Recovery Will Be Faster With Leapfrog Tech


Arsenal F.C. built a cloud video production team with Blackbird Pic: ©2020 Shutterstock, Inc.
                                                                          Sky News Arabia accelerates remote collaborative cloud workflows with Blackbird

Adrian Pennington in conversation with Ian McDonough, CEO, Blackbird, on current developments and more importantly, what lies ahead...
Adrian Pennington: What are your predictions for the year ahead in news and sports media? 
Ian McDonough: If we get timely distribution of vaccines as we hope to in the more developed markets, I think we’ll see quite a strong recovery in 2021. There is pent up advertising demand, fans are eager to get back to live games and already fans are being allowed back in some sports in limited numbers.  Plus, what was planned as a quiet year for sport will now have the reset Olympics and UEFA European Championship, so fingers crossed, 2021 will be a bumper one.
AP: What will ‘stick’ in terms of fan engagement applications and live production methodologies?
IMcD: Enhanced audio and second screen activations are two areas that have benefitted from this crisis Additional camera angles have proved useful too while VR and AR contribute to the video gamification of sport. 
Remote production has surged for a number of reasons. Social distancing of course but also the financial cost savings of remote are proven. The other reason remote and cloud video editing will remain a permanent fixture is because it facilitates individual choice. Producers, editors, camera-ops, technicians want to have their freedom to operate where they want to and to have the option of not travelling and working away from home.
AP: What does it mean to say that Blackbird delivers freedom and resilience to media companies?
IMcD: These are strong concepts that customers tell us they want. Organisations want to be resilient to future shock - whether that’s a third wave, a future pandemic or anything else that comes out of leftfield and prevents work.
They want the opportunity to switch into a mode that makes them resilient to change. The second concept is about freedom of work/life balance. Staff want the freedom not to travel on public transport five days a week, to work in an edit bay or their home office or a share workspace. 
With Blackbird, enterprise scale production can continue to be performed from literally anywhere (a studio, your home, the office, a coffee shop) where there’s minimal bandwidth. 
Facilities can keep working 24/7 and across time zones wherever talent is located for true distributed, collaborative production. Why travel to a production when production comes to you? Blackbird not only enables Covid-safe production to ride out the pandemic, it is permanently ‘green’ allowing carbon neutralizing targets to be hit today.
AP: You have made recent partnerships with Tata Communications and EditShare.
Could you explain Blackbird’s strategy here?
IMcD: Blackbird holds unique patents and a suite of technology we want to put into the hands of as many people as possible.
Integrating our software and expert knowledge with other specialist companies like EditShare and  Tata Communications provides an exciting interoperable end to end workflow. These partnerships are not just about a signature and a logo on a wall.
These are deep integrations with teams with whom we work closely together.
Media assets stored and managed by EditShare’s solutions, for example, can now be accessed directly through Blackbird’s browser interface where they can be professionally edited and passed back or published. We’ve just made our first customer win with  Tata and we look forward to sharing news of that in due course.
AP: Can we expect similar OEM tie-ups in 2021?
IMcD: Yes - we are talking to a number of other partners at the moment, those with global reach that have different specialisms who are keen to simply and easily through APIs make a very light touch integration with Blackbird to facilitate end-to- end workflows.

Sustainability - Blackbird are currently analysing environmental savings
                                                            Esports leader, Gfinity, increases fan engagement and content monetization with Blackbird
AP: What other recent wins has Blackbird had?
IMcD: Through 2020, we’ve been there for media companies to move out of the facility into safer remote environments. When lockdown hit, A+E Networks doubled its capacity with Blackbird allowing all production staff the ability to access and create content from home. Blackbird was a key part of Sky News Arabia’s remote collaborative workflow. Suddenly with no live sports, Blackbird was used as a remote tool by Arsenal F.C. and Liverpool F.C to satisfy, excite and fulfil the desires of the clubs’ tens of millions of fans. With production staff at Riot Games in LA unable to travel to their central facility they rapidly pivoted to using Blackbird to produce the world’s most popular esports tournaments remotely from their homes. When live action sports resumed with socially distanced workflows, Australia’s National Rugby League used Blackbird to rapidly clip, edit and publish match highlights to social platforms within as little as 30 seconds.
In June, the National Hockey League deployed Blackbird to provide remote video production capabilities to assist with the League’s Return to Play Plan. Resilience and freedom are concepts that run through everything that Blackbird do.
AP: How does Blackbird compare in terms of cost to deploy and run compared to rival editing and production systems? 
IMcD: We’ve commissioned a comprehensive piece of research which compares the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Blackbird including licence fees, end to end workflow, bandwidth demands and processing power on-prem or in cloud with competitive systems from Avid or Adobe or users of systems like Teradici which remote into an on-prem system. We’re excited to share and explain the findings of the study with you soon.
AP: Should the industry be concentrating more than it is on sustainability?
IMcD: The industry is making great strides in environmental and socially responsible governance but it can always go further. We are currently analysing the environment savings which can be made using a Blackbird system and will share that soon.  The essential story for us is that Blackbird needs a lot less bandwidth, storage and processing power because of the way the Blackbird codec works. This adds up to significant capital expenditure savings and ongoing energy cost efficiencies. 
AP: How rapidly has the industry changed since 2019?
IMcD: This year, we’ve seen cloud-based remote collaboration go from merely a ‘nice to have’ to a necessity. The trend was already in play but Covid-19 meant video production teams had to pivot their workflows to take advantage of the cloud’s scalability, flexibility and mobility. 
Blackbird is a prime example of a leapfrog technology which takes you overnight from a company built for today to one ready for anything the future throws up. Next-generation has come and gone.
What the industry needs is the chance to rapidly catch up and outpace the accelerant that the pandemic has forced on businesses worldwide. Producing exponentially more and better content when having to work in remote distributed workflows is hard - if you don’t have leapfrog tech.
AP: Thanks again for taking time to talk to us.
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