What did we make of IBC 2018?

As the dust settles on a warm and sunny IBC 2018, we reflect on some of the kit, themes and stories that we found interesting at the show.

Like last year, live streaming – particularly in the sports market – was a big talking point with vendors unveiling new products to enhance the experience. In its IBC 2018 special issue (which could be found in magazine alley), Advanced-Television published the findings of “The Digital Future Report: Sports Streaming Edition” from business transformation specialist CSG, which highlighted that consumers want an enhanced experience through companion applications, exclusive interviews, customisable screens and other premium content, but they don’t want to pay more for it. This is not surprising but if the consumer is not willing to pay more, how do media companies monetise this content? Some broadcasters are looking at opportunities to push sports content locally and to collaborate. In the summer, Discovery teamed up with the PGA Tour to create an OTT global “Home of Golf”. This model, which was discussed at the keynote conference session by Discovery Chief Executive, Jean-Briac Perrette is one that’s likely to be replicated as media companies look at how they can create – and monetise – premium tailored content.

On the technology front, vendors are looking at ways to make compression more efficient. The LiveU stand was packed on Sunday when the company unveiled its new LU300 HEVC field unit to its partners and customers. The LU300 combines high-quality video performance with extreme bandwidth efficiency in a compact form-factor. It’s tailored to customers requiring a smaller field unit for high-quality video-on-the-go, either for 4K or to dramatically reduce the bandwidth required for HD.

eSports were high on the agenda, with Grass Valley featuring a very cool set-up on its stand in Hall 9, in partnership with independent competitive gaming platform, FACEIT. Pro gamers played alongside visitors to the show to battle for victory in popular video game Rocket League. In the pro eSports market, professional gamers can win millions in prize money from events all over the world.

As expected, artificial intelligence (AI) was a big talking point within production circles. The technology is still in development for a lot of suppliers but its current use is key in automating tasks to reduce labour time and costs and creating personalised content. At the conference, when talking about the broadcaster’s AI production systems, which the corporation is currently prototyping, BBC AI Research Engineer Craig White said they, “may never achieve the quality of skilled crafts people.” He added, “The key question with AI-based production systems is at what point are the algorithms good enough?” AI may take over the world (probably not) but it’s extremely unlikely that machine learning will ever be able to replace highly creative editorial decisions.

8K, 4K and HDR continue to grab the spotlight. Panasonic launched its 8K ROI Region of Interest multi-camera system, which will be available next summer and allows four different HD images to be produced from a single 8K camera. In the Future Zone NHK showed an 8K 4x-speed slow-motion system and a living room with an 8K OLED display and 22.2ch sound system. The Future Zone continued to live up to its name with an array of cool VR and CGI tech, we particularly liked the VR elephant.

It was clear from the lack of queues and the available seats in the restaurants that attendance numbers were down, a point that was confirmed by IBC after the show. The industry is still in a huge state of transition and although broadcasters and media companies are hesitant about investing in expensive tech that is constantly evolving, most of the people that we spoke to had high quality leads and were optimistic about the future. Let’s see what (post Brexit) IBC 2019 brings…

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