Software reduces technical vs. creative tension for video production
Since its inception, video production has faced an inherent conflict between technical requirements and creative aspirations. Software is fundamentally reducing this tension.
The dramatic changes in consumer viewing habits continue to challenge business models for many media organizations. The shift to viewing video in new ways not tied to any fixed schedule coming from smart televisions, computers, and mobile devices requires different approaches for content creators.
Specialized and dedicated technology implementations are giving way to more ubiquitous IT-centric methodologies in many aspects of daily life. Producing and delivering media is no exception.
The most common IT elements evolving for media include software-defined workflows, networking, and computing. The common thread linking these elements together is IP transport. By its very nature, IP technology efficiently handles all data types of interest to media production and distribution.
IP is already the dominant methodology, as seen with the rapid ascendance of various streaming infrastructures and streaming services worldwide. With an IP backbone, the applications to manage these services have become virtualized, hosted in cloud environments, and are even being offered in software-as-a-service (SaaS) models to use what is needed when it is needed.
With media distribution and delivery to all types of screens mostly migrated to IP streaming, what is the impact upstream on production? Media production has long been linear in nature, i.e., cameras and devices connected with point-to-point cabling. Systems and studios have been isolated from each other. Linking everything together has meant burdensome cabling requirements and complexity.
Compare this past approach to using IT with IP connectivity, which simply requires systems and devices to be plugged into the network and permits them to connect through software. Now every device is available for use with production and distribution, without directly connecting them to one another.
This approach provides more options for producing media. It makes the process simpler, leading to substantial enhancement of the quality and creativity of productions – and the delivery of them whenever, wherever, and however they are watched.
An increasing number of software-based solutions are being offered to cover every aspect of production. While some of these can be located on-premises with off-the-shelf computer hardware, there is increasing interest in virtualized solutions that can be deployed in cloud environments and providing ready access from multiple locations by multiple users collaborating in real-time.
Software-based tools lend themselves to function consolidation that can combine tasks in different ways for different users offering more flexible usage that matches changing resource requirements. Software tools can also automate processes that make production more efficient and reduce the possibility of errors. Rather than rigid production clusters, creatives have a more agile way of working that moves away from the technical to focus on enabling more stories, better told.
News production has been software-centric for some time. Now, by surrounding the software layer with changes in networking and transport, more possibilities have arisen. Small camera technology has vastly improved so that smartphones and tablets record media content, and with Wi-Fi connectivity, can even be real-time sources to live events.
The opportunities for building stories have become more versatile. Images, clips, audio, and graphics elements can be searched for from anywhere in cloud-based archives using metadata tags. Browser-based editors can be virtualized to modify media and add graphics. Newsroom systems can also be virtualized so journalists can plan out placeholders and rundowns wherever they are located. Especially for scripted news productions, the entire program output with switching, effects, audio, and graphics can be run from various locations using remote user interfaces and customized software panels.
Many of these same capabilities are available for sports production as well, including being able to run productions remotely with a smaller number of staff on-site at events. Esports is an excellent example of how using software and IP streaming opens up new possibilities that reduce production complexity and keeps costs low.
The opportunity to further monetize sports content with reuse is more manageable with software orchestration functions such as metadata tagging, logging, and automated highlights creation. Another opportunity is with advertising technology using virtual reality software technology to overlay existing field-side advertising boards with realistic virtual signage in real-time throughout events for tailored marketing. Augmented reality software uses image-based tracking and keying technology for immersive 3D graphics to display additional information like statistics. This creates more entertaining experiences for viewers.
The line between linear and non-linear programming continues to blur over time for viewers. Some streaming services offer a hybrid approach with a mix of scheduled programming and video on-demand content. For media content creators this is a challenge and an opportunity. Live productions can be recorded and put into both non-linear access and into schedules to be repeated for linear programming. The key again is software. In this case, it is achieved through scheduling and automation applications as the content itself can be placed in cloud storage for flexible access.
Incorporating IT networking knowledge in some manner to use IP for transport is critical to success for media organizations. The need to move high-bandwidth video streams and large files around will only increase. That presents technical challenges.
This necessity – combined with technologies including high-quality compression, software-defined networks, and network accelerators – means typical networking infrastructure practices have to be amended for optimized performance. The provisioning requirements for cloud deployment must be well understood to achieve the expected performance parameters.
The ultimate solution here is software. With attention to the user experience, software interfaces can provide easy access to all types of content creators. In some cases, systems provide the means to build do-it-yourself software interfaces that can be customized precisely to particular user and workflow needs.
This empowers organizations to bring in the talents of creative generalists rather than technical specialists. Software has become the primary plotline that leads to the ultimate goal: more stories, better told for viewers – no matter how they choose to access content.
By Matt Allard, The Vizrt Group