NAB 2018 was my fifth and, while I’m nowhere near being the road worn veteran that some of my industry peers have become, I did notice a curious shift in my appreciation of the show. In previous years I have experienced both the manic rush of being part of a small start-up, and the breadth and scale of being part of a slick industry stalwart but this year I’m on the other side of the fence. NAB 2018 is my first year with Support Partners, where I will get to represent our customers interests … Armed with their requirements for future projects, Harry, Pete and I embarked on a mission to make sense of what the practical applications of A.I are in 2018, how IMF can actually disrupt the current versioning nightmare … as well as hoping we might get a little bit of luck and stumble across some new and exciting tech …

The great thing about being a part of Support Partners is that we are truly independent and can view each opportunity and product with a totally impartial perspective. When we go to NAB, we are not looking to impress vendors so we can get an extra 2% margin; we are there to ask vendors the difficult questions on our customers behalf. We pride ourselves on choosing the best solutions for our customers budgets and, in most cases, vendors appreciate this and let their products do the talking.

That being said, I did find it a very bizarre experiencing NAB from the customer perspective. I was quite surprised to find that there are still vendors out there peddling vapor ware, or who have no awareness of how their solution fits with most production environments. If I was to give Joe of NAB 2014 one piece of advise, it would be to get off the stand and really understand the products you are trying to integrate with, in the environment they will be placed!

We decided to split the show so that 70% of our time was at pre-arranged meetings, exploring established technology and working on upcoming projects, and 30% wandering the halls with the hope of stumbling across new and interesting tech. Personally, I found the wandering the most enjoyable and exciting aspect of NAB – having previously been vendor side I would have been lucky to find time for a restroom break, let alone going to another hall! We were fortunate enough find new companies in our space with great technology that can help solve problems that our clients face today. This aspect of NAB is invaluable and, while I can appreciate the concerned murmurings from the floor that the show is becoming less and less important, I struggle to see a scenario where I would find out about technology that will have this level impact, in a world where I was only exposed to what was promoted to me online or brought to me by my local vendor associated dealer.

On our travels we spent time with all of the major video recognition vendors in the hope we could get a true idea of how the technology can actually enrich our clients media. It was interesting to see some of the implementations that certain MAM vendors had achieved – Tedial’s Smartlive was particularly impressive! The improvement in Speech to Text software in the space of a year was staggering, especially the use of sentiment interpretation – we have already started work on PoC’s to see how this software can help our customers overcome challenges associated with transcribing.

As a company who works closely with Ad Agencies, Content Distributors and Content Owners we are fully aware of the difficulties surrounding versioning – 60+ versions of the last episode of Doctor Who were created and distributed worldwide! With this in mind, we have been keeping a close eye on the developments with IMF and while we feel that it is a desperately needed format, and will go a long way to helping with most versioning issues, it still only addresses part of the problem. A solution that takes into consideration the nuances of regional differences (censorship, branding regulations etc) and seamlessly integrates into the common applications used for procuring versions of content is needed to really make the most of the format.

Support Partner take a holistic view of our customers environment when implementing any new technologies. While everything we looked at was powerful on it’s own, it’s only when you consider the whole workflow that you can really create game changing innovations that make the most of this years advancements … stay tuned (or get in touch), we have workflows being built that will take practical advantage of A.I, using open-ended solution to produce analytics for business insights.

Sitting in McCarran airport, reflecting on what had changed between NAB ’14 and now, and I realised that while I won’t experience the wide-eyed enthusiasm of the first days at a start-up or the rush of being a part of a massive, busy booth – the experience of being able to objectively view each product, and understand exactly how each part of the puzzle fits together to make the best possible solution for our customers is the most exciting thing I have done in the industry so far.

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