If you want to keep up with the latest technical advances in TV and radio there’s no better place to go than the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam each September. IBC is huge event with its own daily news programme, which since 2004 has been produced and presented by two key members of the Rough House team – Graeme Bowd produces and Rob Curling presents. Graeme gives us the inside track into some of the latest developments at IBC this year.
The camera ‘copter
IBC is an Aladdin’s cave of broadcast kit. Some of it is very technical and barely understood by programme-makers — things like routers and signal testers. But there’s plenty of stuff a producer would love to use if only the budget would allow it. I especially liked the radio-controlled camera ‘copter. The camera has a gyro-stabilised mounting and if you ever needed a smooth tracking shot under a canal bridge or through a multi-storey car park, this would be the way to do it. Not surprisingly, you can only hire it with a specialist operator and I’ll leave it to him to fill in the risk assessment!
Two of my favourite innovations at IBC were much more down to earth. There was something called the Minicaster from Germany. It’s a box the size of a cigarette packet which clips on to a camcorder and streams video via any wifi network. It’s all you need to produce a live webcast and even with a 2 mbps connection the pictures are good.
A really fast connection achieves close to broadcast quality, so a reporter could do a live Q and A without a sat truck and without the jerky, compressed images associated with low bandwidth. At only £1,500 the Minicaster will have many applications. Video conferencing is an obvious one and you could send live coverage of your wedding to friends on the other side of the world.
The must-have app
I also liked an app which turns your iphone into an Autocue. Reporters on the road seldom have the luxury of a prompt because the equipment is bulky and needs an operator. With this you just Velcro the iphone to a bracket above the camera lens. Then you roll the script with a wireless toggle.
Memorising a complicated piece to camera can be tough, especially if you’ll be doing it live. Reporters live in fear of drying up. This device could help. But I must admit to feeling a little sad when traditional skills are overtaken by technology. When I was a TV reporter, delivering a live court report under pressure was something I found immensely satisfying. Now all you need is an iphone and a £2 app.
Bye bye VT
Sometimes the best indicator of current trends is to be found in what’s missing from IBC and this year you’d have been hard-pressed to find a video camera that records to tape. Most broadcasters are working towards a tapeless workflow, although producers can be reluctant to give up what they know. Videotape hardly ever gives problems and the few formats are universal. By contrast, files can get corrupted and codec issues can make it a hassle to transfer material between different systems. These niggles are gradually being overcome and it’s clear that VT will go the way of film within the next few years.
The cathode ray tube is out in the cold
Likewise the cathode ray tube. Without it we would have had no television before this century and even five years ago CRT monitors were still the professionals’ choice as only they could deliver the really top quality images required for post production. This year for the first time not one single CRT monitor was on display at IBC — flat screen LCDs have completely taken over. It’s a small milestone in the history of broadcasting, but I wonder how many people have even noticed.Graeme