The Sponsors Perspective: Broadcast Transformation In The Cloud

We live in fascinating times: increasingly, we live in the era of cloud-based broadcast operations.



This article was first published as part of Essential Guide: Cloud Microservice Workflow Design - download the complete Essential Guide HERE.

Growth in cloud computing has been a central trend over the last decade, with the market experiencing triple-digit annual growth as recently as 2015. According to Deloitte research, growth among the largest hyperscale public cloud providers had declined to “only” 31% annually by the end of 2019, and this rate had been projected to (slowly) decline further in 2020 and 2021 as the industry matures, growth in cloud continued to outpace that in many other sectors.

Like every industry, the media & entertainment (M&E) industry has been thrown a curveball with COVID-19, and a recent report from PwC and Microsoft highlights how they’re accelerating their cloud investments and moving away from legacy production systems.

As recently reported in TechRepublic, production delays and the under-delivery of episodic content could result in over $3.5 billion in lost ad revenue for broadcasters, according to the report, “The show goes on in the cloud.”

Although M&E businesses have been resistant to embrace emerging technologies in the past, they’re now focused on digitally transforming themselves. The pandemic “is changing underlying model assumptions and proving the value of cloud and putting more revenue in the pockets of media companies that weren’t quick to embrace cloud as they have,” said CJ Bangah, a principal at PwC US.

Intelligent cloud transformation will enable innovation and efficiency, according to Mark Borao, a partner at PwC. For example, some studios went straight to streaming while a film festival stood up its event in the cloud. Other production companies and commercial advertising agencies leveraged cloud technologies to keep their employees safe and productive, the report said.

Deloitte calls cloud “fourth generation broadcast infrastructure,” following the first three generations starting with analog – then digital – then data center. And now, cloud.

Several factors are fuelling the transition to cloud-based broadcast operations and make it highly relevant to today’s business landscape.

Cloud Infrastructure Adoption – Across the M&E industry, there is a mindset change underway from owning and managing a private datacenter to adoption of cloud infrastructure for storage and management of media content.

SaaS Availability - As cloud adoption becomes more ubiquitous there is a need to have cloud native software services available to execute media workflows. Bringing the Telestream Media Framework to the cloud allows for continuity for our customers workflows by using an underlying technology they can trust.

Elastic and Scalable - The Telestream Cloud portfolio can meet the expectations of rapidly changing business requests by expanding and contracting based on need at the time of execution. There is no need to overbuild or put off workflows to a later date, we can provide the service now and scale it up or down on demand.

Remote Availability - As the decentralization of workers accelerates, cloud SaaS products allow remote workforces to more easily collaborate and not rely on hardware and locally installed software.

Media Company Personnel Skills - there has been a change in who manages the operations of the media companies. More and more, there is core competency in software development and Telestream’s Transform service, as an API-first software product allows those groups to be flexible in their deployment of their workflows.

M&E Cloud Pioneers Reap Rich Dividends
One of Europe’s largest commercial television networks and a global production and distribution business is pioneering the cloud-based broadcast operations. For several reasons, the broadcaster decided to move a significant amount of its content preparation operations into the Cloud. The project sees it migrating many of its current on-premise media processing operations into the Cloud.

Commencing pre-pandemic, the broadcaster started bringing in-house a range of content processing operations that had previously been provided by a third-party service. At very short notice, it was unable to use the supplier, and with only a few weeks’ notice, it had to design and build a new solution for the preparation of content.

The broadcaster’s creative team was expanded to accommodate any craft edits, while the team was faced with the need to rapidly scale up content encoding and packaging workloads. Cloud-based services were the only practical solution, and after evaluation of several alternatives, it selected the Telestream Cloud solution and worked with Telestream’s team to onboard a cloud-based workflow for their own content.

“We only had sight of the workflows required from the client side, so we had limited knowledge of what we could build,” explained the broadcaster’s Content Processing Team Lead. “Very quickly, we had to get up to speed, since we needed to minimize business disruption and we must not have screens turning black.

“Already, we were well embedded with Telestream using its on-premise solutions,” he explains. “So, it was a natural progression to investigate what Telestream Cloud services offered us.”

With Telestream’s help, the broadcaster created a POC (Proof of Concept) system, which replicated its existing Vantage workflows on Telestream Cloud and proved highly successful. Phase 1 was fully operational within six weeks, allowing the broadcaster to process 50 percent of its normal throughput.

“Within 12 weeks, we were exceeding our previous content preparation capabilities. It was a roller coaster ride with us learning on our feet,” he explained. “We went from POC to full production in one of the quickest turnarounds that I have ever experienced.

“A lot of this was thanks to the Telestream team and their ability to visualize what we wanted to do. Now, we are in Phase 3 of re-factoring the Vantage workflows, streamlining them and making them productionized. It’s going really well.”

Cloud Transform user interface (courtesy Telestream).

Cloud Transform user interface (courtesy Telestream).

The Need To Empower Broadcaster’s Internal Development Teams
While the European broadcaster project is a source of great pride within Telestream, there is a need to reduce the emphasis on Telestream’s support team. Instead, we need to enable and empower our customers’ internal development teams so that they can perform these tasks themselves. This is Telestream Cloud Transform’s ‘raison d’étre’.

