As remote production, multi-site teams and content storage & delivery all increasingly rely on cloud-based infrastructures, the technology required to build cloud-based systems is maturing at a rapid pace. ‘The Cloud’ is literally going to be everywhere at this years show.
Cloud-based technology has helped broadcasters deploy new services and produce multi-venue events using highly decentralized workflows. The cost benefits of reduced on-site crews and pay-as-you-go SaaS models, as well as the operational advantages of scalability, resource maximization and audience reach are too great to ignore.
At the IBC Show in Amsterdam, many companies will show their version of a cloud-based infrastructure—some including on-premise activities in a “hybrid” model, that utilize virtualized hardware and task-specific software that can be accessed and scaled on an as-needed basis. This has been huge for large and small media companies with lots of content to produce and distribute securely.
Tailoring The (Virtual) Solution To Fit The Need
“Media and entertainment companies are looking for faster time to value, driven by an increasing real-time demand for high quality content and a seamless user experience from consumers,” said Alex Timbs, Dell Technologies (Stand 7.A60) Media & Entertainment. “To deliver on these expectations, content producers must have access to low latency solutions that are accessible by decentralized creative teams. This is where cloud steps in.”
He said most cloud solutions tailored for media and entertainment encompass software modules that address ingest, storage, transcoding, animation utilities, and the management of media assets. They also encompass supplementary offerings like metadata provision, closed captioning, and subtitling provisions. Dell Technologies media and entertainment customers are interested in how they meet these increasing workload demands securely and cost-effectively.
The Dell Technologies APAEX Console provides easy access to a catalog of cloud services and helps guide users through the entire technology lifecycle.
Many leading media and entertainment companies around the world work with Dell to deploy on-prem, multi-cloud or hybrid solutions.
“Going 100 percent public cloud is costly, and unnecessary, so we help customers navigate tailored solutions that best fit their needs,” said Timbs. "We call this getting ‘Cloud Smart.’”
For Dell’s customers, leveraging the cloud often means collaborative efforts among geographically separated teams generally becomes smoother, fostering efficient content creation and distribution. This decentralized model undoubtedly helps broadcasters recruit the best talent by providing employees with low friction tools and the ability to harness their talents from any geo location, even from their respective homes. Moreover, compliance with local regulations and disaster recovery are more effectively managed, making broadcasting more resilient to unforeseen disruptions.
In addition, Timbs said, targeted advertising, tailored content, and dynamic service offerings are also facilitated by virtue of the ability to easily insert content to streams on the fly. This trend will only get more interesting with the addition of game engines and AI at the edge, driven by increasingly performant infrastructure capabilities at the edge, and in the future, perhaps even at the place of consumption.
At the IBC Show Dell Technologies will highlight its APEX platform, an end-to-end portfolio of as-a-Service and subscription solutions, including multi-cloud. The Dell APEX Console provides self-service access to a catalog of cloud services and helps guide users through the entire technology lifecycle.
Live Production Takes Advantage Of Hybrid Models
In Stand 9.A01/9.C05, Grass Valley will demonstrate its SaaS-enabled Agile Media Processing Platform (AMPP). The company describes it as a platform for connecting on-prem and cloud solutions from vendors across the industry.
“The last few years have been an opportunity to show our customers just how much is possible with not only cloud-based workflows but also hybrid architectures, combining both on-premises and cloud hosting to leverage the latency benefits of processing at the edge, with the scalability of distributed cloud computing,” said Adam Marshall, Chief Product Officer for Grass Valley’s SaaS-enabled Agile Media Processing Platform (AMPP).
He said that 2022 saw several key customers using Grass Valley AMPP (predominantly in the cloud) for primetime events, but it was largely a year of awareness, with customers eager to start with smaller production workflows and test the water with remote live productions and playout opportunities.
Grass Valley’s AMPP Saas Platform helps connect on-prem and cloud solutions from vendors across the industry.
“In 2022 we saw a shift to [industry] acceptance, with major broadcasters onboarding across a mixture of live production, asset management and playout operations as part of their core workflows,” said Marshall. “In parallel, customers are continuing to identify where cloud computing makes sense for their respective workflows and where edge computing, perhaps on-premises or at the venue, can be of benefit.”
This often leads to a hybrid approach for complex productions like live production workflows, where Grass Valley is seeing interest in some elements, such as in-game returns and a partial production mix taking place at the edge, before then being added to, downstream, cloud compute.
“To the operator this is one interface and one solution with all the agility benefits of a cloud-native solution, whilst architecturally improving the initial return latency plus reducing site and cloud ingress/egress costs,” said Marshall.
At IBC Grass Valley will show new enhancements to its AMPP software portfolio—including new software-defined services for playout, newsroom and live sports asset management, replay and live production—all provided as cloud-native solutions.
