2023 Looks To Be A Year Of Continued Efficiency And Advanced Workflows
Michael Grotticelli shares his personal take on the most significant changes in technology, workflow and business in 2022 and his predictions for what may lay ahead.
The buzz word of 2022 had to be “flexibility” and this looks to continue in 2023. Every broadcaster wants it, every manufacturer offers it and every media business sees it as critical to staying competitive in a fast changing content creation and delivery landscape. In the past two years, the industry, in its move to IP infrastructures, has gotten used to a new way of remote production and collaborative workflows and this will continue going forward.
For media business, capturing viewers has become a meandering path of launching new OTT services, media consolidation, staff layoffs and limited equipment budgets. This is why the cloud, remote productions and new uses for 5G wireless spectrum have become vital.
Here’s a look the most influential technologies in 2022 and what we can expect next year.
The impact of the pandemic changed many aspects of how production teams work and make the most of available resources, no matter where they are physically located. However, with COVID rules loosening, production control rooms and TV studios are now fully staffed and crews are interacting as they had previously. This return to the workplace has brought a sense of normalcy to what has been a highly disruptive period of trying to figure out a way through. As a result, working from home is no longer such a strange and isolating experience and instead, with a proper Internet connection (100 Mbps is recommended), is now preferable for many in the industry.
For major TV production events, like sports, truck compounds outside a stadium or arena have increased and crew has been spread out to ensure safety. At the 2022 NFL Super Bowl telecast (NBC), a large number of people, including graphics operators, replay operators, commentators and system monitoring all worked remotely (many from their living room). This type of workflow was only possible because industry engineers figured out how to make remote workers a seamless part of the overall production team.
Expect more remote working and wider reaching connectivity going forward.
In 2022 a myriad of networked infrastructures were experimented and deployed.
Remote datacenters have literally made traditional workflows and content distribution obsolete in many cases. In fact, one could argue that tech companies like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and others have become the most important players in our industry, giving media companies the ability to launch new FAST, OTT and subscription channels in a matter of days or even hours. Content Delivery Networks are another choice that utilizes these cloud services as well as their own to help their clients achieve their goals.
Other pipeline options include the public Internet, where the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and IP ensure a secure delivery. Using these jointly (TCP/IP), broadcasters can seamlessly link devices that access the network. Some other communication protocols associated with the Internet are POP, SMTP and HTTP. HLS is the most commonly used protocol for streaming today.
The Reliable Internet Stream Transport (RIST) protocol is another, open-source transport protocol designed for reliable transmission of video and audio over lossy networks (including the internet) with low latency and high quality. RIST is designed for professional media workflows, such as news and sports contribution, remote production, affiliate distribution, and primary distribution.
Then there’s cellular 5G wireless. In 2022, 5G internet was introduced in most urban areas, with Telcos like AT&T and Verizon providing better internet access speeds across the entire U.S. This has also helped media companies launch new types of services using compute processing at the edge of a network.
Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2025, more than 50 percent of enterprise-managed data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud. That means on the edge, where computation and data storage are performed closer to the sources of data, saving time and increasing accuracy for services such as controlling IoT devices, in-car live TV viewing and capturing and analyzing massive amounts of data in real time for vehicle safety. Edge computing is now well established for video transmission and will continue to grow in importance to sports and entertainment telecasts.
Finally, the emergence of “cellular broadcast” or “5G Broadcast”— using the latest 5G wireless network technology— is one concept that has been gaining momentum because it has the potential to make video delivery more efficient without affecting quality and—due to compression and virtualized processing—requires less bandwidth.
With 5G Broadcast (tested in various field trials in 2022) it is possible to use the same media formats for media distribution (e.g. HLS, DASH) as for content delivery via the internet (OTT). This enables an easy way for seamless switching between distribution channels (e.g. 5G Broadcast and 5G Broadband) depending on Quality of Service and Quality of Experience parameters and results in the best media experience for the customers at all times. In addition, the linear content distributed with 5G Broadcast can easily be personalized by using the internet as a data return path.
This relatively new content distribution method is worth watching in 2023, as it allows terrestrial OTA broadcasters and content distributors to send linear television signals to mobile devices and living room TVs simultaneously, using a single chipset. Getting such reception chipsets into devices, however, continues to be a challenge around the world.
While the term has lost much of its luster, the benefits of processing video and audio in software are wide ranging and continue to be deployed by production facilities. When a piece of software can replicate the operations of tasks accomplished with traditional hardware systems, it can be shared among a multitude of team members and be accessed from anywhere in the world. It’s also made products cheaper to buy with more features included.
