IBC2023 Insights Part One: Pushing Technical Innovation in New Directions – views from Bubble Agency’s clients by Phil Rhodes

Sufficiently creative people will always find new ways to use new technology. The last fifteen years though, has hinted strongly that conventional film and TV is pretty resistant to change. There have been lukewarm responses to stereo 3D and high frame rate, and beyond-HD resolution has not enjoyed the kind of rapid uptake that accompanied the HD rollout back in the day. In terms of film and TV, technology has risen to meet the demand, in every area from cameras to codecs.

We might assume that would inevitably provoke stagnation. At this year’s IBC show in Amsterdam, though, it seemed to push technical innovation in entirely new directions.

Steve Wise is Global Marketing Director at recorder specialists Atomos, a company which ships devices combining 8K video capture and a full-featured, high-brightness video display – things which once demanded individual, big-ticket items. IBC 2023 saw remote wireless capabilities added to that already-bulging specification. Wise states simply that “we don’t foresee any immediate need for increased resolution or extended frame rate capabilities in our hardware. Instead, we’re focused on unlocking new functionality using connected features. That could be things like camera to cloud workflows, or on-device AI tasks, or the ability to multitask between the local device and the cloud simultaneously. RemoteView is really at the start of what is possible with the latter.”

Other companies have reached similar conclusions. Mark Roberts Motion Control is world-renowned for its precision camera robots, often imposing devices of huge power and strength which have recently found new application in virtual production. At the same time, though, Dan Brooks, Head of Marketing and PR, reminds us that not every job can fit a giant robot through the door. “We’re seeing our rigs used more and more with LED virtual screens and virtual technology. But there’s also been a demand for greater simplicity, and that’s really what gave birth to the Cinebot Mini. They want to see cameras and robot arms that are a lot easier to use, but will still give them that creativity that you can get with some of our bigger rigs. There’s still that demand for simplicity, which is where the Cinebot Mini serves.”

One technology which might still be in a race toward ever-higher specs is the LED video wall itself. Even so, INFiLED’s Technology and Business Director, Tony Van Moorleghem, points out that pushing pixel densities even higher is only part of the equation. “Viewing angles are traditionally also an issue. If you have a big stage and you want to pan with your camera, you don’t want to have brightness drops or color drops when you go to extreme angles.”

Here, Van Moorleghem gestures to the company’s show-floor demonstration, which certainly does well when viewed from oblique angles. “This one has no colour shift, and there’s no brightness shift. Moving forward, RGBW is pretty new and there’s a lot of more things which are going to happen with the same technology.” INFiLED’s latest panels add a white LED in pursuit of a more natural output when used to illuminate people, and the comparison is stark: the old, RGB-only approach can cause skin to go lobster red. Conventional LED lights have always been at pains to avoid that problem but the technology was lacking in video wall panels before 2023.

No matter how good the display technology is, though, every video wall needs to be controlled by something, which is where Disguise has traditionally found a home. Vice President of Business Development David Jorba spent IBC moving between the exhibits of several companies which were all reliant on Disguise servers for their demonstration setups – though Jorba, too, suspects that the future might involve a push for flexibility as much as for sheer technical specification. “I think we’re in an adoption period. We have many partners who are controlling LEDs with our system. LEDs are all over the place already. All TV shows have LED screens, pixel tubes… it’s nothing new. I think what’s happening in the market is that people are starting to realize I can have a studio where, in the morning, I’m showing high-resolution images and video to tell a story, in the afternoon I’m including AR elements to maybe talk about sports. Then at night, I can go into a full virtual studio. This ability to do all these things in one, that’s the next step.”

Any complete discussion of broadcast TV in 2023 must refer to the narrowing gap between the upscale broadcasters that might be Disguise clients, and the likes of YouTube, where individual auteurs can achieve so much. Dizplai is a company which bridges exactly that gap, giving everyone from user-generated content streamers to broadcasters a way to include graphics which react to live statistics and other information in real time.

Commercial Director Peter Cassidy outlines the interaction between broadcasters and streamers. “Let’s talk about major live sporting events. There is essentially a splintering of attention… there’s still the big screen in the middle of it where the game itself is being consumed, but there is almost infinite amount of activity happening on social, on YouTube, all around the same event. Sometimes audiences are even choosing those alternatives over watching the main broadcast. The fan channels are now becoming professional productions in their own right, they’re becoming media companies. If you’ve got a busy day and you haven’t got a time to sit down and watch the match, you feel like you’re brought along for the whole journey.”

Network technology, then, remains a vast disruptor, and often crucial to the innovation which is replacing ever-growing hardware specifications as a means to create interesting new things. A company like Clear-Com might be particularly aware of that, particularly in the context of decades-old origins in voice communications for crews in film, TV and theatre, relying on technology which has been fundamental for decades. Where that history meets networks, interesting things become possible.

