If you think ISE is about the convergence of AV with broadcast think again. Show organisers say this has already happened. Even the IABM has a speaking slot, writes Adrian Pennington

What is the director of the new Star Wars movie doing at a trade show where exhibitors promote smart heating solutions and visitors want to know how to design wireless networks for schools?


What can we expect from ISE2024?

You won’t find a clue in the name – Integrated Systems Europe – which is itself no longer as relevant as it was when the show launched in 2003. But you don’t have to look too far to understand that the underlying technology used to distribute digital media around corporations, shopping malls and educational institutions, is broadly the same as that used to produce and display filmed entertainment. Strip it all back and everything is IT and on a network.

That technology has converged to the point where there is barely a semiconductor wafer between its use in film, TV or any other digital creation. Virtual production, for example, is one of the most visible technology crossovers between AV and film/TV and it is featured heavily at the ISE show.

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What has also changed in recent years is that content for museums, municipal sound and light shows, art exhibits or monumental commercial venues like the Sphere is sophisticated and immersive, increasingly interactive and giving the traditional 2D rectangular frame of narrative entertainment more than a run for its money.

The stories and the audiences may be different, but even those lines are blurring.

ISE2024 Preview: Star Wars

The Star Wars director is Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a Pakistani double Oscar winner for documentary short films (such as Saving Face) who is the first women to direct an edition in the Disney franchise (which is in pre-production starring Daisy Ridley and scheduled for release in 2026). She is giving a keynote at ISE 2024 next month where she will be talking about the importance of storytelling and how technology is transforming lives.


A look back at ISE2023

Her presence is a coup for ISE and whoever had the idea to pitch the gig to her should be applauded. It helps the organisers market the show as one about content creation even though the majority of its vendors are not directly connected to the entertainment industry and in some cases very far removed indeed.

As ISE puts it, storytelling is fundamentally linked to the audiovisual industry and influences every element of this year’s show. Almost every facet of the AV landscape is driven by storytelling – it said – including immersive experiences at visitor attractions, inspirational presentations by corporate leaders, and advertising campaigns delivered over digital signage.

It’s the second year of the show’s conference strand dedicated to Content Production & Distribution and it provocatively asks whether brands and corporations are becoming the new broadcasters? It’s rhetorical too since the conference is subtitled unequivocally, ‘Brands: The New Broadcasters’.

“The days of saying there’s a bit of convergence going on between AV and broadcast, are gone,” said Ciarán Doran, chair of the Content Production & Distribution Summit and former marketing exec for the likes of stalwart broadcast tech vendors like Rohde & Schwarz. “It’s happening, it is here and that’s the essence of this conference.”

The conference will explore how brands and corporates are creating and distributing “incredible” content direct to viewers, some working with high-end tech and professional broadcast facilities “to reach audience numbers traditional TV broadcasts simply couldn’t attract.”

A basic corporate VHS training video will no longer cut it. Gen Z, the new workforce brought up using screens and playing video games, demand more.

Doran cites the example of a major fashion brand that recently streamed a fashion show to hundreds of millions of viewers, and WeTransfer which won a 2022 Academy Award for a short film commissioned by its WePresent digital arts platform.

For a long time now select corporates have had access to production budgets that an indie TV producer could only dream of. What’s interesting, Doran said, is that corporates are now beginning to break ground with the type of content they are producing in order to engage with audiences.

On the flip side, the ISE conference will also ponder to what extent traditional TV broadcasters are now seeking professional AV technology to enable more efficient and cheaper production.

“It’s no longer ‘let’s dumb something down so that it’ll fit into that market’,” Doran said. “They don’t need to do that anymore because AV broadcast is now reaching up to acquire the content quality, both technical and creatively, of that service provider.”

Speakers include those more typically associated with the broadcast world – Jigsaw24 (kit hire), Chyron (live graphics), ARRI (cameras) and even broadcast manufacturers trade body IABM. Michael McKenna, CEO and director of VP at Final Pixel, will discuss his work with Oracle Red Bull Racing on Formula 1’s first virtual production shoot. Spanish director David Cerqueiro talks about creating branded content for a corporate communication or a mini feature film. Sessions on the creation of eXtended reality content are now a staple of ISE just as they are at more broadcast related events.

ISE2024 Preview: AI

Brands can’t do it alone though. To engage with younger audiences in particular they need to partner with influencers or content creators who will often use off-the-shelf technology like an iPhone and Adobe Photoshop to shoot and package content before streaming to their followers on social media. Increasingly creators will use combinations of AI tools like Midjourney and ChatGPT to create more content more efficiently and perhaps skip the manual camera and edit stage altogether.

ISE2023_Day_1_OriginalSize_258 V6

A look back at ISE2023

Naturally, the role of AI on storytelling is on the ISE agenda. Digital artist Jeroen van der Most gives a keynote entitled ‘Breaking Boundaries with Creative AI’.

“I will explore how we can innovate art – using AI to change it from something static into something more fluid,” he explains. He then goes on to say that he will use AI to “build closer, deeper relationships with non-human entities”. van der Most said he will take the audience on a journey into his mind using AI – “it’ll be a bizarre trip where you’ll encounter some weird things.” No kidding.

The content creation part of ISE is growing and pretty fast too but it is still a relatively small side of the AV industry and therefore of the show itself. There are huge areas devoted to the nuts and bolts of putting together networks for anything from smart buildings and luxury homes to retail chains, restaurants and hotels.

It’s worth recalling the genesis of ISE, twenty years ago, as an Integrated Systems show. It was formed to be a venue to gather together the vendors and practicioners of an AV industry that was nascent and in some cases unprofessionalised. The show was also a political union of two different markets within a broader AV umbrella – the corporate or commercial side and the private or residential side. These two – the commercial and the residential - remain distinct but the skills and technologies began to overlap in ‘integration’. This is where various and disparate components were combined within the fabric of a space to create a new audio visual environment. That was the core of ISE then and remains its biggest strength. In a way it makes ISE unclassifiable and therefore malleable to co-opt adjacent industries, as it is trying to do with broadcast.

ISE2024 Preview: Ideas not Integration

“Integration in 2004 was a big deal,” explained Dan Goldstein who is Chief Marketing Officer at one of ISE’s owners, the commercial AV trade body AVIXA. “It required a lot of hard work to do technically. As digitisation gathered pace, the industry and by extension ISE, was more about solutions to business problems. Now AV is more about ideas and ISE reflects that. It’s a very creative event, one that forces you to challenge assumptions about where tech is going.”


A look back at ISE2023 with ISE2024 right around the corner

This year’s show, held in Barcelona, is said to be the biggest yet in terms of show floor, to around 66,000m2, and the organisers won’t be disappointed if it receives a similar uplift in visitors, to around 66,000, some 8000 more than 2023. Pre-registrations are reportedly around the 100,000 mark but it would be extraordinary if the 81,000 record attendance of 2019 were broken.

Some things don’t change though. Last year’s female attendee quotant was just 15% while men dominated at 82% - all sadly reflective of the AV industry. Not even the presence of Obaid-Chinoy is going to change those numbers any time soon.

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