Powering Remote Possibilities

  • With Per Lindgren, Net Insight

Powering Remote Possibilities

As well as demanding more content, consumers today expect a viewing experience that is as good - or better - than the in-person. Instant replays, more camera angles, access to highlights, and flawless quality on any screen are just the tip of the iceberg. Today, live production has become a large and complex undertaking, while the challenge for broadcasters and production companies is balancing rising consumer demand for more content, and anytime, anywhere access, with budgets that remain static.

Against this background, the business benefits of remote production are clear. By sending raw camera feeds, audio, and equipment control over a digital infrastructure to a central studio, the switch from CAPEX to OPEX leads to cost savings. Even before COVID-19, broadcasters and content producers were turning to remote production to help them deliver exciting content experiences more efficiently.

The pandemic served to accelerate the move to remote workflows and cloud-based platforms as broadcasters and production companies accommodate travel restrictions and limits on staff numbers at live event venues. 

Rapidly pivoting to remote and distributed workflows has been critical to the successful delivery of live sports, news, and online video content during these challenging times. What was seen as rare and pioneering barely a year ago is now a near-universal and permanent switch.

At Net Insight we’ve been driving the industry transition towards remote production since 2012, working in close partnership with industry innovators such as Grass Valley, to advance the development of remote workflows. For example, Grass Valley’s DirectIP functionality allows cameras and their base stations (XCUs) to be located separately.

As a result, camera operators and a skeleton technical crew are the only staff needed at an event location; the rest of the production team can remain at the home studio or at a remote production hub. 

This technology advancement further eliminates the complex logistics involved in getting large volumes of equipment and personnel from one live event to the next, while it allows one production team to support multiple events in a single day - that’s the game changer.

Delivering a network for the future
Our Nimbra technology is relied on by the world’s leading service providers to ensure the reliability and robustness that is essential to uninterrupted live feeds. The Nimbra platform is designed for transporting high-quality media over IP, allowing customers such as SVT, The Switch, Tata Communications and Mobilelinks, to handle contribution, distribution, cloud ingest and orchestration on one platform and open up new business models.

Transmission services company Mobilelinks turned to us to expand its network capacity across Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. Having a durable and flexible backend is particularly important for Mobilelinks’ sports broadcasting customers who need to support the delivery of multiple uncompressed feeds between arenas and its main production facilities at ultra-low latency. Looking ahead, broadcasters need ways of supporting new higher resolution production requirements and enabling highly flexible distributed workflows. On large multi-location projects, feeds must be brought in from a number of different venues, with zero delays and no compromise to the final viewing experience. 

Sweden’s national broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT), deployed DirectIP technology along with Nimbra to support remote production of the 2019 Alpine World Ski Championships, held in Åre. The remote workflow seamlessly handled 80 uncompressed HD camera signals and 100 feeds. Live signals were delivered from the venue to SVT’s Stockholm HQ some 372 miles away.

The Åre project was a massive undertaking and at the time was the largest remote production ever handled. Technology advancements that enable contribution, distribution, cloud ingest and orchestration on one platform makes this type of deployments much simpler to achieve.

In India, Tata Communications is launching a new global 100G IP media backbone of unprecedented scale delivered in collaboration with Net Insight. The large global media network will enable broadcasters, sports organisations, OTT companies and eSports businesses to offer their audiences worldwide more immersive viewing and gaming experiences and transform how they operate through cost-efficient full remote or distributed production. 

Tata Communications has also integrated Net Insight’s new cloud-based solution Nimbra Edge, leveraging the existing media network to connect a number of its large data centres into a globally distributed media fabric connecting their whole media services ecosystem.

Moving media to the cloud
Relevance and speed lie at the heart of live content. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of keeping audiences connected and the need for flexible and agile ways of creating and delivering content. Many broadcasters and production companies have accelerated roadmaps to remote production and cloud adoption as a result. It has clearly shown that with flexibility and agility now more critical than ever, open IP networks and the virtualisation of media functions using cloud-based technologies have a huge role to play in the future of live content. 

The industry’s transition toward cloud and IP is a fundamental enabler of innovation, helping broadcasters, service providers and production companies launch new services, deliver targeted and personalised content and achieve significant efficiencies. Open standards are central to maximising this potential. Being open means agility and flexibility. 

It also makes it easy to adopt new technologies in a way that doesn’t mean throwing out existing technology investments. Today’s production workflows need to be easily scaled up and down depending on demand. This helps to reduce cost and enables greater efficiencies for team collaboration. Increasingly, broadcasters and media organisations also want to leverage the best talent in the industry, from technical directors to on-screen talent, wherever in the world they are. Distributed workflows, whether in the cloud or over media IP networks underpin this type of flexible approach, allowing production staff to be located in multiple locations - even their own homes - accessing live feeds and clips from anywhere.

The migration of live workflows to public clouds offers huge benefits, allowing broadcasters and content producers to focus on creating great content - instead of devoting resources to managing infrastructure. However, it doesn’t come without its challenges. The key hurdle is getting live media to the cloud environments reliably and securely, but also cost-efficiently. All while retaining quality and keeping complexity to a minimum. Our Nimbra platform is the industry benchmark for reliability and quality and is now cloud-enabled, allowing customers to transition to distributed IP and cloud workflows in an easy and cost-effective way - while retaining their existing investments and keeping existing benefits for their core business.

Driving further efficiencies with 5G
Looking ahead, 5G will also help simplify remote production workflows by eliminating the need for dedicated satellite, fibre, or IP networks while offering greater bandwidth, lower latency, and a defined quality of service at low cost. 

Mobile media acquisition from anywhere in the world becomes possible, with real benefits to events that run over some distance, such as marathons, golf, cycling, etc. Venue connectivity will also be another driver for remote production growth. With the right end-to-end solution, broadcasters can eliminate bottlenecks and squeeze the costs out of resource-intensive live production workflows.

As 5G matures and penetrates the market it promises to dramatically change the media landscape. For example, camera operators can be more flexible and mobile as they can leverage 5G to connect cameras to production facilities without cables. Production teams can arrange ‘pop-up’ production capabilities that use the 5G network to deliver multiple camera signals back to a central hub. Staff can mix video captured by traditional cameras with those on 5G-enabled smartphones creating multi-camera experiences and new angles that were not possible before.

Net Insight’s Nimbra solution portfolio is designed for next-generation media processing and delivery workflows that are 5G-ready. Built on open standards, broadcasters can ingest and distribute any live media stream, in any format, securely to multiple destinations across any IP network, with 5G dramatically increasing network capacity to make this process faster and more reliable.  

Powering towards future growth
Even for niche events, audiences are increasingly global and broadcasters, service providers, production companies and enterprises all need to produce and deliver rich, compelling content experiences to consumers around the world - often tailoring this content for different platforms and territories. As the demand for content continues to increase and as viewing habits continue to evolve, having flexible, reliable and agile solutions for contribution, ingestion and live production delivery are vital to long-term success. Open, cloud-ready media delivery platforms provide many of the answers.