IBC 2017

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It’s very apt that in its 50th anniversary year, IBC recorded record-breaking attendance figures of 57 699 visitors. It wasn’t only attendees breaking records; this year saw more exhibitors cramming into the 15 bustling halls than in previous years and the exciting new launches of the Future Reality Theatre and the innovative Launch Pad drew huge audience attendance.  IBC is the essential global meeting place for everyone engaged in creating, managing and delivering the future of electronic media and entertainment and, as always, 2017 did not disappoint… apart from the inclement weather!

Indoors and out of the cold rain, IP was arguably the hot topic which dominated most conversations at this year’s event, with the IP Showcase acting as the focal point for discussions about interoperability and adoption. The IP Showcase extended beyond what was shown at NAB in April and it just goes to show how quickly the industry can move when there is commitment towards standardisation. The interoperability of SMPTE ST 2110, AES67 and IS-04 between 52 different vendors was showcased in real-world environments proving the point.

Discussion of the role of IP and software at the conference sessions inevitably led to discussion of the role of the cloud. In previous years, the theory of the cloud was the conversation point, but this year, the practical necessity of the cloud was the talking point as cloud based systems increasingly become compelling alternatives to on-site systems. The number of cloud vendors had increased at the show, signifying perhaps the wider role they play in media these days. But IBC wasn’t all about IP; the relative roles of broadcast, Over the Top (OTT) and Video On Demand (VOD) and whether the three would remain as separate entities, whether we would see some kind of merger, or even whether, ultimately, OTT would simply prevail, was a hotly contested discussion point.

Virtual Reality (VR) defiantly lost a bit of traction this year with far fewer demos running on the show floor, Augmented Reality (AR) however, was on the up and there seemed to be a lot more optimism about its future prospects. The newcomer with the biggest impact at the show, at least in discussion terms, was Artificial Intelligence (AI). A number of panel sessions cited AI as key strategic technology for the future and many product vendors have included their support in their future roadmaps. AI in broadcasting is being used in some cases to describe new incarnations of existing terms such as automation, data analytics, and content recommendation, but it also represents genuinely transformative improvements in areas such as machine learning, computer vision and automated speech recognition. Already being prominent in smartphones and other devices, with Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and IBM’s Watson, voice and AI for TV services is becoming a big part of how we are all going to watch TV in the near future. Going beyond simple voice controls, AI understands natural speech patterns, letting viewers interact with their TV service, instead of using remote commands. Voice and AI will also make it easier to navigate through linear TV broadcasts, letting viewers simply name the channel instead of channel surfing and trying to remember all the channel numbers. What’s really exciting is that these AI systems are also learning systems, continuously getting better and more accurate as time goes on.

As always, IBC is often a launch pad for new products and this year was no different. There have been a large number of exciting new developments of late, far too many to mention so I have picked a few that I think caught most people’s attention:

Panasonic EVA1: For cinema-style acquisition, Panasonic realised there was a space between the GH5 and the VariCam LT hence the introduction of the compact and lightweight, AU-EVA1. With its new 5.7K sensor, the EVA1 fills that gap for a variety of filmmaking applications. It’s a great ‘run and gun’ type camera and should be available from the end of October.

Fujinon UA24 baby lens: Fujinon highlighted what they call the world’s smallest and lightest 4K broadcast lens for 2/3” cameras. The UA24x7.8 has a length of approximately 8.7”. It is a 24x zoom lens with a focal-length range of 7.8 to 187mm.

Convergent Design recorders: Convergent Design presented not one but three multi-camera recorders at IBC, The Element 1, Element 2, and Element 3. The Element 1 is a multi-camera (4 input) recorder for HD. The Element 2 supports four HD camera inputs (HDMI), and has all the features of The Element 1, but adds switcher capability and a luma keyer for lower thirds/logo overlays. The Element 3 Supports four camera inputs and incorporates four 12-G SDI inputs, two 4K HDMI inputs, two 12-G SDI and two 4K HDMI outputs. Slightly larger than The Element 1 and 2, it accepts two SSD drives instead of one, and features all the functionality of The Element 2, but adds an extra Mix/Effects engine and 4K/UHD60p support.

