IBC 2019 – New cameras and a sunny disposition

For the first time in a good few years, I’ve left this year’s IBC networkathon with a really positive mindset. 

Everything just seemed to work this year. The sun shone, which always helps, and made the decision to remove the tent from the Beach a good one. In previous years, the tent cover created an actual echo chamber, so the ability to hear and be heard this year was very welcome. I came home still able to speak, which was a novelty!

More importantly, there was good new kit and technology to talk about this year. My passion has always been for acquisition…cameras, lenses, and everything else that goes around them, and the PR jungle drums from the key manufacturers had already whetted my interest.

Sony announced their FS7 big brother, the PXW-FX9 , which has some pretty awesome features, having adopted colour science technology from many of their established cameras including the hugely impressive Venice. Large pre-orders have been placed by the main dealers and it’s sure to be a widely adopted.

The Sony announcement followed fast on the heels of the new Canon C500 Mk2 , which is arguably an ever better specced camera. I really like how the operator can change the mount with four easily accessible screws to a choice of either EF or PL mount. This seems a better solution than the Sony FX9 which comes as standard with an E-Mount with third party adaptors available for the other lens mounts. Just don’t swap the mounts over at the Beach Bar…sand and sensors are best kept well away from each other.

I do have a bit of an issue with Canon…not the kit, but the camera model numbers. They’ve always baffled me. In 2012, Canon launched their hugely successful C300 HD camera, firmly establishing Canon in the single-sensor TV sector, and It must have surpassed even their expectations. Fast forward 3 years and they announced a new 4K camera, with a different recording media and a different battery and decided to call it a C300 MK2. It bore little resemblance so why give it the same name?

Similarly, with the new C500 MK2, I’d question why they’d name their brand new camera after an original that nobody bought. 

The FX9 and C500 MK2 are broadly similar in spec, in form factor, and are aimed at a pretty similar market sector. My guess is that Sony has the upper hand as they already have a loyal FS7 following that they would hope to migrate up to the new model. And with the Canon being around €4,000 more expensive, it’s tough to see the Canon making a significant dent in this sector. I’ve been wrong before, but I think it will take a significant price shift to make any difference. Both cameras are expected to start shipping at the end of the year. 

At IBC 2018, JVC announced the imminent launch of their new single sensor, 4K GY-HC500 camcorder. Fast forward a year and apparently it’s still imminent, but I’m reliably informed that it really is this time. It’s very well specced, and I do like its connectivity options with live streaming of up to 20Mbs. For budget-minded operators, you do seem to get a lot of camera for not a lot of money.

For those with significantly larger budgets, the Arri Alexa LF , and its little brother Alexa LF Mini seemed popular. and the Signature Prime lenses are truly a thing of beauty, with a reassuringly expensive price tag that would make even a Belgian beer-seller blush. Arri also dedicated a lot of stand space to the Amira camera in studio mode, with fibre backs, trying to diversify into the studio and OB sector traditionally controlled by Sony and Grass Valley. 

A couple of new lights were of interest…staying with Arri, their new Orbiter LED remote controllable unit seemed very clever. But the smartest lights I saw were the Astera tubes. In-built battery with 20 hr life, wireless control of colour temperature, and waterproof build made this a really smart buy. Imagine a light sabre, just with variable length and any colour you like. Adamantean have already funded a lot of these for hire companies across the UK.

One thing that did strike me walking the halls was the growing number of lens manufacturers. There were two that I’d never heard of, and more that I vaguely knew of, but were claiming to have made cine-style lenses fit for the latest 4K+ large sensor cameras. I’ve been lucky enough to have a tour of the Cooke factory in Leicester, and seen the extraordinary precision with which each element of a lens is made to, and how long that takes. And there can be 15 elements in one of the zoom lenses, each milled to a gnat’s whisker (technical term) to produce the “Cooke look” that film-makers and film viewers the world over love so much. But these new lenses are built to a price, so it will be interesting to see how the established players like Cooke, Angenieux, Leica, Zeiss, Sigma and the like will react. My guess is that they won’t, they’ll just keep making premium glass, which may be the best plan. 

Grass Valley revealed its new Kula all-in-one Video and audio production switcher which looked impressive. Aimed at mid-size productions with 40 video inputs, 80 audio inputs and a myriad different options make it a really flexible unit. 

