Decentralized workflows: The new status quo for production

By Tehseen Akhtar, Vizrt

If the past few years have taught us anything, it is that working remotely and in virtual environments is a viable production and business model. A new generation of powerful decentralized workflows and virtual sets are becoming more common for the broadcast industry and will continue to evolve into the status quo. To best leverage the advantages of hybrid and cloud-based workflows, production tools have become faster, easier, and more accessible than ever before.

The decentralization of workflows has advanced significantly with remote working. For production teams today, the on-screen talent, the technical staff, and the equipment can all be located nearly anywhere in the world. The growth in popularity of “teleporting” people into side-by-side, on-screen interviews and discussions is a great example.

By choosing software-defined and cloud-based production tools, broadcast professionals significantly reduce the need for ownership of expensive hardware, large production rooms, and bulky cabling. When deploying highly flexible remote workflows, the question becomes how to ensure each creator has the right tools needed for their specific workflow to harness the benefits. 

Software-defined remote workflows

An immediate advantage of remote productions for broadcast professionals is the greater accessibility to a larger talent pool. Studios can tap into designers, onscreen talent, and producers in different facilities, cities, and countries. For broadcasters and production teams, remote production enhances creativity in sourcing new capabilities and better utilizing existing resources. It also increases productivity enabling people to work from home or recruit them from locations never considered before—all without the time and travel expenses.

Recognizing broadcast professionals can produce an entire show from a remote location simplifies the on-site crew so it only needs to include the camera, audio, and lighting operators. In cases where automated and position-able cameras are accessible, on-site staff has an even lesser requirement. Today, it is possible to remotely automate and access the entire workflow—a completely unheard-of task previously.

Enhancements in compute and rendering technologies with virtual sets significantly increase the demand for more capable and photorealistic graphics design tools. For creatives, having these tools in hand, the only limitation to the art of possible is their imagination. With a more realistic production, the likelihood of amplified audience viewership heightens.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen Physically Based Rendering (PBR) pipeline technologies from the gaming industry integrate into television productions. The visual fidelity achievable today elevates virtual production to become more engaging and nearly indistinguishable from the norm for the average viewer.


Quality and consistency — fast

Production speed and quality are critical when discussing on-air graphics; however, production consistency is also a significant driver. Motion graphics — the lower thirds, logos, on-screen text, graphics, and animations — must adhere to brand styles and guidelines. Broadcasters require ways to ensure a consistent brand image across all productions. Cloud-based asset sharing, and management offer considerable advantages in this area, especially within a decentralized workflow. Production needs a unified appearance and visual story, which can be challenging when producers live and work around the globe. Cloud-based asset management keeps production graphics and content in line with the brand or network image.

Production today is no longer linear. From television to mobile to social, broadcasters need graphics to adapt based on the method of delivery. Production teams need to generate content once and version it many times for multiple endpoints. In an adaptive graphics ecosystem, designers prefer to create their scenes once, not several times, saving valuable resources and assuring brand consistency. Adaptive storytelling has become a significant area of development within the industry to save time and resources— allowing for more creative and engaging productions for audiences.

In the past, broadcasters had good reason to resist moving anything from their on-premises systems. However, there is too much opportunity available today to shy away from cloud-based workflows. Broadcasters are now more willing to try non-traditional workflows designed around different infrastructures, like the cloud, because of the countless benefits. For example, studios can spin up a production control room or a master control room in the cloud, use it, and then spin it down — quickly, easily, and consistently.

Revolutionizing time to market with new tools 

For the large, tier-one broadcasters with design teams that want to create everything from scratch, there are ready-to-use tools that can help tell a data-driven story. The players who don’t have vast resources may need out-of-the-box tools to get the production up and running by adding simple tweaks to pre-existing scene designs, adding logos and brand image, and then going live. The fantastic flexibility of cloud-based production tools allows organizations of all sizes to scale and advance their business appropriately with a much lower barrier to starting their production.

These new tools have significantly reduced those barriers for broadcasters to use a level of creative capabilities unheard of just a short time ago. A decentralized workflow allows broadcasters to save resources, time to market, and improve graphics quality. As a result, production is more efficient therefore creating – more stories, better told. 

Tehseen Akhtar, VizrtTehseen (TJ) Akhtar is the Vice President of Product Management for Vizrt and heads the video and graphics processing portfolio. He has been with the company for the past four years, overseeing countless critical product introductions to the visual storytelling market. As an experienced product management, business development and strategy leader with the aim to evolve innovative concepts into commercialised product and services, TJ is a significant asset to the Vizrt team, its partners and its clients. Prior to his role at Vizrt, TJ was Head of Managed Hosting and Cloud Services for EMEA at Tata Communications and was also the Senior Product Manager and Strategy lead for BT Compute in BT Global Services, helping various industries transform their businesses through cloud computing, working for the company for over eight years. TJ is UK-based and has a host of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications, electronics, microelectronics and business administration from Northumbria University and the University of Hertfordshire.

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