In the ever-dynamic world of digital communication, consumers have most certainly become masters of their own domains. Those with the wherewithal to purchase smart phones, tablets and computers or subscribe to various schemes that provide Video on Demand can truly view their favourite shows when it suits them. With the explosion of the “second screen” concept, individuals can simultaneously interact with news anchors, celebrities or athletes in real time as first screens produce larger-than-life images on huge walls of plasma.
Budget conscious governments (and those seeking votes) are also jumping on the broadband wagon largely through social media outlets, advertisements across all platforms and relentless robocalls. To get those messages out almost faster than they are issued, officials and campaigners increasingly look to satellites finding their targets (Direct To Home technologies) or hard-wired cable flooding living rooms everywhere.
As hand-held devices increasingly capture and display the unique tastes, interests and idiosyncrasies of their owners, the content and communications world sensed then seized an unbeatable opportunity to grow their revenues: In exchange for releasing some bits and pieces of personal data for free or relatively cheap content, end users can create their personal “channel” while the providers cash in with concrete evidence to advertisers that their marketing materials are reaching the hearts, minds and eyeballs of potential customers who have willingly demonstrated their “fit” with the products. Just as viewers can customize their content, so too can the industry readily funnel pitches that have a far greater likelihood of succeeding than the more usual scattershot approach.
To find out just “What’s new and what’s next,” JWR went to New York City for the 2012 edition of Content and Communications World conference (the two-day program at the Javits Convention Center also had streams for HD World, 3D World, SATCON—commercial and military satellite enterprise, Production + Post Expo and related trade shows.
Just prior to the official program, SES (“your satellite company”) invited the press to get an update about its current status and plans for the future. “SES in the Americas” was delivered by Elias Zaccack, Senior Vice President, Commercial Americas.Currently, 52 SES satellites provide coverage for 99% of the world’s population delivering 5200 TV channels, 1400 HD channels to 258 million homes (yet virtually none of that in Canada; with such an impressive reach and state-of-the-art technology, SES seems an ideal partner for Canada’s quest to achieve its own “moonshot” ambition that “anyone can do anything online by 2017”—cross-reference below).
The evolution of HD to 4K HDTV that is being prepared for now by SES perfectly set the table for the opening plenary session at CCW, which asked its distinguished panel (Hugo Gaggioni, Sony Electronics Inc.; David Leitner, filmmaker; Jerry Steinberg, Fox Sports; Laurence J. Thorpe, Canon U.S.A. Inc.) to provide a reply to the question: “When will it be a 4K world?” As far as Sony and Canon are concerned that world is now. Particularly their latest line of cameras is more than 4K ready. But—like the initial push for HD and 3D whose obituaries were penned prematurely by many (“No, we just need to get rid of the glasses,” offered one commentator), the huge increase in file size, bandwidth along with rethinking workflows seem to indicate that it will likely be five years before HD goes ultra. Of course, if millions of Facebook followers start to “like” the exclusive, industry sponsored 4K channel (just making this up!) then the timeline will shrink accordingly. Chalk up another one for the “tail wagging the dog.”
But speaking of size, Day 1’s first technical panel (“Next Generation Video Encoding and Processing for Multiscreen Distribution”) offered a literal “bit” of hope with the coming high-efficiency video encoding standard, H.265, where file sizes are expected to be reduced in the order of 50%. The plethora of platforms, formats and delivery methodologies was also bemoaned. MPEG-DASH has at least the promise of becoming a one-format-suits-all solution, but only if Apple agrees. Hmm. In the meantime, all manner of fixes and solutions are required to get the same content showing up on every conceivable device and looking more or less the same. And a conclusive “Yes” was offered to the question from the floor as to the interpretation of the latest FCC regulations for closed captioning: “It does apply to streaming on the Internet and any wireless device: Caption everything!”
With just those three sessions, CCW has already proved its worth. On to the next! JWR