The dust is settling on another BVE; my first day back in the finance game after 3 great years managing the WTS sales operation. So trying to gain some perspective on the value of the show is interesting. Attendee numbers were apparently similar to last year, and although I’m always fairly sceptical of the official numbers at trade shows generally, that seems plausible.
Talk of two new shows may have given some cause for concern from exhibitors who pay huge amounts of money for what is probably the most expensive real estate in London. This proved a year too far for some regulars, with both CVP and Sony opting to spend their marketing budget elsewhere. The smaller of the two new proposed shows looks to have already stalled, but the Islington-based Event Production Show is on course. I’m open minded about another show, although quite what they have to offer that BVE, with its seminars, talks as well as the huge exhibition hall doesn’t, remains to be seen. And who will attend the Islington show that wouldn’t go to BVE? Let’s see.
There were some interesting kit developments, with more new announcements than I remember in previous years at BVE, with for example a brand new Sony 4K camera launch. The principal manufacturers would usually wait until either IBC or NAB to launch their latest must-buy product.
Both Canon and Fujinon are pushing forward with 4K+ lens development.
Fujinon launched its new 4K PL mount Cabrio, and with its 20-120 zoom range at a price under £10,000 to the customer, it’s a significant reduction on what is currently a popular lens sector. Back orders are already building ahead of a summer delivery schedule. Canon will have to react as their market-leading CN7 currently has a similar spec at a higher price.
Canon do have the rather amazing CN20 50-1000 PL mount lens which, for the discerning wildlife photographer not keen to get too close to sharp teeth and claws, will tick a lot of long-distance boxes. The Canon C300 Mk2 is also poised to make up some ground on the almost-ubiquitous Sony FS7. It’s a little pricier than the FS7 as I write this, but does have a 0% 2 year finance package available which can be looked on as a 10% discount if you’re going to finance your purchase. The C300 Mk2 was launched towards the end of last year’s shooting season after most of the format decisions were made. I think this year will be a better year for the Mk2, following on from the success of the Mk1 which has just topped the Televisual “most hired camera of 2015” poll for the 4th time, but they will need to pedal hard to overhaul the FS7.
The demand curve for the FS7 is really interesting. It was pretty strong for the majority of 2015, but dropped off when Sony announced the significantly cheaper FS5 that was to have a similar feature set. However, now the FS5 has arrived and has had mixed, and largely unfair press reports, the demand for FS7’s has spiked again. Sony launched yet another 4K camcorder at BVE, the PXW-Z150. A much reduced feature set from the FS7 and a price tag under £3K shoe-horns it in to a very crowded market around that price.
Panasonic seem very confident that the new Varicam LT will hit the spot with drama creatives.
It has most of the feature set of the large Varicam, but at half the price and half the size it could do well. However, it is right up against the similarly-sized Alexa Mini, and Panasonic are likely to find that competing against yet another 4 lettered competitor as difficult as they have in the traditional mainstream TV world with Sony. The Televisual rental report highlighted the planned purchases of lots of hire companies this coming year and Arri looks to be top of most shopping lists.
Studio cameras were interesting this year. As well as the market leading 4K Sony HDC-4300 and the almost 4K Grass Valley LDX Universe, Panasonic has taken an alternative approach and released a true 4K, single sensor camera with a 2/3” mount, using an additional internal prism to ensure that all the light hits the sensor. It also only has one base unit, as opposed to Sony’s two currently. And it’s significantly cheaper than the Sony or GV options. However, in the far from ideal trade show environment, I couldn’t tell how the single sensor performed as there are sure to be shallow depth of field issues, which has been the main driver for developing multi sensor 4K cameras in the first place. The studio camera market seems to be the most difficult to break in to though, perhaps because the unit cost of each camera channel is so high, making the decision to go with a new model a brave one, and mistakes even more costly.
JVC had their fibre-based GY-HM890 HD camcorder solution and I still like this solution for budget studios where there may be a requirement for flexibility. The 890 is a high quality 3 CCD camcorder which morphs into a HD studio camera by slotting it into the sled. Clever.
Sports production is going to be big this year. It’s an even year which helps, but with the Euros football final in Paris and the mens’ Wimbledon final on the same day in mid July, and some kit already carnet’d and Rio bound, the demand on European OB kit in the summer will be at its highest since 2012.
The breaking story over the show was directly relevant to sports production with ES Broadcast buying the assets of Gearbox to build its rental division. That was a big move, but if ever there was a time to make that move, it was now. It must have come as quite a shock to another area of Watford as it was initially incorrectly reported in the trade press that ES had bought Gearhouse. Now that would have been an ambitious move!!
The team at Ross Video seemed to have replicated themselves as they appeared to be everywhere, as do their products currently. The new virtual studio software looked more realistic than I’d seen before with the ability to pan around a presenter who herself was keyed into a virtual studio very clever. They also seem to be winning a lot of the big newsroom infrastructure projects, so I’m sure there will be big announcements coming. It’s also interesting that in an era which has seen the main manufacturers reducing headcount to cut costs, Ross has taken an alternative approach and employed experienced people, educated them on their product range, and given them a tool kit of quality products to engage with customers about. It seems a little simplistic to put it in these terms, but in an industry very keen to over-complicate the “customer experience”, their strategy seems eminently sensible.
Editshare were keen to promote the 24Tb for under £10K message, and this seems like a bit of a breakthrough price. 24Tb is already a considerable size storage, and the Editshare architecture ensures unlimited scalability.
The TVU One video over mobile phone network solution was on show, and this is clever technology at a low price point.
The transmitters are now smaller than a shoe box and can have 6 internal dongles from all/any mobile phone providers. The transmitter breaks the video signal down into packets of data which it then sends over which ever of the mobile networks that, at that split second, is the strongest, to a receiver which can be anywhere in the world. The receivers then rebuild the video stream, and the broadcaster is transmitting HD video and audio with a delay of around a second. Now that is clever. I’ll declare a lack of impartiality as we are offering a 0% deal around this product, but even if I wasn’t, I’d be impressed.
The HDR technology display on the WTS stand was also impressive, and marks a defining moment for me. The past few years has been a mathematician’s dream as the manufacturers race to show the maximum number of pixels. With HDR, the driver now is about better pixels, not just more. What’s key for me is that HDR is engaging and noticeable to everyone, regardless of screen size. The benefits of 4K over HD require a TV larger than most have in their living rooms, and to be viewing at a short distance. The difference between SDR and HDR is noticeable even on a phone or tablet, and with OTT broadcasting becoming much more than a niche sideline now, this is a big technology shift. Of course to have both 4K and HDR is truly amazing, but is the stuff of nightmares for hardware manufacturers trying to shift this much data around and then store it. Maybe Editshare’s 24TB of storage doesn’t seem quite so big now!!
Finally, one exhibitor stood out with a product that grabbed everyone’s attention. Kino-Mo’s 3D holograms were amazing. Of no practical use in the Broadcast environment as far as I could tell, but I really want some for our BVE stand next year. The Ghostbusters one was very cool. Nice job guys.
Thank you to all of you who stopped by to wish me luck at Azule. I consider myself very lucky to have so many friends in this industry who have given me so much love and support over the past couple of years. If you know what I’m talking about then you’re who I’m talking to. Thank you.
And so onwards towards NAB. Wishing you every success for the year ahead.
By Duncan Payne