“NAB Show Las Vegas, every story starts here.” Each April, media professionals flock by the tens of thousands to Sin City to get their hands on the latest and greatest technology and hear perspectives from industry professionals at the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference. I had the opportunity to attend last year for the first time and it was quite a spectacle. Millions of dollars are spent on exhibition booths by top AV brands like Canon, Panasonic, and Black Magic in the enormous Las Vegas convention center. I’ll never forget the Atomos CEO standing on the second floor of their booth (yes, second floor) chanting “ATOMOS, ATOMOS, ATOMOS! OY, OY, OY!” through an ear-piecing PA system while his associates threw T-shirts off the balcony and everyone crowded in anticipation of having their ticket drawn to win the then unreleased Ninja V monitor. It’s an incredible experience to say the least.
I loved going. It’s such a positive and inclusive atmosphere where you can directly interact with company executives and working professionals in lectures and on the show floor. I learned about new lighting equipment (which I eventually purchased) and even about the seemingly mundane products, like flight cases and how small details make all the difference. I met a New York DP at the Panasonic booth who filmed exclusively on the EVA1 and answered any question I’d throw at her and met a well-known YouTuber at the Black Magic booth who gave me a personal 15 minute DaVinci Resolve color correcting lesson. You leave each day feeling better about the work you do and that you have the potential to be incredibly impactful. However, attendance to NAB can be dangerous.
It’s way too easy to get caught up in the latest gear and tech at NAB. And while it’s fun to experience it all while you’re there, it’s important to remain pragmatic about your production. What works best for you and your clients? What are you delivering? Just because technologies that were previously too expensive are now attainable, doesn’t mean you should buy them. New cameras may have more dynamic range, higher data rates, or some iteration of V-Log, but it doesn’t mean that it’ll make your productions any better or give you more credibility. When the Canon 5D Mark II debuted video recording, a professor of mine told me, “now that everybody has access to these cameras, they can all get great looking footage. It comes back to one thing: the story.” He was right over 12 years ago and you know what? He’s still right. “Every story starts here” is only partially true. Your gear will only take you so far. What’s important is know how to use it and achieve the best image possible from it. And what’s more important than that is knowing how to tell a good story.
Here’s my best advice for improving: Invest time into watching and analyzing films, talking to other professionals, taking stock of what others are doing on the internet, and reading. Work with others in crafting stories; you’ll pick up some new techniques and perspectives that will help to shape the way you work in the future. Above all, listen. Listen to your clients and your subjects. Truly understand the story you’re telling and who you’re interviewing. Not only will the interviewee appreciate your dedication, your story will benefit from a deeper narrative. The more open you are to ideas, listening and variations in story telling methods, the more successful you’ll be. And then decide what gear you’ll need to tell those stories.
This same sentiment has been written over and over but lately I’ve been feeling the need to express it again with NAB around the corner. And don’t get me wrong, even though NAB offers a dizzying amount of displays, there are even more professionals with invaluable knowledge. Be sure to take advantage of the networking opportunities as much as the opportunity to learn about the new technology. That’s what I remember most from my first visit to NAB. And with that said, I can’t wait to head to Las Vegas in 2 weeks to relive NAB all over again!