Unlike a lot of television engineers, AmberFin Chief Technology Officer Bruce Devlin didn't have an early interest in the broadcast business.
“I didn't know it existed before university,” says the Australian-born Devlin, who originally wanted to be an architect but wound up studying engineering and electrical sciences at Queens' College at the University of Cambridge in the U.K.
After graduating in 1986, he joined the BBC's venerable research arm, where he helped develop the world's first digital audio editor and created a wireless camera transmission system that was used at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
“It was absolutely fascinating,” Devlin recalls. “It was like working in a small cottage industry where everyone seemed to know each other, and handed off to each other as you moved around the industry.”
Unfortunately, budget cuts hit the BBC, and Devlin took a buyout and went to France to work for conglomerate Thomson LER on video compression chips. He returned to the U.K. two years later and was recruited to join rapidly growing video processing specialist Snell & Wilcox, where he created a high-quality MPEG-2 encoder and collaborated with the BBC on a lossless transcoding technology called MOLE. In 1995, he was awarded the Royal Television Society's Young Engineer of the Year award for his MPEG test and measurement work, and MOLE was recognized with an RTS award in 1997.
In his 15-year career at Snell, Devlin drove the company's work in video compression and file-based workflows. Most notably, he was one of the founding developers of the MXF (Material eXchange Format) File Format Specification, which is designed to provide interoperability among different vendors' products by communicating standard information, or metadata, about digital media files.
Devlin earned the title of Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers fellow for MXF, and the technology itself was awarded a technical Emmy this past January. An avid triathlete, he also happened to win the Masters division at the Las Vegas Sprint Triathlon on the eve of NAB 2006.
In 2008, Devlin moved to AmberFin, a Snell spinoff created to market iCR, a software-based system for content repurposing already used by large customers such as Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Ascent Media, Technicolor and British Telecommunications. Promoted from VP of engineering to CTO last January, he is focused on bringing the core iCR technology—“converting the stuff you got into the stuff you need”—to new markets like Web video, as well as addressing the technical challenges of broadcasters' increasingly file-based world. —Glen Dickson