No. 5, Fall/Winter2000

Special Issue:
The Arab World

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IBC 2000: Keeping Up with New Technology

by Janet Sandle, technical coordinator,
the Adham Center for Television Journalism,
the American University in Cairo

DVD authoring and web streaming—just two of the buzzwords popping up at the International Broadcasting Convention 2000 in Amsterdam this September. I last attended IBC in 1997, and the technological changes in those three years are overwhelming.

The purpose of this trip was to keep updated on what broadcast equipment is new on the market. My particular interest is in field camera equipment and non-linear editing systems suitable for a training program.

The editing stations on the market are numerous; the most attractive system for our purposes is one using native-DV. The DV material can be transferred in its original state onto the edit system without recompression or any digital-analog-digital conversion. After attending many demos, I came back to favoring the Sony ES-3 edit station. Just prior to IBC, Sony had introduced their system in Cairo, and it had made a powerful impression on experienced editors and students alike, all of whom are familiar with non-linear editing. The Windows NT based ES-3 is a complete system with a complex breakout box, making it easy to input various other video formats. Since almost all of our library material is Betacam SP and the more recent material is DV or DVCAM, no problem is created in switching formats. The editing interface is user-friendly and there are no more long waits for complex rendering as it can be done in the background while you continue working.

The choice of cameras was easy. Having used the Sony DCR-VX1000E digital handycam for the past two years, the new Sony DVCAM DSR-PD150P just introduced into the market was the obvious choice. The semi-professional DVCAM is superior in quality to the consumer DV format plus the newer model offers more features. The XLR audio inputs are a big plus, as is the pull-out viewfinder which flips over to face the reporter shooting herself doing an on-camera close. Since we train VJs (video journalists) with the students working completely alone, there will be no more framing guesswork! On top of all this, the PD150P is very reasonably priced.

Having shot and edited your work, it doesn't stop there. IBC had many large companies exhibiting professional digital video solutions on the market for editing, authoring, and streaming your video and audio--Pinnacle Systems, Matrox, Media 100, and Avid to name a few. Authoring software allows you to take your edited sequences, add creativity and make them interactive with the ability to provide any creative facility you may require. The next step is streaming. The video is compressed into any standard streaming format ready for the Web. Web streaming allows you to watch the video and audio signal as it comes in, so you don't have to wait for a file to download before you can begin viewing it.

A popular product at IBC this year was the PVR. A PVR (personal video recorder) can let you create your own "personal TV channel." You buy the recorder and the service and with a little input on your program preferences it will learn what you like. Your favorites are recorded onto a computer hard disk so you can watch anything from a live broadcast to your special weekly episode at any time, even pausing or using instant replay without missing a frame.

The keynote address was by David Wood, the European Broadcasting Union's head of new technology, who explained the history of international transmission of picture and sound from 1950s until today. His speech had a touch of humor and was very informative. Wood said the future looks good with a fair environment for broadcasters, with the quality going up and the cost going down. There were numerous lectures and workshops, and those that one could not attend could be bought on audio cassette.

The eleven IBC exhibition halls are enormous, and to cover the ground means a lot of walking. One reprieve is that you no longer have to carry the dozens of heavy catalogues and brochures on your shoulder, as nowadays it is a CD-ROM in your bag, or a swipe of your registration card and all the information is posted to you. TBS

Copyright 2000 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the Adham Center for Television Journalism, the American University in Cairo