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NAB Show kicks off with salute to Alan Alda

Updated April 8, 2019 - 11:46 pm

Who needs a flux capacitor when, in less than five minutes, you can go from listening to Alan Alda reminisce about radio pioneer Arthur Godfrey to a demonstration of a futuristic 8K television that’s just 1 millimeter thick?

Alda received the National Association of Broadcasters’ Distinguished Service Award on Monday in a ceremony that kicked off the gathering’s four days of exhibits at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Unlike CES, which offers early looks at gear and gadgets you could have in your home in a year or two, the NAB Show presents the equipment that will be used to produce what you watch or listen to in that same time frame.

Technology of tomorrow

Strolling the trade show floor, attendees will come across everything from mixing boards and cranes to news vans and at least one helicopter. Panasonic showed off cameras that can help make movies with augmented reality. Then there was the young woman in fishnets, leather shorts and thigh-high boots, straddling a motorcycle, who was selling, um, antiquated notions about the role of women in broadcasting?

Japan’s NHK, meanwhile, highlighted that micro-thin television offering 8K capabilities, roughly 16 times the number of pixels of traditional 1080p high-definition, that it hopes to roll out in time for next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo. It can be augmented with a 22.2 multichannel surround-sound system — that’s 24 speakers in all, including two subwoofers — with which viewers can mute the commentators during a sporting event and just listen to the sounds of the stadium. The opposite also holds true — for those weirdos who are really into play-by-play announcers — and it can isolate fans of your specific team so you only hear the cheers you want.

Dominic Plamondon came from Montreal — Canada being one of the more than 160 countries represented at the show — looking for ways to integrate his company’s recently launched digital radio station into cars. “We’re here for some solutions, but we want to get a few ideas from other countries as well,” he said. Plamondon will have plenty of opportunities this week through the In-Vehicle Experience, one of the show’s tracks that offers both exhibits and panels.

There were 152 sessions scheduled for Monday alone, covering topics such as “Is a SMPTE ST 2110 Certification Program Required by the Broadcast Industry?” and “A New Generation of Content Delivery: How WebRTC-based Peer-to-Peer Technologies Can Guarantee Quality in the Zettabyte Era.”

Saluting Alan Alda

If you made it through that sentence, you can see why the presence of Alda, the TV legend who won Emmys on both sides of the camera for starring in, writing and directing “M*A*S*H,” was such a big deal.

“This Is Us” standout Sterling K. Brown is being honored Tuesday with the TV Chairman’s Award, saluting his achievements in the medium. But the NAB Show’s star power is largely reserved for behind-the-scenes talent. Monday’s schedule included panels with the director and editor of the Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and the visual effects supervisor and sound editor from “Captain Marvel.”

“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” the final episode of “M*A*S*H,” was watched by 106 million people in 1983. That’s more than 5 million more than saw February’s Super Bowl LIII. In accepting his award, Alda cited the familiar anecdote that so many people used the bathroom at the same time during the episode’s first commercial break, it nearly overwhelmed the New York City sewer system. “I’ve never received a salute like that,” he quipped.

Alda used that example to illustrate a broader concern. “I think that’s something that we’re sadly losing,” he said of the communal viewing experience. “I hope we can find a way to get back to that because I notice a lot of kids sit by themselves and watch streaming shows and movies for hours. But there’s something missing when you don’t have companions” to share the experience with.

Proving he isn’t stuck in the past, the 83-year-old Alda told attendees, “Like half the population of the world, I’ve started a podcast.”

At the NAB Show, there’s a pavilion, exhibitors and 14 sessions for that.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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