Production control rooms must now handle more sources than ever as well as decentralized remote production operations.
While cloud-based, decentralized infrastructures are increasingly becoming an efficient way to produce and distribute live and pre-recorded television content, it all starts with a control room, physically located somewhere that must be staffed and sources managed with the utmost care. However it’s not only broadcasters, but also corporations, churches, and various industries that now distribute video feeds from live events still rely on production control rooms in their facilities.
It's also important to remember that SDI-based control rooms are still popular and continue to be built around the world, especially when the studio and control room are located in the same building. Whether it’s an IP or SDI facility, important components include video switchers, graphic systems, encoder/decoders, comm systems, multiviewers, monitor walls, servers, replay systems, conversion and T&M analysis gear, technical furniture and so much more.
At the IBC Show, vendors will exhibit their latest offerings for the control room, promoting flexible technology that can accommodate both IP and SDI sources.
Thomas Tang, President of Apantac, said that he’s actually seen an increase in the number of production control rooms being built lately and business for his signal processing, multiviewers and video wall products has been good.
“There are so many different ways of sending content to the customers, so the need for content has greatly increased,” he said. “Today’s control rooms are not limited to video, there are also a lot of computer sources. However, it is important for the production to still use a single format when it comes to routing and switching. HDMI to SDI and SDI to HDMI conversion and scaling is now more and more important, especially when genlocking is necessary.”
Apantac’s T# multiviewers feature a modular design, allowing users to build the system that they need by choosing from a selection of input and output boards, or from a selection of pre-configured models.
At IBC (Stand 10.A30), Apantac will show its flagship T# multiviewers and openGear products. One of the highlights will be its series of products based on the Intel Smart Display Module (SDM) platform with high-speed PCIe connectivity that can be integrated into the sleekest control room monitors and multiviewers. In addition to traditional 12G SDI converters and multiviewers on SDM, the company will also highlight its new NDI multiviewer and Software Defined Video-over-Ethernet (SDVoE) products on the Intel platform.
So, do customers need more conversion with IP or less? Some vendors say that as IP infrastructure becomes increasingly common, more and more users will be working with a consistent IP infrastructure. So, having to convert between SDI and IP will decrease. But connecting all of the various pieces in a control room will require some conversion.
“Customers usually decide to build either an IP or SDI studio, however, it is difficult to dictate the customer sources to be one or the other,” said Tang. “This is when conversion plays a big part. Unlike SDI, there are still several flavors of IP, so it is important to be able to convert to or from the desired IP format, such as ST-2110 and NDI to SDI and vice versa. Conversions between IP format can also be necessary.”
In Stand 2.A51 FOR-A will show an updated slate of production switchers, which are at the center of the control room, where all the feeds, inputs, and playback are centralized into the switcher to produce the best possible content and output as needed - depending upon the requirement. According to Satoshi Kanemura, President of FOR-A Americas, these systems must be rugged and intuitive with automated functions that reduce operator expense and technical mistakes.
To meet the growing need for live events and remote productions to handle a variety of signal formats, FOR-A will stage a demonstration of its live hybrid production solution, which is both SDI and NDI compatible. Built on the upgraded versions of its popular HVS-490 video switcher and new board, the HVS-NIF, the live hybrid production solution is both SDI and NDI compatible, as well as incorporating sources such as multiple Zoom feeds.
FOR-A’s Production Center features NDI networking support and combines a video switcher, router, and frame synchronizer in a single 4RU-sized unit.
The FOR-A HVS-490 Video Production Switcher offers flexible expansion with NDI card options, opening the door to more affordable 4K UHD production without the need for investing in new hardware,” said Kanemura. “In HD it can accommodate up to 40 inputs/9 outputs, while in 4K it can expand up to 10 inputs/7 outputs. FOR-A’s exclusive MELite technology uses an optional card to extend the switcher’s 2 M/Es to offer 6 M/E performance. Users can expand their switching capabilities even more by using built-in FLEXaKEY technology for flexible reassignment of keyers to M/E or AUX busses, and feature-rich 2.5D DVE for compositing with up to 12 keyers.
