly enough, most of the free “swag” we received was just different branded tote bags, but we of course were thankful nonetheless. Once our time at the convention came to an end, we headed out the doors of the Las Vegas Convention center, bags in hand, and hundreds of different company names to Google when we got home to look for job and internship opportunities. NAB 2018 was a success, to say the least.

-Tristan Bennett

NAB 2018: Artificial Intelligence

The National Association of Broadcasters Show featured a series of panels discussing the topic of artificial intelligence and machine learning. With the advances in technology today, there are so many different ways AI tech is being used right now. In the use of the algorithms of Google, to the popular home necessity, the Amazon Alexa. The panels presented during the NAB show, focused on how AI and machine learning is changing the media landscape.

NAB 2018 AI

Whether it is through production or video editing, AI is beneficial and is continuing to grow to better the broadcasting industry. The panel titled, “How AI Will Take Productivity in the Broadcast Industry to the Next Level” presented by Dr. Johan Vounckx, explained how machine neural networks are being developed that can teach computers to read and then be able to make connections through the content it discovers.  By developing these systems of networks, computers will be able to put together conclusions and provide output that can be based the system researched. Computer algorithms like this are already being tested in spotting ‘fake news’ generated by unverified sources and helping people identify and verify sources accurately.

With broadcasting, we can use AI to “crop and zoom to ensure the best part of the video is placed in the desired size and aspect ratio.” This will give AI a bright future that will increase the uses of helpful AI that will better our jobs and allow us to go beyond in broadcasting. Dr. Johan Vounckx also explained that “AI helps people, it does not replace them.”

The panel titled, “AI Driven Smart Production,” presented by Yuko Yamanouchi from the Science and Technology Research Lab NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation, explained how AI can benefit the news and sports broadcasting industries. She explained how Smart Production is used for news gathering and editing with big data analysis. An example would be a social media analysis system, that can extract tweets that might be useful for news production, using a “recent neural network, categorizing information into 24 types such as ‘fire’ or ‘accident.’” This use of AI can help in searching for news and updates on ongoing stories with the news industry.

Yamanouchi also explained how in broadcasting footage, smart production or AI technology can be helpful in face recognition of the live broadcast that can be modified for those hard of hearing or hard of seeing can understand what is going on during the live broadcast. The AI would be an animated person that would sign what is being said during a live sports broadcast, or an animated voice would be able to explain what is happening in the shot of the live broadcast, explaining in detail the events on screen.

The panel, “Cantemo: How Could Artificial Intelligence Help Us Better Manage Video Content?” presented by Mike Szumlinski, manager at North American Cantemo brought to light just how AI is already being used by companies and consumers and what to expect or can be expected in the future. He explained how AI can be used with strategic storytelling, and how video producers achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively, thus speeding along access to information and helping collate it. Szumlinski also explained how “The machines are not taking over (yet)” as the main purpose for AI is just helping achieve better results for video producing.

In the use of AI, he explained how with audio transcription, the use of natural-language processing to identify all audio contents of a video clip will still need human guidance as words can hold different meanings in different locations and cultures. Szumlinski explained how AI can be beneficial in video producing as it can detect emotions and identify the ten best shots to form a trailer for a film. With personalizing content, AI is already in use with algorithms to personalize content for individuals based on the information about them on mass scale.

AI was also presented during the NAB show in the exhibits of companies that use algorithms and machine learning as well as AI with their content and products. An example of companies that were attending the NAB and use AI and/or machine learning include, Google and their use of algorithms to provide the best content for its users, Amazon and their use of algorithms and machine learning with providing content and products and in their use of the Amazon Alexa, EchoStreams, who is a server platform provider that uses machine learning and AI, and ICX Media who use machine learning and AI in their server platform for data-inspired storytelling and in helping video creations, and distributions.