“With a truly distributed, cloud-native solution such as GV AMPP, all this is possible under a single orchestration layer allowing central administration and a single user interface for the operators, whether the service(s) are hosted in one location or many,” said Marshall. “The solution is extremely agile with the ability to spin an additional record port, playout channel, multiviewer, even a switcher, at a moment’s notice. This gives users of the platform new levels of creative flexibility whilst maximizing the use of any compute, and only paying for what you need when you use it.
Reliable And Scalable Signal Processing
In stand 8.B90 Lawo will spotlight its cloud-based signal processing Apps within the HOME platform, which is based on a microservice architecture and runs on standard COTS hardware. It can run on on-premise, in remote data centers, or in the public cloud.
At the show there will be live demonstrations of various on-demand applications, including ones for multiviewers, UDX converters, streaming transcoders, and graphic inserters.
“Each app on the HOME platform delivers feature-rich processing capabilities, allowing customers to adapt swiftly to changing requirements and budget conditions,” said Alex Kern, senior director for Cloud & Infrastructure Solutions at Lawo.
The software-only HOME Apps support SMPTE ST2110, SRT, JPEG XS and NDI for increasingly mixed production environments, and can easily adapt to new format requirements as these become relevant.
Each App on the HOME platform delivers feature-rich processing capabilities, allowing customers to adapt swiftly to changing requirements and budget conditions.
“Over the past years, cloud-based technologies have become key enablers for broadcasters to improve in all fields of production. Initially, cloud-based technologies enabled remote production, allowing production staff to work together on content creation from different locations,” said Kern. “Native, cloud-based solutions offer a new level of scalability compared to classic setups based on specialized equipment on proprietary hardware.”
He said it is inherently easier to spin up another instance of a specific software application running on an off-the-shelf processing engine than ordering, getting delivered, install, and run a specific hardware engine doing a single specific task. And then have to go through the same complex process again when there is demand for another application.
“Cloud-based technologies, if correctly implemented, allow for scaling a system in terms of functionality,” said Kern. “The same hosting platforms rendering 2110-grade multiviewers or UDX processes today, can handle additional transcoding, graphics processing or even audio processes tomorrow, allowing users to seamlessly activate and deactivate back and forth with a suitable orchestrating platform managing the setup.”
He added that this results in operational flexibility and cost-efficiency at the same time. Not only does a processing system adapt to the demands, but it also evolves over time. Lawo calls it “flexibility bundled up with Investment protection.”
At IBC 2023, Lawo will also be presenting a flexible license model that makes it possible to use micro-service apps cost-effectively on demand. HOME Apps are designed for continuous operation, but are also suitable for covering peak demands above a baseline configuration. With the Lawo license model, both requirements are equally covered—permanent and flexible activation. This makes it possible for customers to tailor the functionalities of their system to the respective requirements and at the same time to use them in a cost-effective manner.
Cloud Native Ensures Operational Success
Meanwhile Matrox Video (Stand 7.B15) customers are asking for native cloud-powered systems for all their workflows and applications: including remote production; live production; venue and event production; ingest and contribution; remote media processing; routing; QC; transmission; and distribution.
At IBC 2023 Matrox Video will show the latest developments for its cloud-based ORIGIN framework, including clean, frame-accurate video and audio switching and signal routing capabilities for unrestricted transmission and delivery of signals in broadcast formats. This was developed in close collaboration with AWS as part of the vLRP initiative, which provides a framework for partners to develop and scale their solutions, enabling them to meet the needs of their customers.
Matrox EDGE encoders allow users to distribute their workloads to remote and edge locations as well as the cloud.
“Broadcasters and developers looking to realize the promised benefits of the cloud can use Matrox ORIGIN to operate, build, and develop scalable, best-of-breed solutions for public or private clouds without being restricted to a particular vendor ecosystem,” said Spiro Plagakis, Vice President of Product Management at Matrox Video. “They can optimize on-premise resources, offload peak needs into the cloud, run exclusively in the public cloud, or all of the above—at whatever pace makes sense for their business.”
Instead of simply shifting on-prem workflows to the cloud — thereby losing in determination, and quality and adding latency—Matrox ORIGIN tackles the problem at the infrastructure level with a cloud-native architecture. It reconciles live production needs with IT infrastructure, bridging time-aware and time-agnostic systems to benefit most from general-purpose, scalable computation.
“Everyone working with media is either already using some cloud services or exploring how to use them in their operations,” said Plagakis. “Adoption is increasing across the board as operators look for ways to reach wider audiences, move from capex to opex cost models, and realize the true potential of IT-based architectures for maximum performance, flexibility, and agility.”
Plagakis added that solution providers, broadcasters, developers, integrators, and end-users that count on Matrox Video technology are asking for native, cloud-powered systems for all their workflows and applications—including remote production, live production, venue and event production, ingest and contribution, remote media processing, routing, QC, transmission and distribution.
