What Does It Mean To Be 'Better Than Broadcast?'
Roughly a year ago, Vizrt Group President of Global Research and Development Dr. Andrew Cross made the case that new technology and innovation must consider the lessons we were currently learning from the global pandemic. The summary of that article is that the new normal would be all about redefining fault tolerance using software-based solutions.
Looking back at the article a year later, the ideas presented have proven to be largely accurate. Streaming media producers were able to weather the 18-plus months of the global pandemic by reimaging productions, being increasingly flexible with workflows, and offering software-based solutions to the needs of those who leverage video as content. By not relying solely on the physical studio space – or by being creative with how we utilize these spaces – the content economy continued to function.
We now live in a far more resilient production space due to the lessons of the pandemic. Most prominent among these lessons is the reality that we can't be overly reliant on our physical spaces. The new definition of fault tolerance is no longer having a backup hardware device on-site. It is ensuring that we are ready to operate if our physical sites ever fail again.
With that in mind, the idea of being "better than broadcast" has been much discussed among those in the business of providing broadcast and streaming media technologies. It is a call to action that asks how we can improve over the traditional expectation of how broadcast looks, feels and operates. It is a redefinition of what—or who—even qualifies themselves as a broadcaster anymore. It is an effort to get creative, easy-to-use, "broadcast-quality" tools in the hands of more creators.
Let's look at a few emerging technologies, tools and offerings that have seen a rise in the past 18 months, and which are now available to bring us closer to this improved state of production.
One of the most readily apparent needs in the early days of the global pandemic was for remote production capabilities that enabled safe social distancing. At first this was an on-premises fix with people working from different rooms. However, it quickly advanced into finding remote workflow offerings that allowed for directors, technical teams, and on-screen talent to provide their services regardless of location.
Sports broadcasts, for example, were brought back online by enabling commentators to conduct live analysis from their homes. Late night television hosts and newscasters set up in their living rooms. Reporters took the idea of field reporting to a new level. Even live reality programming found a path to return—often utilizing the tools and tricks found in the "streaming media" realm as opposed to the "broadcast" realm.
This gave rise to the need for infrastructure that turn any location on the planet into a studio. Thus, we found ways to connect to any device, in any location, anywhere in the world – and allowing it to work with almost any video application in the world. This infrastructure was, of course, IP-based and free to use: a capability that streaming providers had discovered years ago!
By using standard IP networks to transport video, creators leaned they could easily and effectively connect physical studios to locations in the cloud. Using software-based production tools, remote video production effectively became achievable and high quality.
Two years ago, if someone had said this was a feasible way to create a program—with remote participants both in front of and behind the camera—people would likely have laughed. Today? We're ready to produce content anywhere, anytime, and with confidence.
The Advent of Remote Participation
This adoption of remote video participation in broadcasts, business meetings, and personal interactions was accelerated by the pandemic, and resulted in individuals becoming far more confident in front of their cameras. As we upgraded our cameras, microphones, and lighting, we all became much more prepared to take part in a remote production. Further, audiences largely accepted this format. Bringing someone in via Zoom or Microsoft Teams was a common occurrence that looked good and worked well on live video.
Thus, integrating these solutions into our live production systems was an obvious next step. By integrating solutions such as Live Call Connect—which in turn brings in Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype, and more as native inputs—into our production tools, we can more easily, quickly, and effectively bring individuals into any type of production.
Again, while this might not have been the first choice of producers in the past, the world has changed. Remote participation is here to stay – and streaming providers should be ready and able to provide it.
The final change remaining with us for the long term is the shift to software-defined visual storytelling (#SDVS). By moving to software—and to subscription-based solutions that allow for an easier onramp to access—we ensure production capabilities follow suit with the connective infrastructure. This means tools needed to tell stories can now be made available to anyone, anywhere using the right software offerings. Creators can now access the same technologies wherever suits them best, be that at on-premises at a studio, remotely via cloud access, or through a hybrid scenario where multiple members of a team are working together—both on prem and remotely.
Further, by moving to software-based solutions we see an opportunity to further democratize the content economy. It brings the traditional "broadcast-level" tools to more streaming media producers, it can quickly pivot to new offerings demanded by viewers, and it future-proofs us in the case of any further disruptions to service. If our on-premises studios need to be shut down again, we're now ready to continue production. And that inspires confidence.
Whether you are an in-house producer, provider of streaming services to others, or a sole proprietor, that confidence is key. Make sure you are working with manufacturers demonstrating these capabilities to ensure your content continues to reach its audiences, no matter what is ahead. If we partner together we can ensure that we continue to provide more stories, better told, everywhere around the world.
[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from Vizrt. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]
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