Anyone who has visited the International Broadcast Convention (IBC) held annually in September in Amsterdam will know that around the end of day two, your feet start to ache from traipsing the passageways of the 13 exhibition halls in your endeavour to see as much as possible during this five-day event. This year I equipped myself with a pedometer to see how much walking was involved in my quest to discover what was new and exciting.
IBC2011 was a successful event all round. A record attendance of 50 462, an increase of 4% on last year, showed a great commitment to the broadcast industry despite the fragile status of the world economy. The broadcast market saw growth in Asia, particularly China which rose 21%, while South America increased a whopping 24%. India has lured in over 100 million new TV viewers in the past eight months – impressive figures that no manufacturer could possibly turn a blind eye to.
What makes IBC exciting for me is the fusion of the latest developments on offer and the insight given into future technologies, an opportunity to look forward with the R&D departments of key role players in the industry.
The hype of stereoscopic 3D (S3D) is over; it is now just another medium offering immersive experiences as if it was always like that. It’s the depth that varies, with demos on systems that allow the viewer to set the degree of 3D to suit their own intraocular distances and therefore, level of viewing comfort. 3D camera rigs from studio cameras through to micro HD stereo rigs were hotly contested between an increasing number of suppliers. While glasses-free 3DTV sets are still a thing of the future, current 3DTV picture quality has improved dramatically.
Tablet technology has introduced a new screen for content, bridging the gap between the smartphone and the TV. There is significant development of software for content generation and advertising agencies are taking this journey very seriously as the tablet boom creates a new generation of eyes and ears to advertise to. Tablet “apps’ for almost any device control application are increasingly common. From remote control devices through to control surfaces for audio mixing and video switching – the i-Pad revolution continues.
The Thunderbolt factor
A host of new products designed for Thunderbolt-equipped computers was prevalent with many vendors vying for a slice of the pie. Thunderbolt I/O technology gives you two channels on the same connector with 10Gbps of throughput in both directions making data transfer ultra fast and systems ultra flexible. From monitors to storage devices Thunderbolt may yet prove to be the most significant new technology in computer design in recent years.
Super Hi-Vision – again!
As always Japanese broadcaster NHK showcased its Super Hi-Vision system. Eight times the resolution of HD, Super Hi-Vision offers incredibly crisp images. The demonstration was impressive with live cameras broadcasting from central London and Amsterdam’s Central Station. Coupled with their 22.2 surround sound system the Super Hi-Vision experience cannot be equalled. NHK is optimistic that they will have test transmissions for Japanese viewers terrestrially and on Ku-band satellite by 2015. They will broadcast the London Olympic Games 2012 in Super Hi-Vision, for public display, in a co-production with the BBC and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
There were plenty of cameras to drool over. An array of portable cameras offering interchangeable lenses to the smallest of cameras with almost 1800 wide angles, camera technology has made it possible to film virtually anything on the planet and beyond. Perhaps the most significant for me was the number of high speed cameras manufactured by the traditional equipment suppliers, as opposed to scientific and industrial research groups, offering anything from 200 to 10 000 frames per second rates with unrivalled picture quality.
There were a few notable company acquisitions announced at IBC which caught my eye. Notably 3ality Digital, considered to be the leading innovator of the most sophisticated S3D production technology in the industry. It acquired Element Technica, a company long-known for its manufacturing expertise, accessories, and mechanical engineering of motorised S3D camera rigs.
Adobe acquired the assets of privately-owned Iridas which includes Iridas SpeedGrade, a toolset for stereo 3D, raw processing, colour grading and finishing. According to the Adobe announcement, with the addition of Iridas technology, Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium and Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection “are expected to gain a comprehensive set of tools so video editors can manipulate colour and light for any type of content, including professional film and television’.
So how far did I walk at IBC? Well, apart from accidentally resetting my pedometer twice I worked out that in the five days I was there I treaded over 90 000 footsteps equating to an average of 18km per day. And I have the blisters to prove it!
Look out for the IBC product review in the November / December issue of Screen Africa.
‘ SCREENAFRICA Print Magazine – October 2011 (view here)
By Ian Dormer