MrMXF Editorial for 133-Sep/Oct 2018

30 IBCs and counting..

Some things never change. It's September and it's time for another IBC. Maybe I'm getting old and maybe I have selective memory about the past, but recently there hasn't been the buzz of years gone by. Sure, as you wander around the vast halls there will be lots of enthusiastic sales people trying to give you the best demo possible, but something has changed and to survive, I believe that vendors and customers need to change too.

Once upon a time, each booth would have a unique collection of front panels, desks, monitors and physical controls to play with. Today, almost every booth has a collection of large screens with enthusiastic men (and yes, it is still mostly men) demonstrating the latest features of software version 10 build number squillion and two.

It's hard to have a buzz with this level of visual uniformity around the show and it doesn't get any easier when today's cloud platforms give you unbelievable levels of software functionality for a few cents per hour of cost. I'll be surprised if there are not voice control demos that work well despite the noise of the show. I'll be surprised if there are not demos of machine learning that are indistinguishable from magic taking place on certain stands. I'll be surprised if any vendor claims to be not cloud and proud. I'll be really surprised if more than 30% of the stand demos are given by women.

The advantage of today's compute platforms is that you no longer have to start from bare metal when you design a product. The disadvantage is that it's quite hard to differentiate yourself when you're building on the same services and protocols of everyone else despite having great ideas. The uniformity of the dark grey user interfaces with light grey click boxes, a timeline and two preview windows, all running on a server which might be on the stand or in an Ohio data centre does not inspire an audience at a booth to pay huge attention.

As I have written in the past. We live in an era where just about every technological idea you have can be implemented given enough time and money. We're not fighting against fundamental physics any more - we're fighting to get the best optimized technical solution for a business problem. But there lies the rub - what's the business problem we're all trying to solve?

A great article in Vulture from 2016 (http://www.vulture.com/2016/05/peak-tv-business-c-v-r.html) points out that there are a LOT of shows and live content being made. This trend is continuing and it means difficult economics in the delivery and distribution chains to reach a big audience with varied content efficiently and cheaply. If you're in the production business then this might be great news while the bubble lasts. If your business is finishing and moving material then things are more uncertain. There is no clear winner in the delivery technology or platform race, so you need to cover every base.

So to put it bluntly, most businesses are trying to do more for less running on similar platforms. That sounds like a recipe for consolidation unless new thinking appears. As Naomi Climer points out in her article on IBC365 (https://www.ibc.org/content-management/driving-positive-change-in-the-media-industry/3017.article) our industry's statistics on representation and diversity are not good. Like her, I am convinced based on personal experience that those who have a more representative workforce will be the ones generating the ideas that will stand out.

Given some good new ideas, I hope to see some innovative demos of the benefits cutting edge applications rather than the features of a new software build. This might put a bit of buzz back into the show!

Sometime a buzz is what you do not need. Carefully crafted interoperability and agreement between large numbers of vendors can change an entire industry.

My first example is the IP showcase (in room E106/E107). This is an example of incremental progress year on year where confidence is built by VSF, SMPTE, AES, EBU, AMWA and AIMS working together to formalise a new and versatile eco-system based on IP transport that adds levels of versatility, flexibility and reconfigurability that are not available in today's IP systems.

My second is the IMF User Group (https://imfug.com) meeting being held on the Monday. This unique forum allows vendors, users, content owners, facility houses and standards designers to talk openly about the very specific issues that need to be solved. Good solid practical advice and recommendations like "IMF works better if timecode is forbidden" might sound scary until you hear the practical challenges from the people doing the work.

I like IBC. I like the people. I like the Big Film on the Saturday night and I hope to see some AMAZING technology if I search beyond the bland demonstrations. Feel free to get in touch if you fancy a coffee in Amsterdam!

Ciao

Bruce

(Photo by rawpixels.com, courtesy of pexels.com)