Jaemie Goes to IBC

After averaging 8kms a day for the last 4 days at the 2017 International Broadcasting Convention in Amesterdam, Im feeling rather weary but excited about all the cool things that are happening in this space.

This is the first trade show I’ve been to for the broadcast/film industry, and my goodness this thing was mental! About 14 years ago when I started working at Editel, Blackie (Ray Black) mentioned that at some time in my career I should venture over to Amsterdam for IBC and experience the chaos. Needless to say, he wasn’t wrong. The RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre consisted of about 4-5 massive buildings all filled with rabbit warrens of booths and stalls from all the major industry players. I even saw a Telstra stand over here, like me, a long way from home!

At IBC the emphasis is definitely on broadcast technology. IP based workflows for transmission was one of the main topics for the show and almost every player was showing off their version of it. Saying that the broadcast areas were big is an understatement. These ‘rooms’ are huge. Like the Convention Centre in Perth but on steroids.

I was able to go to a lot of keynote presentations and, being a colourist, what interested me were the sessions about HDR and WCG (High Dynamic Range & Wide Colour Gammut). This, along with IP technologies, VR & AR (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality) were pretty much the key topics discussed at the event.

The first seminar I went to was on the production and potentials of VR and AR. A rather interesting talk on the subject with some leading individuals from the likes of BBC and Franhoffer IIS. The BBC side of things was really exciting, hearing about how they have taken VR through their R&D side, and really broken down what VR is and how they are going about bringing it to the masses, and even utilizing the technology for TV series. This talk, like a lot of the sessions got very technical very quickly! I decided to start recording the sessions so I can share them with the team and listen back at a later stage.

Security was tight at the “Event Cinema on Steroids: Shooting and delivering HDR and immersive audio alternative content to the Big Screen” session. This was a semi open forum on how BT Sports in the UK were able to deliver full UHD HDR transmission of the EUEFA Finals streamed to a Dolby cinema in London. BT were able to do all of this thanks to Sonys 4K projector systems, Dolby’s Atmos surround and Dolby Vision technology for the HDR UHD vision. Unfortunately I can’t share what it was like when they played a clip of it in the cinema. Pretty mind blowing to think that Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision are able to be transmitted live. I soon learnt about the back end of this a few days later in another session about HDR and HEVC (H.265) and how that has essentially become the backbone to allow HDR and HFR (High Frame Rate) to become a reality.

I’ve been hesitant about jumping on the UHD(Ultra High Definition) bandwagon. I personally thought that it was going to be another fad to replace stereoscopic. Don’t get me wrong, 4K is amazing, but the way everyone was harping on about it, seemed a bit extreme given that the technology wasn’t yet properly supported (ie content not readily available, platforms and broadcasters not setup to roll it out etc). I thought that once broadcasters made the switch to start transmitting TVCs in 4K, that would be the time to move. After being at IBC and seeing the white paper talks about HDR and UHD, it’s definitely here to stay, and it’s ONLY going to get bigger and stronger in the market.

I had a chance to go and have a look at a few things that had been on my list of things to research for a while. I took a quick demo at the Tektronix booth and had a look at their automated QC software. Being able to have a software solution to replace a repetitive and often human error laden task was well worth the look. I also jumped on over to the Franhouff IIS booth to quiz the guys about the easy DCP software. In the last few years they have enabled GPU rendering for the JPEG2000 encoding for DCPS. Seeing as most of the technology in recent years has moved over to GPU rendering, this is a huge step for DCP encoding. The turn-around for DCPs can be slow, mainly because the encoding of the vision and audio streams into the DCI required JPEG2000 codec. Being able to utilize the 4 GPUS running in my main computer would be handy.

One of the main reasons for the IBC visit was to check out some new broadcast monitors. Seeing as the industry is switching over to OLED technology (Sandbox has 3 new OLED monitors) it’s a good time to start seriously considering this technology. OLEDs have much deeper and richer black levels, and until you have seen a calibrated OLED in person, it is really difficult to explain just how good and how much you have been missing out on seeing. The contrast levels are INCREDIBLE, and the details are all there too. In layman’s terms, the black levels are as if you were blind. Unfortunately not all the big players had their screens out on display. Dolby and Canon didn’t have any of their reference class P3 monitors out, Sony had very limited screens on show. However, the BVMX300 was very impressive for the size, even though they have discontinued it. What I did have my eye on, was the PVM-X550. A 55” 4K OLED Reference Monitor. This was easily the nicest reference / broadcast monitor I saw at that size. If you want one of these puppies though, you would have to be willing to drop a cool $USD 22,000.

Flanders and TVLogic both had some very nice panels with fairly reasonable price tags to go with them. I will definitely be keeping my eyes on their TVLogic screens. The Flanders FSI 55” panel was also very nice. It uses the same LG panels as the C7 range that we currently have at Sandbox, and the FSI rep said that the main difference is that they have ripped out the user menus from LG and written their own.

A lot of the big software vendors where present like Adobe, Blackmagic Design & MAXON (Cinema 4D). I was able to have a good play with the big daddy Resolve panel. It’s like piloting the SS Enterprise. Its huge, and my first impression was exactly that. It’s almost too big. I’m so used to running a full Elements setup with the Wacom and X-Keys, that it almost felt antiquated and old. But I’m sure if I were to use it for a few grade sessions I’d get the hang of it and be happy with it. BMD had a massive booth (if I can even call it a booth!). For a little company out of Australia, Peter Chamberlain is slowly taking over the production and post-production world. They just keep bringing out better and better tools, and for a crazy price point.

I also went along to some extracurricular activities. CSI & Mixinglight held a colourist mixer on Saturday night. This was a great chance to meet up with about 200 colourists from around the globe. I had a good chat to one of the guys from Dolby & ACES (Academy Color Encoding System). This was a great opportunity to tell them first hand my experiences with ACES and to find out what was going to be happening in the future with its development. I had a good chat to some German dude (German dude if you are reading this, I can’t remember your German name) and it was interesting to hear how he worked and dealt with clients in a session. Needless to say, no matter where you are in the world, we all deal with the same things/issues.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to come over here and check IBC out. Blackie was right, this is pretty much ground zero for up and coming technologies in the industry, and it really is an amazing experience.
Its now 1 am, I should really get to sleep. I’m off to Utrecht (south of Amsterdam) tomorrow to explore a little bit more of the Netherlands before my wife and I are off to Italy. I know it’s a hard life, but someone has to do it.

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