Panasonic continue to develop market leading Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) cameras and the AW-UE150 4K unit is already out shooting amazing pictures. If your guilty pleasure is banal reality TV shows, then there is a fair chance you’re looking at a Panasonic image.

Without doubt my favourite stat of the exhibition came from Vionlabs. Around 30% of the average on-demand viewer’s time is spent scrolling through trying to actually find something to watch!! 30%!! That’s amazing. That’s not good for anyone, especially the service provider who want you to be watching, and hopefully buying, more content rather than debating what to watch. Vionlabs has developed some Big Brotheresque AI that can assess your viewing habits and make smarter recommendations for your next watch. **Spoiler alert** Let’s say you’ve just enjoyed The Martian, with Matt Damon surviving alone in isolation, miles from home, before a triumphant return to his loved ones. Your average on-demand provider would recommend 2001 Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Guardians Of The Galaxy, based on generic meta-data..space, spaceman, rocket etc etc. Vionlabs’ metrics offered me Castaway, about Tom Hanks surviving alone in isolation, miles from home, before a triumphant return to his loved ones. Now that’s clever. Vionlabs customers have seen an uplift in film sales and a significant uplift in watchlist baskets. 

Still in Hall 14, the Google stand had a clever collaboration with Blackbird and MOOV showing cloud-based graphics solutions, and they are already boasting a decent Tier 1 client list. 

Did anyone see the Spiritland truck on the Megahertz stand? And if you saw it, I hope you went inside and heard it. The business is an amazing story, and the truck a stunning fit-out, and the SSL System T audio desk inside sounds incredible. That was a real highlight for me. 

The technological advancements in virtual studios is also extraordinary. The NCAMBrainstormRoss Video and Stype stands were amazing, and must have TV hardware set-builders terrified for their futures. And to move the cameras around on remote pedestals, the Electric Friends solution was really eye-catching. 

Of over 1700 exhibitors, I’ve mentioned maybe 12? What did I miss?

Brexit was of course still an interesting point of discussion, with the large manufacturers claiming to be ready, just as they were ready earlier in the year. There are Brexit task-forces in these manufacturers planning for all eventualities, but details are obviously vague as the detail of any issues and timescales are so variable. Noel Edmonds’ Deal Or No Deal has never been a more Googled TV show. 

We did hear of a large UK rental company losing a contract which spanned the 31st October deadline as the tour was starting in Germany and coming into the UK, and continuity of kit supply could not be guaranteed. The fear was it would be stuck on the M2 car park. It’s concerning, but the more positive news of Disney and Netflix putting long term investment into UK studios is a huge boost for long term UK production business. 

Overall, IBC did feel a little quieter with fewer UK end-user customers this year. The resellers were out in force though, and I know of two that each had over 20 staff members attending, such is the global draw of IBC, and the global reach of these businesses. Over my time in the industry, there has been a significant shift by the manufacturers to reduce direct sales, and sell through the reseller channel to reduce their own headcount and overheads. This has allowed the resellers to grow into major global businesses, and given them huge power and influence on the market. When was the last time you bought direct from a manufacturer? On the whole though, I’d say that the buyer experience has improved, with so much choice and expertise within the dealer channel making it a competitive but vibrant market. Long may that continue. 

There seems to be a little confusion over where IBC’s long term future lies. I think the rumour mill has conflated IBC and ISE, the AV tech show. The latter has jumped ship to Barcelona, while IBC has committed the next three years to Amsterdam. I’m pretty disappointed about this as it’s getting financially prohibitive to attend Amsterdam at IBC time. The organisers seem unwilling / unable to prevent the city charging the most ridiculous prices for everything from cabs (tales of cabbies openly saying that they can charge what they like in IBC week) to £5 bottles of water and coke in the RAI. We paid in excess of €300 a night for a hotel room that was “nice” at best, but if I was to work out how much that was per hour of occupancy, it would seem ridiculously expensive. Shouldn’t the organisers try and exert some pressure on the City, and the RAI, to limit this profiteering? Anyone who’s been to Amsterdam in any of the other 51 weeks of the year will know this only too well. 

One obvious move it could make is to reduce the show by a day. How many of you were there on the last day who were not exhibiting? Not many I’m guessing. Any for those of you who were exhibiting, was it worth it? And by “it” I mean the extra €300 room bill, the extra €75 meal, and the extra toll on your liver. 

Please add your thoughts and comments. Most people reading this will be veterans of many years of IBC, NAB and MPS so your thoughts on what you saw and what you think are always welcomed. 

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