Ratings for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) exhibition went through the roof in 1998, with 104,805 attendees from 135 countries jostling for elbow room at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Las Vegas Hilton, and the Sands Expo Center April 6-9. The number of exhibitors--1,307--also smashed a record.

Following the trend observed over the past few editions, this year's theme was "The Power of Digital." With "convergence" the buzzword, the show floor teemed with multimedia companies, representing technologies perennially scheduled to propel TV into high-tech realms. More than one attendee observed that NAB is in some ways indistinguishable from Las Vegas' computer megashow, Comdex, right down to the lunch crowds obliged to sit down and grab a bite to eat in front of booths, as the throngs reached Soylent Green levels on opening day.

For lighting companies, traffic flows were somewhat more manageable. With Silicon Valley-type firms expanding to more floor space each year, exhibitors more traditionally associated with broadcasting maintained clusters in each venue. For companies like High End Systems, Strand Lighting, Electronic Theatre Controls, Lee Filters, NSI/Colortran, Minolta, Dove Systems, and The Great American Market, NAB was largely a place to show off gear spotlighted at last fall's PLASA and LDI shows. Still, with multitudes of potential buyers from a converging marketplace tramping by, some enticing new equipment was offered.

Known more for its TV gear, Videssence showed its Koolkits, containing small location lighting fixtures appropriate for film use as well. Known more for its film equipment, Kino Flo says its fluorescent lighting systems are also finding applications in TV newsrooms. Kino Flo introduced the Diva-Lite 400, a portable softlight with an onboard dimming system specially engineered for the digital video generation. DeSisti Lighting (which shared a booth with A.C. Lighting) is distributing Kobold Light's Cinemagic fluorescent lighting system. On-the-go broadcasters can use Litton/Veam's Fiber-Optic Multimedia System (FOMMS), a portable audio/video transmission unit that can be set up and functional in minutes in rugged conditions. For tightly budgeted projects, Chimera's Medium Video Pro Lightbanks can now be used with 2kW open-face fixtures from firms like DeSisti, Ianiro, Mole-Richardson, Strand, and the Arriflex Corporation (whose NAB offerings are detailed in this issue's profile, page 42). Mole-Richardson launched Tweenie/Inbetweenie and HMI Molepar kits, and a 12k HMI Molepar for lighting large indoor and outdoor sets with daylight illumination. K5600 Inc. showed its Joker-Bug 125, a close-up light with the same optical qualities of its 400W and 200W units when used inside chinese lanterns and Chimera Lightbanks. It can run on a 30V battery for up to 72 minutes.

Lowel-Light premiered its portable Lowel Dimmer. With features including four storable, variable light-level settings, storable, variable rate and intensity flicker functions for special effects, and an optional remote that can control up to 10 dimmer units, the product should be available in July. Dedotec announced a summer launch for its Dedolight 400D, a 400W, 36V unit. Sunray showed its 457 Magnum HMI PAR Combo, which provides three wattages (400W, 575W, and 700W) in one globe and comes with a flicker-free ballast. Sachtler brought along its Portable Lighting Reporters, shown at LDI97. LTM and Cinemills, meanwhile, touted the on-screen appearance of their latest lighting gear in the films Armageddon and The Truman Show, respectively (see "Life in a fishbowl," page 70, for more on the latter movie).

Matthews Studio Equipment, which recently expanded its reach to the East Coast by acquiring Four Star Lighting, launched the Matthellini hardwood grip, with an ergonomic handle design, reinforced jaws, and a chrome-plated steel shaft. Pro Cyc, whose booth sheltered Barbizon, displayed its do-it-yourself cyclorama assembly kits. Rosco/Entertainment Technology showed Horizon 98 Gold, an add-on module to Rosco Horizon 98 that eases programmability of the software.

Cool-Lux attracted much interest with a booth covered in its Pan-El-Lite electroluminescent paneling, which can be used for stage designs, special effects, and bluescreen applications. Rising high, Airstar's Solarc lighting balloons illuminated the show floor much like they did the sets of the films Titanic and Hard Rain. Fresh from The Lion King on Broadway, MDG Fog Generators announced its involvement in Celine Dion's new tour. Clear-Com talked up its MicroMatrix, a compact, cost-effective digital intercom system that made its Broadway debut on The Capeman. Barco, whose video projectors and graphics displays are a common component on big concert and touring events, got small with the HDM 5049, a 17" high-definition monitor for the HDTV broadcast market (pictured).

On the cases front, Zero Plastic Cases, Nelson Baldwin, and A&J Cases showed products that accommodate more shipping sizes, while Kart-A-Bag and Nalpak exhibited the latest in handtrucks. Attendees got a lift, so to speak, from Chapman/Leonard Studio Equipment's Super PeeWee IV, a hydraulic lift camera dolly, featuring conventional, crab, and round steering that can be shifted while the dolly is moving or stationary, without the dolly operator's hands leaving the steering handle, and JLG's VP Series Vertical Personnel Lifts.

Professionals who get a lift from this sort of gear may want to visit Showbiz Expo West, to be held June 13-15 in Los Angeles. Many of the same companies who appeared at NAB will be there. Call 203/840-5688 or fax 203/840-9688 for more information.

Meanwhile, NAB 99 will be held April 17-22, again along the Strip. For more information on attending, call 800/342-2460 or 202/775-4970, or consult www.nab.org/conventions/. Bring a pair of broken-in shoes and your own lunch if you decide to visit.