This year's IBC conference will highlight broadcasting’s current obsessions, which include some old topics such as workflow alongside social media and connected TV.
The issue is partly one of control, and in having to rely on third-party networks for operations that are absolutely critical to the business. At IBC2012, cloud service providers will be straining every sinew to persuade broadcasters and operators that their products are now mature and ready for serious deployments.
Even if the cloud model meets all its promises on security and performance, it will still not fly unless it can be readily incorporated into existing media asset management (MAM) and workflow systems. Everybody agrees that tapeless server workflows have brought huge cost savings and flexibility benefits. But, now taking these into the cloud brings substantial integration challenges. Workflow is an old topic, but has grown rather than diminished in importance given the current upheavals across the broadcasting chain. This is because it is the harness that holds together the components of broadcast production and delivery, and one of the challenges now is to ensure that it enables these to work smoothly as a coherent whole, and yet progress independently of each other to incorporate improvements in procedure or technology.
Future proofing will therefore be a major theme of IBC2012 in the context of workflow and also IT, with one of the challenges being to ensure that the production pipelines being created for HD can readily be upgraded for higher resolutions in future. The EBU will discuss such themes during its presentation “Prepare Today, Prosper Tomorrow: Future-Proofing for Broadcasters at the IBC2012 conference.”
One thing that has become clear over the last few years is that HD is a catch all word for a range of high-resolution formats, rather than a straightforward upgrade from Standard Definition. In the beginning, there was the debate between 720p and 1080i, with the former being preferred for fast-moving sports events where the interlacing causes distortion, and the latter for detailed high-color shots as in nature programs where the greater resolution yields superior single image quality. But now, 1080p is coming along, combining the advantages of both but generating files twice as big. Meanwhile, 4K and Super Hi-Vision, otherwise known as ultra HD or 8K, also are in the pipeline. Super Hi-Vision, at 7680 x 4320 pixels, has 32x the resolution of 1080i or 720p. It is small wonder, then, that coping with rising video traffic will be one of the main discussion topics at IBC2012, as will advanced compression.
Demand for high-HD resolutions will be driven particularly by sports viewing, allied to larger display screens that exploit composite manufacturing techniques to reduce costs. One of the show stoppers at last year’s IBC was the NDS Surfaces technology anticipating an era when very large screens without frames are composed of smaller units that provide greater flexibility in manufacture, combined with a much-reduced reject rate because a fault then only requires a single unit to be rejected rather than a whole large screen display. This should end the current situation where large screens cost more in proportion to their surface area than smaller ones — the reverse should hold.
Large screens up to 10ft show up the quality of 4K, and even the further improvement of 8K, but it will take sport, sometimes in 3-D, to really bring home the benefits and persuade consumers to spend the extra on such a big display. The growing importance of sport as the content engine driving the whole of TV towards higher resolutions, exploited by CE manufacturers to maintain demand for up market higher margin displays, is reflected in its high place on the agenda at IBC2012.
This has been aided by several high profile sporting events hosted in Europe, including the Euro12 football championships and the London Olympics itself, which will be the subject of various analyses and debriefing sessions at IBC2012, such as “Turning Olympic Games Spectators Into Participants: Broadcast Tools & Technology Of London 2012,” and “The London 2012 Debriefing: Analyzing the Summer Olympic Games.” The objective will be to assess how both traditional and emerging platforms and business models fared, with early signs of a massive boost for OTT viewing on PCs, tablets and smartphones as people snack on Olympic events while travelling or at work.
On big screens, the Olympics has also stimulated trials of the higher-resolution HD versions, as well as of new business models exploiting companion screens, which themselves will be subjects for a number of debates and panel sessions at IBC2012. On the production side, a major trend after the Beijing Olympics of 2008 was towards more remote editing to exploit greater availability of optical fiber, as well as of more competitive satellite uplinks.