Amsterdarnit!

Just back from a month in northern Europe – my last stop on the trip being the IBC (International Broadcast Conference) in Amsterdam. The “NAB of Europe” if you will – a huge gathering of the television industry, and related fields, the long days being rivaled only by the long nights of carousing with customers, partners, and various other interesting individuals.

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Biking my way through the no-stop-signs-or-traffic-lights-anywhere streets of Amsterdam on my way to work.

The best way to handle being in a foreign country for awhile is to live as the locals do, and in the case of Amsterdam that means renting a bike and commuting to work on 2 wheels. According to a recent article in the NY Times, there are over 2 bikes for every person in the Netherlands, and as far as I could see the bikes outnumber the cars by a longshot. The only thing to get used to is the rather chaotic riding style. For example, as a cyclist you always have the right of way over cars. Cars will always stop for you, except when they don’t. And when they do stop, they wait ‘til the last possible minute. So the first day on my rented Dutch-style 1-speed, pedal-brake beater, I’m thinking “I’d better stop now or that taxi will cream me,” but when you stop suddenly with 50 cyclists right behind you, you’ll get creamed anyhow. I did learn all of the Dutch curse words fast, because I had them yelled at me constantly by other cyclists.

You see, there are no stop signs in downtown Amsterdam. People just go. Every intersection was a game of frogger.

So back to business — we had a really successful IBC exhibit, with some great Adobe users such as Angie Taylor showing off their work. Angie is a super-accomplished UK-based broadcast designer who uses After Effects as her main tool. Her book Creative After Effects 7 was just released, and I was psyched to find a copy sitting on my desk when I got back to my SF office today.

At conferences like IBC, people always ask each other “have you seen anything cool or interesting?”. To be honest, I don’t usually get a whole lot of time to walk around and check things out (what with my busy schedule of presentations, meetings, and trying not to get turned to a Dutch Pancake by a garbage truck), but I did manage to check out a rather intriguing (albeit propellerhead) device from DK Technologies called the Spinner display, which uses a completely new method of displaying the chroma and luma levels of a video signal, something usually done with a traditional waveform/vectorscope.

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The DK-Technologies Spinner display showing the chroma and luma levels of the cow licking my bicycle.

It usually takes a while to learn how to accurately read a waveform/vectorscope, and mistakes can be costly as if you’re creating something for broadcast, it needs to fall within a specific chroma and luma range, otherwise the station won’t air it. You’ll get your tape back with a nice little note from the engineering department suggesting you may have a bright future in the foodservice industry.

For years, I thought it would be a great idea to simplify the display of chroma/luma levels so that a non-engineer such as myself could accurately monitor and correct their work. This looks like it could be a big step in that direction. According to the company’s CEO Karsten Hansen, “we have been able to devise a display that is simple to understand, even for those with no specialist knowledge.” TVB Europe Magazine has an article about the Spinner and more detail in their September issue.

It’s not shipping yet, and I’ve not been able to find pricing information anywhere (aah, the bleeding edge), but if this device lives up to its promise (and isn’t too expensive) it could really make life easier for tons of us.

So, as for the near future, I actually get to be home in SF next week and work out of the office, but the week after I’ll be in Chicago, speaking at the Final Cut Users Group on September 27 (yes, you heard that right) amongst other things. I’ll also be speaking at Flash In The Can in Hollywood on October 6, so make sure to come say “hi” if you’ll be at either of those.