Sony: To little surprise and much fanfare, Sony lifted the veil from its full-frame Venice Cinema camera. This 6K-capable camera is purpose-built for cinema production complete with its industry-standard PL mount situated on top of an E-mount, so nearly any kind of lens can be used. With the separately available R7 recorder and AXSM media, the Venice will be able to record 16-bit linear raw files for smooth gradients and impressive colour depth. It’s a beautiful camera to look at and delivers the most beautiful images that you would expect from a big camera.

At the opposite end of the scale Sony’s RX0 is small enough to mount almost anywhere, making it possible to capture a scene or event from multiple viewpoints. Thanks to its 1” Image Sensor, ability to output uncompressed 4K video, waterproof and shockproof build, and ability to record and sync timecode metadata wirelessly between multiple cameras, the RX0 has to be one of my picks for one of the best product of the show and finally a viable competitor in the action camera market.

Avid Artist DNxIV: Following on from the launch of the 2RU, rack mountable Avid Artist | DNxIQ at NAB earlier in the year, Avid launched the Artist | DNxIV at IBC.

It offers much of the same connectivity, but in a smaller, more portable form factor. Both Avid Artist I/O interfaces offer high-speed Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, providing up to 40 Gb/s of bandwidth. Both interfaces offer a wide range of analogue and digital I/O to plug into today’s diverse media productions, including SDI, HDMI, XLR, RS-422 and timecode. While you can purchase Avid Media Composer (or indeed use Media Composer | First – the free starter version) to work with either interface, you can also use other creative applications such Adobe Premiere Pro which is fully supported. Well done to Avid for thinking out of the box on this one.

Adobe VR-production tools for Premier Pro: Adobe previewed several new features and upgrades to its Premier Pro NLE platform, including new Virtual Reality (VR) video-creation tools. Premier Pro will soon feature an immersive VR viewing environment that allows editors to review their timeline and use keyboard-driven editing for trimming and markers while wearing the same VR head-mounts as their audience. In addition, audio will be determined by orientation or position and exported as ambisonics audio for VR-enabled platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook. VR effects and transitions are now native and accelerated via the Mercury playback engine. Many of these features are powered by Adobe Sensei, the company’s artificial intelligence and machine learning framework. Watch this space – Sensei is changing the face of Adobe’s platform – more announcements later in the year.

Light and Motion – Stella LED lights: Every now and then you stumble across a gem at exhibitions and US based Light and Motion (who started off developing lighting for bicycles) is one of those. They introduced their Stella Pro range of COB LED lights at IBC and these little beauties are ideal for broadcast professionals wanting to work fast and efficiently in ANY location regardless of weather and access to power. Lightweight, compact and remarkably powerful, the Stella lights can operate untethered up to 11 hours on its integrated battery and can operate off D-Tap and Mains power too. Never before could professional content creators travel the world carrying a complete professional studio lighting kit in a small case or backpack! Stella lights are fully waterproof to 100 metres and there are awesome options available for drone lighting!

HP Z8 G4 workstation: Last but not least – a computer that truly rivals any Mac on the planet – HP showcased their impressive 56 Core, Intel® Xeon® processor buffed up super computer, the HP Z8 G4 workstation, which promises the ability to edit 8K in realtime when coupled with its massive 3TB DDR4-2666 ECC SDRAM (there are 24 memory slots in this beast). It’s a true engineering wonder and a beautiful piece of design work, combine this with the Z38c Curved Display a 4K display with a 38-inch diagonal curve, and you have a seriously grunty machine and very competitive price wise when compared to any high-end Mac.

Till next year

So, IBC was undoubtedly an emphatic win for all those who visited. It is very encouraging to see an entire industry come together to debate and share their experiences and stories for a common goal. And, congratulations to Dolby Laboratories who were presented with the International Honor for Excellence, which is IBC’s highest accolade, for their contributions to the world of broadcast, television, film and the media in general. Cheers Amsterdam zie je volgend jaar!!

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