ISE 2015 in review: 4K dominates as AV industry pursues new applications

Integrated Systems Europe 2015 took over the Amsterdam RAI 10-12 February, and, while the focus of the AV market remained squarely on corporate, hospitality, retail, and education, plenty could be found for the sports industry — particularly for venues. As the recent wave of new construction and renovations has clearly shown, 4K is alive and well in sports venues. Not only are teams increasingly turning to 4K cameras in stadiums for high-resolution content acquisition, they are investing in the control-room gear and videoboard technology needed to make 4K playout a reality.

And 4K was certainly plentiful in Amsterdam. One couldn’t walk 2 ft. in the convention center without seeing — and often being blinded by — a bright, new 4K display. Because the AV market doesn’t have to contend with the same distribution issues as broadcast, upgrading to 4K within a commercial, retail, or hotel environment is immediately noticeable to clients and customers. And the sheer number of displays on the market — in a range of sizes — will only drive purchase costs down and encourage technology vendors to build gear that works within a 4K infrastructure.

In many of the newer (or recently renovated) sports venues, 4K is the format of choice for content acquisition, if not necessarily for playout. Yet the 4K digital signage shown in abundance at ISE demonstrated that 4K isn’t just for the main videoboard. Although the majority of the displays were shown in meeting spaces or security–control-room environments, one could easily imagine leveraging the same technology on sports-venue concourses: to update concession menus in real time, live-stream the game, or create an interactive experience for fans. Regardless of whether the fan is at home or in the venue, they increasingly expect better picture quality on every display — even if that display is just used to show an interactive seat map or highlight a deal on hot dogs.

However, 4K wasn’t shown just on 16:9 displays. This year’s ISE featured a number of 4K projectors producing high-resolution images for flat canvases and 3D objects alike. Once again, such technology could be used in a unique and interesting way to project video in a venue concourse or the bowl, even onto the outside of the venue. Award-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle showed what projectors could do when he used Panasonic’s flagship model to create the 2012 London Olympic Opening Ceremony. In addition, multiple booths featured projectors that used laser technology rather than traditional lamps.

Traditional broadcast vendors could be found throughout the RAI, showcasing how their gear could be used within an AV environment to transmit a 4K signal. Because the AV industry inherently targets closed environments, differences between HD and 4K are more easily identifiable because factors like compression and distribution are not applicable; therefore, broadcast vendors’ 4K gear can be used within a true-4K infrastructure. Increasingly, these vendors are keeping the AV market in mind when designing gear, and they are finding that AV-centric shows like ISE need to be factored into their annual trade-show calendar.

In fact, it appears that the importance of ISE is growing for vendors and attendees alike. The show will expand to four days next year; this year’s edition attracted a record 59,350 registered attendees. ISE 2015 also set records for attendance at its personal-development and training programs. Not to be overlooked, SVG Europe’s Sport Facility Integration Summit, after a successful second year, has cemented its place at the show.

What will next year’s ISE bring? One can safely assume that 4K displays will continue to dominate the show, but vendors will need to find ways to differentiate their wares and not just try to best each other through sheer size. Interactive displays — most often demonstrated in video conferencing — could herald some interesting developments in sports production’s “at-home” trend. And 4K projection onto a car or the side of a building is certainly a trade-show crowd pleaser but raises the question of how venue operators could turn this technology into something that could enhance the fan experience.

One thing is certain: venue operators looking to differentiate the in-venue experience from the broadcast would do well to learn from their counterparts in the retail, restaurant, and hospitality markets. And AV vendors — whether new to the market or established — should specifically target the ever-expanding sports venue market.

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