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Thu 16 Apr 2009 04:00 AM

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Cabsat 2009

With 10% growth compared to last year and 60 new exhibitors, CABSAT 2009 was hailed a success. In this wrap-up, Digital Studio looks at some of the highlights from the event.

Cabsat 2009
Berry Medendorp, Belden.
Cabsat 2009
Robin Hood (l) of Studio Plus with Sakai of Suns Corporation.
Cabsat 2009
Dr. Riyadh Najm, president of ASBU with Roger Crumpton of the IABM and Sharad Sadhu from ASBU at the CTO panel discussion at CABSAT 2009.
Cabsat 2009
The Flying camera attracted a lot of attention at CABSAT 2009.
Cabsat 2009
HH Sheikh Hasher bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, director general of Dubai Department of Information, with Awad Mousa of Sony Professional Solutions at the show.
Cabsat 2009
Moheb Milad, president of AV-Plus, and ADAM Audio’s international sales manager Kerstin Mischke.International Sales Manager Kerstin Mischke.

With 10% growth compared to last year and 60 new exhibitors, CABSAT 2009 was hailed a success. In this wrap-up, Digital Studio looks at some of the highlights from the event.

Over the last few years, CABSAT, the region's leading exhibition for the production, broadcast and satellite industry, has been growing bigger, better and becoming more effective as a networking platform. Any fears of the global downturn impacting the event negatively were unfounded as we discovered at the show. If anything, a lot of pleasant surprises awaited visitors.

For one, CABSAT authorities claimed that the exhibition has grown by 10% over last year, grossing over 26,000 sqm and showcasing 660 exhibitors over the three-day period. There were 60 first time exhibitors at CABSAT this year - a vital indicator that many companies, whose sales are dropping elsewhere, are viewing the Middle East as a region of bigger opportunities.

Several new exhibitors were systems integrators looking to bring their expertise to the region or manufacturers with new solutions for this market.

"Despite the economic situation, the general sentiment at the event was that this region is holding up well in terms of investment compared to other regions globally," commented David Lim, industry group manager for CABSAT organiser, Dubai World Trade Centre's media cluster. "This was borne out by the 8603 visitors we had at CABSAT MENA & Satellite MENA this year. In addition, we also welcomed two trade delegations from India and Hungary."

Several elements at CABSAT are worthy of note. Besides the conferences, the event successfully launched MENASAT, a stand-alone event dedicated to the satellite market. In addition, key technological trends in new media platforms such as IPTV & Mobile TV, and topics such as piracy and copyright issues in the region were tackled at the show.

For the first time, CABSAT also saw a lot of high-profile representation from Abu Dhabi, the most important being from LIVE, the production subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media Company and MENACAST, a company providing content monitoring facilities to broadcasters and media agencies. LIVE could not be missed. Its flagship truck, Al Thuraya was parked inside Zabeel Hall for visitors to explore.

Some prominent players like Hitachi, Sony, UBMS FTE and WASP3 had a much larger stand this year than in the past- a telling reflection of their success in this region.

Speaking about why the region was important to Hitachi, Paddy Roache, director and general manager of the company said: "Television and radio in the Middle East are critical factors in the educational, social and economic development of the region.

The national and large independent broadcasters are developing a policy of demanding the highest possible quality from their studio, post production and transmission solutions. This, in turn, encourages high-end manufacturers like Hitachi to constantly raise the bar. We are here to demonstrate to end users in the region how our solutions can help produce the high image quality they require."

The highlight of the Hitachi stand was the SK-HD 1000, a high performance HDTV studio and EFP camera.

Another notable exhibitor was Sony Professional Solutions Middle East, which demonstrated the HXR-MC1P, a tiny all-in-one camera system that needs no extra equipment and is designed for filmmakers and cameramen who want a no-frills system.

Dubai-based distributor UBMS had two stands at the show. The company showcased several new solutions on its stand from vendors such as Marshall Electronics, Ianiro, Redrock Micro and Anton/Bauer among others. Front Porch Digital was prominent at UBMS with its archiving solution while several visitors admired the cinema accessories from Redrock.

"The growth of the film industry in the Middle East has prompted a great need for high-quality solutions that are also affordable. It is in this spirit that Redrock and UBMS have joined forces to help fuel the growth of film in this market," stated Reza Nikfar CEO and founder of UBMS. "UBMS is very proud to be able to provide more solutions to its customers around the Middle East and Africa regions."

