Digital Tools and Toys Highlight NAB 99

The buzzword "Digital" is on everyone's lips at the National Association of Broadcasters' NAB 99, which opened Saturday in Las Vegas. Most of the noteworthy goodies on display at the convention are designed for the digital-television market. Demonstrations feature high-definition video courtesy of Las Vegas television station KTVN (Channel 41), which will be broadcasting 720p material all week long.

ABC is supplying copies of its 720p demo tape to all interested exhibitors in Las Vegas---the same tape familiar to home-theater fans who saw the demo in the Revel suite at the Hi-Fi '98 show in Los Angeles. Exhibitors in Las Vegas must supply their own Panasonic AJD-2700 digital tape machines.

JVC is showing a 720p camcorder (model HD D-9). Panasonic's first 720p HDTV display, the PT-56WXF95, can project images at its native rate as well as up- or downconvert 480i and 1080i images through the company's TU-DST50 set-top converter box. Parent company Matsushita is unveiling new multilayer video-compression technology that will reportedly enable full-motion video to be transmitted over the Internet with higher picture quality and smoother motion than has previously been possible. The technology is the "core of the emerging MPEG-4 standard," according to a press announcement.

Panasonic has also teamed up with hard-drive maker Quantum Corporation to produce a DTV recorder that will allow users to time-shift their viewing. QuickView, as the device is called, is similar in concept to hard-drive recorders from TiVo and Replay TV (see previous report). However, none of these products is portable.

Philips announced the availability of its second-generation DTV chipset. The analog/digital combo includes an input processor and DTV demodulator-decoder. Making a big splash is Lucent Technologies, with what they're calling "the most comprehensive public demonstration between an MPEG-2 encoder and DTV receivers from several different manufacturers." At booth L12146 in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Lucent's VideoStar encoder feeds decoder/receivers from Philips, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Thomson, and Mitsubishi. Last year, Lucent conducted the first formal interoperability tests between encoders and receivers.

Avid Technologies is introducing high-definition universal editing and mastering capabilities into its video-editing products. Called Universal Mastering, the system enables the simultaneous creation of multiformat, multiversion video masters from the same original tape. Patrick Dumas, a senior vice president at Avid, says his company's approach to HDTV post-production "enables customers to assemble flexible and scalable solutions that can be easily incorporated into their current environment." That means Avid's gear will work with what post-production houses already have.