Industry Insights: Embracing cloud solutions for enhanced media production workflows
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In an ever-evolving media landscape, cloud solutions continues to gain traction among broadcast and media companies.
In this Industry Insights roundtable, industry vendors discuss the challenges, opportunities, and benefits of adopting cloud technology in various stages of the media production pipeline. The conversation delves into topics such as the agility, flexibility, and cost-efficiency offered by cloud solutions, the impact of cloud-based workflows in the news environment, the role of automation, and the aspects of the media pipeline that the cloud best serves.
Join us as we explore the innovative ways in which cloud adoption is transforming the broadcasting and media sectors, paving the way for greater collaboration, scalability, and efficiency.
Beyond collaboration and scalability, what is the biggest benefit of the cloud today?
Geoff Stedman, CMO, SDVI: The greatest benefit of the cloud is the agility it gives users to react to business demands. Cloud users can quickly and easily spin up an environment for whatever work is needed (such as a cloud edit session) and then spin it down when that work is done, only paying for the actual usage of the cloud infrastructure.
Chris Kelly, solutions manager for production workflows, Ross Video: What excites me most is lowering the cost-of-entry barrier to live production. There is a lot of risk to starting a new production, especially when it requires commitment to new control room gear and the infrastructure to support it. Cloud can lower that risk, by making it something you try for a while, but didn’t invest a ton of time in building and maintaining.
Charles d’Autremont, CEO and founder, Cinedeck: The cloud offers unparalleled flexibility. Live production teams are able to work remotely with minimal hardware, and footage captured goes directly to the cloud. Once it’s in the cloud, it can be accessed, processed and distributed by users from any location, at any time. But there is more to be done to achieve interoperability between solutions and vendors.
Frederic Petitpont, co-founder and CTO, Newsbridge: Flexibility — cloud users are not limited by input-output on hardware. There’s also the OpEx and sustainability element; we are running AI indexing on CPUs instead of GPUs. We reduce our cloud processing pipelines and media transit weight by 80%, this means cost efficiencies for our customers, and makes our products an ally in organizations’ missions to reduce their energy consumption.
Raúl Alba, director of solutions marketing, media and cloud, Avid: The biggest benefit to media companies adopting the cloud is their teams’ ability to remote access their workflows from anywhere. This gives companies access to a global talent pool that is not limited by geography. Reducing a company’s real estate footprint, especially in costly, prime real estate locations, is another key benefit of the cloud.
David Rosen, VP of cloud applications, Sony Electronics: One of the biggest benefits is the ability to try things quickly without massive investments. You can test out ideas and learn so much faster when you don’t have to think about large capital expenses and amortization schedules. There is a real opportunity cost of not having your content in the cloud.
Julián Fernández-Campón, CTO, Tedial: The quick time to market as new services can spin up really quickly and users have the flexibility and freedom to choose which ones to implement. Here is where our NoCode Media Integration platform can really help test and integrate new systems in just a few clicks.
Miroslav Jeras, CTO, Pebble: The cloud enables broadcasters to easily launch a temporary pop-up/event channel or an experimental one where they want to pilot a channel to see if it will become popular with audiences. Broadcasters can also deploy IP-based channels without the need for racks of proprietary hardware and keep their desired workflows in place.
Jonathan Smith, cloud solution area expert, Net Insight: Commercial flexibility; consuming resources and service on demand alongside pay-as-you-go commercial terms are exceptionally well suited to event based broadcasting and ad-hoc contributions.
Rick Young, SVP and head of global products, LTN Global: We tend to think primarily about cloud production being a revenue-enabler in terms of its ability to power creativity and customization of live content and channels targeted at consumers across a wide variety of platforms. This is all made possible through flexible cloud workflows as traditional on-premise only methodologies do not have these capabilities.
Stephen Tallamy, CTO, EditShare: Access from anywhere. Take the example of a reality show, shot on location over a period of weeks or months, with nightly broadcasts. In the past, you would have had to move post-production facilities and people to the location, with all the associated costs in accommodation, catering and additional staff payments. If you upload all the content to the cloud, editors can work from their usual facilities, or from their homes, where they are more comfortable and therefore more productive, and save all the additional costs.
Sam Peterson, COO, Bitcentral: Remote access, which is related to collaboration, but is also its own unique function. Giving all users access to the tools from one access point makes management simpler from an implementation point of view.
Grigory Mindlin, general manager of broadcast, Disguise: I think a lot of people are realizing that while there are upfront costs to cloud adoption, once you get it all set up it does save you money. If you work in the cloud then things like support, upkeep and upgrade is much faster and easier, which will bring down your overall costs.
Venugopal Iyengar:, deputy COO of digital, Planetcast International: More flexible pricing models on a pay-as-you-use basis provide game-changing benefits for media companies and drive cost-efficiencies. The cloud is all about agility, from both a business and technology perspective. Organizations can reduce their time to market and spin up services easily and quickly with a cloud-based approach — critical in a fast-evolving and diverse global media market.
