The big European fall shows for displays and broadcast technologies are in the books and, if you follow display technology, the stage is set for an exciting 2016.
If you are not familiar with IFA, it’s a bit like the CES of Europe- a massive, weeklong show where all the biggest brands in the world show-off their latest gadgets- except bigger and longer standing. IFA was founded in the 1920’s to exhibit the hottest radios of the day and it is held, appropriately, at the site of the earliest TV broadcasts.
The show also has a distinctly different feel from it's American counterpart and, no, it's not just the relaxed show visitors sipping glasses of beer in the grass outside the halls! While you typically will not find the big CE brands competing aggressively to announce the biggest, fastest, newest gadgets, I find that IFA is actually an awesome place to get a preview of what we'll see at CES. Trends and messages that are spotted here are almost always amplified in January.
Here are my top three takeaways from this year's show.
Top Three Takeaways
HDR Everywhere – High Dynamic Range (HDR) was a big story at CES in 2015 but it was absolutely universal here at IFA this month. Every TV brand that I visited from Samsung to companies, like less-well-known in the US but still huge Vestel, prominently featured their spin on HDR. It's clearly the next must-have feature for premium TVs so we'll see this trend continue at CES with a major push to begin educating consumers about the differences and benefits of HDR. Expect to see some pretty incredible peak brightness and color gamut specs– both key metrics for HDR performance– as brands compete for the best HDR experience.
Next-Generation Content – Consumers are already purchasing TVs loaded with next generation hardware features like wide color gamut, HDR, high frame rate and Ultra HD resolution. They're going to need a variety of content to take advantage of all that their hardware can do and at IFA we saw the first signs of a truly concerted effort to bring next generation content to the home. This was evident across just about every content distribution channel consumers use from "over the top" to broadcast to good old fashioned physical media.
European broadcasters are moving surprisingly fast in exploring how they can bring next generation content into their workflows. I joined a panel as part of the IHS Business Conference with Sky Deutschland's Stephan Heimbecher, who talked about his experience testing HDR broadcast for soccer matches where the difference between light and dark on the pitch during a sunny day game often gives camera operators nightmares. These kinds of tests represent a real milestone on the path to broadcast availability and also highlight how next generation features benefit a variety of different kinds of content beyond the obvious, big-budget Hollywood action flicks.
Not to be left out, physical media also got into the next generation content game at IFA. Samsung announced a new Ultra HD Blu-ray player that supports all of the CEA's recommendations for HDR including rec.2020 color and HDMI 2.0a. The device also came with a promise from Fox that the studio would be releasing all of it's upcoming movies in this format starting with Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Quantum Dots – Quantum Dots had a major breakout at CES and the trend only accelerated here at IFA with products from just about every major brand. The technology, which enables ultra-high brightness and purer colors with improved power efficiency, is a natural fit for next-generation TV. This was especially evident in product demos that brought the content and hardware stories together to great effect. Highlights included emerging powerhouse Hisense, whose Quantum Dot-enhanced ULED TVs confidently took the Pepsi Challenge with OLED sets, TCL, who featured a great DolbyVision content demo with their HDR Quantum Dot 8800S TVs and, of course, Samsung's SUHD paired with an UltraHD Blu-ray player showing the latest movies from FOX.
The stage is set for an exciting 2016 for TV technology... see you in Vegas this January!