Decentralized live production to the rescue

  • With Adrian Pennington

Decentralized live production to the rescue

The lack of available bandwidth, budgetary constraints, sustainability and the ability to do more with less - can remote production models solve it all? By Adrian Pennington

Micheal Pfitzner - VP, 
Newsroom Solutions CGI 

Working remotely requires having the right collaboration tools in place. Access to information and communication systems that work seamlessly both on-prem and in the cloud is important for journalists to research, plan and deliver their stories. Solutions that facilitate remote production maximise efficiency and improve cohesiveness across TV, radio and online, allowing journalists to work together as a true team, regardless of location. 

CGI integrated Microsoft Teams with OpenMedia, its enterprise newsroom solution, to couple team communication with the news production workflow. We also created our cloud-native ReporterApp for reporters in the field to stay connected to their newsroom and collaborate on stories to support the production process directly, from wherever they are situated. The customisable and open widget architecture allows for flexibility in workflow adaptations and enhances collaboration between editors and presenters allowing them to monitor their news production stories, rundowns and topics, saving time and boosting efficiency. 

Chris Merrill - Strategic Marketing Director,
Grass Valley 

The challenge for many is having to do more with less. There are many events to cover, but the resources are limited. It’s difficult to get all the gear needed at the right place and the right time due to the increase in number of events compounded by supply chain restrictions in delivering gear. Furthermore, it is increasingly difficult to find talent to run the production. Remote production is seen as the primary answer to solving these issues. The biggest hurdle for adopting remote production is delays in the production chain that are visible to the operators as well as the program audience. 

AMPP’s patented time management technology is a big step forward in enabling a production workflow that feels real-time to the production team. Unchaining individual workstations from external time is possible because today, we are able to operate faster than real time using technologies that did not exist when frames-per-second timing was implemented. Frame syncs are replaced by memory buffers. AMPP adjusts buffer depth to match the timing offset required for each essence. Following this design strategy, any live production task can be carried out in what feels like real time and assembled in a linear fashion to create programming that exceeds audience expectations. 

Kurt Heitmann - CEO, 
CP Communications & Red House Streaming

The main challenges we face on a regular basis are the lack of available bandwidth and budgetary constraints. We solve the data challenges with our bonded cellular networking and mobile IP solutions. Our bonded cellular solutions combine multiple cellular networks to stream robust, reliable streams from anywhere, ensuring plenty of bandwidth with very fast connectivity - and affordable data rates - for live video. Back at our Red House Streaming Production Center, we also now have a varied network infrastructure of 1Gb and 10Gb pipes to seamlessly manage live remote production content coming from and going to any locations globally. 

Our new Spark HD trailer was built for remote productions and is very cost-effective. This is a standalone multi camera HD production trailer that can be on site or can send multiple streams back to our control room in Saint Petersburg, FL. For REMI productions, we can encode multiple cameras and stream the signals to any location using onboard SRT encoders.  

This is a very affordable mobile unit for budget-conscious events and customers, including high school and college sports, worship services, concerts, and live conferences. If an on-site mobile trailer is not an option for any reason, we can ship our ProductionSTREAM flypack on short notice, which include our all-in-one camera systems and an audio VPN. This is the approach we took for the recent Cayman Islands Classic, which is a basketball tournament. The individual cameras and announcers were streamed back to our control room and produced at our Red House Streaming Production Center. 

Ronen Artman - VP of Marketing, 

The way remote production workflows are set up varies from production to production, but driven by the necessities of the pandemic, adoption has dramatically increased. With LiveU, customers can reduce costs and produce reliable high-quality live events from a centralised studio control room instead of on-site production and/or satellite trucks. It allows people to think and work differently, enhancing the dynamic nature of a production and extending the reach of what’s possible to capture.  

As well as cost reduction, sustainability issues are increasingly a key part of customer conversations, with remote production central to these. We allow organisations to lower their carbon footprint as there’s no need for large teams and production trucks to travel to the site. It’s absolutely at the heart of what we do with our products and services fundamentally suited to this approach. 

We’ve closely aligned our suite of services - and industry partnerships - so customers can produce their content in a physical studio, in the cloud or in a hybrid workflow, dovetailing with their remote production. Leveraging the cloud, customers can deliver a more cost-effective, and sustainable live production together with the highest quality video performance.  

We’ve also continued to enhance our remote production workflow, increasing the capabilities of our technologies - like our Tally Light system, IP Pipe, which provide real-time remote control over network-based equipment, Audio Connect for real-time communication and Video Return, which allows crews to see what’s live on air.  

