TheEC: NAB2014 in Vegas

May 2, 2014

As promised, here are some pics of my six days and seven nights in Las Vegas for the 2014 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, one of the biggest conferences in the USA, with over 98,000 engineers, managers, vendors and content creators all crammed into the truly massive Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC).

On Thursday and Friday, I attended the Public Radio Engineering Conference (PREC) and even presented this year, giving a lighthearted talk about our home-built satellite dish heater system.  (The big takeaway for everyone?  Snow sucks.  Why yes, yes it does.  LOL!)   Conference organizer Shane Toven of Wyoming Public Media outdid himself this year, with a fabulous "workbench" of test gear and antennas/transmitters for everyone to fiddle with after the sessions were over on Friday.

Friday evening brought the PREC dinner and awards at the Venetian Casino, including Engineer of the Year Gray Haertig (and co-winner, Gray's ubitiquous Hawaiian shirts!) and Gray's acceptable speech included the oh-so-true gem that "the only thing less reliable than a a UPS!"   Yes, for you normal folks I imagine you're all scratching your heads, but amongst my peeps we were guffawing a-plenty at that line.  :)

Interestingly even 2700 miles away from Cranston, you can't escape Alex and Ani!  Their wares were on prominent display in the Grand Canal Shops in the Venetian/Palazzo casinos.

Saturday I worked towards keeping my certification current by attending the Society of Broadcast Engineers Ennes Workshop, an all-day presentation of various engineering sessions...including an interesting history of the broadcast masts on the Empire State Building (fun fact, there was never a dirigible mooring point up there - that's a persistent myth), and a history of the most famous microphone in history.

Sunday is an "off day" in theory, but I filled the time by attending the Nautel Users Group (NUG) at the Riviera, and Logitek Users Group (LUG) at the Flamingo.   Nautel makes the V7.5 FM transmitter RIPR uses for 102.7 WRNI-FM in South County, and this year's NUG boasted a record turnout of over 300 engineers and managers.  They also demo'ed the really impressive new GV series of transmitters.   Plus stepping into the Riviera is like stepping back in time.  You really feel like you'll see Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack wander past you at any moment.   The Logitek Users Group is traditionally rather smaller but that was good news for me, I got to have extensive conversations with both the sales and tech guys about some major plans I have.  I'll know more later in 2014 if that pans out.

Plus, in the random moment department, while walking through the Flamingo's conference center to get to the LUG, I passed a conference that Haemonetics was holding.  Blood management is not my thing, but it's a little funny to travel 2700 miles to run into a company based in Boston; you've seen their sign off I-93 right by the Braintree split.

Monday brought a whirlwind tour across as much of the show floor as I could.  This is not ideal, two or three days is better.   But I didn't have two or three days to give, so I did a lot of running around the nearly 2 million square feet of exhibitor space across four different Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center.  It's impossible to overstate how massive this show really is.  Radio is just one part of it, and a depressingly small part, really...maybe 10-15%?  Even TV isn't all that big a deal, either.  These days it's mostly about content creation and the tools...hardware and software...directly involved with it.  Such vendors dominated the Central Hall and much of the South Halls, too.

Later on Monday I also took a little time to help present on college radio for the Broadcasters Educational Association (BEA) confernece, which runs concurrently to the NAB.  Interestingly, about half the attendees at my session were people who worked both at public radio and college radio stations.  There's a surprising amount of overlap between the two.

Finally on Tuesday I got to sleep in a little bit and then my flight home at noon.  Unfortunately, JetBlue decided to prove that what happens in Vegas does indeed stay in Vegas...when it's your luggage.   That suitcase is, as of this writing, still gone-baby-gone.   It's a bummer because all my conference notes and a lot of work clothes were in there, but fortunately nothing electronic, medical or truly irreplaceable was lost.

This is my sixth time at NAB since 2003 and it's always a study in extremes.  I loathe Vegas in general (and I have severe pteromerhanophobia) but the conference itself is a massively fun learning experience, and I get to hobnob with many of my pubradio counterparts from around the country.   It never fails to be anything other than a week well-spent!