Future Promises of Live Production, Will 5G replace all that we know?
By Mobile Viewpoint
The leading pinnacles of news and sport such as La Liga, Formula 1 and the national news carriers have no shortage of resource when it comes to live streaming. Multiple production crews, an array of cameras, RF and satellite links and a healthy mix of high-speed fibers ultimately results in a high-quality live broadcast viewed by millions.
But what about local news productions or lower league sports where resource and money is a finite resource?
Over the last few years newspapers, grass root sports and lower league football matches have started to show live streaming due to the advent of lower price technology for video contribution from the camera. The range of OTT cloud platforms and social media that can be utilized as a platform to play-out to a range of different devices has boomed establishing a much larger audience to digest content. Traditional TV has long been losing traction as the viewing platform of choice while people view content from a different array of locations.
For live broadcast from remote places, bonded 4G backpacks such as those from Mobile Viewpoint, can easily be connected to a camera. Known as video contribution, these bonded systems can reliably live stream over multiple 4G cellular networks back to a remote production center where commentary and graphics can be added at the point of live playout. Though they are in use by major broadcasters, the price point can be so low that it is possible for the amateur cameraperson with the same 4G technology to live stream full HD quality directly to social media at the local level. No satellite, OB truck or fiber connection required.
What does the future hold? Much has already been written about the disruptive qualities of 5G. Some even predicting the death of satellite, Wi-Fi and even LAN. For video contribution from the camera it will open new possibilities even for tier 1 sports with 4K that traditionally would rely on satellite and fiber. Currently live streaming 4K video over 4G connection is near on impossible in terms of a reliable throughput, even with multiple bonded 4G connections. The available bandwidth required for 4K just cannot be guaranteed for 4G over a public network, especially if there is contention such as in a stadium with thousands of people. 5G is predicted to give bit rates of between 50MB/sec to over a gigabit/sec. Even at the lower end, that would be enough for a reliable 4K stream.
The next issue is latency, which typical H.265 encoders utilizing 4G connections can rarely get below a second between the camera and the production center. 5G is promising average latencies of 10ms, which even with extra encoding and decoding of video will give latencies well below of what they are now.
The proof, as they say, is in the tasting. There is currently much hype around 5G, but there have already been proven tests of its capability. MobileViewpoint was part of the first 5G live streaming between BT Sport and EE in the UK and used in a two-way remote broadcast to successfully live stream video to the Excel exhibition centre in London. Other successful tests include the BBC, a Mobile Viewpoint customer, with well-known news correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones using 5G for the first time to deliver a news report. And at the Johan Cruijff stadium in Amsterdam a joint test between Mobile Viewpoint, Nokia and KPN proved the benefits and capabilities of 5G.
So will this open the door to alternative cheaper technology such as a simple router with a 5G SIM to connect an IP camera and just live stream? The answer, like many things, is it depends! There are many facets to remote live production that still need to be considered.
Would an enterprise broadcaster always want to rely on a single 5G connection? No, they will want resilience and the ability to support multiple 5G connections.
Does a mobile news team only want to live stream? No, as well as live streaming, it is also important to collect clips for the news bulletin so it is a requirement that they can send raw video files over the cellular network in their full original quality. But more than that, they want the ability to use a file naming convention that can be utilized to automatically ingest video files into a news media asset management system (MAM) or a production asset management system (PAM) such as Avid’s Interplay.
The point is open integration into an existing media workflow is a vital part of any news or sports ingest platform. But 5G gives the benefit of much quicker file upload and the ability to consider 4K and even 8K files for remote transfer.
Finally, any discussion on future technology would be short sighted if it was not to mention the use of AI technology within the broadcast industry. Artificial Intelligence has now come of age with AI solutions being used in news productions for both tagging and discovering content. AI is also being used in sports, from major productions down to the lower levels of grass roots sports, by using camera systems without the need for camera people or production crews. With smart cameras installed above the field of play, AI technology can follow the action automatically, even zooming in and out of the action where necessary. AI coupled with 5G can deliver a cost effective 4K immersive experience that can be enjoyed live, or after the event AI can be utilized to create a highlight package of the game and pushed to any social media platform of choice. It really opens up grass roots sports for all to see.
There is absolutely no doubt that once 5G is universally deployed it will be used as a major communication channel for live video contribution. Given its price point, speed, low latency and its universal availability, it will commoditize the whole video live streaming world. This in turn will open up new opportunities and of course 8K formats once they inevitably become popular from cameras to smartphones, will open up a whole new world of video immersion. The technology will be there, but of course we hope the content and creativity will live up to expectation as well. Time will tell!