IT Grabbing Bigger Role In Entertainment

Software has become the preferred tool in an industry traditionally focused on hardware-bound signal processing systems.
Beyond the slew of hardware product announcements that typically accompany a show, this year’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference concentrated more on software throughout the show floor than in past years, executives said.

Lightweight IT tools, such as APIs, Java and .Net, are outpacing heavy black-box engineering hardware as more content moves digital. Proving that software and IT have become important tools, several packages showcased at this year's NAB show warrants attention.

"It reminds me of the print industry five years ago, when there was a lot of heavy broadcast hardware, and you began to see a shift" said Magan Arthur, principal solutions consultant at business consulting firm Infosys. "Today, at this year's show, you see more IP solutions. The momentum is shifting. To become more competitive you need to understand the software IT elements."

Executives said software has become the preferred tool in an industry traditionally focused on hardware-bound signal processing systems. "It's a trend where we have a 14-year head start," said Maurice Patel, senior manager for product marketing at Autodesk Media and Entertainment Division. "We began focusing on this in the 1990s. A lot of people laughed, but it allowed us to build a huge pool of IP for 2D and 3D image processing software."

Autodesk Media and Entertainment Division focuses on creating software tools, supported by approximately 20 research and development engineers. For example, the company continues to create interoperability between Autodesk Maya animation software and Autodesk Toxik collaboration digital composing software to create a continuous workflow environment.

Tools, such as Autodesk Wiretap, now run through a Java interface that allows users to move data between applications. Controlling network resources, Autodesk Backburner manages and prioritizes tasks for images that require rendering. Updates in Autodesk MotionBuilder 7.5, 3D character animation software, focus on a project's workflow delivered at NAB.

"Collaboration tools is something we're focused on," said Dave Alstadter, managing director of the Media & Entertainment Group at Microsoft Corp. "You'll start to see companies take collaboration onto multiple distribution platforms."

Startup Intelligent Gadgets LLC this week introduced syncVUE. The platform synchronizes video to allow multiple people in disburse locations to collaborate and view the identical content through the voice over internet protocol environment (VoIP) Skype. The software application integrates a media player with accurate frame controls supported by QuickTime, Windows Media and MXF files via a separate plug-in from Telestream.

Adobe announced several major broadcasters such as E! Networks are using Adobe technologies, including Flash 8 Video, Flash interactivity technology, and Adobe’s Premiere Pro 2.0. The company cited an a study of Content Delivery Networks revealing Macromedia Flash video has overtaken Apple’s QuickTime and RealNetworks’ RealPlayer in the delivery of Web-based streaming media traffic and today is growing faster than Windows Media Player.

Take a look at some of the technology companies at the NAB 2006 conference this week in Las Vegas.