HD and Beyond: The Red Lights of Amsterdam

ISE. Integrated Systems Europe. Those three words. They strike an equal amount of fear and joy into the hearts of those working at HD Connectivity.

We look back on our previous three years as exhibitors through rose (or perhaps red) tinted glasses for the most part. Remembering the good times and the experiences we’ve had going from rookies to practised attendees. 

Preparation begins in October. So you have to decide on everything from the copy to submit to the ISE Daily to your stand designs and messages. What’s difficult is that the world of technology moves so fast, it’s hard to know what you can or will be showing six months in advance of the show. R&D projects inevitably slide and this can lead to manufacturers missing items, showing new items last minute (that look out of place in their stand design) or showing things “made to look finished.” It’s a genuine minefield. 

Regardless, you load up what you need and your crew takes to the land, sea and air to arrive in Amsterdam in good time.

The build up atmosphere is always good. This year, particularly so. The whole place had a more positive buzz about it. Perhaps the fact the temperature was above zero in the hall had something to do with it.

Once the team has bent and twisted themselves to the point of breaking, the stand will most likely be finished. These constructions are prim and proper outwardly, but there’s always the odd cable tie holding something up. Don’t be fooled, these things are built to last the show days and not much longer. The sad fact is that most of it is simply destroyed and disposed of, I assume recycled, after the show in a flurry of activity that can be barbaric. Oddly, it’s always slightly sad seeing something that’s been “home” for four days is torn to bits in a few short minutes.

Once the stand is up and everything is running, a collective sigh of relief can go up and a trip back to the team’s accommodation is next on the agenda. 

Now for the meat of the matter. Let me say firstly that the show is well worth a visit. For UK and European integrators it’s a great place to see a cross spectrum of all the markets that a custom installer could get into. Remember, your skills translate to a lot of sectors. Don’t be afraid!

Show stand on, uniform in check, off we go. 

There are two sides to the show for us: work and pleasure. The pleasure side this year was limited, but I was able to find a few things of interest. The stand out things this year for me were the displays. In a room full of repetition, no major advancements, the quality of the HD and 4K display panels themselves was the relevant jump forward for this column. I’ve written about it before at IFA. But the consumer panels are taking a step forward. Display technology is going flexible. Screens bent into waves were something to catch a stare in awe. 

Other things I picked up on were the couple of HDMI test instruments with HDMI 2.0a and HDR support. Not expensive bits of kit either. A world that used to belong to Quantum Data and its machines at thousands of dollars is now replicable for much less. 

Similarly, the guys at iHiji have their work cut out for them. Products from other places, at fractions of the cost, were eye-catching. It was also good to know that (on the face of it) Pakedge, despite it’s recent acquisition, will still be selling Pakedge branded kit, as well as the Control4 branded equipment. The BakPak is a great looking bit of kit from them and others, like Luxul, are set to follow suit. All entering that remote site monitoring and management arena. The ability is then there for something like a Just Add Power HDMI over IP system to be fully monitored. Each TX and RX, with it’s own IP, can be checked for network connectivity. So even your HDMI distribution is under constant scrutiny.

I also need to get my head into Dante—a word that meant nothing to me until this year. Now I’m seeing everywhere.

Then there is the other side of the show: the work. Some of this will translate to being an attendee. One thing that definitely does is feet. You have to have good socks (yes, I said good socks) and you need the right footwear. Socks saved my show. Bamboo cotton, tog rated 2, moisture removing, soft toed, arch supporting socks. Plug those into some decent cushioned running shoes and you have it made. Trust me. Really do. I’m not crazy. 

The only heartache is the small amount of time you get to see the show that exhibitors get. Chop this article up and you’ll see how much time is dedicated to work and how much to pleasure. In my time as an installer I never went as an attendee. Next year I’ll be making sure I get to see the show complete. There’s so much to learn, so much to take in and knowing what’s out there in the whole AV realm can do you no harm. 

So spare a thought for the people you see and speak to. Yes, we get to experience the night life of Amsterdam, but that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for those working the show. I’m older and wiser four years in. It takes until 10-11pm at night to get into a restaurant to eat as a group. After the show has ended, you’ve got to sort yourselves out, travel to the apartment, get ready and head back out. Nights are late. Even without any extracurricular activities. The first timers go and see what there is to be seen under the red lights and the rest of us know that many late nights in a row make for poor feelings on show days. We saw some very obvious sufferers this year. You know who you are. There’s no time for the culture that Amsterdam has to offer and it’s a rich and varied selection. I always leave regretting not having had a chance to get into the city during the day. I will, without doubt, return on holiday with my wife to do just that.

The show this year was busy, it felt jolly and “light”. People were optimistic, interested and it felt like a space that was energised. I’m looking forward to next year right now. I’d urge everyone to get interested and make the pilgrimage. Come and see me, we’ll swap stories over a beer or a coffee. 

Daniel Adams is the Director of Technical at HDanywhere. 



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