Over the course of my career, I’ve attended the NAB Show several times, most recently with co-workers from Warm Springs Productions. Warm Springs is an independent production company based in Missoula, Montana. They’re known for making hit Reality TV shows like Mountain Men (History Channel) and Louisiana Law (Animal Planet), The Craftsman (Magnolia) and many many others. Every year we send a contingent of DP’s, Post-Production specialists and equipment managers to see what’s new. That frequently includes me – a Producer/Director turned IT Geek.
Yes, I admit that I am a full fledged TV Geek. I love the “toys”, and have a passion for the ever changing technologies in television. For most of my 25 year career, that passion has been sustained and fueled by my interactions at the NAB show. Whether it’s learning new software in intensive classroom sessions, or taking in the demos on the show floor, my NAB experience has always kept me engaged and anxious to learn more. In more recent years, partnering with Value Added Resellers and sharing expertise with peers across the industry has allowed me to create more effective solutions to the challenges we face. At Warm Springs, we’ve been able to scale our operations from 35 employees working on 3-5 shows in 2012 to over 200 users (including freelancers) with 14 different projects in production at once!
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, our Warm Springs crew had already booked hotels and was ready to head to Vegas in April. Our “must see” list was long, and just like everyone else, we were looking for ways to make our operations more efficient and profitable in uncertain times. As the Pandemic restrictions came online, we watched as vendors backed out and eventually the conference was canceled. It left me with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. How will we find solutions to the problems we are facing? Without seeing the solutions in person, how do we know we’re making the right decisions?
For the next 2 years, we made the best of it. We found remote solutions for our post-production crew to allow for our covid-restricted workspace. We worked with our existing vendors to find equipment in the midst of supply-chain mayhem. We also dove into virtual demos and webinars to fill the information gaps as we searched for new ways to work more efficiently and effectively.
When 2021 rolled around and we timidly registered to attend the NAB show, we were cautiously optimistic. We had added several first season shows to our docket, and needed solutions fast. Which cameras and lenses should we be looking at? How can we expand our editorial capabilities to accommodate all these new shows? Again, we were disappointed to see the show canceled as vendors and attendees pulled out due to concerns over the next wave of Covid-19, and again, we had to plumb the depths of the internet to find answers that would work for us.
This year, we were more cautious than ever about committing to attend. One co-worker asked “is it worth it to try to go again?” In my opinion, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” We have more than doubled the number of shows we have produced each year since 2019, with several series being renewed. We are looking to update our fleet of cameras with new lenses and accessories, and to automate processes to gain efficiency in what is now our new normal. Of course I think we should go to NAB! There’s no other way for our DP’s to get their hands on the equipment as there are very few camera shops in Missoula, Montana.
That question of “Is it worth it?” is still worth asking. What is the new Normal for NAB? I’ve noticed several major players do not have a booth on the show floor – opting instead to have a presence in partner booths and meeting rooms. Will we see those vendors put on a big show again in the future? Who knows, but I think there is a critical need that the NAB show still fills. Getting industry professionals together to discuss a better way to do things is always a good idea. Sure, we can gather virtually, and yes, we can gather information from the far flung corners of the internet, but in my opinion, the exhibition floor gives us an up-close look at all of the ideas that are coming together, and all of the speakers and panels provide a launching point for discussing new ideas. They also give us a forum for us to discuss how we can incorporate new ideas into our work. Best of all, the intensive 5 day show gives us all of these opportunities in an environment where we can network with our peers and make new connections, making all this work that much more fun!
Over the last century, the role of the National Association of Broadcasters has been to set industry standards and promote the industry. It started in 1923 in a New York hotel room where 23 radio station owners came together to discuss the future of their industry. I believe that in-person conferences are still the best way to do that. This year’s show may not fill up 1million-square-feet of exhibit space, and attendance may not top 100,000 attendees, but I’m looking forward to NAB all the same. I have back to back meetings booked on Monday, and I’m sure I’ll find some new and interesting technologies to keep my eye on.
See you on the show floor!