IBC 2014, the conference and exhibition hosted by the beautiful city of Amsterdam, in the generous confines of the RAI facility, came to a close last week. The exhibition, spread across 14 halls and spanning 5 days, attracted more than 55,000 attendees to see the latest offerings and technological advances of over 1500 exhibitors. It’s an exciting place to be… there is a tangible buzz generated from the proximity of so many industry experts and enthusiasts, from veteran business leaders to smart start-up engineers.
My overwhelming take-away from the event was of the continued pervasiveness of the cloud and the cloud services ecosystem. Media management in the cloud, transcoding in the cloud, metadata in the cloud, playout in the cloud, archive to the cloud, cloud DVR, cloud UI rendering, cloud collaborative editing and post-production… and more. The barrier to entry for service providers to launch new, cost-effective, value-add features has never been lower, leveraging the scalability, reliability and efficiency gains that cloud computing together with the SaaS model enables. The movement from hardware to software services is also a driving force behind a slower but inevitable transition, that is, the adoption of IP for the end-to-end video signal path from camera to cutting room to consumer.
At the Cisco Booth
I was privileged to be exhibiting on the main Cisco stand, demonstrating a product which I’ve helped develop. Videoscape TV Analytics is a cloud service which provides deep insights into the viewing population: both who they are and how they use your service. We are able to predict the number of individuals in subscriber homes, together with their demographic profile and viewing preferences. This enables advanced features such as highly targeted dynamic ad insertion, to increase ad inventory, and personalized promotions to improve engagement and drive purchases. Secondly, we analyze how the audience move between channels during and between content, insights which can be sold to content providers to optimize scheduling or ad reach for specific demographics. Thirdly, we analyze how client applications are navigated by users, and provide interactive visualizations to explore path traversal statistics, screen ‘bounce’, and content ‘bounce’. Using this, the performance of recommendations and promoted content links can be measured, metadata anomalies can be highlighted, and the user experience can be optimized. Ultimately, customers find content they enjoy, and find it faster!
Of course, Videoscape TV Analytics was just one of a number of demonstrations on display at the Cisco stand, a component in the suite of cloud services on offer which include virtual video processing, video orchestration and advanced ABR advertising solutions. Elsewhere on the stand, the latest customer-deployed home user experiences for TV and companion devices were showcased, as well as our thought provoking “true multiscreen” concept, with seamless interaction and unique content discovery mechanisms. Beautiful UI refinements, innovations in social features and new IoE integrations were to be found within the Snowflake 15 sneak preview, and in the Future Zone of the exhibition, Cisco presented an immersive projection of a vision of “Connected Life,” utilizing IoE and the power of the network to compelling effect.
Elsewhere at IBC
As you would expect, the toolsets and workflows for recording, producing, and broadcasting content in 4K are maturing, and being heavily pushed by vendors. But as an engineer who has an eye for more esoteric technologies, I was particularly drawn to two stands. Andra’s Motion Focus, a product which is not yet on the market – blew me away. I can’t explain it, suffice to say it involves magnetic fields, sensors, and control with an iPad… all resulting in rather remarkable camera focusing abilities. As Arthur C Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic!”
Also of note was BBC R&D’s interesting research into object based broadcasting. They describe the benefits of this technique – where elements of the video or audio stream are broadcast as components and assembled and controlled in the receiving device – as making content interactive, personalized, immersive and accessible. Several, varied applications were on demonstration, but its early days – the BBC engineer informed me that they are taking a 5 to 10 year view for the maturing and standardization of the technology.
The penultimate day of the exhibition was rounded off by a world first, with the screening of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” in full, crisp 14fL brightness using Christie’s 6P laser projection technology and Dolby’s Atmos immersive audio system – with 40 speakers – in the 1,700-seat auditorium. I can confirm it did indeed look and sound fantastic! As the exhibition came to a close, I couldn’t help feeling that it’s a dawn of a new day in video technology: the era of cloud domination, bringing the industry unparalleled flexibility, immediacy, availability, and capacity – the full applications of which are probably yet to be imagined and birthed.
Tweet us (@CiscoSPVideo) your thoughts about IBC and what you look forward to in the coming months.