Also on display will be FOR-A’s new software-defined IP solution, the MFR-3100EX all-in-one production center with NDI support. Consisting of a switcher, router, and frame synchronizer in a single 4RU-sized unit, it configures a matrix of up to 64x72, with up to 4 inputs/4 outputs for 8K signals or 16 inputs/18 outputs for 4K UHD. Multiple units can be used together, enabling matrix expansion and redundancy. All input channels may be monitored via web browser, and optional functionality like AVDL, SRC, SSD, and audio MUX/DEMUX is a simple matter of adding an expansion card to an input or output slot.
The company also offers SDI/IP gateway solutions, which are key to a smooth transition from SDI to IP.
TAG Video Systems (Stand 1.C30) will spotlight an enhanced version of its Media Control System. Initially launched at NAB 2022, TAG’s MCS allows media companies and content owners to extract and utilize their own data to achieve deep insight into their operations. The addition of TAG’s Bridge technology allows the MCS to ingest a stream once and deliver an optimized version in any size or format to multiple locations, making it an invaluable enhancement for multi-studio live production applications such as news and sports.
TAG’s Media Control System allows media companies and content owners to extract and utilize their own data to achieve deep insight into their operations.
“The rich feature set of the MCS puts data into the hands of our customers, where it belongs,” said Kevin Joyce, TAG’s Zer0 Friction Officer. “It unleashes the full power of TAGs probing and monitoring system providing customers with a new level of capability, opening the door for them to achieve significant customization and improved operational performance.”
The MCS serves as an aggregation engine, system manager and orchestrator for data collected by TAG’s Multi-Channel Monitoring (MCM) systems. Using an open-source paradigm, the MCS exposes every piece of probed and monitored data to third-party analytic and visualization applications such as Elasticsearch, Kibana, Grafana and Prometheus enabling DevOps to use the information for forensic or predictive analysis to improve business enablement. Media companies can now manage the entire monitoring stack from end-to-end within one system and gain invaluable insights for optimum workflow performance.
“In general, a monitoring system is the heartbeat of the control room,” said Joyce. “It monitors the health of the content and alerts the operators of any problems that need to be addressed during the signal’s lifecycle.”
Specifically, TAG’s system allows Media companies to manage the entire monitoring stack from end-to-end within one system and gain invaluable insights for optimum workflow performance. At IBC, TAG is showing its Multi-Channel Monitoring (MCM) system with enriched monitoring visualization resources. The system’s Under Monitor Display (UMD) capabilities have been increased to 8 UMDs per tile so significantly more rich data can be visualized in one place for optimal monitoring and control. Operators can also custom configure all Tallies and UMDs, allowing them to achieve the best use of their own workflow. Additionally, UMDs can now also deliver on-screen timers for production and playout timing applications along with their other display capabilities to present operators with a ‘big picture” of the content’s journey.
“TAG’s multiviewer and its visualization capabilities play a critical role in the live production room,” said Joyce. “The TAG platform can indicate errors in live streams in real time, but the most important feature is its ability to deliver feeds in ultra-low latency to production with incredible display capabilities like the recent UMD and Tally enhancements while maximizing resources (uncompressed streams are very heavy). The technology can be used outside the production room for the entire workflow as well, however, and that's where monitoring becomes very valuable.”
At Telestream (Stand 7.C16), the company will address the building of new production control rooms and existing facilities that are now upgrading their technology to accommodate IP-based production. At the same time, remote production is becoming increasingly common.
Among the control room products to be highlighted at IBC are: Inspect 2110, monitoring IP-based ingest and playout feeds; PRISM, HDR and SDR, SDI and IP diagnostics; Vantage, workflow design and transcoding; GLIM, viewing and approving full resolution video from a desktop computer regardless of geographic location; Lightspeed Live Capture, as well as ContentAgent and CardAgent, for ingest; the Ingest SPG8000A, for synchronizing IP and SDI sources and timing to leader and GrandMaster clocks; and Stanza, a subscription-based captioning and subtitling editor in a browser (in a client-server deployment model).
