The Broadening of Broadcast

Convention covers transmission via broadcast cable, the Internet, satellite, and Wi-Fi

2 August 2010

The 45 000 people attending the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC2010) in Amsterdam from 9 to 14 September will have more than just broadcasting in mind. Distributing information and entertainment electronically is no longer just a matter of producing it and putting it on the airwaves. Today it can involve transmission via broadcast cable, the Internet, satellite, cellphone networks, Wi-Fi, and more. And the audience might be using not only traditional radio and TV receivers but also laptop computers, mobile phones, tablet computers, media players, and other devices, or watching digitally transmitted programs in movie theaters.

The IEEE Broadcast Technology Society (BTS) is heavily involved in the conference. It's not simply an IBC sponsor but a co-owner, along with the International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Royal Television Society, the Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers, and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

More than 1300 exhibitors are expected, occupying almost 40 000 square meters.

"Some who attend are looking to do more than just kick the tires of new electronics gear," says William Hayes, a senior member and the Broadcast Technology Society's president. Those attendees also want to "learn how to better apply technologies and how some of the new stuff on display can be used in their operations."

For them, ever since IBC's inception in 1967, there has been "a small conference attached to the large exhibition," says Mike Bennett, the IEEE society's representative on IBC's board. That conference comprises five days of technical, business, and content-creation sessions, including one day devoted to 3-D technology and programming, and another day largely dedicated to sports broadcasting including 3-D, Internet broadcasting, and a look at how some new technologies for sportscasting were used at the Olympics, the World Cup, and recent NASCAR races. Sessions also are devoted to ways broadcasters can gain added value from Web sites and social media, and developments in digital cinema.

Exhibitors and presenters get access to IBC's 1700-seat Big Screen Experience, a state-of-the art 3-D digital theater that's re-equipped each year with the latest gear for the convention. Living up to its name, the New Technology Campus has previously shown the first live-by-satellite and international fiber-optic broadcasts, virtual objects that can be felt, adaptive content changeable by the audience, and other innovations.

Plans call for a Production Village section in one exhibit hall to offer experience and training with cutting-edge cameras as well as a Postproduction Training Zone with sessions on digital-media creation, 3-D work, and digital video. Also planned are three days of media training workshops on digital SLR cameras and on postproduction software from Adobe, Apple, and Avid, as well as a new, two-day Level 1 certification training and exam course for Apple Final Cut Pro 7. This year's three-hour IEEE-BTS tutorial is "3-D TV: Content, Systems, and Visual Perception."

New this year is a Connected World Zone, devoted to distribution technologies beyond traditional broadcast, including Internet-protocol television, mobile TV, and digital signage. The Connected World Hub area is designed to house seminars and presentations about the convergence of consumer electronics devices and IP connectivity and how that is likely to affect business models. And a Connected Home of the Future area is expected to showcase the latest viewing devices including computer tablets, game consoles, smartphones, and portable media players.

"People in their 20s no longer sit in front of a TV to watch a program. They may watch it online and at the same time share comments on the program via social networks such as Twitter," says Bennett, an IEEE senior member. "And a surprising number of hi-def productions are made with off-the-shelf products such as digital SLRs, which have become very good and are far less expensive than professional gear."

For broadcasters, staying on top of progress through events such as IBC is more important than ever, Hayes says. "It used to be that you wrote a big check for a piece of equipment and then used it for 10 years or so," he says. "Now you still write the big check, but you update your equipment more often. You have to be constantly aware that the equipment is aging, what updates are needed, how you train people in the new tech—and still keep the place running.

"IBC is an outstanding place to get a really good overview of today's and tomorrow's technologies, because it's owned by industry organizations, focuses on industry trends, and looks very much ahead on how to apply the technologies within the industry."

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