Remote production is very much the future.

Chris Scheck - Head of Marketing Content, 

A highly anticipated trend, as far as Lawo is concerned, is that SMPTE ST2110-based IP infrastructures are now going mainstream in the broadcast, AV and corporate worlds. Networking has been an import topic for years. Combining that with software-defined hardware offers a huge flexibility boost. And adding in open-standards wide-area (WAN) connections means that some gear no longer needs to travel to the venue. 

In Germany, Belgium and in many other countries, stadiums are connected to permanent ST2110-based networks that link them to the production-hub-cum-data-centre as well as to other stakeholders, using bi-directional essence transportation. Temporary or long-term bandwidth issues for video essences are increasingly addressed via lossless and efficient compression strategies. The ultimate goal is to make more efficient use of both processing resources and crews as well as to drastically reduce carbon emissions and travel times. 

A relentless focus on the user experience and a clear vision of where the industry is headed will be more important than ever. Operators expect fast and agile tools; they need almost instant scalability; they appreciate the ability to set any and all devices from a single location with just the right amount of parameter complexity; and they wish to protect their network and content from intruders. This is being addressed with Lawo’s HOME management platform for IP infrastructures. 

In the light of shrinking budgets, and with a view to serving operators even more efficiently, the software-defined approach for video and audio hardware is bound to evolve beyond the current horizon. And staying on top of looming paradigm shifts, shaping them as they materialise, will be more important than ever before. 

Steven Bilow - Product Marketing Manager,

Remote production over IP has proven its value, reliability, and quality. Top-tier broadcasters have successfully delivered some of the world's largest events using these technologies and techniques. While there are many moving parts to orchestrate, now that the path is established, more productions stand to benefit from reduced costs, streamlined workflows and enhanced sustainability. One of the many challenges with remote production is in regard to media transported over the public internet using popular technologies like SRT and RIST. While these technologies closely watch the health of the transport stream, they cannot discern the quality of the actual media being transported. To ensure the quality of the media, additional monitoring is required.  

To ensure the quality of remotely produced ST 2120 IP streams, tools like the Telestream Inspect 2110 probe continuously validate content, timing, and network health using an exception-based technique which is easy to use and understand. This provides error detection, diagnostics, and a clear indication of anomalies on any number of incoming and outgoing ST 2110 feeds. Because IP troubleshooting is more complex than point-to-point fault isolation, engineers need to be available to focus on analysis instead of searching across monitor walls in the hope of finding anomalies. Inspect 2110 allows for ‘monitor by exception’ reporting that only alerts engineering when there is something to be concerned about. When an error is detected, engineers or operators can dive deep into the impacted streams with the Telestream PRISM media analysis platform simply by clicking “view in PRISM” from the Inspect 2110 interface. This level of integrated monitoring and diagnosis is unique in the industry and is a critical part of modern quality monitoring for remote productions.

Graham Sharp - CEO,
Broadcast Pix

The technical challenges surrounding remote productions are getting solved with the increase in available network bandwidth and the move of many applications to the cloud or hosted environments. In my opinion, that still leaves two challenges:  

Number one: The change in the business model that remote production enables, i.e. the SaaS or pay-as-you-use transaction model. 

And two: The change in skill set as engineers and operators need to become familiar with networks and IT technology rather than video. 

The former makes it easy for a user to transition, as there are no large upfront hardware costs, but harder for the suppliers as they see their revenue decrease; the latter is a training and ease of use issue.  Broadcast Pix are working on both. We provide network training to our staff, resellers, and users - and are always available to dial in to help set up a production. The business transition is more difficult to manage and has been slower as our clients review their budgets and get used to the monthly or annual transaction model. However, I believe the pace of change will accelerate over the coming few years! 

Satoshi Kanemura - President, 
FOR-A Americas 

There have never been more options for live and remotely produced content than there are today. But what works best from a cost, workflow, and performance perspective? If you’re looking to transition to OTT distribution, the set up involved, as well as the many formats and protocols can seem daunting. Then there are the CDN costs.

Using a subscription-based model, those can escalate quickly. There are the multitude of protocols: HLS, SRT, RIST, MPEG-DASH, WebRTC, RTMP, RTSP... And the current buzz around FAST channels includes live productions, particularly sports. With all these options, it can become confusing as to which is the right direction for your organisation. 

In terms of transitioning to an IP infrastructure from SDI for live and remote production, we believe starting with a software-defined architecture is the best approach for a cost-effective migration. Adding new functionality through software means the customer can configure the system to their needs, without additional hardware investment. It also means that hybrid production, using a variety of signal formats, can be easily accomplished.  

