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INTERVIEW BARCO’S WOUTER BONTE The Belgian manufacturer’s Strategic Marketing Director, ProAV / Events, discusses the future of AV with TPi’s Ste Durham, and gives a glimpse into the thinking behind Barco’s quest for immersive simplicity. Given the incredible change your corner of the industry has experienced over the past 5 years, what has Barco done to remain at the forefront? What we do is make sure designers can continuously rely on Barco technology to put their ideas into reality, as well as bring far more simplicity into this space. We aren’t here to throw 75 new technologies over a wall and hope that people like them; and creatives are not waiting for 75 new technologies anyway. What we want to do with Barco moving forward is to provide simply immersive solutions. What does “simply immersive” mean in real terms? For us, it’s a world where any surface can become a canvas for an AV experience. It’s a world where the lines between real and virtual experiences become irrelevant. A world where more pixels, brightness and colours help create unforgettable moments, in an “immersively simple” way. But of course, “simple” means different things to different people depending on whether you are an integrator, a supplier or an end client; simplicity in setting it up; connecting it together; avoiding multiple conversions and manual interventions; having fewer links in the chain; being easy to transport - all of these things are part of being simple. Is this being driven by new technology? From the Barco perspective, the heart of the processing is a key part of the value proposition to enable new immersive experiences as well as to simplify the whole chain. This is driven by the outcome, not just by the fact that it has creative technology inside. Just look at what happened over the past few years with projection mapping. The same thing happened where we’ve added LED technology to almost every situation where you have light. Having more light means you can show things in far more situations. But it also gives us the opportunity to think about the ambient environment, or situations where you want to have some other action going on. That I think is a big move. In Barco’s thinking, offering more brightness and processing power is going to drive more simplicity in the way we accomplish things, as users will have extra capacity to play around with. This gives people more freedom when developing their projects and when choosing the best technology to get the job done. It’s all about making it accessible, manageable, and simpler. What is the industry telling you? What’s interesting is that this is not just a Barco thing. There really is a demand for smarter technologies that handle a lot of things that might have been done manually before. So again, simplicity is the way to go. Less human intervention leads directly to faster set-ups, to give one example. Or the same size team can provide more sophisticated mapping. Let’s push this idea further, as simplicity could sound like an empty catch phrase. What would it change for you if the projector could be placed 66

BARCO’S WOUTER BONTE Opposite: Carl Rijsbrack, VP Events, and Wouter Bonte, Strategic Marketing Director, ProAV / Events. close to the screen - and behind any speakers or performers - rather than at the back of the hall? That way, you skip the need to work around projected shadows and the set-up has a smaller footprint. What about being able to project files in their native format? Wouldn’t that save time and preserve the content’s integrity? How about being able to reduce the number of projectors you need to just one that is bright enough? How about being able to put projectors alongside fireworks or smoke machines and not have to worry about them? The common theme here is simplicity and immersion. More pixels, more brightness, more freedom and more simplicity; we maintain that they all go together. It seems obvious when you think about it. How do you see these trends specifically influencing the way in which touring show designers and crews select and apply technology moving forward? The speed at which new show requirements are adopted forces production companies to include a longer-term perspective in any of their investments. Futureproofing equipment has become increasingly important. Even if certain video requirements or installation flexibilities are today not common, they still expect the AV equipment to be ready. At the same time, reliability is essential for any touring designer. They will select the technology that enables new future experiences, while not compromising on reliability for their shows. Does achieving immersive simplicity in relation to concert touring and live events also mean looking at other disciplines, such as lighting, audio and special effects, for guidance / trends? Absolutely. Interoperability and simplification should be looked at from a holistic AV perspective. Disciplines can learn from each other, yet at the same time should synchronise. One example: rushing the VideoOverIP trend to reduce the number of fibre converters and simplifying connectivity is of little value if each discipline is using a different ‘language’, IP protocol for instance. Standardisation across disciplines will be critical to accelerate simplification. Is the seemingly inevitable move towards energy efficiency also an important factor for Barco’s R&D teams to consider when looking ahead? Sustainability has risen on the R&D agenda of likely any technology company, including the teams at Barco. Power consumption of visual display technology and its recycling (lenses, for example) are listed by customers as new important evaluation criteria, not only because of the direct implications for their total cost of ownership but also to match with the sustainability objectives that many brands have set themselves. TPi 67