At-home production. Literally (Part III)
#NETINSIGHTCOVIDSERIES – REMOTEPRODUCTION
Part III – Remote production examples
CTO and Co-founder at Net Insight
The Covid-19 pandemic is causing businesses to leapfrog into remote or distributed productions and is changing workflows – and some of these changes are here to stay in a post-Covid world. But what do these new “at-home production” workflows look like? In this third part of the Net Insight Covid Series, let’s look at some examples of these innovative remote productions.
If you have missed the previous blogs, read part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE.
News and events
One of the main use case examples for new remote or distributed workflows is news and live events. The largest change has been with hosts and performers for big live shows now broadcasting directly from their homes. Recently, we have even seen performers playing together from different locations, as in the One World: Together at Home concert I mentioned in my previous blog. The same is happening on the production side. While some staff are still able to access their studio locations, many might be forced by containment measures to work from home, or sit in separate studios, changing workflows significantly.
One of the most important aspects to news and events productions is the balance between scalability and quality – the ability to scale these workflows without losing quality, as well as having flexible first-mile last-mile solutions, has become key for providing the agility and flexibility necessary. Another aspect of this is the automation and orchestration of workflows. It is easier to set up these environments when time is not an issue, but it is now fundamental to be able to do it very quickly and on demand. This is going to be key going forward, which is why one of our efforts in the last few years has been to tie together the whole Net Insight platform as a step towards automation and ease of orchestration. We have also moved to open APIs based on REST.
Our industry is undergoing a huge transformation, and this creates very heterogenous ecosystems. One good example is high-quality Internet streaming with 3 major ARQ protocols, RIST, SRT and Zixi. We made an early decision to support all three protocols in our products, together with the ability to convert between all of them. This simplifies things for our customers and partners, as they are not restricted in working with Net Insight. The same is true for the IP broadcast video standards, where ST 2022 is being replaced by ST 2110, while many customers are still sitting on SDI and ASI plants and equipment. Again, the Nimbra and Aperi platforms will support all of the standards and ensure a smooth transition, as well as the possibility to connect old and new studios and plants. We also support SDKs that can be directly inserted into any third-party appliances – for example, for connecting to Nimbra Edge and being part of that end-to-end cloud-based workflow.
It is now fundamental to be able to automate and orchestrate workflows quickly and on demand.
A second important aspect for news and events productions is the relationship between latency and synchronization. Latency is of course at the core of remote productions, especially those where performers are geographically spread out. However, synchronizing your flows is the one feature that allows you to compensate for higher latency in the production environment. This means tagging all content with timestamps and making sure that different sites are synchronized. Synchronization is going to be key going forward and increasingly important when working in open IP environments, but I do believe that most of the technology is already there now.
Multi-camera productions over Internet and cloud with Net Insight open platforms.
One example of this type of remote workflow is productions over Internet and cloud, which can be efficiently achieved with Nimbras, but also with other open platforms. This way, an SRT or RIST stream can be sent out and received on PCs or third-party appliances. In the last case, it is worth pointing out that there would not be end-to-end provisioning and performance monitoring dashboard capabilities on the quality on the received streams. However, that is part of Nimbra Edge’s possibilities. This type of workflow setup allows you to transport content from arenas, auditoriums, or any other type of source. Multi-camera environments are also at your fingertips. Content is sent over Internet using ARQ protocols to ensure quality, and these streams are then synchronized in your production environment, wherever that might be – at a studio or at a home office – provided that the production facility allows for that type of remote control or remote participation.
In addition, these production elements are now moving into the cloud, which is why we are focusing more and more on simplifying cloud workflows with Nimbra Edge and enabling existing Nimbra and Aperi platforms to ingest directly into the cloud. Cloud productions make workflows even more agile since the production staff is not tied to any specific location, and once produced, content can be delivered directly to OTT delivery playouts or distributed via the cloud, for example via Nimbra Edge, to rights holders or remote offices. Ultimately, these workflows allow for content to be distributed to the right person, anywhere, while maintaining high media quality. Thanks to cloud-based workflows, content can be produced directly in the cloud and distributed via several platforms, maintaining quality while allowing for more resource flexibility.
Innovative show performances: uncompressed audio, video and data transported reliably to audiences in multiple locations.
