The Production Industry’s Coolest Technology Showcase – February Freeze Indeed!

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A more apt name for an event there could not have been, particularly on the miserable, freezing rain- drenched day in Toronto that Tuesday, February 7th turned out to be.
On that day, William F. White, Canada’s largest provider of professional motion picture, television, digital media and theatrical production equipment, hosted their 16th annual February Freeze tradeshow (www.februaryfreeze.com). The event was held at WFW’s large production support complex in Etobicoke, ON and served as a platform for some of the industry’s most influential production companies to showcase their latest innovations and technologies. Braving the elements (and a gingerly walk across an ice-covered baseball field to avoid the venue’s crowded parking lot), I made my way into the cavernous building.

What follows is a list of the three vendors I encountered on the show floor whose solutions hold particular relevance to today’s evolving event industry:
1) Quantum Capture (www.quantumcapture.com): Drenched and still aching from a nasty tumble moments earlier, I stopped first at Quantum Capture’s exhibit. A permanent resident within WFW’s facility, the company’s mission of offering “the most realistic virtual humans to VR/AR content creators” was on full display. And judging by my time spent in their “human creator” demonstration, they appear to be true to their word. After donning a pair of VR goggles and hand controllers, I was thrust into a virtual dressing room complete with lifelike – and very moving – mannequins whose various “parts” could be manually plucked and interchanged allowing for the creation of a completely unique figure (think a virtual Mr. Potato Head but with noticeably more wincing after having its ears ripped off). Afterwards, I spoke to the company’s Co-Founder and President, Morgan Young, who conceded that while used primarily within the film, television and gaming sectors, his company’s solutions will become more prevalent in the event space as Mixed Reality technologies and supporting hardware increase in popularity. One potential application he cited was in the creation of more engaging and immersive digital event environments – particularly tradeshows – where virtual attendees and exhibitors actually look and behave like people as opposed to the robotic polygonal avatars that typically come to mind when thinking about the medium. Here’s looking forward to shaking hands with a more life-like virtual human on the show floor in the near future… sans the arm dismemberment of course.

2) Aerial Mob (www.aerialmob.com): 2 words…flying drones!!! Suffice to say, this was one of the more heavily trafficked exhibits at the show. And for good reason. Because really, who needs chotchkies when you get to pilot a near 5’ in diameter mini UFO in the air? As the first company in the U.S. to achieve FAA approval for use of drones in film production, Aerial Mob is using its cutting-edge drone technology and camera systems to push the boundaries of cinematography in some of Hollywood’s highest profile features, including the upcoming Tom Hanks/Emma Watson collaboration “The Circle”. Although currently limited in their indoor event application (blindingly fast propeller blades + ceilings + large crowds = giant lawsuits), drones hold huge potential in creating engaging, multi-perspective event content as the technology takes on smaller and safer form factors. Imagine having the option to view a session’s keynote address in crystal clear HD – complete with fluid and unhindered pan and zoom shots – as opposed to being limited to traditionally static video garnered from a few cameras relegated to the perimeter of the stage. Such value-added and customizable content possibilities available to remote (and even in-person) attendees could help breathe new life into room-based events.

3) Dejero (www.dejero.com): If producing and livestreaming broadcast-quality video content for multi-screen distribution was simple, every event producer with an iPhone and a Facebook Live account would be doing it. And why wouldn’t they? Video is clearly where customer eyeballs are – and are going in greater numbers. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index study, IP video traffic will account for 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020, up from 70% in 2015. Add to this the same study’s prediction that mobile devices will account for two-thirds of total IP traffic by 2020, and it becomes easier to envision a day when tablets and smartphones become a viable and preferred means of seamless high quality video capture and distribution. Until then, there are companies like Waterloo, Ontario’s Dejero whose EnGo solution is designed for mobile video contribution professionals who require agility and versatility. Essentially a camera-mounted (and even wearable) mobile transmitter, the product encodes high quality, industry-standard H.264 video and instantly transmits it over multiple IP networks – even in challenging network conditions. As Dejero’s Field Sales Engineer Neil McVicar himself attests, “this makes EnGo ideal for broadcasting live events within convention centres notorious for their spotty network capabilities.”