This trend will continue in 2023 as manufacturers fully migrate their products to software and broadcast engineers (or IT specialists) make maximum use of constant automatic updates and less costly installations. Many have done it already.
Serving as the core of a broadcast facility, software-defined networking (SDN) improves network connectivity and allows media companies to use software and hardware from multiple vendors on the same network. A software control layer is key to making the network perform the way it should, and it allows users to easily change interfaces and access different features from a single web connected desktop.
In 2022 production crews exhibited a better understanding of what software-defined means and how it can help them. This will surely continue next year, with improved software control layer features that enable staff to manipulate more devices in a highly automated way.
Rather than preparing titling and graphics for the unique specifications of a single medium—TV—content creators and broadcasters must now quickly optimize the titling and graphics in their shows and ads to suit the myriad of output resolutions, screen sizes and aspect ratios today’s mobile viewers require, without compromising the viewing experience.
This is an idea that come to fruition in 2022. With adaptive graphics everything is produced from a single production line and the final output is only locked in as the very last process. Everything up to then is fluid, editable, and consistent. They allow broadcasters to run a single graphics production line rather than multiple ones in parallel. This enables users to create once and then publish many times, using a toolset that allows them complete control over how their graphics will look on everything from a mobile phone to a giant city center video wall.
The real advancement here is that now a single operator can populate both linear TVs as well as mobile phones with the same graphics software, which automatically adjusts resolution, format, and layout to support specific display devices, ensuring the graphics are optimized for each different viewer. This enables graphic artists to save time, reduce errors, and improve the quality of production.
Similarly, video files must be encoded for the different delivery platforms. Adaptive Bit Rate encoding has been deployed to enable a software system to automatically adjust to different user-defined parameters. This is catching on in a big way with larger broadcasters and production facilities that create and distribute a lot of content, and its use will increase in 2023, as viewing video on a variety of mobile devices increases.
At this point AI has infiltrated every aspect of TV production, from editing to media asset management, graphics to talent tracking, and a lot in between. Custom and off-the-shelf software algorithms are being increasingly used to make the staff more productive (they can find video clips faster and edit a video or direct a TV show with no human interaction).
Online platform like Facebook are now using AI to help with video translation and non-real time captioning.
The technology, now found in the cloud as well as on premise, is also being used to identify distinguishing characteristics in video files. This is accomplished through image recognition and interpretation. Many news organizations (like the BBC and NBC) have been utilizing this technology for several years to help quickly find specific people as well as the type of event that is taking place, amongst hundreds of videos.
Finally, AI is being used to provide viewers with customized recommendations. This has proved to be a successful feature for keeping viewers on your platform as long as possible. This enhances video viewership and engagement.
Going forward in 2023, look for AI to be incorporated into more video production products on the NAB Show floor and in large production facilities.
As broadcasters and OTT services move to 4K production, the need for four 3G SDI signals is critical to support increased resolution, frame rates and color fidelity. It provides four times the bandwidth of HD, making it ideal for the 4Kp60 format. 8K workflows require quad-link 12G-SDI connections.
It was only a few years ago that it was difficult to put together an end-to-end 4K workflow over a 12G connection. In 2022 we saw that virtually every manufacturer of production equipment offered a 12G option on many of its products. It’s now available on cameras, switchers, servers, replay systems, edit systems, routers, and more.
Moving forward 12G infrastructures will slowly become ubiquitous throughout the media production world, as consumers increasingly demand 4K in their living rooms. This migration, slowed a bit by the industry’s transition to IP, will not be a fast one for many, but necessary in the next five years.
Looking forward into 2023, these and other technologies will continue to evolve and improve to help make video professionals jobs easier, add new production values not possible before and help deliver content in the most effective way. The concept of serving consumers, wherever they are, remains the key to success.
This industry has proven that it can adapt to difficult challenges and still put on a show. This will continue it 2023, as new types of remote infrastructure are creatively designed and deployed to include more locations and sending less people and equipment on site. It just makes financial sense in a media world in which most of the money is being spent on content creation.
IP is enabling the flexibility and elasticity to be as productive (and creative) as possible and data management is now at the forefront of what’s driving these new types of production infrastructures.
That said, 2023 looks to be a challenging year for TV broadcasting and video production due to reduced budgets and staff layoffs, but with lessons learned helping to advance technology and business models further, there’s much to be excited about.
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