Another good example for these types of remote workflows is art performances. In 2018, together with the Swedish National Touring Theatre, Riksteatern, and the University College of Opera in Stockholm, Net Insight helped bring to life a remote show performance called Opera Extravaganza. We showed that performers and musicians can be located in Stockholm, or Finland, and perform together seamlessly. This is achievable thanks to fiber that allows audio to travel at the speed of light, even better than in person. In fact, if two musicians on the same stage are 10 meters apart from each other, audio will take roughly 30 milliseconds to travel between them. However, with fiber transport, in 30 milliseconds that same audio can travel between Stockholm and New York. That is the power of low-latency fiber connectivity – and even with ultra-low latency compression, you can still maintain latency within those 30 milliseconds, and distribute the produced content to remote audiences anywhere.
Read more here about how, for the very first time, a full-scale live opera show made a tour in Sweden, with an orchestra and opera singers in completely different locations.
Another interesting example for new remote or distributed workflows is that of enterprise broadcast. The ongoing pandemic has been accelerating the shift to remote production in the enterprise sector as well, with many working from home in compliance with Covid-19 containment measures. Many large-scale CEO townhalls, corporate conferences, training seminars and the like have moved to online virtual environments. This is causing a shift to remote and distributed production, also for smaller-scale webcasts that want to maintain high quality.
Two of the most important aspects in these cases are those of redundancy and speed. These broadcasts are mission-critical content for corporations, and at the same time there is the need to keep workflows simple to ensure speed of delivery and ease of management. Simplicity here means avoiding any kind of travel for the staff. Lately we have seen a lot of interest in this area, and many are getting creative in finding efficient solutions for these broadcasts.
Another important aspect of these productions is the need to deliver content at scale, for large audiences of maybe thousands of employees. At the same time, it is particularly important to guarantee interactivity in the viewing experience: live interaction with the stream and two-way communication are vital elements of enterprise broadcast. Finally, flexibility is once again a must – agile, automated workflows allow you to be more responsive, and from a technology standpoint, cloud and IP are facilitators.
Agile, automated, IP and cloud-based workflows allow for redundant, fast, and simple remote or distributed productions, guaranteeing employee engagement.
A good example for this use case is LinkedIn Corp’s seamless video production with Net Insight solutions, a project that started in early 2019 and evolved over time. LinkedIn Corp started out with the need to connect a couple of their own studios so that they could ramp up distributed production, and so that they could send more data and video between those studios. This was done with the Nimbra 600 series, our highly reliable video and audio processing, monitoring and IP transmission platform.
Get the latest news on Nimbra 600 for virtualized IP productions in my on-demand webinar: “Nimbra MSR News Virtualization and IP.”
LinkedIn Corp. then entered a second phase, where their customers asked for support for their corporate video productions. At this stage, LinkedIn connected their customers to their new distributed production environments, with some of them using Nimbra 600s, but also Nimbra 400 for internet contribution. Finally, starting this year, they have integrated Nimbra Edge, our cloud-based platform, for scale and agility, and also as a first step towards a fully cloud-based environment. It is going to be exciting to see where enterprise broadcast goes next.
Learn more here on how LinkedIn boosted employee engagement with Net Insight’s remote production solution.
I believe that overall enterprise productions are harmonizing with Tier 2 sports and news productions within the general trend to move to distributed or remote workflows. Adopting remote production for live streaming of townhalls, investor meetings and such, allows your production center to flexibly include speakers from different locations, to cover more events without impacting your budget, and to make each event a unique experience.
One to one to many: distributed enterprise broadcast workflow with Nimbra platforms.
With this environment, you can bring the remote feed or feeds back to your production office. Again, your talents can participate in the production from their home offices. The production can be executed partly on-prem in the office and partly in the cloud by using cloud-based platforms like Nimbra Edge. With Nimbra Edge you can ingest all streams into the cloud and distribute them to several locations, whether to the production environment or to end viewers – remote employees, local offices, and the like. It is all IP, all over internet, all in the cloud. Of course, depending on whether the production is Tier 1 or 2, there will be more dedicated IP, open IP, or unmanaged IP networks.
In summary, relevant examples for new remote and distributed workflows are news, events, and enterprise broadcast. All these share some core needs: scalability, high quality, and last but not least, flexibility to automate and orchestrate workflows. Over time, these environments will rely more and more on virtualization, shifting to IP and cloud-based technology.
Watch the video recording of my live webinar on this topic.
Learn more about what the post Covid-19 media landscape will hold in the next and final issue of the Net Insight Covid Series. Part IV of “At-home Production: Literally.” will be available soon. Stay tuned!