I can’t tell you a definitive yes or no here but I can at least help give you some valuable information to help you make your mind up.
First off, Is someone paying for you to go? Then the answer is simple, yes! Never turn down a freebie like this. Most of my hesitations about going are pretty much all based on it being self funded. Is it worthwhile? What will you get out of it? Is it better than BVE or NAB? Well most of these questions are subjective and are different depending on you.
The International Broadcasters Convention been going since around the 15th century. Actually that’s a lie. I have no idea, I am sure a quick Google would tell me the answer but as I am writing this on a plane that shockingly/ thankfully doesn’t have the Internet then I will just stick with the 15th Century and expect to be corrected a dozen times in the comments by people who don’t get my silly English humour! It hasn’t always been in Amsterdam but it has for all the time that I have been going which is probably around 7 times maybe?
I lost my IBC virginity around 8 years ago, a few months after wilfully surrendering my NAB virginity to it’s US cousin. Both shows are very similar, the National Association of Broadcasters is bigger, well it’s American so it has to be, and it’s more! erm…American. IBC is like NAB with a lot less Americans but a lot more people from everywhere else. Both shows are very similar and more or less interchangeable.
Once there you can revel in the endless stands where companies try to tempt you with their latest and greatest bits of gear, software and stuff you have no idea what’s for. It’s traditionally the show where Sony announce 230 new cameras that make you scream “but I only just bought the previous model” and also where people head to the Blackmagic stand to demand answers as to why the 231 cameras they announced at NAB in April still haven’t shipped! Meanwhile Canon will show off cameras already announced that are….solid, many people will visit ARRI to check out the ALEXA mini and be kicked off their stand for slobbering over it. Countless lighting companies will try to blind you and all those tripod manufacturers will hope to impress you with one of the least impressive pieces of kit to demonstrate! But it’s a “look only, no buying” situation as these are shows for showing off their temptations, not a place for directly selling to end users (although some smaller ones will sneakily do it under the counter!)
There are 5 types of people who go to IBC (not counting the people who work there) the vast majority of them are sadly male. It’s still oddly a male dominated industry and the show celebrates gear more than creativity. Gear traditionally appeals to the blokes more, of course that isn’t always the case as there is no real reason for it to be like this but do a headcount when you are there and prove me wrong! One day it may change…one day!
1: Exhibitors: You can spot them easily as they are generally on their stands or looking utterly exhausted from standing up all day and talking non stop.
2: Dealers/ buyers: You can spot them easily as they are the ones you see on multiple stands and look utterly exhausted from countless meetings a day followed by socialising through to the early hours and then doing it again the next day.
3: Professionals: People at the show to look at future purchases and have the odd meetings. You can spot them as they tend to look sort of happier than the previous two types of people. But can also succumb to the over socialising as meeting/ connecting with other attendees is easily one of the highlights of these types of shows.
4: Amateurs/ Students: This isn’t their actual work so they are very easy to spot. They tend to have a spring in their stride and a smile on their faces. You will be able to especially spot the students as they are the ones hovering constantly over cameras that are wet dreams to them and linger on stands that give away food and drink!
5: People who have gotten their dates messed up and are at the wrong show. You tend to see them leaving looking pissed off!
OK, perhaps those are mostly stereotypes but they touch upon a number of key things that are key to the “IBC experience”. You see a lot of stands, meet a lot of people, get knackered from it all, stay out too late socialising and run out of money as Amsterdam is very expensive (although for non euro countries with that currency being so weak right now perhaps this is the time to go!)
In fact if you can get a cheap flight to Las Vegas then NAB can actually be a cheaper show to attend, I am referring to European attendees not US ones as that goes without saying! Hotels during IBC are bloody expensive, they increase their prices when the show is on to the point of absurdity. Last year I had a 1 bedroom suite in Vegas with a massive bed, hot tub for 8 (sadly used only by me) in the bedroom and HD projector with pull down 9 foot screen for half the price of a pokey bedroom in a mediocre Amsterdam hotel during IBC. This is NOT an exaggeration. In fact I was so fed up of being ripped off that I tried airbnb for the first time last year and rented a 3 bedroom apartment opposite the home of the show, the Rai centre for less than the cost of the aforementioned pokey hotel room.
IBC is a long show, longer then NAB and certainly longer than the 2 day BVE show in the UK. The exhibition starts on Friday and it peaks over the weekend, it then slogs on lethargically for two more days before being put to sleep for another year with exhibitors at this point resembling “The Walking Dead”! It could be worse though! Photokina lasts a whole 7 days!
It is definitely worth going, if you have time, especially if you are looking to make some purchases in the near future. It’s always good to see new gear in the “flesh” even in today’s Internet age where we think we know it all. A camera on paper is one thing but getting to hold it, use it and look at live images is essential if you are considering a new purchase. It goes for most things there really. Take a look through a Zacuto Gratical and see what all the fuss is about, or check out SmallHd monitors. The list is endless.
There are talks to go to but the big ones cost extra, there are always loads of free talks on stands all over the show. Last year I gave 3 or 4 as well as one of the keynotes.
So if you do go I would recommend going for 2/3 days. Go on the Friday and go home on the Sunday. Unless you have to stay for the whole thing I don’t recommend it. These shows are exhausting and you get a bit fed up of them! In fact if you do go I recommend going to the show for maybe 4 or 5 hours a day and the rest of the time enjoy the fabulous Amsterdam. Take your camera with you and go shoot! Well that’s what I do when I am there!
I would say see you there but sadly this year I will have to skip it. I am deep into filming season 2 of “The Wonder List” for CNN and we will be finishing up in Machu Pichu in Peru and bound for a rather splendid sounding 10 day trip down the Colorado river from Denver. Ironically I will be ending up, of all places, in Las Vegas! Maybe I will book my room for NAB whilst there!