Another manufacturer that created a buzz was Beehive Systems with its Wasp 3D solution. WASP3D 2009 claims to redefine the broadcast graphics paradigm with a host of new features and interactivity. Added to the existing module is WASPi Mimosa, a touch-screen based application that gives the user (anchor) extreme flexibility and total control over the graphics system.

Mimosa gives the presenter a host of interactive features like telestration, gesture-based actions, multi-touch options and other tools for building complex interactive scenes.

"WASP3D 2009 will completely change the broadcast graphics landscape with its unmatched design capabilities, unique features and interactivity," commented Tushar Kothari, director of Beehive Systems. "We are confident of creating a strong pull in the Middle East broadcast market with the new release."

Several companies also tried different marketing strategies to gain more visibility at the event. Cable manufacturer Belden made itself more visible on each stand by releasing a supplement on the company along with Digital Studio magazine. The cable manufacturer has had several successes in this region in the last few years especially in Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. The falcon against the blue sky was a popular sight at the show.

"We see big possibilities in the Middle East market," stated Berry Medendorp, marketing communications manager EMEA for Belden. "The market is changing and growing, and we have plans to grow along with it."The event marked a new beginning for JVC as well, whose European office will replace its Japanese operations at its UAE office. Chris Darnely, who has been with JVC in the UK, will head the JVC Professional Gulf operations and relocate to Dubai this month.

"Saudi Arabia and the UAE were overseen by Japan previously," Darnley said. "Now the whole GCC and MEA regions come under the Gulf and London office. With this, we hope to bring more professional solutions to this market and address this sector more aggressively along with our distributor Oasis Enterprises . The previous office was more focused on consumer solutions. Our new office will also ensure that JVC can bring in its European experts to service the EMEA market."

Dubai-based distributor Amaranthine had a prominent presence at the show with the Arriflex D-21 film-style digital camera that combines high-end film style functionality, handling and creative options with the immediacy and economy of digital acquisition.

The camera's bright optical viewfinder has zero delay, works without power and shows an image area outside the primary image, allowing operators to treat it as they would a 35 mm camera. The super 35-sized 4:3 sensor accommodates all image formats, including Mscope anamorphic 2.40:1, and exhibits the same depth of field as 35 mm film.

After CABSAT, Amaranthine also held a one-day workshop for cameramen in the region to familiarise themselves with the camera. Freelance DoP Frank Vanvught conducted the workshop.

The Spanish, German and UK pavilions also swelled with more manufacturers and systems integrators from their respective countries this year. Several are worthy of mention in the Spanish, French and UK pavilions.

Tedial came to CABSAT for the first time with one single, well integrated and comprehensive media asset management solution that takes care of a company's entire data management process while VSN was prominent for its newsroom system demo.

The participation of French companies in CABSAT has also increased dramatically since 2007, according to the French agency for international business development, UBIFRANCE. 17 companies were present at the French pavilion in the 2009 exhibition, up from just seven exhibitors in 2007.

A spokesperson for UBIFRANCE said Dubai is considered to be a regional hub for the broadcasting industry, with many large French broadcast technology companies already operating here in cooperation with local businesses. The French pavilion featured companies such as Thales, AETA Audio Systems, Isosytem and Tonna.

The UK pavilion also played a very active role at the show. Several British manufacturers came to CABSAT for the first time this year.

Some highlights worth mentioning include IPV, a major supplier of low-bit rate, frame-accurate video technology to the broadcast and professional video sectors. IPV, who had, thus far, kept a low profile with its Spectre View browse solution came to CABSAT to showcase Curator, its entry-level MAM solution.

An affordable, proxy-based tapeless workflow environment running on both PC and Apple Mac platforms, the Curator system helps end users efficiently fulfill tasks such as desktop editing media annotation, review and approve and general media browsing.

It is a complete solution that can efficiently ingest, encode or transcode, at low bitrate, proxy SDI or file-based media, which can then be used concurrently by multiple users. Whatever the source of the material, the Curator version is guaranteed to be frame accurate at all times giving an unprecedented desktop experience.

"The Curator system has been a huge success with a number of systems already in use at key media installations around the world," stated Nigel Booth, executive VP for sales and marketing at IPV.

"The system enables broadcasters to provide a cost efficient means of sharing content in a file-based workflow environment. By reducing costs and increasing productivity, we have enabled our customers to maximise on their business returns."

Megahertz also had a couple of special announcements to make. The systems integrator, who has operated in the Middle East for the last 20 years, tied up with Qatar-based Greenland International Enterprises to improve their offerings in the Middle East. Greenland's local knowledge and infrastructure as well as availability of Arabic-speaking staff who are well-versed in both broadcast and IT skills will complement MHz broadcast expertise.

