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May 15, 2023

Mini-NAB/IBC Comes to London

Last week saw the Media Production and Technology Show at London’s Olympia Exhibition Centre. Think of the event as a smaller version of the content capture and post-production areas of NAB or IBC, but without the broadcast infrastructure technologies. We got around to speak to mainly camera makers and display suppliers.

The event was busy and, exhibitors told us, busier than last year and with nobody (that we saw) wearing masks. There were several areas for talks, presentations and short courses and these were very busy, especially those related to virtual production, which was a hot topic at the event.

Monitor With 8K Input

Unfortunately, a lot of the new products from NAB that we had hoped to see, such as the new Sony 4,000 cd/m2 HX3110 mastering monitor and the Red 12K camera with the new optical low pass filter were not on show. The booths at the show were quite small and most vendors seemed to have demos of their best selling current products rather than new models or the high end units that often feature the best technology. Because of this focus on the main volume products, there were fewer 8K production products than we had hoped to see.

Broadcast monitor maker, Swit, was showing a new 32″ UltraHD monitor that accepted 8K input, via four 12G SDI ports, but this was just for production monitoring and the image is scaled down to UltraHD for viewing. The unit features a miniLED backlight and produces 1,500 cd/m2 of output and the monitor includes an autocalibration feature. Over the last year or so, this function has become more popular and Flanders Scientific, another reference monitor maker, was also highlighting its version. The big advantage of this feature is the elimination of the use of an external PC to calibrate. Swit also told us that the higher temperature typically seen in backlights for HDR means that color drift can be more of a problem than it was in the past, so it is more important to have it built-in. The Swit monitor uses a backlight that was designed and built by the company in-house, rather than using an ‘off-the-shelf’ module.

Other monitor makers at the event were Canon, Eizo, Sony and JVC, but all were showing their mainstream and existing products. Flanders was highlighting its OLED monitors which have been getting good sales, we heard, because of the better contrast and colour. There were versions with matte and more glossy surfaces for use in different environments.

Red was at the show with its 12K camera, but not with the new version launched at NAB that includes an Optical Low Pass Filter that can be used to mitigate issues of moirĂ© which can become apparent with almost any combination of sensor and LED wall, depending on the viewing distance. There have been several rumours of a new 8K camera in the Lumix range from Panasonic, but we heard that these are still ‘only rumours’.

Virtual production is a hot topic at the moment and there were a number of vendors present including ROE, Absen, Aoto and InfiLED. These are all among the better brands of LED as the technical requirements of virtual production are quite demanding. (in particular accurate low intensity gray levels are a challenge – but not an issue on outdoor advertising LEDs – editor). Aoto was highlighting a new pixel layout using SMD RGB LEDs that ensures that the color performance is more consistent at different viewing angles compared to traditional designs. It calls the new technology 4View Color. Aoto told us that it has recently installed a large LED volume in Turkey for virtual production.

There were various video walls with pitches of 1.5mm up to around 2.6 mm from the different makers and all of them were highlighting that they have moved from simply supplying the LED panels to supply systems as there are so many aspects of system design for virtual production to work well.

ROE, which is one of the global leaders in this application, said that the global market was beginning to stabilize now, compared to the boost in demand during and after Covid and we heard the same kind of report from other vendors. ROE, topically, said that it had supplied an LED ‘halo’ for the UK coronation.

The commissioning ‘frenzy’ of a couple of years ago has slowed and so production companies are being more conservative in their purchasing. In LED, now that the idea of virtual production is well established in the technology leading countries such as the US and the UK, the concept is still gaining momentum in other regions.

Broadcast Challenges for Higher Resolutions

We had an interesting conversation with one exhibitor on the topic of broadcasting vs streaming and the challenges for broadcasters of higher resolutions. He pointed out that in the UK, a number of channels that had previously provided free-to-air (FTA) content in both standard and high definition have now dropped their HD versions to leave just SD. Channels that have dropped their HD versions from the Freeview platform include BBC News HD, Quest HD, Beauty HD and QVC HD. The decisions were made as some spectrum was re-allocated for 5G. The channels are still available in HD on FreeSat, Sky and Virgin.

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