The Color (Or Resolution) Of Money - We live in a wonderful time for the creative media industry. Huge change processes are currently on-going, driven by technological and social factors - all bringing opportunities and threats in equal measure. Given that environment, it is so easy to get swept along by the technological whizz-bangs and to forget something fundamental and human. Technology is there to serve the media business and is most definitely not an end in its own right.
The Power Of Partnership
It’s difficult to know what to do or where to turn when almost everything is changing around us.
- Heavyweights of IT are becoming media giants as they seek to connect media content with products/services.
- Advertising spending patterns have changed dramatically following the massive increase in on-line consumer time.
- Valuable Media Rights, with increasing competition, have become a sellers’ market. Those with larger capital or cash flow access can pay more and are force smaller competitors out.
- OTT has changed the way consumers behave with respect to media, with expectations of flexible consumption without connection to additional subscription cost.
- Gaming on-line is competing with other media forms for the attention of the consumer, particularly in younger generations.
- Technology innovations like media over IP networks are offering radical transformation possibilities, albeit with added complexity and learning required.
Sony is a great technology company, with great capabilities and compelling solutions in multiple areas of the media eco-system. Providing technology, while critical and an enabler for our customers, is today not the primary objective - it is how we can help our customers to thrive, transform and grow. Given the uncertainty and change in our collective media markets, it is sensible to acknowledge that no company, supplier, or customer, has all the answers - collaborative work, including between competitors, is key.
Options We Have Explored
We have a long history in technology transitions (creating SDI, introducing HD and UHD, wide color gamut and dynamic range etc etc), we have been involved in some fundamental changes - for example, the transformation of network technologies and their introduction for use as media transport and the related use of cloud architectures for media management. These experiences help new customers to benefit from learnings in a way that is highly valuable. The acquisition of the IP media network specialist Nevion is an acknowledgement that breadth is a critical component to manage change and uncertainty.
Some Customer Examples:
Radical Changes In Production Topologies Such As Remote Production
We delivered an IP media network solution for production to Discovery (Europe) that radically transformed their workflows. Two private Clouds (in the UK and the Netherlands) provide the storage and processing capabilities for their regional facilities across Europe. This highly scalable system enables any control room in the regions to use any of the resources in either of the Clouds, with usage and capacity being managed automatically. The experience of these network challenges included coordinating with 3rd parties, managing compressed and uncompressed signals and IP and SDI infrastructure.
Cloud And Virtual Production For Live And Sporting Events
Viacom CBS wanted to make better use of resources and were simultaneously faced with pandemic restrictions on the movement and social contact of personnel. We delivered ‘Virtual Production’ - using only cloud-based processing and production, Viacom CBS reduced the set-up time for physical equipment, the number of on-site staff and related travel costs. This service offering enabled European customers to take advantage of cloud-based pricing on a pay-as-you-go basis with the needed graphics, audio, video via a stay-at-home control interfaces included as part of the package.
The Overhaul Of Mixed Live And File-based Environments
SRG SSR, a sports and news broadcaster faced significant changes in the formats to be delivery to its customers. Being a distributed broadcaster around Switzerland means material needed to be shared quickly between production locations and published to many different platforms to suit social consumption changes. The ability to quickly ingest, share, edit and publish any content to any platform, made our Media Backbone Hive platform the perfect tool to deploy for an ‘always on’ journalism model.
The common denominators of these examples are the changes in the business of our customers in areas that are NOT directly technology related.
- Operational and financial efficiency.
- Business flexibility (delivery) and speed.
- Scalability and responsiveness.
- Staff utilisation and satisfaction
Carefully consider the implementation of new technologies. Analysis has revealed that introducing IP live solutions for its own sake can be more expensive than SDI by approximately 26%. UHD increases the required data rates to speeds that could block other technological avenues such as pure public cloud production. Having created and deployed our Virtual Production service offering, we know what is possible, through current cloud or public data centre capabilities. We appreciate the hardware support to software processing that is required to build real-time signal processing systems like video production switchers. The continuum in between the virtual and physical for live production continues to evolve and change what is possible with and without hardware support. In file-based and non-real time workflows, cloud can be transformative, providing flexibility and scalability unavailable on-premises. In the context of live production, questions such as “I can, but should I? what for? What business value or transformation will it deliver? “should be asked first.
Fundamental aspects of introducing technological change is to know more about the business, its objectives, people, costs, problems, and pitfalls. Each of these areas, when discussed with a determined, wise, and capable partner who will be with you for the long haul, will reveal components of your technological pathway critical to determining success or failure.
There are several different business models to consider: state funded broadcasters to small rental companies performing (in effect) a capital (money) management service for operating companies. This makes it difficult to generalise. It is possible to ask questions with Sony that help to explore the solution to be created, and the objectives in terms of finance, people, processes, and technology. These are the aspects that make a real difference over the long term.
Where Is All This Going – What’s The Vision?
Sony’s view of the future for the media industry is that technology should be deployed in the right form for our customers problems, leveraging the power of life like reality in remote and real-time technologies. That includes situations where there is a financial, operational or people issue to be solved. We will use cloud and software technologies where it brings you the best solution that is available. Our Virtual Production cloud-based solution has delivered thousands of streams entirely based on an OPEX basis. The benefits are that people can drive workflow processes from remote locations and that capital expenditure can be reduced, to name but two.
We also deploy hardware where appropriate for our customers - if a customer is in the business of delivering highest quality live content, we know that synchronous real time processing of multiple UHD streams requires support from FPGA’s (field programmable gate arrays) and GPU’s (Graphical Processor Units) as borne out by our new software based XVS-G1 production switcher. This sort of hardware support of software processing architectures is not always necessary, but it most certainly is where multiple, very high data rate uncompressed streams are needed to be simultaneously and synchronously processed for our customers target audience. The use of compression in live environments, protocols for IP stream acceleration, microservices and service-based architectures are all elements of the appropriate solution to the problem. None of these are, however, obligatory, and all are options to be used as a means to an end, not the end vision itself.
There are resources within Sony creating cloud-based software for news, file-based production, cinema and quality episodic production, and other groups creating physical products for image and sound capture, as well as real and faster than real time signal processing and management. Given our broad capability across the media technology spectrum, we feel we are in an advantageous position to contribute to creating solutions that fit to our customers problems. But it starts with a conversation about you, not about what technology we have.
The evolution towards distributed production underlines the importance of decision-making. The right partner for each project is vital. As well as the best products, Sony and Nevion have expertise and experience, built on the delivery of hundreds of IP projects across the world. Learn all of this and more from our white paper, “The Future of Live – Remote and Distributed Production”. To download it and make the best of IP, go to pro.sony/remoteanddistributed.