Over The Airia Broadcaster (Part I)

The Life and Times of Mark Schubin, EIC (Explainer-In-Chief)

Mark Schubin (Image Credit: Adam J Witt)

Mark Schubin is arguably SMPTE’s favorite “edutainer". For 35 years, I've learned a lot of Mark's journalism and public speaking . Over the decades, I read quite a few of Marks articles and posts an seen quite a few of his annual Post-NAB wrap-up presentations. So after all this time, I'm curious about this curious media engineer.

I first met Mark at the Ampex booth at the 1985 NAB Show, looking like John Lennon during the late Beatles years. Just like most of the salesmen. I was a wearing suit and tie. Remember, this was the1980s, the era of wide lapels and even wider flashy ties. Now that I think of it, Mark wore a tee-shirt made to look like a tuxedo, so of course, he fit right in. With the colorful character on the set modeling for the cameras.

Mark manipulated a spinning cube with moving images on each side with a four-input ADO control panel. That year the ADO was the latest and greatest gift from digital video gods. I was hypnotized. I glanced over and realized that I recognized Mark from his Videography magazine column headshot.

It was my first of many NABs. I was sent on what my boss called a "junket" to spec out equipment for a studio and new post house in the new headquarters building. I asked Mark if he had to choose, would go with the Sony BVH-1100 or the Ampex VPR-3. I forgot what Mark said about the 1" machines, but he went on and on about the ADO. In his May column, he shared insightful observations that didn't even occur to me.

Mark's been writing and presenting his Post-NAB wrap since then. When you roam the exhibits, you're sure to run into. One sure-fire way is to hang out at just one obscure booth. Sooner or later, Mark will happen along.

Mark looks at things differently than do most engineers. He chooses precisely words that he needs to explain sophisticated technology. I rarely hear someone say so much in so few words. But that's just me. I have worked around politicians and the news media for 35 years, so I'm quite unaccustomed to hearing short-winded explanations. And brevity is only one of Mark's unique gifts.

Mark's presentations are a gift to the media engineering community. All of us who value Mark's annual schpiel appreciate his contribution to the conversation. Over the decades, I have been curious about this remarkably curious engineer. Here's how Mark describes his background in his brief autobiography.

"I’ve been working professionally in television technology since 1967 (starting as a cable puller). ....I have been extremely fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time, however, and to have worked with some of the most brilliant and talented people in the TV industry ....Thanks to my many clients, I’ve dabbled in just about every aspect of television technology, from design and manufacturing to program distribution. I’ve worked on children’s television, music, news, sports, comedy, drama, events, and documentaries. I’ve worked in studios and remote trucks and with “fly packs,” “load-ins,” and single-camera shooting. I’ve worked on television projects on every continent (including Antarctica). I’ve worked on subtitling and multi-language dubbing. I’ve dabbled in lighting, sound, camera, editing, and even appearing on screen. I’ve worked on broadcast, cable, satellite, fiber, tape, disks, solid-state memories, film, and cinema. I’ve taught forensic analysis of video and have testified as an expert witness on cinema and television technologies and their histories. I’ve written about those subjects since 1972.".

The next generation of millennial engineers media & entertainment production and distribution (MEPD) media engineers are entering the workforce in a world we couldn't have imagined when we were their age. They are the first digital natives, the first fully internetworked generation. Boomers and Gen-Xers are digital immigrants. It's hard to know what it's like starting out in life today. The world we experienced at their age are but fading memories and old photos of a primitive media society

Mark's just one of many engineers who have collected nuggets of wisdom about media production engineers to share with digital natives. In future blog posts, I hope to ask similar questions of other accomplished media engineers. None of us has all the answers. But collectively the combined macro and micro observations they share covers everything under the sun or lighting instruments. There's a lot that lies within the visual and aural gamut of media engineering work that hasn't changed and never will.

Regarding achieving fame and fortune in MEPD, Mark had this to say which I hope he didn't learn the hard way.

[If you want to get rich and famous?] Go rob a bank. You get fortune right away, and, when you’re caught or killed, you’ll have some measure of fame. If you want to be a media engineer, that should be because you want to be a media engineer.

As far as Mark's insights go, I'd say they are pretty, pretty, pretty good.

The interview with Mark Schubin can be found here: "Over The Airia Broadcaster The Life and Times of Mark Schubin, EIC (Explainer-In-Chief) Part II."


You can find Mark Schubin's at the Schubin Cafe where he serves as the media and entertainment as the original broadcast engineering barista. The Schubin Cafe is where perceptual neuroscience and art and technology of media engineering is blended to taste and served piping hot.


Mark's keynote address from SMPTE Washington DC's 2018 Bits By The Bay technical conference in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland


Mark's keynote address from SMPTE Washington DC's 2015 Bits By The Bay technical conference in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland.


In December 2011, Mark gave a lecture at the Library of Congress on how a 400-year-old art form helped create modern media technology.