The NAB Show showcased AI technology and the advancements being made in the media and broadcasting industry. As the world of digital media continues to make progress with technological advancements, who knows what will be showcased in the years to come.

-Taylor Horvatich

Dunkirk: Global Success Amidst the Summer Movie Drought

This summer, Christopher Nolan released his interpretation of the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk in France through his movie experience of Dunkirk. There is no shortage of war movies, and the Battle of Dunkirk itself has had numerous movies already, but Dunkirk shone through. In a summer that was a flop for many major studios, Dunkirk managed to be the 5th highest domestic grossing film of the summer. So, what makes this movie stand out from the others?

movieOn the opening weekend of July 21, Dunkirk got $50.5 million in 3,720 domestic theatres. With only a budget of $100 million, Dunkirk made back its money domestically by the second weekend. Released mid-July, it was a surprise to many about Nolan’s choice of a mid-summer release, especially if Nolan wanted this movie to be considered for an Oscar, as many Academy Award contenders like to open in the winter months. This timing definitely did work in Dunkirk’s favor, as Dunkirk released before other movies that would be possible competition for theatre space, and the movie is still being shown in theatres 16 weeks after release.

Similarly it intrigued people that they would release such a heavy topic film for the summer, when most would think of summer movies as light and happy films. But Sue Kroll, the Warner Brothers President of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, explained that “By dating it in the summer, it’s declarative. It positions the movie as a big cinematic experience.” The combination of having a summer film, along with the fact that Nolan didn’t want this film to be a niche movie, made it so this movie appealed to more of the casual moviegoer. It wasn’t targeted as an award-winning movie; it was targeted to be a film for everyone to experience.

While Dunkirk was succeeding, and rising to the top in the United States, it also exploded globally. Distributed to 41 other countries, the total foreign gross was $337 million. It was expected to automatically do well in the United Kingdom, as the characters of the film were from the United Kingdom, and it was received very well there with a total of $73 million. Dunkirk also did very well in China with a gross of $51 million.

Another factor with Dunkirk that made it apply to a wider audience than most war movies is the way in which they told the story. The typical American way of storytelling, like in most war movies, usually involves an individual or group of people who bond together, go into a major fight, and come out the other side. There’s a distinct progression of problem and resolution.

Dunkirk morphed this aspect of storytelling by dividing the story into three sections that are happening at different times but are weaved together throughout the film. One section happens over the time of a month and follows a small group of soldiers on the land. Another section happens over the span of a day with civilians out on the sea trying to help the war in whatever way they can. And then finally there is a section that happens over the course of an hour in the air with a pilot.

movieThis alone makes Dunkirk stand out from other movies, and I believe that this kind of telling a story has a more global appeal. Foreign films are typically more focused on the experience and emotion that a movie can make you feel, and especially with a topic such as war; there usually aren’t many happy, wrapped-up resolutions. You don’t even know one of the central character’s name, but throughout the movie, you feel the intensity and severity that this particular soldier is going through.

While many preemptively predicted that while this film would do fine due to the fact that it was a Nolan film, it was not expected to do great. But now many critics are predicting that Dunkirk will be up for a number of Oscars, including the possibility of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance), Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score.

movieOn the same note, Dunkirk was able to obtain a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, which not a lot of movies these days are able to hold. Nolan was able to fascinate both critics and audience members, and it is probably because he was able to make the movie simplistic and relatable while also not compromising the complex emotion of the film.

We will have to see in March next year if Dunkirk will be able to claim a couple major Academy Awards against its competition. But Dunkirk was able to understand the power of global distribution and harness the market worldwide in 42 countries, making a wonderful profit and impressing audiences everywhere with its original take on storytelling and war.

-Rachel Renes

A Monopoly Crumbles: Distribution in the Video Game Sector

A monopoly is crumbling. This isn’t a monopoly over oil or diamonds, but over video game distribution. Steam, the king of distributing video games, is being challenged by multiple competitors.

