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The trends of 2023: IP adoption, UHD/HDR, and virtual production

AJA president Nick Rashby talks to TVBEurope about the continuing move towards broader IP adoption, demand for UHD/HDR content, and the rise of virtual production.

What industry trends have particularly stood out for you in 2023, and why?

We saw increasing IP adoption this year worldwide, fuelled in part by the continued development of standards like SMPTE 2110 and NDI and the emergence of newer approaches like Dante AV Ultra. Momentum for IP continues to build as more facilities realise its advantages; from flexible, scalable audio and video signal routing and switching to streamlined remote production. Many IP implementations we saw this year were hybrid baseband/IP, with gateway technology solutions from companies like AJA providing an easier way to transition between protocols, platforms, and connectivity types. 

Similarly, demand for 4K ultra HD and HD HDR content continued to grow this year. Consumers love it because of the rich viewing experience it delivers, but on the back end, it introduces new workflow complexities, which technology providers are working closely alongside production and post professionals to resolve. 

‘Low latency’ also proved an important trend this year, whether in relation to consumer viewer experiences or the workflows that power them. We’ve reached a point where consumers now expect seamless viewing of live events regardless of their connectivity. At the same time, technology has advanced so rapidly that subframe latency workflows are now essential, especially in virtual production environments or live production scenarios where graphics and images must be overlaid with video in real time.  

Speaking of virtual production, it proved a trend with staying power in 2023. We saw the launch of new LED stages and an uptick in LED stage productions, both small and large. Many DITs we spoke with this year even said they’re working more and more with the technology. Most seem to agree that it gives talent more insight into what’s visually happening as they perform, making for a better performance, as well as that it provides so much more flexibility because you can shoot multiple locations and times of day; without ever having to leave the stage, whereas before you may be travelling between locations and dealing with permits.  

What impact are you seeing those trends having on the media and entertainment industry?

These trends are unlocking new opportunities for content creators to create and deliver more compelling content for audiences while also streamlining processes on the backend.  

How do you see those trends developing further in 2024?

IP adoption is still young, and we expect to be living in a hybrid baseband/IP world for a while. I anticipate gradual changes next year and beyond as IP standards continue to evolve and the technology to implement IP workflows becomes even more accessible. 

4K/UHD and HD HDR and low latency workflows will remain top of mind in 2024. As such, we expect to see new technologies emerge in these areas, whether new products or updates to existing tools, that answer some of the challenges production and post teams encounter daily. 

As for virtual production, we anticipate more productions will embrace this approach in the coming year, which will also translate to more production professionals investing time and knowledge in getting up to speed with the unique challenges it presents. We also foresee more high quality, low latency displays for LED volume stages being used in the production space, alongside earlier integration of VFX.

Do you expect to see any new trends within the industry in 2024, and what will they be?

One of the best things about the M&E industry is its rapid evolution, but that also makes it tough to anticipate exactly what’s around the corner. While we expect to see a continuation of the trends we’ve seen this year, there may also be a few exciting surprises on the horizon for 2024.