Yesterday a second year cohort dropped into Ericsson Television to learn about future technologies within the broadcast sector. Steven Woodhead (Woody) and Rod Harris invited the students for a tour of Ericsson’s facilities including their Picture Quality analysis suite, experience centre as well as their systems verification and customer support labs.
Algorithms expert Chris Duxbury presented us with a comparison between HD and 4K images on a couple of consumer displays before demonstrating the benefits and limitations of High Dynamic Range pictures on an OLED display. Chris described the formats and algorithms currently in use and discussed the increasing importance of software-based pre-processing to optimise compression efficiency. We had an interesting discussion about the subjective nature of Picture Quality Analysis and how vendors and now choosing a particular look and feel as part of their brand – this often includes sharper but noisier pictures rather than the softer pictures that have traditionally been transmitted for HD. The students were particularly interested in the block structures used within H.264 and H.265 and how the alignment of graphics impacts on artefacts.
Next the students visited the systems verification testing area where engineers put complete systems through their paces by measuring and observing their performance under a plethora of configurations and operating conditions. We met Marvin – the Motor / Armature Robotic Verification Interface. Marvin was built on site to automate the process of pushing buttons, engaging connectors and pulling option cards. This allows Ericsson to thoroughly test hardware issues, quickly, continuously and consistently. We also looked at device verification including climate control ovens and radio frequency interference labs.
After a quick coffee we met up with Ron who looks after the customer experience centre. He introduced us Ericsson’s latest cloud based IP platform ‘MediaFirst’; this allows consumers to assimilate content from multiple vendors into one profile-based interface. MediaFirst is able to track your content across multiple devices and make recordings and recommendations based on your profile. We also looked across a range of equipment demonstrated to customers and discussed current trends.
We finished off with a visit to the build lab where systems are assembled and verified before they are shipped to the customer. This is also where Woody’s team earn their crust by reproducing and rectifying faults where they do occur. We also bumped into a Media Technology graduate James Grant who gave us an overview of the next generation control systems, which have moved away from dedicated servers to virtualised services that can now be run as virtual machines on pooled hardware or cloud platforms.
Thanks to Rod, Woody and their colleagues for their hospitality. The students were certainly impressed with the facilities and the tour showed several fascinating facets to the broadcast sector.
Students from across the Media Technology programme got together on Wednesday 8th March for a talk by Warren King from Vanguardia Consulting. Vanguardia provide a range of electroacoustic and acoustic services to a wide range of industries but Warren came to talk specifically about environmental monitoring and assessment for music festivals. There were plenty of entertaining anecdotes from Warren’s decade of experience and undergraduates and graduates were also able to contribute their experiences of working with Warren and other companies. The students benefited from their insights into some of the technical and political considerations that are vital to running successful events. Students were also introduced to some of the innovations within the industry such correlation detectors to automatically locate and eliminate problematic sources of noise.
The talk was organised to further Solent’s long-standing and symbiotic relationship with Vanguardia. Warren largely came to recruit more students to work in noise monitoring at festivals over the Summer; he commented “Solent has been a great source for engineers as they have acquired many of the skills we are looking for. Media Technology students have 100 times more experience than several other courses.” There are a number of graduates currently employed at Vanguardia, whom Warren describes as ‘invaluable’. Graduate Mike Ledbetter also came to the talk. Mike works for another company but firmly believes his experience with Vanguardia during his time at Solent directly led to his current employment. It was also a pleasure to be joined by former Media Technology lecturer Jonty Stewart who now runs Wight Noise and attended as a consultant for Vanguardia.
It was great to see all three year groups so well represented and showing such interest in this large yet often understated sub-sector of the live sound scene. We’re sure they’ll have plenty of fun over the Summer and learn a lot whilst doing so.
Graduates from the Media Technology Programme assembled in the Spark on Friday 25th November for their 2016 Alumni Day. Attendees included experienced engineers from a wide range of roles as well those who had only recently graduated. With 22 years of graduates from the programme there was plenty of experience to be shared.
The day started with a welcome from Course Leader, Chris Barlow, who then chaired a discussion around the state of the industry, higher education and how the Media Technology Programme should evolve to continue to best serve graduates and the industry. There was a lively debate and some excellent ideas of how to engage the next generation.
The highlight for current students was a Q&A with the graduates. This was a unique opportunity for them to interact with a wide range of professionals in an informal environment. The graduates were able to provide valuable industry insights and could speak with empathy having experienced the same programme. The undergraduates could expand their professional network and develop their aspirations.
The day ended with drinks in the Spark Atrium where staff, students and graduates continued to network and many business cards were exchanged! Companies represented included: Arqiva, B&K, Christie, Ericsson, Evertz, Finite Solutions, Focusrite, NH Broadcast, Perform Group, Sky, Snell Advanced Media and Vivitek as well as several freelance engineers and consultants.