​Live broadcasting fuels a remote production revolution

Nevion explains how remote production, using digital connectivity over fiber or IP, is a revolution in live event workflow.

Broadcasters are being challenged on a number of fronts. Many viewers are choosing to watch long-form content on demand, even to the extent of 'binge viewing' entire series over just a day or two. Content can come from multiple sources, from DVDs to YouTube. One of the key advantages broadcasters retain is the ability to offer live television. Audiences want to watch live sports, reality television and entertainment shows as they happen because they want to know who wins, and they want to discuss them with their friends via social media. Events like these, however, are expensive to produce. Production values are very high and continue to rise, with very large numbers of cameras each recorded individually, used for multiple replays and for the many different ways of repackaging the content immediately after the event.

Think of a multi-sports event like an Olympic Games, where many individual events happen in parallel, so one sport might be broadcast live – with highlights packages and other added values – while other sports are recorded for subsequent replay in an edited form. Or consider an entertainment show like Dancing with the Stars. You need instant packages to replay each dance as a reminder, plus multiple edits from the live competition for the results show.

In each case, multiple different requirements demand a tightly integrated, file-based workflow that allows content to be seamlessly and simultaneously available to one or more control galleries and a large number of edit suites. Without this infrastructure you can’t create the high production values that keep audiences engaged.

Bringing production home

The challenge is to find a way of migrating as many operations as possible away from the venue and back to the home base. Editors, working in the rooms they’ve set up the way they want to work will work more efficiently. Equipment isn’t tied up in transport to and from the venue, with the inherent risk of damage. Fewer staff need travel expenses and all the other costs of working on location.

In short, remote production delivers better quality, faster, and at lower cost - vital capabilities in today’s budget-restrictive and speed-conscious environment.

Low latency transport – fibre or IP

Remote production is now a practical, deliverable, proven proposition. The revolution has been enabled by the ability to transport multiple signals - either uncompressed or with gentle mezzanine compression - over a range of fabrics, at low latencies.

Nevion technology allows the transport of signals over dark fibre or using IP circuits. Signals are carried with high security, yet with low and predictable latency. Remote equipment is compact so it minimizes transport cost, and is easy to set up and establish connections. Redundancy can be built in to eliminate disruptions.

Dark fiber is capable of carrying large numbers of uncompressed HD signals from point to point. It’s ideally suited to point-to-point connections between regularly used venues and broadcast centres.

Some production companies are using the technology to eliminate conventional outside broadcast trucks altogether. Camera and microphone outputs are multiplexed together onto a single dark fiber circuit, and the production – such as a football match – is cut live in a studio gallery.

The savings in costs and efficiency are huge, and the production team is more efficient because it’s more comfortable in a bigger, quieter space. All camera outputs are recorded onto the studio server network and available to the post-production team, who again can work in a familiar environment.

Where dark fiber isn’t available, signals can be sent over telco-provisioned IP circuits. Depending on the bandwidth available and the number of circuits required, these can deliver uncompressed signals or use low-impact, low-latency JPEG2000 compression. Recent technology advancements, including media gateways and advanced monitoring and management solutions, now exist to make IP highly reliable for real-time distribution of broadcast-quality content.

The hybrid solution

Recent events, including the Sochi Olympics and the Brazil World Cup, have seen a dramatic rise in hybrid production, where some facilities are at the remote location and some are in the broadcaster’s base facilities.

This can take a number of forms. One option is to provide a flexible IP signal path between the two sites, so that a relatively low-resolution proxy can be transmitted for large amounts of content. Editors at the broadcast base can create packages, with only the required clips being transferred at full resolution.

Hybrid working brings all the benefits of post production at home even if you don’t have the bandwidth to move all the content in real time. That is as applicable to smaller budget productions as it is to hugely popular international events where connectivity may be physically limited.

Lower costs and increased revenue

Remote production, using digital connectivity over fiber or IP, is a revolution in live event workflow. The technology is now in place to deliver a defined quality of service with extremely high availability, and very low latency when required.

It delivers significant cost savings, by reducing the number of staff required on site. One European broadcaster sent 200 people to cover the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but with remote production it needed just 40 people for London 2012 – an 80% reduction.

Those savings can be combined with increased revenues. Having staff work in their familiar environment means they’re more productive, so you can create more content. That’s more compelling for audiences, resulting in better viewership and higher advertising yields.

Better productivity also means the ability to create content for more online services and more localization. Again, these are compelling propositions, which in turn become revenue opportunities, all funded from cost savings achieved through remote production.

Geir Bryn-Jensen is CEO of Nevion.

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