Video GameSteam is the largest computer video game distributor in the world with 125 million active users. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, Steam is relatively unchallenged in the world of distribution. Sure, platforms like EA’s Origin and Blizzard’s Battlenet are alternatives, but they are only used for a select amount of games each company has acquired. Steam has tens of thousands of titles.

While Steam does have a positive overall reputation in the video game world, they could still use some competition. It’s not good for the consumers to be forced to depend on one service for distribution.

As pretty much everyone knows, monopolies aren’t a good thing. Steam’s position allows it a lot of power in pricing its games, and unchecked bargaining power because the sellers can’t go anywhere else to sell their PC game effectively.

But now all of that is changing.

Video Game Last April, the video game company known as Tencent announced that it was going to rebrand its online services to create a platform where users may buy and play games. This will be a platform nearly identical to Steam. Tencent is calling their new platform WeGame.

Tencent may be an unfamiliar name to some, but their products are big, and they are a huge brand in China. The own both Riot Games (League of Legends) and Supercell (Clash of Clans).

League of Legends alone is significant as it is the most popular video game on the market. Clash of Clans has a strong following as well. Additionally, Tencent has significant stakes in Activision Blizzard and Epic Games, two major studios in the video game world.

Most importantly, it is estimated that Tencent has 200 million active users, thanks to China and the Asian Market.

Video Game The new platform was officially released September first about two months ago. Here’s the link to their slick new platform. Now there is one noticeable problem with Tencent’s platform; you need to speak Chinese.

Despite Tencent being a “global game distributor,” there is no non-Chinese version yet. It has only been out two months, and Tencent has promised to bring it to as many countries as possible, but for now English users will have a hard time using the platform.

Despite the lack of an English version, China’s market alone is enough to challenge Steam. Things will only get worse for Steam as they will be in more trouble once WeGame can effectively hit American market as well as others. But WeGame isn’t the only competitor Steam may have to worry about.

Twitch announced several months ago that it would be selling games via Twitch. It is clear that Amazon, Twitch’s parent company, wants a slice of the market. Twitch’s offer is unique as well since it will give its Streamers a piece of the revenue earned off the purchase, which will encourage the Streamers to positively influence other users to buy from Twitch.

Video Game The rise of Twitch is an interesting development, and one that shows no signs of stopping. Similar to how YouTubers have become famous and wealthy due to their videos, Twitch Streamers are starting to do the same thing. Viewers on Twitch can now buy the game that their favorite Streamer plays, and that Streamer gets a cut of the profits, which actively encourages Streamers to promote the games they play.

This method of advertisement has been effective in the last few months that Twitch began selling games. Twitch has doubled its library of games and partnered with more game companies. If this pattern continues, they could easily become a significant threat to Steam.

It is unlikely that Steam, or its parent company Valve, will simply fall apart and disappear. However, it is likely that Steam will have to deal with some serious competition. WeGame and Twitch are already threatening Steam’s grip on the market. More competition is good for the market and consumers, so this is welcomed. It looks like another monopoly will be a thing of the past.

-Sam King

Switching Up How to Catch Them All

Since 1980 Nintendo has held a monopoly on handheld gaming.  From the Gameboy Color all the way to the New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo has had minimal competition in this market.  With the release of the Nintendo Switch on March 3, 2017 many questions have arisen.  Being the world’s first “hybrid console”, since it’s both handheld and a console that can be played through the television, it really shakes up the world of gaming.  Having the New Nintendo 3DS and the Switch can possibly result in Nintendo competing with itself and causing self-cannibalization.  So, what’s the next move for them?

SwitchA lot of 3DS owners only have them to play one of the world’s most famous and profitable franchises, Pokémon.  Game Freak, the developer behind Pokémon, has recently announced that Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, released on November 17, 2017, would be the last main title released for the New 3DS.  All games after that will be released on the Nintendo Switch.  In my opinion, this may not be the most profitable at first, but it will be in the future.

