Interview with Larissa Goerner, Strategic Product Manager at Net Insight
What do you bring to the field of remote productions?
We have been working on remote productions for almost ten years. In this time, more than eight thousand remote productions have been done with our equipment. Since then, we have been getting more and more customers into our ecosystem. As a company, this is a space where we feel very comfortable. Our customers are developing in this area, as well as in the ecosystem that we want to invent with them to make remote productions even more efficient.
Our media transport platform, called Nimbra, allows our customers to do enormous savings of bandwidth, which is usually the biggest challenge when you want to do a remote production. What we do differently is that we use 100% of the capacity and are able to transport much more signals than any other manufacturer in the space with the same service performance and full signal separation. Another important part for us is the control of the services, like video and the network performance. We need to have a full control. This is the most important thing for us. You always want to know what is going on in your network, and, on the remote side, there is a very big distance that you need to cover.
The third point is that you need to be super simple. Remote productions need to be super simple. You want to have something very small. You don’t want to have a big castle. It needs to be an easy set-up.
Could you highlight some of your recent projects?
I can highlight some recent projects. We could go back to Pyeongchang, where Winter Olympics were celebrated. There, Swiss broadcasting, or ARD, German broadcasting used our equipment for remote production from the venues. They did their productions from the IBC (International Broadcasting Centre), so they had the camera control there because they needed a small delay. However, in the case of SRG, the end product of the signal, like the vision mixing, was sent back to Switzerland into different regional studios. So they deployed several cameras on site, but then transferred back all the signals and produced them back from IBC. They did that instead of running an OB van or a container there. The challenge here is that, of course, nothing can go wrong. This is Olympics, so you need to have the highest possible qualities, and also protection and a reliable backup mechanism.
Another significant recent project was the Australia Open, which we did in January, together with Gearhouse Broadcast. We enabled Channel Seven, facilitating a production hub in Melbourne about 8km from the Australian Open venue. Our Nimbra platform was used to transport more than 80 high quality video signals back and forth to enable a smooth remote production for the two weeks duration. The entire live production for 3 channels was produced from the production hub, but also the entire post production was done in this location, where we really had a big mix (HD-SDI, over MADI, over IP video, audio, Internet services and so on).
What do you think that is the future of OB trucks?
I think that in the long term OB vans, or let’s say containers, will be less and less at events, as more and more content has to be produced. I think that there will always be production technology on site during the Super Bowl or the Eurovision Song Contest. However every week show or TV sporting events can be much more efficiently produced with a remote production. This is what we are doing. I can mention the case of TV Denmark. They are producing handball matches. They produce these matches three-four times a week. Well, they have reduced their cost savings up to 25-30% by doing in that way. I think that there will be less OB vans in the future, and they will be dedicated to the large and multi venue events. In the case of the smaller ones, I think that people will opt for remote productions more and more.
A clear benefit of remote productions in the case of large events is that you need to use much less production resources on site. In that way, the companies reduce the technical staff, but, instead of them, they send more producers to produce much more content, because this is now possible. They also stimulate the production talent. Both to onscreen and behind the scenes, the producers can do now much more. This is why they use remote productions, to do more with less.
On the other side, sports events production is always the same. You do always the same kind of things. Thanks to remote technology, you have much less OB vans costs, because you deploy on site smaller OBs. So you have different kinds of benefits.
You have mentioned before your remote ecosystem, in which you collaborate with several companies. Could you explain us how it works?
We have been working very close to many customers to develop better solutions specifically designed to them, so they can optimize their new remote production workflows. So we started talking with them, and we wondered: what can we improve when you go on site?
The first company which we collaborate with is Grass Valley. Together with them, we have developed a solution that allow leaving the Camera Control Units at home. That means that you actually just have the cameras on site. Everything else, your camera control and all your camera control units, which use a lot of rack space in your rack, are back home. This is called Direct IP Plus. We use SMPTE 2022-6 and AES67 for audio, compress the video between the two points with low latency JPEG2000 and transparently transport the controlling mechanism for the telemetrics over the platform. Production can then happen like in a normal studio/OB van environment. So this is what we do with Grass Valley, but it is just the start which we want to improve workflows.
We have also started working with Calrec. The company has a great invention called RP1. This is a very small unit, a broadcast mixing system in a 2U rackmount box, which you can also plug into the rack. RP1 provides you a local DSP to enable the generation of monitor mixes and IFBs with no latency. For audio, the delay is the biggest challenge (for video is always the bandwidth). Now you are able to mix on site close to your microphone, and also your IFB in real time, and have it totally integrated on your central production hub. They deliver it over AES67 or MADI. Our platform was key for them to keep the high quality.
The latest company, which we are working with now is Riedel. Riedel has developed its new Bolero platform, a big solution for intercom. We joined together over AES67. AES67 is not usually transported over aerial networks, because the delay is too big. The normal WAN jitter makes a PTP recovery impossible. Now, we have a new improved jitter performance on our Ethernet transport that allows you to have performance like in a LAN, a local area network. That allows you to transport AES67, which is needed for Bolero. We just showed this at NAB. We built a full remote production set-up there for the show together with Calrec, Grass Valley and Riedel.
This is just the beginning. We will do more and more development to improve this new workflow.
This is what I would like to ask you about. What will be your next steps in the field of remote productions?
Right now, remote productions enable deploying workflows, so everybody start to invent around this. But one question that we get a lot is, well, if you do a lot of remote productions, let’s say, we have five remote productions running, that means actually that in your central sites, you would need to have five production galleries, or six, or seven. People usually don’t have them. So, I think that this brings us to the next thing, what we see as the newest evolution is distributed production. That will remove this problem that you have in central locations, which means that you could have a live production across a whole country. Imagine, in the case of Spain, that your audio production takes place in Madrid, your video production is in Barcelona or Bilbao, and you put everything together. All this must be run over a reliable network. I think that this is the next evolution: that we deploy a distributed production across multiple hubs, where people and the production equipment are.
As a conclusion, would you highlight any other challenge for the near future?
I think that is a big question. What about new formats? What about 2110? What about 4K? What about when you have a large setup? I think that there are several big challenges here. So, one thing is bandwidth, especially across Europe, where we have the largest bandwidth, but the further you go, the more limited bandwidth becomes, especially on the last mile. This is especially relevant in the case of 4K. How to bring this into remote productions? A lot of work is needed.