BVE 2014: It’s been a long journey but this show has arrived

It’s been a long journey, but turns out there is a reward at arrival. The protracted merger of the old Video Expo and Broadcast Production shows, so hotly debated for so many years – involving the culture clash of those prosumer wedding-video guys and the more upmarket broadcast and Soho post crowd – is now firmly consigned to the past. As is the painful transition from Earls Court in West London to the new ExCEL venue in Docklands.

Can there be a more difficult place to get to in London? Almost every conversation at the show began with a moan about how many hours the journey took. But once you alight the Docklands Light Railway and join the thousands of other broadcast video pros marching towards their day’s business at BVE you realise the long journey to get here has been worth it.

BVE has become the UK’s key discussion venue and meeting place, rather than a ‘product launch’ show – even if there was still plenty of buzz around-the-camera at stands such as ARRI, Atomos, Blackmagic Design, Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Vitec Group etc. Some manufacturers chose not to exhibit – Digital Rapids and Harris Broadcast spring to mind – but this is not an NAB or an IBC where absence would be unfavourably commented upon.

In terms of visitor experience, BVE was well organised and well produced. The conference team can take a bow (and a well earned break!) on a superb programme, with sessions edged around the show floor so accessible to everyone – every session I walked past was jammed, with standing room only. Probably the strongest buzz was to be found at the Connected Theatre, with sessions looking at redefining content’s route to market; creating a new agile broadcasting model for the ultimate viewing experience; and the role of brands in bringing content online and on mobile.

Ultra HD is not the flavour of the month in the UK, anything but: BSkyB chief engineer Chris Johns and BBC R&D lead research engineer Richard Salmon both expressed the opinion to me at BVE that there’s too much talk and very little action at present on moving Ultra HD implementation forward. Unstoppable momentum? Nope.

Indeed, one session suggested that maybe NHK are right after all in aiming for 8k UHD-2 at Tokyo 2020 Olympics and skipping 4k UHD-1 entirely. If picture resolution alone is not enough to hit 4k out of the park – instead requiring massive upheaval across colour gamut, frame rates and bit depth – then maybe UHD-1 is just not a strong enough proposition for broadcasters and consumers alike.

The cloud for broadcast was a key undercurrent at BVE. Or perhaps one should say, fear of the cloud for broadcast is what’s fundamentally changing right now. At NAB, expect to see step-change solutions that really do, for the first time, leverage the power of IP and data centres to deliver key broadcast infrastructure toolsets.

This is going to be radical: what Miranda CTO Ian Fletcher described as “the conspiracy of complexity”, whereby each television broadcaster has traditionally demanded a hand-made bespoke solution due to the ‘unique’ complexity of the 24/7 television broadcast on-air delivery chain, is about to be exposed by clever use of standard IT hardware and software.

The move from the hardware and capex model to the holy grail of software and opex is fast approaching, and should arrive at Las Vegas. CEOs demand it, even if broadcast engineers may drag their feet; media facility functionality will be delivered through software-defined data centres, mirroring a broader trend in the IT industry. This will virtualise infrastructure, and associate cost of ownership with utilisation of facilities — all through IP and software as a service.

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