International Broadcast Conference

As part of my new role supporting the Media and Entertainment industry for IBM, I’ve just spent a week in Amsterdam at the International Broadcast Conference (IBC2010), which was a simply fascinating experience.

Of course, I’m primarily there to work – and in my case I was mainly acting as a host for some of my customers who were attending the show. But I’m also still learning how the broadcast industry works, so this was a great opportunity to do a lot of self-education, see a lot of the basic broadcast technologies “up close”, and talk to the suppliers to understand how they are used. I was also able to network with some of IBMs senior technical and executive team who were attending from around the world, and spend time learning in detail from them about the IBM technologies that they were at the show to demonstrate to our customers.

There was no doubt as to the theme of the show … everywhere you looked was 3D. From the cameras that shoot it, through specialist electronics that “fake” it, to specialist displays that show it, there was absolutely no escaping it. What was interesting (to me anyway) was how unconvincing I found it. The effects were very impressive, but somehow it didn’t seem to add very much to the overall experience. Worse, I found that after a relatively short time watching something in 3D, I started to feel slightly ill – something like a cross between motion sickness and a headache. I had the same result whether I was watching an active system (with the shuttered glasses) or a passive system (with the polarised glasses). After several days of watching these systems in action, I’m not convinced that the technology is really ready for the home; it doesn’t work as well for an “off center” viewer, it’s inconvenient (at best) for anyone who wears spectacles, and (from my informal polling of other attendees) a goodly proportion of people don’t actually find the effect very pleasant.

Add in the significant investment required in new equipment (a new TV, plus several extra sets of glasses) and it will be interesting to see if it really takes off as quickly as the industry would like.

On the other hand, some of the 4k resolution equipment was simply stunning. I spent a few minutes standing next to a Panasonic 152″, 4k (4096 x 2160) 3D plasma display. It was the size of a large wall, and yet even standing with my nose almost pressed to it, I still couldn’t see the individual pixels. The quality of the images it was displaying were simply unimaginable – very, very, impressive. I’d really like to think it could be the next big thing after the industry has got itself over 3D.

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