“Some believed that, after the Covid-19 pandemic, remote production would gradually decrease and production would become more like it was pre-pandemic,” said Steve Bilow, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Telestream. “To some extent, this may happen. But it now appears increasingly likely that remote production is here to stay. This does not mean that in-house production control will decrease. Rather, it means that production control rooms will need to be able to deal with more diverse media types and more varied infrastructure topologies.
He said that it is now necessary to bring in packages that may have been shot on-site but edited half a world away. This means IP transport of media, sometimes discretely via ST 2110 streams and other times as aggregated streams like ST 2022-6, or even compressed, lower-bandwidth video.
“So, the major change in production control is neither the increase nor decrease of quantity, it is the increasing need for flexibility and the increasing quantity of video, audio, and data streams that must be consumed and produced,” he said. “This leads to two areas of increasing importance. First, it is no longer possible for a team of humans to detect all possible anomalies by watching media on a monitor wall. Second, workflows are becoming so complex that, despite the wide distribution of creative talent, it has become ever more beneficial to centralize, and standardize on, workflows.”
When it comes to the control room, all infrastructure “makes a difference” and the best way for vendors to address that fact is through flexibility,” said Bilow. “My products need to appeal to you if you are building SDI infrastructure or if you are building IP infrastructure, and if you are deploying in the cloud, or on-prem. So, our job is to make a customer’s life easier irrespective of their infrastructure.”
KVM systems have been used in control rooms for years to extend the distance between users and servers over CATx, Fiber or IP while protecting the equipment and removing noise and heat. They also provide flexible, distributed switching of computer signals.
In Stand 8.B89, Guntermann & Drunck (G&D) will show its new VisionXS KVM-over-IP extender. With 10G data transmission supporting resolutions of up to 4K, VisionXS combines a variety of functions in a compact unit.
The VisionXS leverages the company’s proprietary bluedec lossless compression for a pristine viewing experience. It also features IP-MUX integrated switching, allowing one console device to manage multiple target IP addresses from up to 20 computer sources (with no additional hardware).
At IBC G&D will also show the Personal Workplace-Controller, which allows users to display multiple screens on a single monitor to keep track of all content at a glance.
Up to 26 video sources can be displayed and controlled on one single screen, depending on the application. In addition to using one or more monitors at the workstation, the PersonalWorkplace-Controller can also be used to display the sources on a large video 4K/60 resolution. Combining a KVM system with the PersonalWorkplace-Controller ensures reliable and flexible access to all relevant computer systems. For hybrid infrastructures, virtual content such as images, text, or videos can be integrated by the PersonalWorkplace-Controller, in addition to physical sources.
At the G&D stand, attendees will also see how the KVM approach optimizes the entire workflow for eSports gamers and producers when it comes to broadcasting competitions or major live events. The systems on exhibit meet all the requirements of professional gamers: zero-latency and pixel-perfect access to high-performance computers in real time and high frame rates of up to 240 HZ/s. Producers can also access the various sources in real time and, using frame rate conversion, make the various signals available for viewers on a video wall or in streams in scaled form.
Other companies of note at IBC this year include: Blackmagic Design, with its new line of compact ATEM SDI live production switchers; Cobalt Digital, with its 9904-UDX-4K card which supports native 4K ST 2110 audio and video processing on an openGear card; and Grass Valley, with its K-Frame, Kahuna and Kula switchers.
Broadcasters continue to build new production control rooms and, more commonly, are upgrading their existing facilities to accommodate IP-based production. At the same time, remote production is becoming increasingly common. Some believed that, after the pandemic, remote production would gradually decrease and production would become more like it was pre-pandemic. Now appears increasingly likely that remote production is here to stay. This does not mean that in-house production control will decrease. Rather, it means that production control rooms will need to be able to deal with more diverse media types and more varied infrastructure topologies.
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