Finding the digital needle in an exhibition haystack
Next time I go to IBC I will remember the last 2 days and think carefully about how long I really need to be able to do the Exhibition justice. Arriving early Friday morning and leaving on Sunday meant I very quickly had to condense my visit and attempt to make a plan of attack. 13 halls of various technology and resellers, and I had approximately 14 hours. It seemed not unrealistic to do a quick sweep of the area, make a note of the stands and companies that caught my eye and return to them on the Saturday for more info — simple.
My first port of call was Hall 7, the Post Production Zone. This was for 2 reasons: The first being I'm Head of Ops at the Clipstone office of The Mill in London — which is only 3 months old and entirely tapeless to boot — and I’m rather proud of it. So Post seemed like a good place to start. Secondly, our sister company Beam (formerly Beam.tv) has their stand at IBC in Hall 7, which was rather exciting for all concerned and looked very smart sat in amongst other post giants like Blackmagic and Avid, eagerly demonstrating the Beam retail aspects amongst all the services that it offers.
I began to wade through the free blurb that I was handed at registration (events like this make me feel bad for trees) and attempted to draw up a bit of a hit list, but soon found myself still walking around hall 7 by the early afternoon — my great plan already failing spectacularly.
As well as generally trying to get an idea of what is new and exciting for The Mill, I very much wanted to find that one thing that would intrigue me and allow me to effortlessly blog for Post, talking fluently about its technological advances and how it will no doubt excite the creatives. It wasn't initially easy to pick the wheat from the chaff, many exhibitors I had never heard of, and I found myself making very quick decisions of whether to talk to them, based on the look and feel of their space (again, nice one Beam — you can check out images of their stand at www.beam.tv).
One such company that I perhaps would have initially passed by if it were not for the fact that it had an iPhone and iPad on demo (I'm easily swayed, I'm sorry) is Streambox. Founded in 1999 and based in Seattle, they specialise in a software based platform for live and file based video transport via IP. CNN use their software for video phone reporting for example. Their new toy is AVENIR, an advanced version of one of their standard Streamboxes, designed for video streaming and delivery via bonded 3G/4G networks. A battery powered portable unit that fits on a camera person’s waist and takes in a live HD/SDI feed which is then pushed out over IP, via 8 3G and 4G wireless cards. Through the use of dynamic bandwidth negotiation it can do real-time delivery of HD/SD and near real time file based delivery of the ACT-L3 QuickTime format. The AVENIR has 2 paths on which to transmit so can send live media to a decoder or media player as well transmit the files to a server or data centre for edit and broadcast.
As with all these live stream boxes and devices, I’d very much like to see it in action, but if it does what it says on the tin, then it has effectively rendered OB (Outdoor Broadcast) vans redundant and makes external reporting far more cost effective. From a live TV point of view, your team can now consist of a single reporter/artist and single cameraman, maybe even just the one of them? It goes without saying that cost ramifications would be considerable, however I see it possibly being used in a film or set environment. Beam was initially designed as a quick way of delivering CGI rushes back to Sir Ridley Scott as encoded files while he was filming on set in Malta for the movie "Gladiator," so why not stream the footage from set back to a post house, so they can start work immediately, even if it is rough rotoscoping or prep? It also gives 2nd units, a way of keeping up to date with multiple shoots and the individual sets could (in theory) all be streamed to one place for the editor to work up an offline edit combining all the day’s footage?
This is why I like IBC; it’s not just about the kit that is available, it’s also about what it will lead to. People far more clever than I will glue three of these companies together to create something even more impressive, and that’s when things get really interesting.