Transform is highly scalable (to hundreds or potentially thousands of simultaneous sessions). Also, it is highly secure, with encrypted communications and API-key access. With Telestream Cloud, you bring-your-own-storage: we never store your sensitive media. And Telestream Cloud Transform is cloud agnostic: it runs in whichever provider/region stores your media, avoiding any egress charges.

In developing Transform, Telestream is targeting numerous organizations - both traditional ones such as broadcasters and post-houses, as well as relative newcomers such as social media platforms and app developers. Telestream Cloud Transform is mainly targeted for developers and development teams within media companies as well as other possible opportunities referenced above.

Traditional broadcasters and others in the media and entertainment industry are looking towards an architecture that shifts some or all of their existing workflows into the cloud to take advantage of the massive scalability and cost-effective SaaS solutions to be found there. As these large enterprises want to scale up or shift load into the cloud, in addition to flexibility and security they need a foundation of technology they can trust to meet their demanding and detailed specifications.

As others outside of the traditional media space go in search of tools to integrate into their platforms and the backend of apps for processing media, they also desire highly scalable SaaS solutions to accommodate a wide variety of transcoding scenarios. The need for modern architecture and API-driven products is critical to teams mainly consisting of developers. As with the first group, a trustworthy foundation of technology to ensure that specs can be met and that beautiful pictures are created for consumers is a must.

Transform is an API-first service, aimed at developers who may not be media processing experts. It leverages flexible JSON-driven compositions to achieve desired outcomes; and is scriptable both in terms of API and Composition creation/manipulation. This new service employs a SaaS deployment model and has the Telestream Media Framework under the hood.

What Is The Telestream Media Framework?
For decades, Telestream has been developing the workflow and transcoding technologies used by media and entertainment companies worldwide. The Telestream Media Framework is what sits behind our Vantage Media Processing Platform, Vantage Cloud Port and now, the Telestream Cloud Transform service. This is the proprietary software that’s been developed by Telestream over the past two decades and powers some of the most important media workflows in the world. All of the trust that our customers have in our on-prem products is available in Telestream Cloud by taking advantage of the Telestream Media Framework.

Why Introduce Another Transcoding Service?
Telestream Cloud Transform is different from other systems in three ways. Firstly, at many different organizations, development teams are now building transcoding and media processing workflows, and Transform has been created for them. The components of the Telestream Media Framework can now be in the hands of software developers at media companies, so they can create their own compositions for manipulating media.

Many organizations know that they should be working with cloud-based workflows but they are not sure how to do this. At Telestream, we have taken the media expertise we honed over the past two decades and put it into our cloud products. This means our large media customers and now some non-traditional, but video heavy enterprise customers can have access to the Vantage heritage in a cloud-native package.

Telestream is one of a small group of companies that is cloud agnostic. Our customers can choose to use any cloud partner they prefer, and we are able to meet them there. Some of the other transcoding services in the market lock customers into their cloud infrastructure and do not offer a choice.

So, what can customers do now they could not do before? Transform is a cloud service that allows developers to work on their applications, and not spend years learning the intricacies of the countless video formats in use worldwide. Through its API, development teams can write JSON compositions to manipulate media without ever worrying about what’s under the hood. This means that they design the processing workflow that works for their organization and Transform manipulates media and puts the assets where the organization needs them. Other technology solutions are not able to provide the breadth of transcoding and media processing capability that’s available in Transform with the Telestream Media Framework.

We’re in a world where video has become as ubiquitous as the written word and providing the computational hooks to put those pixels to work - that’s what Telestream Cloud Transform does. And it does this across virtually every codec or format, whether you’re focussed on consumer – or professional - acquisition formats like XAVC or MXF, editing formats like DNxHD or ProRes, or distribution formats like h264 or h265.

The Transform API is straightforward – it starts jobs, stops jobs, and requests status. Developers are familiar with how to talk to the Telestream Cloud Transform API. The composition language is the “special sauce.” That’s where the instructions are given to manipulate the media.

A Template pre-processor fills in the gaps that may exist between what is being requested in the original composition with the details the Telestream Media Framework needs. For example, a request may be made by the incoming composition to extract and process two audio channels, and the pre-processor will find the channels, determine which decompressor is needed, etc. It does this by looking at the composition and what the Telestream Media Framework needs, inspecting the incoming media, and then it fills in the gaps.

Reuben Cohn, Cloud Transcoding Product Manager at Telestream.

Reuben Cohn, Cloud Transcoding Product Manager at Telestream.

As we reported at the start of this article, PwC’s Mark Borao believes that intelligent cloud transformation will enable innovation and efficiency. At Telestream, we wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. Back in 2015, we made our first major cloud investment when we acquired PandaStream and ever since we have invested major resources in developing solutions and systems that will help organizations of different size and scale to harness the power of the cloud in broadcast operations.

By a country mile, Transform is the most significant cloud-based transcoding and media processing technology introduction to come from Telestream so far. We look forward with great anticipation to see how the market will respond to it. For more information, go to https://www.telestream.net/telestream-cloud/transform.htm.

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