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IBC, what a lot to see

Posted: 09.24.07

At IBC this year, we learned what is in store for TV in the coming years. What great surprises await us in TV consumer land? Check this out:

Digital cinema: It may actually happen, or … will be a great market someday. Will it be forever?

IPTV: The broadcast industry discovers the Internet—who knew?

3DTV: See it again and again and again. Another great market someday.

Mobile TV: This is really going to happen, honest—TV in your handheld will be like a camera is today, ah huh.

Maybe it’s just IBC and show-mania, this notion that we’ve got to have some rallying cry to justify the expense of coming to these things, but it seems like the IBC organizers were really dredging the bottom of the barrel this time.

Digital cinema. How long have been hearing about this, how it will revolutionize the industry, eliminate costs for movie producers and theaters, give higher quality viewing, faster title changing, protect content, yada yada yada—want to know how many digital cinema theaters there are? In April this year, The Hollywood Reporter is featuring an article that reports that the number of screens around the world capable of projecting movie images digitally (as opposed to using film) is now more than 4,000. And Tony Adamson, manager of DLP marketing at Texas Instruments, said that DLP Cinema–based projector installations have been averaging approximately 400 a month, and the company expects to see 7,000 (worldwide) by the end of the year.

However, in August of this year The Hollywood Reporter wrote that there are about 3,000 digital screens installed domestically out of a total screen count estimated at about 37,000. (Note: “About” means less than.) And, there still remain a limited number of suppliers as well as standards and compliance issues, all of which could be among the factors that could cause delays.

“Once the beta markets feel ready, installation will accelerate,” said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “We believe that will occur in 2008. It is the biggest technological transition in our industry since the advent of sound, and it is much more complicated. This rollout will take somewhere between five to 10 years.”

There’s still that little matter of an acceptable DRM mechanism and policy that the studios haven’t signed off on yet. So, in the meantime, Kodak, Technicolor, FedEx, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Teamsters (who haul stars, equipment, and props for television and movie producers), and maybe even the Hollywood plumbers and plasterers unions and Hollywood’s talent unions continue to enjoy the waste and costs of the old analog printing and distribution system, and that’s why new first-release films still have scratches in them and movie tickets cost so much.

IPTV. If getting TV and movies over the air, down a satellite link, through a cable, and via a shiny plastic disk isn’t enough for you, you will soon be able to get it via the Internet too. Now is that exciting news or what? Wazzat, your TV doesn’t have an RJ45 jack, and neither does your STB? Well, get up off the sofa and run out and buy something new to replace something that is working perfectly well already—this is the age of disposable everything, used or not. But wait, IPTV will bring you, well … ah, that is, it will, hmmmm, bring you everything you have now, plus, it will mumm, ah ... be on the Internet. You want that, don’t you? And forget that stupid digital divide thing, that’s for those other folks, not us.

3DTV. Look, dammit, I have two eyes, I can see depth, I want stereoscopic TV. You will be able to watch stereoscopic TV, which people insist on calling “3D TV” (and I guess we’ll give in to that because it's easier to type and spell) on a TV at home using either that goofy lenticular lens system (sorry, Lenny) or passive Polaroid glasses (Mommy, why are those people wearing sunglasses while watching TV?), or with active shutter glasses (Daddy, why do you have big red spots on your nose?). The new U2 3D concert movie was a huge hit at IBC this year. And, TI also showed us some reasonably good sports (a football game) and it was OK, but there was difficulty with the ball movement. And we will be getting (for a price, mind you) 120-Hz screens to support this brave new world. But listen kids, it ain’t happening this year, and probably not next, so get over it already—it’s a novelty and always will be.

Mobile TV. Jeez, what haven’t we said about this? Yeah, it’s the killer app, someday. Yeah, it has to be free, so ads will be part of it. Yeah, it’s got to be short—if I had time to watch a full-length show I’d go home and do that. And, of course, I don’t expect my phone that doesn’t work in the U.S. or Korea to be able to get TV in those countries if I’m from Europe or Japan, and vice versa, but all that’s OK, really. Why? Because users simply don’t care. The screen’s too small, and they don’t want to hold up their phone 0.5 m from their nose for more than five minutes looking at it—Mr. Selby of Nokia’s opinion notwithstanding.

I still love Holland. I don’t care if the IBC organizers, exhibitors, and promoters are silly old farts who have to come up with useless themes, I’d go to Amsterdam for any show I could possibly justify. And IBC happens to be one of the most informative, interesting shows there are. In fact, if I could only go to two shows, they would be Siggraph and IBC. gray