If you’ve been following along, you know that my last three articles were about TechEd/Ignite and that I suggested there was another big show you should consider attending.  No, I’m not referring to Build or Inspire or Ignite the Tour, or SQL Saturdays or Hackathons, or any of that.  In fact, on the surface, this particular show has little to do with computes and computing.  When I first became involved with the industry this show represents, computers weren’t part of it at all.  As it stands now, however, the industry would not exist without computers and software.

Any guesses?

The industry is Broadcasting and the event is the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas every April.  I kind wish I had a two way mirror, I suspect I’d see a good many bland stares looking back at me.  The NAB?  WHY???  Worry not, we’ll get to that.

One HUGE Trade Show

Those of you who have been to Ingite, or Inspire, or Build, have some experience with big shows, but you likely haven’s seen one quite like this.  The NAB draws at least an order of magnitude more visitors, often in the 150,000 range.  It encompasses not only the Las Vegas Convention Center, but also the convention facilities of a half dozen (or more!) of the big hotels.  In spite of that, there are usually hotel rooms available across all budgets.

Gaining access to the show is both less expensive (for those who want to pay) and mostly free if you don’t want to attend the technical sessions.  Pricing ranges from about $1500 for everything to about $200 for a display floor only pass.  Now, if you’d like to get a display floor pass for free, the process is quite simple.  Head to your local newsstand and look for a copy of Broadcasting and Cable magazine.  Inside, you’ll find a list of advertiser’s “Bingo” card; fill one of these out and send it in.  You’ll get the usual advertising junk mail AND you’ll also get a free display flor pass from at least one of them, probably several:

“Hey, thanks for requesting more info on our gadget!  We’ll be at the NAB in booth (xyz), be sure to stop by!  When you register, use code (abc123) for a free display floor pass.”

This makes the cost affordable to LOTS of folks!  Air fare to Las Vegas is usually pretty reasonable and there are always rooms somewhere.

So, WHY should I do this?

“I’m an IT person, Jim, NOT a broadcaster!!”  And that’s the very reason you should go.  When I got into the broadcast engineering business back in 1978, all the equipment that handled video, audio, titling, switching, ect. was single purpose, analog, dedicated, and as expensive as all get-out.  The along came computers and things began to change.  It began with character generation (titling), crept into graphics, then picture storage, and virtually EVEERYTHING is now a Windows or Apple computer taught how to do broadcast stuff either directly, or through dedicated add-on hardware.

This presents you with three different avenues, business development (Office, Flow, Powerapps), the same as any other business organization, broadcast specific development, and learning.

Business development.

Television is a business and, as such, is in the same position as any other business.  They all have business offices, accounting departments, sales departments, and so forth.  All can benefit from your work with Flow, Dynamics, Office 365, Powerapps, and the wide array of Microsoft business products.

Broadcast Specific Development.

As odd as it might sound, while most all broadcast devices are now Windows/Mac/Linux computers at heart, they don’t always know how to talk to each other.  Oh, they all can communicate over ethernet, they know each other’s file systems, but the products they produce are often not in a common format that other devices can use.  Let me give you a quick example.

At my former employer, KVOA-TV, they had two different titling gadgets, one owned by NBC, the other owned by KVOA.  Both had about the same job, putting up lower third graphics for information purposes - programming info from NBC, road closures, traffic problems and such from the KVOA news department.  Both could display the current temperature, but neither had a good way to acquire temperature data.  Both came with outdoor thermometer probes, but we wanted the value from the weather bureau at the airport.  Both would accept a text file, but the formats were completely different, and neither would accept the native NOAA text file available on the Internet.

VBS to the rescue!  I found a small VBS DLL someone concocted that would provide FTP service.  I wrote a script that used this DLL to get the native text file from NOAA, parse the temperature out of it, then write two different text files, one in each format, for the two gadgets and park them in the respective text file pickup folders on each device.  Worked like a charm!!!  I set this up as a recurring task on a computer that could both connect to the Internet and see both devices on the LAN, so, every 10 minutes, each had a new temperature file!  From 34 years in the business, I can tell you this sort of thing is common.

Learning

So, how many of you have considered doing a video of some sort?  From my experience, that would be a good number of you with more and more interest being shown regularly.  I’ve participated in a number of webcasts where video editing was the primary topic.  Well folks, there are years of video construction experience on display at the NAB daily.  What you need to do is pick one of the MANY demos on the subject, watch, ask questions, and learn.  This is essentially free education, the equipment and software they use is likely way out of your budget, but the process is the same.  Find a vendor or five that offers products that do what you need done, be it shooting, editing, audio mixing, etc., watch the demos, and ask questions.  They’ll be more than happy to answer, they’re trying to sell you stuff.

Microsoft

What, you though there would be a large tech conference out there that Microsoft did NOT go to?  Well, folks, this ain’t it!..Microsoft had a strong presence at the NAB in 2019 , and from the looks of it, they’ll be present next year as well – you’ll be in good company!  There likely won’t be an MVP both, but there will be a number of familiar Microsoft booths, so you’ll fit right in.