Our solution, SOAR-A (Software Optimised Appliance Revolutionised by FOR-A), is a live remote production system with sub-second latency, synchronised A/V, and expandability, on a highly secure platform. SOAR-A boasts an expandable IP-based architecture and supports the conversion and delivery of SD, HD, 4K and NDI to ST 2110 signals. Compatible with WebRTC and using RIST, the entire SOAR-A workflow enables REMI production and gateway-free streaming.    

Never buy something for a single purpose that you can’t build upon. You may be using it to handle only video and Dante signals now, but you can expand that over the course of how your system, control room, and programming grows. Once you’ve purchased the main hardware, you can keep expanding that to include so much more. With SOAR-A, you can build for the future. 

Rick Seegull - SVP Technology & Business Development,

With supply chain challenges, talent shortages and concern for our environment, our customers are looking for ways to create systems that will scale in size and functionality with the resources they have and repurpose equipment going forward. They are looking for lightweight, space-saving, and low-energy solutions that are available while adding and not compromising on capability and quality. 

Our products are designed with environmental impact and ease-of-use in mind while innovating technology to push the bounds of sports and other applications.

Simplylive, a recent Riedel acquisition, provides software-defined remote and distributed production tools, eliminating the need for massive rooms of equipment and extensive travel costs (dollars, time, environmental impact) of operators. These proven production tools allow operators to be anywhere and allow the system to scale up or down easily.  

In addition, Riedel concentrates resources on user interfaces, which is evident in the 1200 Series Smartpanels. These multipurpose control panels condense separate functions onto one user panel, displacing several disparate single-function panels. Software apps allow the panel to be an intercom, a routing panel, an audio monitoring device, or all the above, reducing space and bridging several workflows, and to be repurposed as facilities grow or change. Finally, Riedel’s MediorNet-IP Muons are the ultimate in small-form-factor functionality, placing encoding, decoding, gateways, and other signal processing on an SFP, ideally utilized in VirtU frames or COTS IP switches. 

Raúl Alba - Director of Solutions Marketing Media & Cloud, 

One of the biggest challenges we hear from broadcast customers is making high quality content available to everyone who needs to work on it in a timely fashion, wherever each team member is based. Another important challenge is ensuring that all team members are coordinated and aligned, and work efficiently together. Broadcasters able to meet these challenges - with teams set up to work from anywhere - can benefit from a global talent pool, and the ability to reduce their real estate costs in prime locations. 

Avid’s Edit On Demand product as offering a different way to consume Avid products. It is deployed in the cloud as a service, and accessible from anywhere, to enable collaboration across the media production process.  

Edit On Demand provides a full SaaS-based virtual post-production environment in the cloud - complete with cloud-optimized Media Composer software and Avid NEXIS storage. Broadcasters can easily ramp up projects at a moment’s notice, with no cloud expertise necessary. For remote production, MediaCentral Stream handles compressed IP ingest from anywhere, and playout to anywhere. Web-based MediaCentral Cloud UX with Collaborate (web, mobile and applications) enables task creation, project tracking, and content sharing.  

For more sophisticated production environments, Avid’s Media Production in the Cloud initiative provides a complete end-to-end set of workflows that can be adapted to the needs of any media company. 

Igor Vitiorets - CTO, 

All remote solutions should produce good quality video content, but not diffuse the areas of responsibility of the personnel involved.

Technicians and cameramen must stay on site. PTZ cameras even with AI control cannot fully replace humans, especially at large and important events. At the same time, the workplaces of some personnel such as directors, sound engineers, broadcast producers and replay operators can be easily moved from OB van to a remote location. The remote workplace requires a broadband and fast Internet channel with minimal latency and the ability of the server to work in this mode. replay servers with make this possible.  

The challenge is to protect broadcasting from various issues related to unwanted, unlawful or improper behaviour by participants, viewers or third parties. Inappropriate footage on the air can result in termination of a broadcaster's advertising contracts, fines, or revocation of the license. A specialised ‘security system’ is needed. To protect the broadcaster from undesired issues, we have developed LB Sentinel, a live content control solution based on Simple R servers. The LB Sentinel solution delays the signal and provides the ability to overlap both audio and video with different AV clips on air. Since audio and video clips can be different, and buffer delays can be adjusted from 2 to 60 seconds, these ‘overlaps’ look organic, and do not disrupt the viewing experience.  

An AI-based detection system can be connected to the LB Sentinel, but experience has shown that trained personnel are currently much more reliable. The system can run on two servers in parallel, which provides maximum security for the most important events.