Jon Finegold:, CMO, Signiant: Elasticity still remains one of the biggest benefits of cloud technology allowing companies to spin up the resources they need when there are surges in activity and spin them down quickly when they are no longer needed.
How are cloud-based workflows adapting for the news environment?
Geoff Stedman: In news environments, speed is the priority. With the cloud, content can be uploaded from wherever the news is happening, and journalists and editors can access that content from anywhere.
Chris Kelly: I would say we’re still in the exploratory phase of cloud-based workflow in the news environment. One of the biggest challenges of news gathering has always been the journalist’s time away from the office, and the effort required to update the status back to the newsroom of the story in-production. NLEs and cellular technologies have gone a long way to improve that from the days of tape and pagers, but I think a gateway in the cloud has enormous potential to bridge the news gathering teams and the newsroom.
Frederic Petitpont: Through cloud-based workflows, journalists and news producers have real-time access to content and remote editing capabilities. The average bitrate we see in news production is around 7 or 8 Mbps — meaning editing in the cloud does not require a super high bandwidth to be smooth. The dream is to get the news to come to them (through notifications, smart collections, live clipping, etc.), and the cloud makes this possible.
Raúl Alba: News workflows require remote working by definition. Advances in IP streaming technologies and cloud deployments are making it easy for news gathering teams to collaborate in real time with everyone else in the organization.
Rick Young: News-producing broadcasters are harnessing cloud technology across multiple elements of the production chain, from content aggregation and live feed management through to playout workflows. We’re seeing major broadcasters utilize cloud-based playout to efficiently create multiple versions of a primary news channel, spinning up localized versions for distribution across digital, OTT and FAST platforms, with altered programming to fit cross-platform requirements and deliver tailored experiences for diverse audiences.
Stephen Tallamy: News has always led to remote access: journalists on location access the news archive to enrich their stories. Cloud hosting simply makes this more flexible.
Grigory Mindlin: We’re now seeing some options for cloud-based newsroom systems, switchers, automation and graphics systems. News workflows are all about 24/7, and working in the cloud can reduce any chance of downtime as well as make it far easier to work remotely. That brings huge benefits to people working in busy news stations.
Venugopal Iyengar: News-producers are experimenting with different service models on cloud, harnessing it to seamlessly spin up pop-up channels or to enable production control room (PCR) functionality. Customers are utilising cloud-enabled systems for content storage and archive, as well as deploying more flexible, commercially viable cloud-based playout disaster recovery to ensure business continuity and protect high-value live news content.
Do cloud and automation go hand-in-hand?
Geoff Stedman: By using a strong cloud automation platform, users can automate both the cloud infrastructure deployment as well as the application needed for each individual task. This means their operators can concentrate on using the system to create or shape the content, not spending time on infrastructure or workflow management.
Chris Kelly: I’m not sure “hand-in-hand” is the right term, but both have roots in improving efficiency. One improves the utilization of their people, where the other improves the utilization of equipment and infrastructure. With those efficiencies, the flexibility is there to put more people and resources into creating more compelling content.
Charles d’Autremont: Absolutely. Automation enables the seamless transfer of media files and associated metadata to the next stage in the chain. When ingesting direct to the cloud, content is automatically duplicated and stored in backup cloud storage which saves time and resources. Automation reduces manual intervention, and the cloud provides the ideal base to automate tasks.
Frederic Petitpont: If you work with cloud-native SaaS that has access to API and webhooks, yes, most of the time. The flexibility of the cloud allows for automated media logging and automated workflows to bring about overall business efficiencies. We’ve seen video ingest productivity gains of as much as 80 percent.
Raúl Alba: Both cloud and automation are important tools to increase efficiency, but they are not necessarily correlated. Obviously, moving workflows and media to the cloud makes it easier to access AI and ML tools that help automate processes to increase efficiency.
Miroslav Jeras: Yes. Leveraging automation and using the cloud, particularly in conjunction with remote monitoring solutions, has risen since the pandemic for obvious reasons. However, not all broadcasters/media companies are ready to use fully cloud-based solutions/workflows in their operations. These are time critical, with real-time complex graphics and if you throw UHD resolutions and HDR into the mix then you require a hybrid approach that provides flexibility and improved redundancy.
Jonathan Smith: Only as hand in hand as automation sits for any given deployment strategy. Cloud does not fundamentally change the relationship and need for automation. As has been the case for many years appropriate automation should be employed to drive efficiency, this is an operational strategy and not one of underlying architecture.
Stephen Tallamy: Moving to the cloud but doing the same things you have always done is probably not going to gain you much, and certainly is not opening up the full potential. One of the great advantages of moving to the cloud is the ability to call upon almost infinite processing resources, so it makes sense to automate as much of the routine as possible. An editor, for example, simply wants to cut pictures together not worry about camera formats, so use the power available in the cloud to provide resolution independent editing while automatically generating proxies if needed, along with canonical storage, archiving according to your business rules, and all the various deliverables.
Grigory Mindlin: Absolutely. We see a lot of automation systems and switchers moving to the cloud. At disguise we have some master control projects that we’re discussing with customers that want to automate and operate their entire production control and master control from the cloud.
