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Mac Planet: Amsterdam's International Broadcasting Convention

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Photo / Mark Webster
Photo / Mark Webster

The International Broadcasting Convention takes place every year in Amsterdam. This year I happened to be in the Netherlands at the same time so I sped there in a hire car (130kph speed limits on some motorways! And thanks again to the TomTom app) and spent many hours going through it.

The International Broadcasting Convention is an annual trade show for broadcasters, content creators/providers, equipment manufacturers, professional and technical associations, and other participants in the Broadcasting industry. IBC is Europe's largest professional broadcast show, held annually at the huge RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre.

It's not an Apple conference - it's aimed at everyone in all facets of the broadcast industry, but the non-attending Californian company had a presence anyway. Some stands featured products strongly skewed towards Apple users. I've never seen so many Thunderbolt drives, since video editors like the throughput speeds. Several companies offered streaming services to computers and tablets, with Brightcove (as one example) strongly pitching Apple devices as the platforms, and many stands used Apple products even if only to show their presentations on.

One stand was even headlined "Television Studio in a Mac."

Actually, I have never seen so many stands in so many halls. Every time I thought I'd finally seen everything, another hall or an aisle showed up and I was off again.

Flagship companies were there with big stands (Adobe, Canon, Panasonic) and there were many smaller stands, some with vendors I had heard of, some with names new to me (although I'm sure not to the pros). For example, Riedel (broadcast communications networks) Christie (industrial strength projectors), Varavon (steadycam and camera platforms), Angenieux (Optimo lenses for broadcast cameras) and dozens of new and old style broadcast solutions, media providers, lighting rigs, microphones, speakers and headsets (Shure, Sennheiser, Neuman) and hardware components for everything: flashing switches, TV tuner circuits, aerials and dishes, cables, connectors ...

Apart from Apple, in that absolute European Tower of Babel of voices and languages from all over Europe and further afield, I figured there had to be few Kiwis there but I almost immediately walked past that familiar accent and sure enough it was Tony Pratt from Park Road Post Production, talking about the workflows the Miramar, Wellington-based company had developed with the Spanish provider SGO.

I singled him out afterwards. "We've been working together not only on the platform but also bleeding edge workflow." Tony looked tired - he had arrived just days before and it was really, unseasonably warm, despite the autumn fashions in the shops.

Also, sorry whoever you were, but I got to deflate another Kiwi. I walked past thre
e men in suits, two from the UK. They were saying to the third "Wow, a New Zealander! You must be the longest travelled attendee!" So of course I immediately loudly piped up with "No way, I'm a New Zealander too." Sorry, that man, I couldn't resist. Forgive me.

And there was another unexpected NZ connection: I hovered around the LaCie stand looking at their lovely hard drives and got to ask a LaCie rep what the French company thought of its acquisition by Seagate. LaCie has long been a Mac-centric hard drive brand, although its drives are PC compatible. They're well-designed and often very portable and rugged. I was told that the acquisition had gone very smoothly: Seagate now had a well-known brand to sell its hard drives through (Seagate supplies the drives that go into computers and external hard drive cases like Western Digital) and LaCie has a guaranteed supplier. They both seemed to respect each others' positions and ... let's hope this amicable relationship lasts.

LaCie drives on show included the Little Big Disk with Thunderbolt, the RuggedKey, bigger USB3 and Thunderbolt drives for editing, and NAS and rack units.

But as I turned to go, one LaCie channel marketing manager Clément Barbaris appeared and said "New Zealand! I lived in Auckland for three years. I too am a JAFA: Just Another French A___" (A word starting with A and ending with hole). But Clément clearly did himself a disservice with that.

I looked at several other Thunderbolt drives on stands - Promise was there, as Apple mentioned by when Thunderbolt first appeared on Macs last year. This is a Californian company with seven offices around the world; someone on the stand said New Zealand is managed through an agent in Australia, but that wasn't one of the countries listed.

Other brands were not familiar to me: G-Technology had 15 different drives, for example, most USB3 plus a RAID with Thunderbolt. This turned out to be a Western Digital company. Another was Atto Thunderbolt Solutions, with backup drives and even a tape drive, all Thunderbolt.

There were many other Apple-associated brands I did recognise. On the Sonnet Technologies stand, Liam Hayter from the UK showed me the latest from Sonnet: Thunderbolt Echo chassis and rackmount enclosures, eSata and other adapters and those really cool xMac mini servers, which turn the little Mac mini (or two) into a powerful, slimline server solution, plus accessories like card readers, security cabling and keyboard protectors.

Sonnett products always interest me as they are available in New Zealand via MacSense.

The Pong Classic series case from US-based Pong Research looked interesting too, a case-back in different colours that comes with a cleaning cloth and film for the display. The case part has a built-in antenna designed to augment the internal one somehow. Speedtested with the Xtreme SpeedTest app (the figures will be on macnz under Reviews) things were consistently better (at least in the spikes) with the case on, but cell phone reception in Charloisse, Rotterdam is all over the place, and the results change in parts of the room, over time of day and even seem to vary between holding the phone and putting it on the table, so hardly a consistent testbed. But for all that it's a smart case slim enough to still fit easily in your pocket and to negate the slip factor (it won't necessarily slide out of your pocket) and it did, as claimed, give me more battery life, apparently by making the antenna more efficient. It also purports to be anti-radiation, dropping the level "by up to 91% below international safety limits" (to quote the pack).

A Mac-only offering was LogiKeyboard. These looked suspiciously like Apple keyboards yet with specific keys for different applications, marked with shortcuts specific to Logic, Final Cut, Premiere Pro and many more, and there was even one with outsized letters for those struggling with their eyes. I picked up a keyboard and sure enough it said "Designed by Apple in California" on the back ... what? "Yes," said the man on the stand desperately trying to sell me one (even with a 15%-off show special they weren't cheap). "We buy them from Apple and add the customised key sets."

Yeah, right. They looked well made, but I didn't get one.

Something that did look totally legit was the iProLens system. You buy an iPhone 4 case and one of three lenses mount to the case over the built-in camera. You can buy them separately; a wide angle, a fisheye and a 2x tele, all beautifully constructed and featuring Schneider lenses, since they were by the American offshoot of the long-established German lens company, Century & Schneider. This was before the iPhone 5 launch but I heard the rep telling an American on the stand that they'd already designed one for the forthcoming 5. This company makes lenses for all sorts of cameras, like Sony, Panasonic and Canon broadcast and DSLR cameras plus caddie mounts. Everything looked very well constructed.

Anyway, that's a quick overview of the hugest conference I have ever attended: at exhibition close at 4pm, 11th September, the number of attendees (conference delegates, exhibition visitors and exhibitors) was 50,937. This compares with the previous record year 2011 which had 50,462 attendees. Phew!

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