Megahertz also announced that it was working closely with Feltech to look at potential opportunities to provide turnkey solutions for customers in the Middle East.

Argosy was also at CABSAT to network with companies and look at new deals in the Middle East. Mike Purnell of Argosy stated: "We are on target and very pleased with the business we are doing here."

TMD, in the meantime, made its first appearance at the exhibition to demonstrate its media asset management solution Mediaflex.

The UK Trade Fair also organised a special conference at which HD challenges in the region were discussed in great detail. Mike Whittaker, vice president of Broadcast Operations & Technology at Showtime and Andrew Davies, business development manager for TSL Middle East delivered presentations on some of the key challenges facing the industry.

Mark Birchall, managing director of the UK Trade Fair stated that the UK pavilion had grown by about 15% from the last year.

"The UK pavilion is about 800 sq.ms with about 55 companies on the UK pavilion at CABSAT. In the satellite area, we had about 25 companies. In all, we had about 75 companies exhibiting. It shows the close ties we have with this region," Birchall stated.On the audio side, AV Plus was at the show to demonstrate the power of good, tried-and -tested big speakers like the Adam S7A speaker. At CABSAT 2009, ADAM Audio also announced that AV-Plus FZ LLC was appointed their new distributor for Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon as well as the UAE.

Moheb Milad, director of AV-Plus and his team recently undertook the installation of ADAM S1A and S5A Mk2 monitors at Qatar Radio's music recording studio.

For the first time, we had Annova at CABSAT showcasing its open media newsroom system. "We are looking for new partners and systems integrators in the region,' commented Michael Schüller, CEO of Annova Systems. "Our solution already provides multi-lingual support and is functional across different media platforms. This is what customers require in a changing broadcast environment."

Other companies at the show that were worthy of mention include Studio Plus, headed by Robin Hood, a well known figure from his days at Panasonic. Identifying a gap in the market, Hood brought a range of low-cost adaptors and solutions to the market that would help convert a field camera into a studio camera. This cost-effective option appealed to several visitors, who were queuing at the Studio Plus stand for a demo.

In the meantime, the event marked a special milestone for Noorsat, which celebrated its third anniversary on March 5. To mark the occasion, Noorsat announced the launch of a digital TV platform on its latest satellite, Eurobird 9A, joining the NOORSAT 3 umbrella of hotspots over Europe.

"These are very powerful satellites that allow viewers in Europe to receive television programming using very small 50 cm dishes," commented Noorsat's CEO Omar Shoter. "We believe that Noorsat 3 digital platform will become the satellite positions of choice to provide indigenous content to the large Arab and ethnic communities in Europe."

All in all, CABSAT proved to be a rewarding experience. In fact, the quality of visitors who attended the show this year was much better than the previous years. Decision makers and industry professionals with a genuine commitment to investing in new technology were the key visitors at CABSAT 2009. Exhibitors, therefore, felt that the show was well worth their investment and time.

Pursue digital opportunities or die: BorgerdingEdward Borgerding, CEO of Abu Dhabi Media Company, called on broadcasters to explore new opportunities in the growing field of digital media, during his keynote address at CABSAT 2009.

The keynote, entitled ‘The melting ice cube: Analogue business in the digital world' warned broadcasters to rethink the way they approach content delivery in the modern age.

Borgerding argued that the growing trends of mobile, internet and social networking technology, were key areas that media companies should be looking at in order to grow their business in the era of digital technology.

He said the effect of piracy on the music industry should serve as a warning to broadcast companies worldwide, that the issue of changing technology should not be ignored.

"I believe the media industry will suffer the same fate as the music industry, especially when broadband speeds improve and it becomes as easy to download an entire movie as it is to download one song now," forecasted Borgerding.

"But in the music industry, they have managed to offset the losses by increasing the number of major tours, which in some cases is worth many millions of dollars.

"This is a systemic problem affecting the entire media world, and we have to realise that a business can't sustain itself trading digital dimes for analogue dollars."

Growing 3G and broadband penetration rates in the Middle East were one factor that Borgerding predicted would drive the shift towards digital technology by media companies.

"It is important that broadcasters are constantly changing and making it easier to access content online," he commented.

"Growing broadband penetration rates have already provoked a drop in newspaper revenue, and I believe it will eventually cannibalise television revenues as well."

While he conceded broadband penetration rates remained quite low across the Middle East, he predicted that with 55% of the population under the age of 24, demand would ensure levels would soon be similar to those seen in the US and Europe.