19/09/2014 - Blogs

IBC 2014: The Technology Cut-through into OOH

Talon's Innovations Director Richard Simkins reports on his recent trip to to the IBC 2014.

This week I travelled to Amsterdam to attend IBC 2014 - an exhibition dedicated to the creation and delivery of electronic media and entertainment technology – with Dan Dawson, Creative Technology Director of Grand Visual.  The host venue, the RAI, is enormous. Like a sprawling digital city it contained 1,500 exhibitors across 14 halls and attracted more than 55,000 visitors, which demonstrates the scale and importance of this event to the broadcasting industry.  Armed with business cards and bottomless coffee cups, we entered IBC with the aim of taking insights and ideas back to the OOH industry.

As has been the case for a few years, 4K content (4 times the resolution of HD) was high on the agenda, specifically its filming, distribution and display.  At every step you could see a camera, server or screen dedicated to this Ultra HD content.  There’s no doubt that 4K looks great, and pick of the bunch was Samsung’s 98” curved OLED.  Hardware costs are at the moment prohibitive for the average home TV viewer but it won’t be long until these come down. Amazon will start streaming Amazon Prime Instant Video content in 4K from October.  Expect to start seeing 4K screens popping up in homes next year, however as I suggested in a piece earlier this year I don’t think we will see 4K as the new standard in DOOH anytime soon; HD and LED screens are perfectly fit for purpose.

Just when I thought I’d seen enough Ultra HD content along comes NHK’s 85” 8K digital display. Sixteen times the resolution of HD the pixels are practically invisible, and the quality is out of this world. It is genuinely lifelike, so much so that the demo footage of the World Cup final made me feel dizzy as it was like watching the game while floating fifty feet above the seats.  It is planned that 8K content will be tested at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and will become the standard broadcast quality in Japan in 2020.  Quite whether 4K or 8K screens arrest the declining TV audiences is another thing entirely.

A number of manufacturers were showing off their new generation of 3D screens but none of them jumped out at me as being game-changing.  With Virtual Reality headsets, 4K, and now 8K screens just around the corner, I think in-home and OOH 3D is dead in the water.

Fraunhofer have developed an interesting way of shooting 360 degree footage using a rig of cameras and angled mirrors called the OmniCam-360.

Looking like a large reflective chess piece, the camera rig shoots reflected HD content from 10 upwards-pointing HD cameras which is stitched together in real-time. The resulting content can then be interacted with using any screen or VR headset such as Oculus Rift. The design of the rig means that the roof or the floor won’t be recorded, but Fraunhofer argue that at most events people aren’t entertained by looking at their feet or the ceiling. Trials at the World Cup final proved successful and the quality appears far higher than what you get from a cube of HD cameras, but at 16kg the rig is slightly too unwieldy for most OOH applications.

zLense from Hungary demoed some interesting technology that combined chromakey, infrared and Augmented Reality techniques to create quite unique Augmented-Virtual-Reality content.  Vitu-AR-L Reality, perhaps.  The interesting element here was the integration of infrared sensors which meant that VR effects weren’t limited to green-screen environments.  There have been a number of boundary pushing OOH campaigns that have used green-screen or AR technology (not least of all our Unbelievable Bus Shelter with Pepsi Max) but with further development zLense’s platform might hint at a future that can place OOH consumers in the heart of branded real-time content in new and exciting ways.

All exhibitors appeared excited about the increased potential to distribute content to, and integrate with, screens of any type in real time.  Breaking down the technical barriers to delivering content to mobile, social, and 2nd screen platforms were all heavily promoted, ensuring we left the ‘Dam with a few new ideas of how these platforms could be integrated into DOOH displays. The technology is certainly there for smarter clients to put ideas and creativity into practice.