08 Sep 2019

Going back to the Future Zone at IBC2019

Going back to the Future Zone at IBC2019
IBC’s Future Zone is a peek into the future of broadcasting technology 

The Future Zone has been the beating heart of IBC for many years and IBC2019 has upped the ante once again. Here we take a look at some of the key technologies that have graced the popular area, and trace their maturity through to the present day. 

From concept to reality: 8K 

Back in 2016, when the IBC New Technology Campus became the Future Zone, NHK was showing what it called Super Hi-Vision broadcasting.

The Japan-based 8K pioneer certainly didn’t debut 8K at IBC, but the 2016 stand clearly demonstrated the progression from bleeding edge tech to relatively usable, mass-market-ready reality. Back in 2016 all eyes were on the potential of 120fps 8K Olympic footage from Rio de Janeiro, as well as NHK’s self-imposed deadline for operating an 8K broadcast service in Japan, well ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

In 2017, NHK stole the Future Zone show (a bumper year to celebrate IBC’s 50th anniversary) with a gigantic but wonderfully thin 8K panel. Measuring an astonishingly slim 2mm and an eye-busting 130 inches wide, the display was made up of four 65-inch screens, and harnessed to a 22.2 multichannel sound system consisting of 24 separate speakers.

Post-IBC2018, the NHK Super Hi-Vision 8K service went live in Japan in December. The only question that remains is how the company will top that at IBC2019? 

Will the demonstration of the world’s first 8K satellite broadcasting system and a next-gen 8K terrestrial broadcasting system with Versatile Video Coding (VVC) technology outshine glasses-free 3DTV and an AR demo? Find out at the IBC Future Zone 2019.

HDR comes of age

High Dynamic Range (HDR) has been a stalwart of the Future Zone, with a vast range of companies demonstrating solutions over the years. Back in 2016, for example, French lab IRT b-com showed a prototype for performing automatic SDR to HDR conversions in real time. 

It was a concept that carried forward to the IBC2017 show, where the firm cemented it with real-time SDR-HDR conversion and video compression over 5G. Finally IBC2018 saw end-to-end OTT HDR systems and academic research into high contrast HDR techniques take a starring role on the UHD Forum stand.

Listening to Dolby Atmos, one of the technologies on show in the Future Zone.

At this year’s IBC, b-com’s 5G Media Delivery solution demo and HDR-SDR converter has been further augmented by the addition of AI, which allows frame rates to be dynamically altered with no loss of image quality.

Bending reality: VR and AR

It would be surprising if VR and AR hadn't played a significant role in the IBC Future Zone over the years. 

From the practical highlights of 2016, such as Motion Impossible’s remote stabilisation solution for 360-degree & VR cameras on the ground, through to the more esoteric IBC2017 Future Zone Smart AV tunnel, there’s been plenty of envelope-pushing concepts and technology on display. 

Speaking of the Smart AV tunnel, it dominated the 2017 Future Zone. If you didn't see it, the installation was a full-size tunnel for delegates to walk through, entirely lined with LED displays - a ‘bird’s eye’ view of a city was particularly vertigo-inducing.

Meanwhile, the VR-heavy “Virtual Arctic Expedition” from b-com demonstrated the pairing of both immersive VR content and a full six degrees-of-freedom experience.

Also in 2017’s Future Zone, Igloovision provided a different spin on VR, with arresting igloo-shaped temporary structures used to display 360-degree video to large audiences - a concept that found traction with motoring industry clients. 

Fast forward to IBC2019, and the VR and AR space is very much in evidence, but clearly maturing fast. For example, the VRTogether Booth will be body-capturing and inserting visitors into a real-time virtual environment, while FLAME will be exploring AR/VR assisted games and storytelling technologies and techniques.

Animorph’s “Holopedia” will be showing real-time AR environment exploration that brings together eye-tracking and real-time object recognition. In addition, Ravensbourne University London is exhibiting cutting-edge projects bringing together digital animations and 3D-AR holograms, and also an AR learning platform.

There’s some big-name VR and AR action too, with both AMD’s Radeon ReLive for VR on show and Nokia’s volumetric/360-degree video coding for AR and VR environments. 

For more of the very latest ideas, innovations and concept technologies, visit the Future Zone at IBC2019.

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