Christine is Senior Product ManagerChristine Nassif's Articles
As with so much over the past two years, nothing is certain until it happens. One thing we can say with absolute certainty is that remote production, is set to be, once again, the subject of many discussions, backed by the launch of new services and technologies.
Remote production was one of the five key themes IBC should have pushed this year across multiple conference sessions dedicated to the subject. This brings us to the million-dollar question: What do we really mean by remote production?
We’ve all seen and read about the growth in remote production, and remote working more generally, across the pandemic. We’ve also seen growth in productions that are mixed in terms of onsite and remote production. Of course, it had been happening well before the pandemic, but it’s now become front and centre, trend wise. The phrase is most associated with the sports industry but that’s too simple a way of looking at it.
The definition from Television Sports Production from publishers O-Reilly, says:
“Remote or outside broadcast (OB) production can be defined as a multi-camera production occurring outside of a studio context. Remotes come in all sizes. A small remote may consist of a two-camera production operating out of a small production mini-van. A big remote may include 20 or more cameras …”
So, in the sense that the live video capture is happening remotely from a studio complex, then the industry has been doing this for years and years. Of course, that’s not what we mean now by “remote”. Now, everything can be done remotely: content acquisition, directing, editing, mixing, adding graphics etc. – even camera control using PTZ technologies.
Let’s step back to get to the heart of the matter. There are two main parts to remote production: the capturing of the content and then the live delivery of that for the aforementioned processes that will all be completed offsite. We continue to see huge innovation across the production sector in this regard, with some key functions, like editing, now available as a cloud process too. This part achieves a huge amount of attention.
The connectivity required part not so much. In many ways, this seems to be taken for granted. But the rock-solid, low latency connectivity – which could involve satellite, fibre, public internet or the cloud, or any mix thereof – is what makes the whole thing possible. Without that, remote productions will fail. And that’s where Globecast comes in.
We have a huge legacy across contribution and distribution – not to mention media supply chain processing and playout – and our connectivity value proposition is unrivalled in the market. We work across the major global sporting competitions and have done for many, many years, and the standards of excellence required to do this are unmatched across the industry.
What’s changed is the massive increase of the volume of content and the bandwidth required to move that content between locations. In the past 10 Gbit/s was sufficient but now we’re talking about 100 Gbit/s required and this has to be robust and secure with wide end points network. And, of course, low latency is vital for sports production but not only that, it’s vital for comms activity and audio traffic more generally. These are complex situations that require a premium level of expertise to be able to handled.
Globecast has been working to even further expand its connectivity offer for remote productions, discussing, in detail, with customers what they are looking for now and in the future. We offer end-to-end content delivery between venues, offsite production facilities and reach right to viewers if so desired. We have it all covered. Content is monitored and orchestrated using technical solutions that provide the level of security and low latency that’s essential.
We’re not here to dictate to our customers; we’re here to understand each business case, to work through that with each customer and then build the right ecosystem that precisely fits each customer’s needs, from edge devices, through the core network to affiliates, with our orchestration platform providing customer service access.
Latency is inevitable, but the level that’s acceptable of course varies significantly and this forms a key part of our understanding and work on each project. We have been working across 2021 to further increase our connections to studios and media production hubs across the world.
What’s essential is that a properly organised remote production ensures the quality of the feeds is in no way sacrificed. We’re all excited to see the possibilities afforded by 5G and what this will bring to the remote production table. As an industry, we’re only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the role of 5G.
The question is, do the benefits of remote production outweigh the challenges?
It gives rights holders/ broadcasters/production companies the ability to produce more content from more places at a lower price point. It opens up the possibilities for live coverage of lower tier/regional sports, too. It increases production access to other live events too like music festivals or other gatherings. It also has a lot of potential environmental benefits in terms of reducing staff and equipment travel, increasing equipment re-use and allowing a better work/life balance for staff across the production chain.
But there are considerations to be taken into account. The type and quality of the connectivity provided by telcos varies greatly in terms of data rates, data loss and latency. High data rates, lower losses and low latency have a direct relationship with the cost. Edge cabling is often expensive if additional or new cabling is required.
And the more cameras you use, the more signals you need to retrieve and that means more expense. 8K is obviously far greater in overall cost terms than SD. While the theory is obvious, in practice the costs may not be so obvious.
Taking in all these factors, when we run Remote Production simulations to work out the viability of remote production, we come up with interesting figures. The answer is: it depends! Taking an example, it’s true that we have seen up to 35% overall savings in the case of a 40-game season using 16 cameras. But it’s a case-by-case basis. Again, we aren’t here to dictate; we’re here to listen, discuss and develop solutions for each use case. Talk to us to find out more.