NAB: The Most Amazing Demo

If you have HBO, you should be watching the amazing miniseries “John Adams.” It’s wonderful to see important American history re-created in such a dynamic manner. And, as with so much in life, what you see is only about 10% of the story.

It was Monday, the first day the NAB floor was open, and I had only covered the central hall, intending to leave the enormous, two-floor South Hall for Tuesday. I got a phone call from my Wisconsin Public Television colleague Fred Wessel, and we decided to meet up for a while. I hustled over to the Adobe booth in the lower South Hall, and walked in late on the most jaw-dropping demo I have ever seen – so late, in fact, that I didn’t even get the name of the guy that was giving it.

What he was doing was dissecting scenes he had worked on for “John Adams,” and (of course) featuring the Adobe products that helped make it happen. You’d see the completed scene, then everything except Paul Giamatti (as Adams) would just melt away, then get reinstated one piece at a time. For example, a scene with a crowd in front of Boston’s Faneuil Hall turned out to be some steps, about half-a-building-worth of first floor flat…and some greenscreen. No people, no second floor, no roof, no sky, nothing! Street scenes on the Boston waterfront turned out to be some cobblestones and little else other than pure imagination. This went on and on, scene after scene after scene. It’s rare that I get this blown away by a tech demo, but the backstory here is that I *had* seen the first two episodes of “John Adams” while on vacation (no HBO in my house) and never once did I question the actual physicality of what I was seeing before my eyes. I took it hook, line and sinker.

It took a few minutes to reel my jaw back up from the floor. The folks at Digital Backlot are to be commended for doing an amazing job on “John Adams”, and for sharing a tiny bit of the process with the folks at NAB. This link will take you to a TV Technology article with a little more detail on the products and processes used in the production.


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A 1981 graduate of the Boston University College of Communication, Bruce A. Johnson got his first job in broadcast television at WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, FL. While there, he rose through the ranks…