Simon Browne is Vice President of Product Management at Clear-Com, and confirms that “intercom has been sort of a fixed process for a while. What’s happening is that productions are getting more complex. If you go back twenty, twenty-five years, intercom stopped being fixed position and started having more wireless content so people could move. In 2023 we’re introducing a new workflow in our matrix-based communications called role login. And what that is, instead of having a fixed configuration in a fixed position panel you’re logging on to a station. It’s more like a follow-me workflow. People are not sitting in front of a rack based piece of equipment anymore. They’re moving away, going to the studio floor, logging out of that, into their car with [an app] on their phone, and whilst they’re driving home they’re still monitoring the show. And that’s what comms is like these days.”

“The philosophical bit is what’s coming next, because you’re in a position where you can do more or less anything you want.” That freedom, Browne muses, is talismanic of so many technologies in 2023, which are often “less limited by the hardware. We know what we’re capable of. We have ideas. We see things. We weave those ideas into our products. So it’s a combination of customer request and our own innovation.”

All of this technology, from recording and graphics to streaming and comms, exists to service one end: the content of the broadcast. As streaming creates new audiences, demand for more material has ballooned to the point where help from artificial intelligence seems overdue. CGI’s Director of Global Marketing and Communication Alexandra Maier describes the company’s new tools as being “specifically for news and radio broadcasters. We put a lot of emphasis on the idea of human-in-the-loop workflows. These AI tools play as intelligent aides, expediting our existing processes while also preserving the skills of our talented journalists.”

Caution over AI seems particularly in fields such as journalism, something that Maier recognises in her expectations for the future. “AI is set to play a more significant role… to spare journalists from tedious tasks. While it’s becoming a necessity in newsrooms, though, it’s crucial we have ethical regulations to prevent misuse.”

AI is a topic also taken up by farmerswife. The company showed several new features in its eponymous project management suite, including QR code recognition as well as better integration with the Cirkus collaboration tool. Comprehensive as the existing tools are, though, CEO Stephen Elliott estimates that “Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a significant role in task automation and analysing data. With more and more people working remotely in distributed teams, project management tools need to provide seamless communication wherever people are. Cloud platforms and mobile apps are going to be more and more important, and I think we’ll also see more focus on customisation and personalisation. Companies are starting to recognise that a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t sufficient.”

A brave new world, then, in which success is measured not in machines, but in what we do with them – which, in the end, was probably always the situation engineers were pursuing in the first place.

SCROLL POSTS

A Few Kind Words...

Kapil Gadhire, Head of Marketing, Magnifi

From the word go, team Bubble was super detailed, efficient, and exhaustive in their approach. They are true partners and make an effort to understand the ideology and end goal to plan the perfect media pitch and strategy.

Lauren Myers, Director, Integrated Marketing – Ross Video

Working with Bubble during and after IBC 2022 for PR and press support was exceptional. Their professional approach, strategic communication, and extensive media network generated significant exposure for our brand. Bubble's on-site support was outstanding, ensuring our story was accurately told to a global audience. Their post-IBC efforts further amplified our reach and provided valuable analytics. An experienced, professional team and a total joy to work with.

Andrew McKinlay, Marketing Director, Avolites

All amazing, just grateful I know I can rely on Bubble to get the job done brilliantly.

Tanya Rai, Marketing and Communications Manager, Pebble

Team Bubble are an extension of our own team. They are wonderful to work with, reliable, get the job done and gain great exposure for our business in key publications.

Mike Ward, Head of Marketing, Singular.live

Since we first started working with them, our team at Bubble have acted very much like an extension of our team. They work with us to try and help us achieve our goals and we very much feel that they have our interests at heart as well as having our backs when we need it!

Gavin Bunker, AE Live

Bubble were fantastic throughout the whole process and helped us deliver a successful event to celebrate our 30th corporate anniversary with industry peers.

Robert Cloudt, Synchronized

Bubble has been tremendously helpful to bring our marketing communication to the next level, very responsive and thinking with us together on the rightful messaging and timing across different media’s. Definitely a recommendation in case you need a well balanced media agency to help you out.

Carla Molina Whyte, Farmerswife

Working with Bubble Agency for a tradeshow has been truly amazing. The bubble team is incredibly helpful and talented. We are very happy with the results and with all the coverage we got prior and during the tradeshow!

Silvia Candido, Ateme

As usual, we were super busy before and during a tradeshow this year. What a luxury to have Bubble take care of our media relations and our social media accounts! We saw a surge of followers on LinkedIn and got good coverage in a number of publications.

Meg Travis, Iron Mountain Entertainment Services, Director, Global Head of Marketing & Communications, Entertainment Services

The Bubble team made everything easy at MPTS! From advising before the show, to facilitating client and press conversations during the show, to making recommendations on how to make the most of the connections we made there - we rely on Bubble as a key strategic partner for our sales and marketing teams.