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How smart IP infrastructure is advancing production workflows

Rick Young, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Product, LTN Global
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Video production is rapidly evolving as new technologies are introduced, and the Internet is having a profound impact on content creation. IP infrastructures provide a framework on which innovative cloud and machine learning production solutions are built, establishing IP-enabled production workflows that surpass what was possible with traditional satellite or fibre models.

Overcoming the challenges of the public Internet for video transport

As broadcasters move away from closed, inflexible, legacy distribution systems towards IP transmission, they’re starting to quantify the benefits of faster, more agile production workflows. But, while moving video over the Internet is quickly becoming the norm, it’s worth noting that IP-based transmissions can pose several challenges for media organisations.

The challenges arise from the networks within which media organisations operate. This is of particular concern for live and real-time broadcast-quality video, which must be reliably received within a very low-latency time frame. Transporting high-quality video from a live event requires more processing than is available within the Internet’s simple-core and every-packet-is-equal policies.

It’s possible to transmit video over an IP network to any location in the world with the same reliability and broadcast-quality of satellite. When broadcasters combine a fully managed service with intelligent multicast networks that work around inevitable and frequent Internet points of congestion, they can achieve flawless transmission of high-quality video content.

Unlocking unprecedented remote production workflows with smart IP transmissions

In the wake of restricted travel and mobility, alternate workflows have been instated to accommodate several large-scale productions. For example, Fremantle, the company behind American Idol Productions, equipped the final contestants with home production packages that used iPhones as cameras and transported video to a production facility over a smart IP network.

Serving as a remote production backbone, smart IP opens up new content creation opportunities for all broadcast verticals. A sports event using a multipoint transmission network can enable its commentators to receive the video feed directly from the stadium to their home with sub-second latency. The commentary can then be integrated into the main output feed, overlaid with graphics by expert production teams operating from decentralised locations.

The current climate is demanding low-cost, high-quality productions from all verticals and market segments. With immediate needs and limited options, remote and decentralised productions will remain. Looking beyond the pandemic, we can see why a hybrid production model makes sense. Constant investment in expensive infrastructure that quickly becomes outdated, or staffing in-house production experts, is no longer part of most media companies’ budgets.

Capturing the rise of user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) is on the rise. Over the last decade, mobile camera technology has evolved to the point that everyone with a smartphone can be a content creator. Cloud-based footage ingest enables producers of news, sports, esports, or entertainment shows to acquire content from unlimited concurrent live feeds from multiple contributors.

Just recently, the NFL Draft, the event that has historically garnered the highest levels of fan engagement for the NFL, leveraged cloud-enabled production for a completely virtual show. Since Covid-19 restrictions prohibited in-person audience activation, nearly 500 user-generated live fan feeds were contributed instead. NFL’s virtual setup became its highest-rated Draft of all time.

Analysts from IHS Markit estimate that the number of citizen journalists will increase by 145% each year from now until 2025, and, with the aggressive rollout of 5G, live video transmissions from remote locations will also increase in quality.

Accelerating live deployments with smart cloud technology

Traditionally, live production hardware requires time-consuming, labour-intensive configuration. Smart cloud technology is disrupting the hardware model, enabling faster live production with decentralised, agile teams. Remote contributions can easily be captured through cloud-based applications, from sources including:

Remote contribution devices

● Professional cameras
● Encoders
● Laptops
● Drones
● Mobile

Online contribution sources

● WebRTC
● MPEG-Dash

WebRTC is a particularly important source, because it enables browser-based, real-time contributions without having to install an app, offering crucial time savings in urgent situations. When combined with talk-back/IFB functionality, WebRTC can be used for remote interviews, call-ins, live-on-the-scene talent, fans in a football stadium, or even incident witnesses and passersby.

Optimising production through machine learning applications

As more video is transported over the Internet, broadcasters will be able to unlock a trove of high-quality content. Producers from major events will tap into more sources than ever before, giving viewers at home a virtual front-row seat and backstage pass. But all of these opportunities also create an overwhelming amount of video to manage.

Cloud applications are pioneering ways of using AI to simplify content management at scale, with initial workflows automating content identification. In live scenarios, this object recognition technology will speed producers’ ability to find the most relevant footage from a multitude of sources. They could follow a particular cyclist in a race or highlight a team-specific fan reaction, without having to manually filter through inbound streams.

In the longer-term future, and when AI/ML algorithms are trained, we can imagine whole live streams automatically generated based on preconfigured rules: the operator becomes the teacher, the AI/ML algorithm becomes the new operator.

Preparing for the future of video production

Smart IP infrastructure is already having a profound impact on production workflows. IP-enabled production that can overcome the challenges of the public Internet unlocks the flexibility required to produce professional content remotely. By tapping into smart cloud applications with machine-learning capabilities, producers can also enhance footage acquisitions and optimise how that content is curated. The move to IP is accelerating, and the organisations that harness its potential are poised to win the future of video.

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