Misconceptions about the cloud and virtualization for broadcasters

By Alex Roma

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Most businesses have shifted to a cloud-based environment, and media and entertainment companies are now following suit.

While many have been hesitant to embrace cloud-based production, post-production, distribution, and other technology, others jumped into the cloud early, spurred by changing viewer preferences and other factors. Those who’ve embraced cloud-based technology have seen its potential to help them adjust to viewers’ expectations, while common misconceptions have led other companies to stick with old, non-cloud-based options. 

Here are some of those misconceptions and the reality of virtualization and cloud technology, and how it can help you spur your business into the future. 

Virtualization is more expensive

You might think that shifting to a cloud-based system is more expensive, but over time, it can actually save you money on production costs. With cloud-based tools and virtualization, your production team can handle various tasks including graphic design and sports analysis outside of the studio. 

According to Ulrich Vogt, Vice President of Product Management as Vizrt, “We often see virtualization and cloud as different ways to source infrastructure. Comparison is only about acquiring a physical hardware server and the cloud usage cost or a virtual machine. The benefits of virtualization and cloud are abundant but often not considered since they can be difficult to quantify: flexibility, operational efforts for upgrades and replacement, datacenter operation and security, remote accessibility and collaboration, and carbon efficiency.” 

Cloud-based media and entertainment solutions are more robust than ever, and they give you more flexibility throughout the production process. You might not save money right away. If you’re planning on moving over to the cloud, evaluate your workflows from a holistic perspective before making the shift. 

Virtualized solutions and cloud-native solutions are the same

If you’re new to the broadcast cloud, you might hear terms like “virtualized” and “cloud-native” and think they’re interchangeable. But they’re not, and knowing the difference can help you find the best solution for your needs. 

Ignacio Revuelto Rosello, Product Marketing Manager, Playout at Imagine Communications, explains it this way. “For many, virtualization is a lift and shift of existing architectures from discrete software to applications running in virtual machines. Cloud-native applications take advantage of the managed services provided by cloud providers to host databases, load balancers, containers, and so on. This is the game-changer in terms of efficiency, costs, security, and scalability.”

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For example, a cloud-native distribution system can help you push your media out to multiple video-on-demand platforms without having to process everything separately, which gives your customers faster access to the content they want to see. 

One of the most well-known cloud-based platforms for broadcasting is Amazon Web Services (AWS). This service makes it easier for your company to distribute high-quality video including live sports, newscasts, produced shows, and more to a broader audience while retaining production quality. AWS also offers a storage solution that is fast and reliable. This platform also lets you move your live streams around or add live elements to your pre-recorded content. 

You can also use tools like Cloud Playout to offer a live-TV experience to viewers using pre-recorded video. Cloud Playout lets you combine live feed and on-demand content to create a more robust experience for your viewers. 

Switching to the cloud means we can ditch our hardware

One big advantage of the broadcast cloud is that it allows for better automation of workflows. You might already be using the cloud to automate storage, but you can also use it to automate other parts of the workflow including distribution. 

You might think that automation will eliminate your need for hardware and then have to downsize your team. But Chister Bohm, Vice President of Product Management at Net Insight says this isn’t the case. “You’re still going to need dedicated hardware as there are solutions that run on that. There’s still the need to interface with existing SDI in production and if ingest happens in remote locations, hardware might be needed there. There’s also the potential to reduce costs and streamline workflows through automation. Media companies are able to reduce some staff by automating processes and workflows but ultimately, you cannot automate the entire operation and staff will always be necessary.”

The benefits of shifting to the cloud for broadcasting

Whatever your stance on virtualization and cloud-based production pre-2020, you’ve probably had to adopt it at least in part when your production team was pushed home during COVID-19. If you haven’t made the complete switch, you’re probably considering it to improve your production quality and push media out to your customers more efficiently. 

Cloud broadcasting can help you operate more efficiently while giving you the ability to deliver quality content to multiple platforms. You’re also no longer limited to the talent pool in your geographical area. Cloud-native solutions and virtualization let you tap into graphic designers, production professionals, and other team members from all over the world. They can work from wherever they are while meeting deadlines and completing your production on time. 

These tools also let you better engage your fans and help you contain your content, making it harder for people to pirate and distribute your videos. 

Making the shift to the cloud can help make your production company more flexible, and over time, it can save you money on production costs. You may have hesitated to join the cloud-based environment thinking that it would be more expensive and difficult to manage. 

But the cloud can improve your operations, letting you produce better content by collaborating with talented professionals from all over the world. Cloud-native platforms and virtualization let you distribute content to a broader range of platforms, so your customers can watch what they want when they want it. 

You’re no longer limited to in-studio software and production tools, so you can have people working on animations and other production features while your team is onsite shooting. You can better engage your audience with tools like studio automation, 4K switching, and sports analysis, among others, creating a better experience for each viewer. 

If you haven’t made the switch to cloud-based production, get started and up your production game. 

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