Venugopal Iyengar: Cloud and automation can absolutely go hand in hand, provided the technology partner meets a customer’s design requirements accurately, including enabling real-time workflow integration. Cloud can also help fuel machine learning and artificial intelligence innovation, unlocking new functionality in media asset management (MAM) and post-production, such as AI-assisted editing, captioning, highlights creation for live sports, and quality checks and compliance.
Jon Finegold: Every media company is trying to generate more and better content with less or the same amount of resources where cloud technology and automation can help in that journey. There are increasingly more opportunities and tools available to enable automation using cloud technology. An area we see companies having success is using modern tools like AWS Lambda to quickly write workflows that connect off-the-shelf products together to automate workflows.
Which phase of the pipeline is the cloud best serving? Acquisition? Production? Delivery?
Geoff Stedman: The cloud is equally capable of serving all phases of the pipeline, but what we’ve seen work well for customers is to start at one end and move across as they gain cloud experience. Perhaps most important is to build a media production pipeline where content is moved to the cloud and processed in the cloud to avoid egress costs associated with moving content into and out of the cloud repeatedly.
Chris Kelly: Today, I believe delivery is the most well established. While not termed “cloud” as such, our customers have been centralizing delivery for more than a decade. Much the same way REMI parallels with the cloud for production, hubbed distribution shares similar parallels to cloud delivery, making the path to cloud adoption a cleaner and smoother transition.
Charles d’Autremont: There are solutions and tools for every part of the media chain now, so it’s difficult to choose a single phase that the cloud serves best. The cloud can provide value throughout, but it’s down to individual companies to ascertain how and why it’s the best option for them in any stage. From an ingest perspective, it is now possible to manage, encode, schedule ingest, and playback, whether that’s from a single stream or multiple ISOs.
Frederic Petitpont: Any phase of the pipeline, except if you are a colorist that has to work on original content, and if this content is of a very high bitrate (i.e., RED footage) — bandwidth and virtualization are key to providing a good experience. That being said, we have seen providers such as Flaneer and Parsec push the boundaries and provide 4:4:4 BT2020! So it would even be possible to work on HDR content remotely.
Raúl Alba: Cloud technologies are well suited to all phases of the production chain. Adoption is however easier on the “Edges” of the pipeline, that’s why many media companies started cloud adoption at the Media Delivery stage.
David Rosen: Being able to scale immediately without long procurement cycles and implementation delays is a huge advantage. Cloud is increasingly being leveraged in production and post production where teams are working remotely. It has enabled everyone involved to have a “central” place to work even when they are physically separated. Cloud based editing and cloud accessible content lakes are powering workflows that 5 years ago would have seemed impossible.
Julián Fernández-Campón: I’d say delivery first, as content can be distributed from the cloud quickly and more efficiently. Production second, for all related to localization, collaborations and even some kind of remote editing. And acquisition will be viable if the rest (or part) of the operation is done in the cloud too.
Jonathan Smith: The cloud is a means of deploying and consuming services in a well-connected, easily accessible and flexible way, this approach finds its appropriate use cases in all areas of the broadcast chain.
Rick Young: The best way to look at this is through a slightly different lens. In order to really enable effective cloud based production you need to solve the acquisition and delivery challenges first. At LTN, we are highly focused on these parts of the workflow as we know they will then drive more innovation and creativity when it comes to production workflows and associated tooling.
Stephen Tallamy: The question needs to be turned on its head. We need to stop thinking of production, post and delivery as separate silos but as a single continuum, achieved through seamless connectivity and high levels of automation in the cloud. This is where the real benefits lie.
Grigory Mindlin: Acquisition of content and users. Today, so much user content is in the cloud and a lot of things, especially live events, are all moving there. This is why we launched disguise drive to help and speed that adoption.
Venugopal Iyengar: Distribution was clearly the first to leverage the advantages of the cloud. The advantage of faster and wider reach with low CapEx and reduced entry barriers drove distribution for players big and small. More recently, production is seeing the increasing impact of partial or entire workflows moving to the cloud. Access to better technology and talent enabled by cloud-based workflows is improving production quality, processes and costs.
Jon Finegold: We see cloud being used all throughout the supply chain but more and more in aggregation and distribution workflows. If you need to get content sent to multiple places simultaneously, for example, leveraging the cloud provider’s massive bandwidth for that short period of time is a great use for cloud.
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Automation, avid, Bitcentral, Broadcast Automation, Broadcast Workflow, Charles d'Autremont, Chris Kelly, Cinedeck, David Rosen, Disguise, EditShare, Frederic Petitpont, Geoff Stedman, Grigory Mindlin, Jon Finegold, Jonathan Smith, Julián Fernández-Campón, LTN Global, Miroslav Jeras, Net Insight, Newsbridge, Pebble Beach Systems, Planetcast International, Raúl Alba, Rick Young, Ross Video, Sam Peterson, SDVI, Signiant, Sony, Stephen Tallamy, Tedial, Venugopal Iyengar, workflow
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