Virtualized Hardware Is More Flexible
Ross Video (Stand 9.A05) will show its cloud-based production workflow solution Ross Production Cloud. This includes Ross products such as OverDrive (production automation), Inception Newsroom, and XPression Graphics. Media I/O Servers and the Streamline MAM are already being used every day to power hundreds of productions. It also includes the Ross Platform Manager, which can be used to orchestrate these cloud instances. This, the company said, helps simplify and automate some of the more complex aspects of running cloud-based processes.
The Ross Production Cloud facilitates decentralized infrastructures that give broadcasters the flexibility to operate from anywhere.
“As we move from smaller experiments to specific use cases for the cloud, the technologies are evolving to allow for simpler deployment and management of cloud instances as well as a strong trend towards blurring the line between cloud technology and on-premise technology,” said Peter Abecassis, Director of Cloud Product Management at Ross Video.
He said that while for some specific projects using a cloud-only solution—with cloud-only operators and cloud-only interfaces—is acceptable, when you’re leveraging the cloud for disaster recovery, or overflow production for large news events, broadcasters need to know that their existing staff can run the production regardless of where the technology is being hosted. They need the same interface, with the same functionality and the same responsiveness in the cloud as what they already have in the studio. They also need to know that their existing staff can quickly and simply “spin up” and “spin down” cloud technology whenever it’s required.
“Today’s decentralized infrastructures mean that broadcasters have the flexibility to operate from anywhere,” said Ross’ Abecassis. “This allows them to use the best talent for a job without the expense of flying or driving them in to a specific control room. It also means that infrastructure can be shared more effectively between multiple control rooms even across different locations.”
This, he said, in turn increases the quality of production across the board, makes it easier to roll out improvements to multiple locations at once and more easily allows for a consistent look and feel across a larger swath of productions.
Decentralized Infrastructures Offer Significant Benefits
What’s become clear is that decentralized infrastructures could include the cloud exclusively, but often involves a hybrid approach of on-premise and cloud working together. It offers broadcasters and production companies significant operational and economic benefits that are too valuable to ignore. Indeed, decentralized infrastructures based on cloud-based technologies bring decisive advantages in the areas of accessibility and agility.
Customers are continuing to identify where cloud computing makes sense for their respective workflows.
Customers are continuing to identify where cloud computing makes sense for their respective workflows and where edge computing, perhaps on-premises or at the venue, can be beneficial. This often leads to a hybrid deployment.
“This has certainly been the case for live production workflows, where we’re seeing interest in some elements, such as in-game returns and a partial production mix taking place at the edge, before then being added to, downstream, cloud compute,” said Grass Valley’s Marshall. “To the operator this is one interface and one solution with all the agility benefits of a cloud-native solution, whilst architecturally improving the initial return latency plus reducing site and cloud ingress/egress costs.”
“One of the most obvious benefits of decentralization is the reduction in the real estate needs of manufacturing plants, where technology centers are outsourced and housed away from expensive representative sites,” said Lawo’s Kern. “Since these technology centers are designed for the best possible accessibility, they become interesting for supporting additional production processes. Production staff can contribute at any time and literally from anywhere, as the signals required for content creation are distributed across almost any possible connection quality, using state-of-the-art transcoding formats when needed.”
Remote production, he added, is developing from a fallback option to an alternative standard for productions that were previously uneconomical due to the high use of materials and personnel.
Giving Broadcasters More Levels Of Efficiency
“Fundamentally, decentralized or distributed architectures through cloud-native approaches have been about providing architectural (and therefore operational) flexibility, allowing broadcasters more levels of efficiencies than previously available, in addition to creative flexibility by enabling the deployment of services on the fly,” said Grass Valley’s Marshall.
From a technology and business perspective, for live production, the cloud has allowed more efficient use of compute power by allowing broadcasters to offload services to remote compute (such as in the cloud, or at a central facility).
“Really what this means is that key functions that are latency sensitive can take place at the venue, at the edge, with operators either local or remote while other elements may be spun in the cloud or on-premises to minimize transport and personnel travel costs related to the event,” said Marshall.
Cost is also an issue that cloud users must understand and use in the most efficient way.
“While the cloud has become an essential part of enterprise infrastructure, it is advisable to be cloud smart and consider whether it is the right fit for your workloads,” said Dell’s Timbs. “For perpetual workloads, on-premises storage and management are often far more cost-effective. However, for burst workloads in media and entertainment, cloud solutions can offer significant advantages.”
Attendees to IBC are advised to plan carefully and pick the platform that best fits their business model and production goals. The cloud is not for everyone, but as time goes on it will be.
Other articles in this IBC 2023 'Show Focus' series:
The Broadcast Bridge will be at the IBC Show - Stand 8.F01. Please come and see us, get a copy of our free book on 'Scalable Dynamic Software For Broadcasters' and share your thoughts on what we do and what you would like to see from us in the coming year.
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