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Orchestrating Efficient Remote Production Workflows

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Remote production workflows and business models proved crucial in ensuring continuity of service during the pandemic. But the dramatic cost reductions they delivered for production and media companies have given them a permanent position in the industry. They’re simply less expensive to deploy and operate while also being much more sustainable, particularly for live events, but also for VOD.

The XXIV Olympic Winter Games are an example of how significantly remote production has changed. Some broadcasters produced their coverage with onsite staff levels that were less than half of previous events. Content was captured on-site and sent back to headquarters for editing “near-live” with just a few seconds of delay, allowing most of the editors and journalists to work at the company’s base facility.

Considering the intense competition between media and telecom companies for the rights to broadcast sports and entertainment events, it’s clear that live events help brands differentiate and grow revenue. Part of the successful monetization of live content is turning it into compelling VOD packages quickly. Because a lot of the content has a relatively short shelf-life in terms of maximizing returns, the speed at which derivative content can be created is also a key factor to success.

Smart IP Technologies

New IP technologies have been key to enabling the transition to remote production workflows by supporting centralized and agile production teams. The large, expensive, mobile production vehicles with their crew and equipment won’t disappear, but the model is changing. No longer does every event require a full complement of operators and infrastructure. An IP-based remote production system requires far less on-site hardware. Much of the equipment now needed at live venues is primarily responsible for sending streams back to a central production studio. This represents a significant reduction in capital expenses.

Couple that with the savings realized by having fewer staff members on-site, and we see the business shift that was driving the evolution pre-pandemic. Remote production is now enabling broadcasters to migrate media workflows beyond expensive, inflexible hardware solutions to an agile, pay-as-you-go model that other technology sectors have long benefited from.

Reliable Internet Delivery

Sending large, camera-original, media files over the internet in real time once held back IP-based remote workflows. Managed transmission networks have overcome the limitations of public internet protocols to a point where reliability is high and parallel redundant paths ensure performance and dependability. Open-source protocols such as SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) and RIST (Reliable Internet Stream Transport) and other proprietary solutions now consistently deliver live, broadcast-quality video to any location in the world with low latency. However, it takes much more than reliable transport streams to successfully orchestrate remote production.

Remote, Automated Ingest & Capture

For live events, sophisticated devices can be deployed on-site that capture full resolution, high-quality media in any format required by editors while simultaneously creating low-resolution, highly compressed proxy versions if desired. For live events that will be re-purposed for catch-up TV or highlights programs, files must be created in the correct format for editing and postproduction.

These files are typically transferred into a shared cloud bucket or on-premises storage where editors can have immediate access while they are still being recorded. The real-time transfer of growing files enables remote editors to engage in the creative process even while the event is under way and gives them a head start on live content that will be further monetized as VOD.

For captured media that is significantly different from the eventual playout format, such as 50Hz material that must be converted to 29.97/59.94Hz, additional compute-intensive processing in the cloud or on premises may be required depending on the workflow. Since it is more efficient to process media where it resides, an intelligent hybrid workflow that supports both cloud and on-prem processing maximizes value. And as more media flows through the cloud, the near-limitless compute power can support even the most intensive processing tasks, such as frame rate and HDR/SDR conversions. Automating the creation of all these versions and ensuring they are instantly available and linkable by the editors is critical to the success of any remote production. It also enables consistent processes, storage locations and naming conventions, and reduces or eliminates human error.

Remote Quality Monitoring and Verification

Remote production workflows that rely on media transported over the public internet can be blind to problems that might occur to the content being transported. This is true for both live media over an ST 2110 network and for file-based media. Unlike traditional signal paths, SRT, RIST and other technologies closely watch the health of a transport stream but cannot discern the quality of the actual media being transported. There are many anomalies that even a skilled human looking at a monitor wall or multi-viewer is likely to miss, such as swapped secondary audio channels. It’s paramount that the media quality within the stream is monitored along the path.

One powerful way to ensure quality is through “monitoring by exception” where software is tasked with validating stream content, timing correctness, and network health – continuously and automatically. Coupled with in-depth diagnostics instruments like a modern waveform monitor/network analyzer, issues can be identified and quickly resolved. Further, in terms of file quality, the ability to visually check large files can be a challenge when media is stored in a remote repository. Being able to play such files and visually inspect them for quality or compliance issues is another consideration when working remotely.

Remote production over IP has proven its value, reliability, and quality. Top-tier broadcasters have successfully delivered some of the largest events on the planet using these technologies and techniques. There are many moving parts to orchestrate, but now that the path is established, more productions stand to benefit from reduced costs, streamlined workflows and enhanced sustainability.

Learn more about capture and orchestration here and IP video monitoring here.

About Telestream

Telestream® specializes in products that make it possible to get video content to any audience regardless of how it is created, distributed, or viewed. Throughout the entire digital media lifecycle, from capture to viewing, for consumers through high-end professionals, Telestream products range from desktop components and cross-platform applications to fully-automated, enterprise-class digital media transcoding and workflow systems. Telestream enables users in a broad range of business environments to leverage the value of their video content. Telestream customers include the world’s leading media and entertainment companies: content owners, creators, and distributors. In addition, a growing number of companies supplying and servicing much larger markets such as ad agencies, corporations, healthcare providers, government and educational facilities, as well as video prosumers and consumers, are turning to Telestream to simplify the access, creation, and exchange of digital media. Founded in 1998, Telestream corporate headquarters are located in Nevada City. The company is privately held.

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