SwitchThere are several reasons why I believe that it will not be profitable right away.  The original price point of the New Nintendo 3DS was $199.99 and the price of the Nintendo Switch is $300.  That doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that the New Nintendo 3DS only has a resale value of $60.  That doesn’t put a huge dent in the cost of buying a Switch.  In the first 3 months the Switch sold 4.7 million units, while the New Nintendo 3DS sold 4.3 million units in the first 3 months.

Nintendo moving everything over to the Switch has its advantages and disadvantages.  Obviously, the graphics would be way better on the Switch.  The Switch also has a much better multiplayer interface than the 3DS.  The Switch has also been experiencing some problems that might make people not want to buy it right away.  There have been multiple cases of the controllers (joy-cons) not connecting to the system.  Also, the charging points have not worked for many Switch owners.  There have even been some cases of Switches not turning on.

Switch

How is Nintendo going to handle this switch?  They could do some kind of trade-in deal for 3DSs’ for more money.  Nintendo could also just count on 3DS players to splash out the cash and switch to the switch.  Another probable thing is for them to just discontinue 3DS games.  So what do you think?  The switch over sounds messy but will it be worth it in the end?

 

-Mitch Diamond

Sony v. Microsoft: The Console Wars

Over the course of the 2000s, two major companies have been competing for the attention of the serious gamer. The Xbox and the PlayStation consoles have both been integral to the advancement of not just gaming technology, but the driving force behind a few technological advancements. Sony’s PlayStation series has been known as the go-to console for most serious gamers, while Xbox focuses on being the all-in-one console. The different advertising strategies often attract different people, but with advancements in modern day systems, the main differences will be the exclusives and aesthetics.

ConsoleThe first iteration of PlayStation came out in the late 1990s, and stayed the leading console for many years. For the longest time, Sony had no competition, that is until the early 2000s when Microsoft released their flagship console, Xbox. Over the course of the next couple of years the two companies would start to sync up their release dates and start a pattern of pumping out new consoles. Every 5-6 years a new console is released but within those years are mid-cycle upgrades. For the two companies, they release a slim, and then a slightly more upgraded version (in terms of processing power) around a year later.

ConsoleOne key problem faced with these consoles is future proofing. When a new console is sent out every year there isn’t much room for improvement. Many people won’t buy a new system unless there is a significant change. With the introduction of Project Scorpio Microsoft aimed to create a system that would be one of the most powerful. With boasted true 4k gaming Microsoft’s current console, the Xbox One X, has the most powerful processor to date. As well as this they have made their newest console backwards compatible all the way to the original Xbox. Their mission is to make console gaming comparable if not better than computers.

PlayStation’s main focus is a little more different than Xbox’s, where Xbox focuses more on graphics, PlayStation focuses on content. Overall both consoles have good exclusive games, but PlayStation can brag about having a higher percentage of high reviews on their games. Sony’s newest upgrade to the PS4 is the PS4 Pro. This console says it has a 4k experience, but in all actuality it uses a process called supersampling . This process can lower the frame rate of a game, which is very bad when dealing with games that require quick responses. However, Sony’s PlayStation VR is one of the leading headsets in terms of gaming graphics. So much so that they have said they don’t want to advance any farther than they are now, so as to not scare away future competition. When asked about the future of VR in their consoles, Microsoft simply shrugged off the question and instead pointed out their new features of game sharing and backwards compatibility. Unfortunately, PlayStation is more focused on the future of gaming, so they will not be incorporating backwards compatibility.

One problem suggested with the speed of advancements in gaming technology today is that by the time a console is finished, it will already be outdated. A good point to bring up is how Sony released the PS4 pro with already next level graphics, only to be outdone by Microsoft the next year. To combat this both companies can be seen talking about producing consoles faster, or with better gear. The latter will make consoles more expensive and the former will make consoles less worth purchasing.

-Roberto Estrella