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In Brief: IBC 2013 Uncovered

My journey to the DPP has taken a rather circuitous route involving lots of experience organising people but very little hands-on experience with Broadcast Technology. So in boarding the plane to IBC in Amsterdam, I had two things on my mind.

The first, and perhaps must crucial, was: what’s a DPP Project Manager who’s a stereotypically girly-girl type to do when confronted with the endless labyrinthine hallways of the RAI?

The answer of course is to stand up for her rights, that is: A Woman’s Right to Shoes….

Tweet by Sadie Groom: I wonder how many pairs of shoes men take to a trade show?

It had to be out with the heels and on with the flats (good job I packed several pairs!) because it’s easy to rack up the steps, as one BBC colleague found out by using a pedometer – he travelled 5 miles – and that’s just on day 1!

The second was: who’s going to be my trusted guide through those labyrinths of flashing boxes, brightly coloured signs, and endless ‘solutions’ (my, I didn’t know we had so many problems)?

And the answer to that was to catch up with my perennial go-to guy on all things technological: Rowan de Pomerai, Technology Strategist at ITV.

So here’s what happened when Rowan met Jayne:

Jayne: How on earth do you decide where to start at IBC?

Rowan: I started by focussing on some areas I already knew, such as the DPP and the EBU work on QC, and the projects I’m working on at ITV, then made a list of what to see based on information I already had.  If you’re looking to maximise your time, it’s really good to actually read those IBC mailshots you get sent out before the show so you can have a shortlist of stands to visit.

My top tip would be to also take some time to visit the smaller stands – people you may not already have a relationship with – as they are often showing off some great innovations that you may not have heard of yet.  That’s how I discovered some ingenious stacking batteries that solve lots of little niggles for production – from flight restrictions to charging mobiles.

Jayne: Does this mean you think that the smaller companies are better at innovation?

Rowan: Yes and no.  As more broadcast technology becomes software rather than the custom hardware we’re all used to, it makes it easier for small companies to innovate, as their overheads are much lower than previously.  However, some of the larger companies are also catching on to this business model.  One big company for example has set up a small subsidiary to create new cloud-based services for organising, editing, reviewing & approving media.  This seems to have harnessed the innovation usually found in start-ups to create a new and exciting product for a well-established player in the industry.

Jayne: What did you think about the DPP’s announcement that the UK is moving towards fully file-based delivery in 2014?

Rowan: File delivery on a small scale has been possible for a long time but for the broadcasters to say ‘we’re all going to do it together’ is absolutely huge.  This is immensely powerful and could be the catalyst for really making it happen. I’m sure that the ramifications will be felt around the world. One QC manufacturer actually said to me that ‘Do you do DPP file checking?’ was the most frequent question they were asked during the show!

DPP Board at IBC Show Presentation

 Jayne: What did you think were the over-riding themes of the show this year?

Rowan: I don’t think that there was any one really new thing that was huge, but there were lots of little innovations just making what we’ve already got better and more effective.

4K (as well as 8K!) was of course impossible to ignore. Just as interesting however are the developments in higher frame rates: if we don’t have the frame rate to match these large resolutions the content simply won’t look any good. In tandem with 4K was HEVC, a next generation codec which is necessary to make 4K work in the long term. I think that 4K will eventually happen, but it will take longer than perhaps the consumer electronics manufacturers would like.

This is something else I have noticed in recent years – technology is now being driven by consumer equipment manufacturers, rather than by the broadcasters as it has been in the past.  This empowers the audience to let us know what they actually want (not 3D it would seem!); but it can be difficult for the broadcasters as people are sometimes being sold devices with functionality for which we simply cannot yet provide content.

Another small trend was that a lot more services seem to be going cloud-based, which supports the finding of the DPP’s recent report The Coming Storm? that the cloud will soon be so pervasive that it will no longer be perceived as special or different.

Jayne: What are your predictions for what we’ll see at next year’s IBC show?

Rowan: I think 4K will still be around but we will see more interesting products & less hype – people will be generally less excited about it.

There is likely to be a continued increase in cloud-based services and subscription licencing models. Many manufacturers are now moving to a ‘per user per month’ type of charging model. This makes perfect sense – as technology moves so fast anything you purchase will become obsolete quite quickly and this allows you to choose when you want to use it and get any updates automatically.

I also think we’ll start to see some interesting developments around using IP technology for video. Could we move towards more standard computer-type networking technology to route data around? We saw a few demos of IP technology this year, but only one or two actual products. I think it has to grow over time.

Jayne: Lastly, did you enjoy the legendary IBC parties?

Rowan: Honestly, the most fun I had was at the DPP drinks session because I knew a lot of people there & it gave me a chance to catch up with old colleagues as well as new ones.  I was also lucky enough to eat at the Okura Hotel’s Yamazato retaurant – the only Japanese restaurant in Europe to hold a Michelin star – and I can heartily recommend it! And there were certainly a few other opportunities to have a beer with colleagues and friends. As the old adage goes, work hard, play hard!

So thanks to Rowan that’s a roundup of what was hot from this year’s IBC Show.

What’s in store for next year?  Sensible shoes not withstanding, I had a wonderful time and will be back with metaphorical bells on. And maybe, just maybe, by then I’ll be able write my own review.

Clogs at IBC show

Sensible shoes spotted at IBC that I won’t be sporting next year…

This blog post was written by Jayne.