The IBC Accelerators is celebrating its sixth year of bringing together broadcast and media tech innovators to collaborate and explore solutions to real-world challenges. As twelve shortlisted teams get ready to pitch their projects at the Accelerator Kickstart Day on 6 March, with a view to presenting demo PoC’s to an international audience at IBC2024, IBC365 asked last year’s Participants about the doors that the programme has opened and their biggest lessons learned.
Alumni members from two projects in 2023; 5G Motion Capture for Live Performance and Animation and Gallery Agnostic Live Production, shared their insight and experience.
Technology for Human Empathy
Echoing the programme’s ethos of collaboration, judges at last year’s Kickstart Day found synergies between two of the project pitches and the workstreams were merged. Roch Nakajima, President, Noitom International, Inc, was on one of the workstreams for 5G Motion Capture for Live Performance & Animation. Their focus was the inclusion and accessibility of children’s entertainment by leveraging 5G technology, regardless of location. He explained: “(2024) is our third year participating in the IBC Accelerators. Our project this time focused on delivering ground-breaking, real-time interactive animation to children in long-term cancer treatment.”
Watch more IBC2023 Accelerators innovations
The project group’s vision is to change the isolation that children feel in hospital, offering mental and emotional support. They created digital puppetry using an actor wearing mocap and performing to the child’s instructions, making it child-directed. The team use Unreal Engine for completely real-time, 100% future facing production, allowing interaction between the actor and child. It can be one-to-one or used in a group audience and patients can connect from anywhere in the world.
At IBC2023 Nakajima commented: “This was a departure from the usually more glamorous or techie side of broadcasting, and gave a “heart” to our project, reminding all of us that some of the things we do actually can have an incredible positive impact on the lives of people,” noting the power of tech being “used for good.”
Real World Challenges: A Fast track to Success
The programme allows teams to experience challenges first hand, in a fast-tracked environment. Rafi Nizam, Co-founder, Global Entertainment Executive at Falcon & Storm was also part of the project. From a tech point of view, he explained how the team navigated hospital protocols which protect patients’ safety and care: “Our mission is to create a sustainable, accessible and inclusive way to entertain children who need it most, anytime and anywhere, with meaningful live interaction with animated characters. This requires a lot of tech and we have to ensure we don’t disrupt any of the systems on-site in hospitals.”
He added that every hospital has different processes and approval gates to protect the wellbeing of all involved, asserting the need for the technology to be flexible and “adaptable to any infrastructure and tech stack on the premises… So operationally F&S, Noitom and CKC all worked closely with the hospital teams to create the best live show that fits in with their existing programme for patient experience.”
Grace Dinan, Principle Scientist and Senior VP Broadcast Specialist at Transmixr who worked on the project, Gallery Agnostic Live Production, talked to IBC365 about investigating the potential of XR and AI technologies for the European creative and cultural sector.
The project idea was to simplify media production and “take a leaf out of the book of TikTokers and YouTubers who are using really simple ways to produce content, (where) the output for the audience is brilliant quality. You know, it’s on par with what we’re doing in the broadcast industry, but in a much cheaper, faster, and easier way.”
Dinan, who spent 16 years as Design Operations Lead at RTE, spoke of the programme: “It’s really benefited me in my career. It’s one of those things where you can very quickly prove your concepts, whether it’s going to work or not isn’t really the important thing, but it’s being able to do that sort of (process) in a fast-track way.”
Learning Through Feedback
One of the programme’s key principles is gaining insight through shared learning, as big names and innovative start-ups are all on-board. As Nizam commented: “Doing the R&D work through the IBC Accelerators programme connected Falcon & Storm with Noitom and Curing Kids Cancer. This created a space for us to collaborate regularly as we developed the initial test sessions with Texas Children’s Hospital. Those tests were invaluable in understanding what worked from an entertainment, format, character and storytelling perspective - to this specific audience.”
Dinan also shared the unforeseen advantages of being involved in the Programme: the power of honest, on-site feedback from a diverse audience at IBC2023 in Amsterdam. At the live show, Participants can analyse engagement, such as whether the project is drawing a crowd.
“We had that access to industry feedback - as (people) walked by (they were able to) ask us about our project. We were also able to able to ask them questions like what they liked about it, what didn’t work for them, would they use this technology?
“Much of that feedback was on the topic of sustainability, the benefits to using virtual monitor banks instead of having to transport equipment to a venue and set up lots of different outputs through the monitor stack for every individual role in the crew and being able to customise the user interface.”
She also spoke of the impact on the Transmixer consortium, having a number of partners and academia researchers: “The broader industry has been really beneficial… just being able to access (expertise) in a really easy, friendly collaborative way is brilliant for us and then we feel like we’ve been able to contribute. So we got a really wide range of different roles in broadcast sector, from management and operations to technical and media production crew… All the right people and in different areas and find out what the benefits are for them in particular.”
Nizam emphasised the importance of being open to feedback, to “be resilient in the face of challenges.”
After spearheading three IBC Accelerators projects, Nizam has learned that investing time and effort to refine your ideas, build relationships and emitting the right attitude is key: “Prepare to roll up your sleeves! The opportunities for incredible collaboration and accessing cohorts of amazing talent are available but you get what you put into it. It requires passion and belief in your idea… dedication and hard work. The success of your journey through the Accelerators largely depends on your commitment to actively engage in the program.”
There is gold in learning from successes as well as setbacks and taking advantage of “the mentorship and guidance provided by seasoned professionals within the Accelerator network…Their insights can prove invaluable in navigating obstacles and fine-tuning your strategies. If you’re up for embracing the learning curve that comes with the intensive nature of Accelerators, then great!”
The Path to Development
Project Lead at IBC, Muki Kulhan praised the continuous efforts of those on the programme: “We now have a cast of great alumni who have gone on to do bigger and better things and return year-on-year to continue the exploration and create new projects mixed with brand new people that come in from all over the world. To learn from the alumni but also get stuck in with a brand new fresh pair of eyes.”
Dinan, who this year is leading the project echoed the developments she has seen: “Almost everyone from our team last year is taking part, along with some new people. So it’s grown significantly. We have a very clear picture now of how to develop further.”
Nizam advised future project crew: “Embrace the challenges, seek guidance, build meaningful connections, and view the entire experience as a holistic opportunity for growth and innovation. Your ability to persevere and learn from every experience will be crucial in maximizing the benefits of your Accelerator journey.”