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IBC 2015: the highlights

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21 September 2015

As the dust settles on another IBC, what were the highlights of this year’s show? The key themes were largely as expected – UHD, IP and the migration to software all featured prominently both on the trade show floor and in the conference sessions.

UHD certainly felt more tangible and both interest and activity has moved on more quickly than many expected from last year’s show. There was a lot discussion about BT Sport’s UHD channel launch in the conference sessions.

The fact that such a channel has gone on air, particularly one that carries some of the most high profile sports content in Europe, seems to have acted as a catalyst for many other broadcasters to consider accelerating their own plans.

There was also a lot of focus on HDR and when it might be available – the consensus being that it’s desirable and less complex to introduce than originally thought, but a lack of agreement on standards and the unavailability of TV sets mean it won’t be coming to your living room for a little while yet.

Every major vendor seemed to be showing off their new IP friendly products. We are clearly in the midst of a significant and long heralded transition away from SDI to IP, but many challenges remain.

Proprietary implementations exist for those looking to build systems today, but we really need broad industry collaboration to drive highly interoperable IP products. Thankfully there were some key announcements at the show on this front.

The VSF/SMPTE/EBU Joint-Task Force on Networked Media published its long awaited Reference Architecture shortly before the event, providing an architectural blueprint for next generation IP broadcast facilities.

The AMWA, a leading industry trade association, also announced its Networked Media Incubator Project. This is potentially a very significant stepping stone to an IP based broadcast industry as it provides a practical vehicle for broadcasters, vendors, service providers and others to come together and test real world interoperability.

Finally, the Digital Production Partnership (DPP), well known in the UK for its work to guide the broadcast industry towards file based production, delivery and operation, announced a series of important developments at IBC. These included a collaboration with NABA on a US equivalent of AS-11 DPP, an update on their forthcoming UHD specification and new partnerships with both AMWA and SMPTE.

It is really encouraging to see all of these organizations coming together to work on the strategic direction of our industry at such an important and active period of change. We at Ericsson are active members of all of these bodies and are very supportive of the work they are undertaking.

That leads us to the last key theme of the show – software defined broadcasting. While IP provides a great deal of flexibility at the control and transport layers, we need new software based networked resources to replace the hardware devices in place today if we are to truly transform our industry for the future. There has also been good progress made in this area and most vendors demonstrated live implementations of their software only products.

So in summary it was a good IBC with few surprises but plenty of solid progress towards a major evolution of the broadcast industry. Now, time to book those flights for NAB.

Steve Plunkett is chief technology officer of Ericsson Broadcast and Media Services

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