IFA & IBC Offer Different Views on the TV Industry

I’m writing this week’s editorial in the press room of IBC – the overload from IFA caused our production of the regular weekly issue to slip so, frustratingly, I have been head down over the keyboard when I’d much rather be out on the show floor (although my feet are happier!).

It is one of the strange things about the IFA and IBC trade shows that only two or three of us in the press room make it to both shows. It has always been slightly bizarre that while TV depends on good content, delivery and display, those in the content and delivery businesses are at IBC, while those in display are at IFA. Then again, IBC is a firmly B2B event, while IFA is B2C. It has always been the case that the much of the TV set supply chain only pays very marginal attention to what is going on in content creation and delivery.

One of the messages from the limited meetings that I have already had in Amsterdam at IBC is that 4K is ‘done’. Although, as IHS said at IFA, some studios are still being developed in SD, in the developed world, as much as possible is now being created and captured in UltraHD resolution..8K is also appearing and after Sharp said that it would ship a display next year at IFA, at its press event, Sony showed a new 8K camera that it has already tested for sports capture. As well as allowing the development of the 8K infrastructure, the use of an 8K system allows sports producers to choose a 4K ‘virtual window’ from the 8K content.

That is potentially compelling. If you can capture in such high resolution, you could replace many of the camera operators at sports venues with such cameras – feed the content back to a cloud-based production or via fibre to a central production area and reduce the need for outside broadcast trucks. However, streaming 8K to the cloud is not trivial! Sony also made a big change to its demonstrations of its content production at the show. In the last few years, the company has built a big data centre at IBC to allow demonstrations of complete production.

At this year’s IBC, the company dispensed with the data centre and set up a very fast connection based on 1Gbps technology to allow the use of a cloud-based system for its demos. We haven’t had a chance to have a look yet, but you can see how powerful this could be.

Another big trend that is already clear is the grumpiness of the broadcast sector to the proliferation of different HDR systems – SMPTE President Matthew Goldman explained how much work had been done to try to merge HLG and PQ into a single format. However, that wasn’t possible. At least in broadcast content creation and exchange, these two are the only standards, enshrined in BT2100.

HFR was a topic last year, but already, as at IFA, it is ‘on the back burner’. There are still lots of questions about how to implement HFR and the same issues of backward compatibility that we have seen with HDR and SDR. The chips to process the HFR signals with HDR and WCG also seem to be a couple of years away, so we think that the topic will probably not come back until around 2019, although some will keep working on it (and there was a demo of 1080P100 showing tennis from Roland Garros on the DVB booth). It is said that LG is keen on HFR because of the advantage that OLED has in response time, but not until 2019. At the moment, the processing and driving seems to be too tricky (and LG can offer HFR or HDR with UltraHD OLEDs but not both at the same time at the current ‘state of the art’).