The Beginning Of A New Decade

While I am not one to wax nostalgic, the last decade was a pretty exciting one in media technology. HD-SDI came into its own in the early aught (00) years, mobile and wireless media, OTT and streaming all became mainstream. IP and file based media production was introduced and standardized (SMPTE ST2110) however, let’s not forget 3G, 12G, 4K, 8K, UHD and HDR. Whew! Plus VR & AR, eSports and 3D (oops) and the world got cloudy.

So the first question is – does the new decade start in 2020 or 2021? Well, that depends if you think the decimal numbering system starts with 1 or 0!! Do you count up from 0-9 or from 1-10?

OK enough fooling around. What new and exciting trends can we expect in the short term – New Year and in the long term – New Decade?

I think it’s pretty safe to see that Artificial Intelligence in all its variations Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DL), Cognitive Computing (CC), Artificial Neural Network (ANN) and Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) will continue to mature and evolve. We are already seeing how CGI is creating very real and believable characters using AI techniques. Robotics have always been an exciting part of production, imagine how exciting AI driven robotics is becoming. There are a few interesting initiatives using holographic techniques to create life like replicas of deceased actors and performers. Do we remember the slogan “Is it real or is it Memorex”? It’s not new to create a believable fake person on screen, but on stage? AI is showing up in sports production, ie player tracking, follow the ball and more.

As mobile devices continue to improve in quality and performance, we will begin to see that become a mainstream production device. I am talking professional, not just UGC. This is good lead in to the 5G conversation. In the last decade we went from 2.5G to 3G to 4G/LTE and along the way streaming to our mobile devices. As 5G coverage improves, it also opens opportunity to the professional community to use it for remote production. We started with ENG (Electronic News Gathering), then SNG (Satellite News Gathering) how about MNG (Mobile News Gathering) and for the non-professionals we still have UGC – User Generated Content.

Personally I don’t really see blockchain or IoT technologies having a strong place in professional media. With regard to blockchain I think the risk is too great on multiple levels. First it would need to be within a media walled garden and protected environment, next breaking up high value content, distributing it and then reassembling for delivery, distribution or just craft production could open all kinds of potential for file corruption.

IoT is even more risky and exposes the protected media environment to the Internet. Or is IoT the technology for a TD to control a production switcher over Wi-Fi and is there an App for that? Maybe IoT controls for a robotic camera that gets hijacked or loses connection mid production. While IoT may be good for that robotic toilet paper re-filler (yes, this was at CES), IoT may not be good technology for professional media.

Storage continues to be both a challenge and consideration. As the K’s increase, 2K, 4K, 8K and xK both capacity and throughput will need to improve. This also impacts the cost of storage, the type of storage and the management of storage. For example, one hour of 4K is 22Gb/s and creates a 318GB file for 1 hour and 8K is 89Gb/s and 22TB for 1 hour of video. Speaking of 8K, for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, NHK the host broadcaster has specified all 8K production. So I am guessing there will be yottabytes and zettabytes of storage, but how fast are the drives or how many drives does it take? Wow!

One senior engineering exec told me 8K will never leave the truck.

Media management will become more important and as recognition technologies improve, they will be able to create the metadata critical to good media management. Using recognition tools, it will help looking into the archives and creating better metatags.

The cloud is still going through some definition phases. What products and services are best in the cloud and which aren’t? It’s still the shiny new toy and everyone is figuring what to do with and how much that actually costs. The cloud guys haven’t figured out a working cost model that their clients can actually afford. I am sure it will all get worked out.

There are fewer manual workflows and processes in moving media and handling media. Craft is still craft but the supporting activities like test and measurement, signal correction and routing now depend on different automation tools and more importantly orchestration tools that oversee the automation and manage all the processes.

Not to worry, I am not overlooking the whole IP thing. As in other major transitions and changes, now that the dust has settled a bit, as SDI technology reaches its end of lifecycle or facilities are buying new devices they will be IP enabled and as the infrastructure scales IP will be become the next iteration of infrastructure and production systems. As new facilities are built, IP will be the standard. As far as smaller productions, I see the Studio in a Box with integrated IP routing becoming the norm for multi-camera remote productions. For single camera, we already have camera mounted storage and it doesn’t really matter what the cable or format is, if it’s only going to a single storage device. The mobile truck community is following the same path as the bricks and mortar folks. As they upgrade the trucks they are going IP, but until they do, it’s still SDI. I think HDR and UHD will become standard in production devices not anything special.

Now, about ATSC 3.0 and 5G. There’s a new ATSC 3.0 test lab in South Korea. I am not sure what their testing if ATSC3.0 is being installed. 5G is being challenged by competing technologies and the fact that it has a few technical issues of its’ own. Something about the propagation characteristics and the number of amplifiers and antennas needed compared to 4G/LTE. Another small issue are its penetration characteristics – you know – going through walls and stuff like that. However just like ATSC3.0 5G is not backwards compatible, you need a new device to use it and if 5G is not available in your coverage area – Oh well.

Breaking out the really big crystal ball

The efforts to solve the quantum computing challenge will have a substantial impact on production as the demand for high power devices will grow with each new K. How many qubits are needed for each K? Artificial Intelligence will continue to improve and become an integral part of production in many different areas. eSports will drive innovation in creating more interesting virtual spaces and with the holographic ability of creating realistic people, there won’t be a need for unrealistic avatars but representations of real players. Augmented reality will bring new levels of interaction between live action and CGI.

We are only at the beginning of this new decade, and I think it will be pretty exciting.

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