Thursday, 17 October 2013

TWTIBCTW - That Was the IBC That Was

So, what was that all about then?

Well, for a start it was more of an IBC that confirmed things we all already knew, rather than one of the shows that turns things on its head. Both on the showfloor and in the Conference it sprung very few surprises but it did at least console those that have backed a mix of 4K/IPTV/companion screens as the future of broadcast that they’re largely on the right track.

The show floor was packed with new 4K products and upgrades of existing kit at all stages in the production chain, happily which also seemed to be pitched at a much lower price point than could have been predicted a year ago. It is finally starting to worm its way into all the niche areas that will help build a complete workflow too, such as the ultra slo-mo units and video servers that will drive sport  production workflows in the format. And in the conference that manufacturing effort translated into the will to establish HEVC-encoded 4K services into the home as soon as is technically feasible.

When will that be? HBS’ Francis Hellier confirmed that next year’s World Cup final, and possibly other matches too, will be captured in the format, while there are also plans to capture events from the Sochi Olympics at the start of the year. TX of all this is more of an issue, with both projects talking about cinema and cinema-style events rather than any pipeline that ends in domestic homes. For that, the consensus seemed to be we will have to wait until the Rio 2016 Olympics....which considering that HD adoption turned out to be a 15 year project, seems almost indecently rapid.

Arguably the companion screen plans for next year’s tournament are more exciting, and will offer a huge degree of app-based personal interactivity, from choosing camera angles to cueing up replays, accessing ultra slo-mo and more. This whole area is steadily getting more sophisticated and essential to event television plans; something probably reflected in IBC’s launching of a new event, IBC Content Everywhere, that replaces the old Connected World and will become peripatetic after debuting at next year’s show.

Preoccupations at the Conference were: Big Data and how broadcasters can mine it to maximise revenue and start targeting ads at specific customers or demographics – or indeed change the mix of adverts in realtime depending on who’s watching (a much easier task now that companion screens offer a data return path); Spectrum and the diminishing amount thereof; and the perils and opportunities that the currently booming market of India represents – leavened somewhat by the fact that average wages are so low and that broadband on the subcontinent is defined as any connection over 256k. Money and time will be required.

Picks from the showfloor? It was a quiet year to be honest, but ARRI’s documentary-style Amira camcorder was probably the talk of the show, Avid had a new scalable modular control surface on display for its audio line, and BBC R&D’s IP Studio demonstration in the Future Zone was interesting enough on the surface, but then got really intriguing once you dug under its surface and grappled with its new concept of treating content as dedicated elements termed ‘grains’ (white papers are available online and well worth a quick search via Google).