News Production & Post Production Satellite & Transmissions

The economics of remote and distributed production

Remote and distributed production is here to stay. Production staff sitting at home - at different locations across the world - producing broadcast-quality shows seamlessly, without the viewers noticing seemed impossible years ago. Fast forward to today, COVID-19-induced social distancing protocols and travel restrictions have led remote and distributed workflows to be a staple in production. Alongside the move to IP, remote and distributed production has re-defined what is possible in the broadcasting industry.

By Per Lindgren, CTO, Net Insight

Remote production brings significant efficiencies, including reducing CAPEX and enabling teams to collaborate in new ways. Media organisations and production companies benefit from the economics of remote production to deploy scalable workflows and decrease hardware and on-site staff costs. Technologies like 5G bring further opportunities to leverage remote production and deliver fascinating viewing experiences. To harness the benefits of remote and distributed production workflows, media organisations need the right IP media platform that gives them the scalability and flexibility they need to create and deliver content anywhere in the world seamlessly.

The economics of remote production change production forever

Production typically entails dispatching an Outside Broadcasting (OB) truck to the venue with a technical crew that sets up and controls equipment. This involves travel costs or hiring local freelancers as well as the cost of transporting heavy equipment. Remote workflows enable controlling equipment and transferring raw camera and audio feeds over a digital infrastructure to a centralised production studio with just minimal on-site equipment and technical teams. On top of that, media organisations don’t need to invest in any hardware that is often used only occasionally for specific events.

Remote workflows revolutionise how the broadcasting industry produces. By moving from CAPEX to OPEX, media companies can deploy the flexible and scalable workflows that they need when they need them and only pay for what they use. In addition, centralised production brings opportunities for more industry players to deliver exciting viewing experiences, including 4K and 8K. This is leveling the playing field as broadcasters and media companies of any size can access state-of-the-art production facilities and technical personnel. New business models are opened up for more players, shifting the dynamics of the broadcasting industry.

In addition, the economics of remote production means that one production team can support multiple events in a single day from anywhere in the world, creating further resource efficiencies. For a fast-paced industry like broadcasting where the volume of events can spike over a period of time, such as during major sports events, breaking free from geographical barriers is a real game-changer.

The IP media backbone powering remote production

A scalable and reliable IP media delivery platform is essential for transporting high-quality media over IP and enabling new business models. The IP media platform needs to handle contribution, distribution, cloud ingest, and orchestration of multiple camera signals and feeds at ultra-low latency. The platform also needs to scale up and down quickly to accommodate the changing broadcaster needs. For large multi-location projects, feeds must be brought in from a number of different venues, with zero delays and no compromise to the final viewing experience.

The IP platform should also be working on open standards to ensure it can be deployed alongside any existing technologies and enable the broadcaster to leverage existing technology investments. At the same time, the platform should also support 4K and later 8K productions and rich content formats as consumer appetite for ultra-high viewing quality surges.

Internet and cloud delivers next-level remote production

Internet and cloud will take remote production a step further by minimising reliance on dedicated satellite, fibre, or IP networks while offering higher flexibility and lower cost. This will be further enhanced with the introduction of 5G offering greater bandwidth, lower latency, and a defined quality of service at low cost. The production of events that run over some distance, such as marathons, golf, cycling, etc. will benefit the most, delivering new and compelling viewing experiences.

Internet and 5G will improve venue connectivity significantly. Camera operators can be more flexible and mobile as they can leverage 5G to connect cameras to production facilities cable-free. Production teams can set up ‘pop-up’ production capabilities that use the 5G network to deliver multiple camera signals back to a central hub or directly into a cloud production. Staff can mix video captured by traditional cameras with those on 5G-enabled smartphones creating multi-camera experiences and new angles that were not possible before.

While 5G is an enabler for new production formats, we should reiterate the importance of an IP media platform that is open and cloud-ready and can ingest and distribute any live media stream, in any format, securely to multiple destinations across any IP network. Remote production is moving to a fully distributed production workflow allowing resources and talents to be anywhere in the world.

The future is here

While remote production has been associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, its efficiencies and potential are here to stay. Even with the gradual return of physical events and in-person audiences, the broadcasting industry will continue to leverage remote and distributed production workflows to benefit from cutting-edge technology and deliver next-generation viewing experiences efficiently.

The economics of remote production enables media companies to use human and hardware resources more efficiently. The move to IP networks means that venues and remote studios can benefit from ultra-fast, reliable, and very-low latency connectivity and deliver broadcast-quality productions seamlessly. Does that mean that existing hardware investments are no longer fit-for-purpose and should be disposed of? Not necessarily — broadcasters can leverage the right workflows for the right events. With the right IP media delivery platform they can deploy the workflows that work for them when they need them without wasting any existing technology investments. Flexibility and scalability define the future of the broadcasting industry and remote and distributed production deliver on this promise.

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