If you’ve never been to IBC, the massive broadcasting equipment trade show in Amsterdam, then before we get to the review, here are some vital tips in case you decide to do so.
Firstly, it’s big. Really big. Fourteen halls big. That’s a lot of walking and a lot of allied brochure carrying. You’re going to want to bring a small portable chair to rest on every few stands or so.
Secondly, it’s expensive. What exhibition venue the world over doesn’t see its visitors as mugs to have cash extracted from them at every refreshment opportunity? (answer: none). Bring lots of cash or a wedged-up credit card because the food and drink is absurdly small and absurdly costly. It was only thanks to my press discount that a fish-and-chip lunch became remotely affordable.
Thirdly, expect the unexpected. The organisers had laid on a free shuttle bus from Schiphol airport to the RAI centre but told visitors that the bus would depart from outside the airport terminal on the Saturday when I attended. In fact, it was departing from 500 yards away, round a corner where you couldn’t see it, and with no signs pointing you in the right direction. It was only thanks to the kindness of strangers who observed me “looking like an IBC visitor” (huh?) that I found the bus and got to the exhibition. Luckily, when I did arrive there was a gorilla with a camcorder, so I was clearly in the right place.
So, the exhibition itself then. As I said, it’s big – Sony had an entire hall to itself (though, amusingly, they did so on the first and second floors, with little in the way of signage to actually let you know that you were in the right building or where to find them). Divided up into areas such as the Future Zone, the Connected World, and Production Insight, each hall generally had a theme to its exhibitors which made sense, as similar products and services were clumped together.
In terms of the average Tubeshooter it must be said there is precious little at IBC. Gargantuan TV screens, huge dinosauresque cranes and jibs, and outside broadcast trucks for every occasion are all very interesting from a nerdy point of view but they’re not likely to get much use from someone shooting their Vlog.
But there were some little gems, including Canon’s extensive display of its small camcorders (the HF G30, XA20 and XA25) of which there were several to pick up and play with, as well as its unusual Legria Mini webcam selfie device. All were gaining plenty of interest alongside their more exotic fare such as the cinema-style camcorders, the C100, C300 and C500.
BlackMagic Design had a collossal stand full of great gadgets, the kind you want to buy just because they look so cool and so useful even if you have absolutely no use for them whatsoever. Switchers, converters, capture cards, the obligatory Da Vinci Resolve colour grading software – which could keep an editing enthusiast busy for months without ever actually producing anything – it was all slightly dribblesome.
A highlight of course was the new Pocket Cinema Camera, the baby version of their Cinema Camera (who’d have guessed?), a handheld interchangeable lens video camera with cinema-like characteristics, ideal for low budget film makers and guerilla videographers. It looks like a normal compact stills camera but the video is exquisite.
For editors, Sony were showing off Vegas Pro; no new version as such but a new build that had been made available for download just the day before (version 12, build 714, if you’re interested); Grass Valley have started pushing Edius a bit more with a decent bit of space on their stand and the recent announcement of a new website for users. Adobe of course, were making big noises about Premiere Pro “Creative Cloud” for anyone who prefers to rent their software than buy it. And if you’ve got money to burn, Avid had Media Composer 7 to shout about.
The mantra of IBC this year was “4K”. It’s no longer enough to be filming, editing and transmitting in boring old HD, it seems. Fresh from the marketing flop that was 3D TV, the manufacturers appear to have banded together to form a new bandwagon trying to push much higher resolutions upon us with 4K just the start.
Even before IBC at least one smartphone had been announced that can shoot at 4K but now the big video vendors are also bringing out lots of new products, perhaps the most notable of which are Sony’s FDR-AX1 and PXW-Z100; essentially they are Z5s for the 4K generation and will bring 4K to the masses in the same way that Sony’s original Z1 made broadcast quality DV filming widely available. If you were looking to shoot any kind of fly-on-the-wall documentary for broadcast in 4K, then these are your chaps.
Also on Sony’s stand, their peculiar but intriguing QX10 and QX100 smartphone cameras. They look like a lens which you’d strap on to your smartphone’s camera but they are in fact entirely self-contained cameras / video cameras which merely use the smartphone as a viewer and base on which to mount the camera. At the price ($250 / $500 USD respectively), it might be as cheap to buy a dedicated compact camera but the addition of the smartphone interface does then give you the upload & sharing functions so beloved of all snappers these days, it seems.
After five hours traipsing round IBC, enough was enough. Nothing stood out hugely – apart from all the 4K hype – and nothing was sufficiently tempting to warrant a purchase which at least gave my beleagured credit card some relief. So is IBC worth a visit for an Internet video producer? Probably not as such but if you’re into broadcast hardware and have an interest in the direction the industry’s going then it’s worth a look. And you get a day out in Amsterdam if nothing else!