Highlights from the show floor include 3-D, UltraHD, and more 3-D.
IBC is a broad convention, as it encompasses not just broadcasting (the acronym originally stood for International Broadcasting Convention, and then over time, like DVD, it became an acronym without any meaning) but also cable-TV, satellite-TV, mobile-TV, IPTV and web-video as well. In the U.S, these are each a separate convention (NAB, NCTA, SkyForum, Streaming Media, etc.), but in Amsterdam, they're all rolled into one. Combined with the existence of free satellite-TV in Europe (unheard of in the U.S.), and the largesse of state broadcasting in Europe with its hefty public interest component, this convention combines the heaviest of the heavy hitters (Sony, Thomson, etc.) with entrepreneurial and sometimes state-subsidized start-up type operations that appear to genuinely have a shot at success. And then there's the BBC, another extraordinary force in this mix.
Nevertheless, most of the more interesting stuff was indeed from the big boys. One exception was Red, the upstart video camera company that set out to offer the highest possible HD video quality to independent - low budget producers at a price much lower than Sony's and other's professional HD offerings, including their own codec designed to minimize degradation, as well as the ability to record raw uncompressed HD video files for the highest possible quality. Red has caught on, and is soon introducing new, lower priced models for the "prosumer" market.
The BBC's R&D group showed impressive research on the need for higher frame rates, and a new free codec that's better and lighter than H.264 -- see Junko Yoshida's article on "Dirac".
Three demo exhibits caught my eyes as most impressive. One was a Sony 42" 3-D LCD display requiring the theatrical-movie style polarized viewing glasses. This looked perfect -- comparable to theatrical 3-D. Yes it required the glasses, but it's perfect. You can view it from many angles, you can move your head, you can watch it for extended periods of time without getting a headache.
At the Philips booth, the "Wow" 3-D system was on display again. This lenticular LCD screen does not require glasses, but it's just not quite there yet, and I wonder if it ever will be. Yes it looks like 3-D for the section of the picture you focus your eyes on, but at the periphery you see multiple images, and I suspect this is because the distance between the left and right eyes varies from person to person and you can't build the screen to look perfect for everyone. Also, viewing angle is critical -- walk off to the sides, and it doesn't look right at all.
A partner demo by Telefonica of Spain showed a video on-demand 3-D delivery system that can run on cable-TV. The system only requires 15% more bandwidth than traditional 2-D television signals -- be they HD or SD. That's because the Philips system is not based on stereoscopic images -- instead, there's a depth map, and each pixel has a depth characteristic added. The entire depth map requires 15% more bandwidth. Philips also showed a demo of a Blu-ray disc player with 3-D capability -- adding this 15%-more depth track.
Also in the 3-D mix at IBC was Dreamworks studio mogul Steven Katzenberg appearing live in 3-D on a huge theatrical screen in the central auditorium (glasses required). Talking up 3-D and taking questions in California from the Amsterdam audience at the "Big Screen" theater, this was said to be the largest live 3-D video transmission ever.
As detailed in Rick Merrit's superb article, Can Hollywood bring 3DTV home?, there are many paths to 3-D, and not all of them are stereoscopic. One system designed to work with the no-glasses lenticular and slotted screens, uses a specially designed 5-image camera. The resulting screens look a bit better than the Philips Wow! system, allowing in particular for more complex depths, such as when viewing an object through an ice cube.
NHK was back with their UltraHD 8K technology, impressive as always, this time with a live transmission from London. There was also a telepresence video conference demo hyped as "holographic" in the IBC paper, but what it amounted to was a life-size 2D projection image on a frosted screen mounted on a small podium at eye level. It was good, but it wasn't 3-D.