The organisers of the ISE show in Barcelona this week couldn’t have wished for a more successful event, writes Adrian Pennington.

Attendance on the first day (24000) was reportedly a record for any event at the Fira centre which also hosts Mobile World Congress. The final total of 58,107 attendees, up from the 43K who made it in 2022, feels like it will continue to trend upward and soon surpass the 2019 peak of 81000.


ISE2023: A final total of 58,107 attendees in Barcelona

“The AV business is back from the road to recovery,” said ISE Managing Director, Mike Blackman. “We see it on the showfloor with a huge amount of product launches. We see it in the size of stands. We see it in the number of people and we hear it in their conversations.”

Aside from putting on a well-run show, the reason lies in the breadth of industries that digitised media now covers.

“ISE is as relevant to my colleagues running the America’s Cup - in hospitality, the visitor experience, the big screens - as it is for me looking at broadcast communications equipment,” said Stephen Nuttall, the Head of TV for the America’s Cup in a keynote. “You might get my TV team going to some of the other conferences but the whole of our team would come to ISE.”

Whether the market is B2C or B2B, brands are becoming professional broadcasters in their own right.

Marcus Brodersen CEO of graphics software company Pixotope told ISE’s Content Production & Distribution Summit that the pace of convergence is accelerating hard: “What excites us the most is that we see many industries leveraging techniques from professional media production. They all need to easily and rapidly create high bandwidth visual communications.”

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Brodersen also pointed out that the technology historically flowed from the high end then trickle down to commodity use. “But the high-end workflows for film and TV have not changed that much,” he said. “We increasingly find that is the so-called lower group of commodity corporate AV that is driving a lot of innovation which then trends upwards.”

ISE2023 Show: The convergence of video

In a sign of just how converged the broadcast, film and AV technology fields have become, Spanish media colossus Mediapro Group picked the occasion to unveil a substantial Euro 3 million investment in virtual production. The Group is set to open four new studios in Barcelona, Madrid, New York and Miami by 2026, each combining LED walls with chroma screen equipment. 


Speaking at ISE’s inaugural Content Production and Distribution Summit, Programme chair Ciaran Doran said, “Whether you’re a mainstream broadcaster, a newbie influencer or a brand looking to become a broadcaster this is one of the most important times in our industry. The Venn diagram of how AV has overlapped with broadcast is bigger than ever and much more intense.”

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ISE2023 Show: Realtime revolution

The future of live events is immersive, interactive and here now, according to experts convened by show co-owner AVIXA.


ISE 2023 Show

“We are experiencing a realtime revolution,” said Will Case, Director of Innovation at NEP Group company Creative Technology. “The ability to change content and have content react in realtime is what gives us amazing experiences.”

Stacia Pfeiffer, VP producer, Lux Machina identified the rise of branching narratives such as Netflix heist drama Kaleidoscope or experienced at a museum or live event. “The audience becomes a player in the story,” she said. “As creators we can start to consider our audience more of a character and sometimes a protagonist.”

Sarah Cox, Founder, Neutral Human cited ABBA Voyage as a prime example of what to expect from events in future. “We can’t all create ABBA Voyage but as more venues open that contain all the infrastructure necessary to digitise the audience experience, they can start to offer [those tools] for artists to create blended experiences in a more cost-effective way.”


ISE 2023 Show

There was also advice to those embarking on immersive adventures. “If you’re looking to start up a creative studio your second hire should be a coder,” said Cox. “Creativity and technology innovation happen at the same time now. Iterative prototyping is what pushes innovation forward.”

Case highlighted the arrival of immersive audio as the missing ingredient for immersive experiences. “Audio always played second fiddle to the big screen but to create true immersivity everything has to work together. Spatial audio connects you with the experience. Now it’s all about what you can do with it.”

The video games industry may be where Epic Games’ business originated three decades ago but its presence at the show is a sign of huge potential for licensing Unreal Engine and software like MetaHuman Creator to the AV community.

“From architects to CAD design to retail installations our software is already being used extensively outside of games,” said Epic’s Business Director for Broadcast and Live Events, BK Johannessen in the opening ISE keynote. “NASA use Unreal in their training sims. There are many vendors who would like to integrate a realtime engine into their product to build industry specific use cases.”

ISE2023 Show: Jean-Michel Jarre

French electronic music wizard Jean-Michel Jarre was at ISE in the company of speaker manufacturer Coda talking about how immersive audio technology can finalise realise his aural vision.

“I have always been interested in the relationship between sound and space,” he said. “When I started with Oxygene [in 1976], I was trying to expand the space with my music.”

But there was a problem, he said. “When you compose for a symphony orchestra you visualise the orchestra in front of you. In a recording studio you have to deal with speakers in front of you. In a concert you have a PA system in front of you. Artists have long had a two-dimensional relationship with music.

“The problem is that stereo doesn’t exist in nature,” Jarre continued. “When a bird sings, it sings in mono. It is the environment around us and our ears which create perspective in sound. But with today’s technology, musicians can at last create music as we experience sounds in day-to-day life.

It is like being inside the music.”

For Jarre, technology and art go hand in glove. “Without the violin there is no Stravinsky,” he said. “Without the camera there is no Almodovar, no Jean Luc Godard, no Tarantino.”

He said that he composed [2022 album release] ‘Oxymore’ in 360-degrees and treated an audience to a mix of tracks played back over Coda’s new SPACE Panels.

ISE2023 Show: Barcelona seeks to become creative home

With the city confirmed as the home of ISE until at least 2025, Barcelona is using the show as part of a wider strategy to brand itself as Europe’s creative hub.


ISE 2023 Show

The 37th edition of the prestigious yacht race the America’s Cup, for example, will be hosted by the city from Autumn 2024. The Disseny Hub, the city’s institute for culture, will soon host its first experiential exhibition of digital art.

“What ISE represents is what Barcelona wants and needs,” deputy mayor Laia Bonet told the ISE Daily “A re-industrialisation of the city that fosters quality jobs and initiatives at the intersection of culture, digital innovation and sustainability.”

ISE returns in January 2024, after IBC2023 on the 15-18 September 2023.

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