We were promised a revolution, opened Peter Ennis, Senior Vice President, Global Services, Delivery and Customer Support, Avid. The 20-year broadcast industry veteran had flown in from New Zealand to moderate the tech panel at the ASBU BroadcastPro ME Selevision Summit 2017. Ennis opened the panel discussion with the question: We were told everything was […]
We were promised a revolution, opened Peter Ennis, Senior Vice President, Global Services, Delivery and Customer Support, Avid. The 20-year broadcast industry veteran had flown in from New Zealand to moderate the tech panel at the ASBU BroadcastPro ME Selevision Summit 2017.
Ennis opened the panel discussion with the question: We were told everything was going IP and it will change lives. Has it changed your life?
Titled The Tech Revolution: Tackling new challenges in the broadcast workplace, the over-riding theme of the hour-long discussion was acknowledgement that new technologies in broadcast are not just buzzwords.
IP has changed the way we do business, asserted Monish Kapoor, VP of IT and Broadcast at Zee Entertainment Middle East.
We are far more agile and far more flexible towards changing business needs. I will be surprised if people have not shifted to IP in this part of the world in a large way. To deliver content on digital platforms you need to be on IP, and yes, the infrastructure needs to be built accordingly.
IP has changed the way we do business. We are far more agile and far more flexible towards changing business needs Monish Kapoor, VP of IT and Broadcast at Zee Entertainment Middle East
Even with the most traditional of broadcasters, IP is being implemented. The speed of deployment will depend on management decisions, stated Peter Van Dam, Technical Advisor CEO office at LIVE HD Broadcast Facilities.
Admitting complete bias on the subject, Adriaan Bloem, Senior Manager Online Platforms, MBC Group, said: I am on the digital side of things. So, if you ask me the importance of IP we would not have a business without IP. I am mostly intrigued by the fact that in our technical operations we have the broadcast side and the digital side, and the technologies have a lot of overlap, but sometimes it can be hard to communicate between the two.
Acknowledging that the barrier between broadcast and IT hampers effective communications, Ennis observed: I visit a lot of broadcasters. I dont believe a single one is fully IP-enabled from end to end. Maybe on the distribution side, but on the contribution side, less so. Do you think there is an issue with vendors not giving you the right products?
Kapoor of Zee Entertainment ME responded: Lets divide IP into two categories. One is the storage and production part, and the second would be the broadcast side of things. In most cases, the kind of vendors who cater to each of these processes are different but the links between each system today is smooth and does well for the broadcaster. It helps to use the strengths of each vendor. Once you have your production in file format, it allows you a lot of flexibility to do different types of business with that content. IP is definitely the way forward.
Recalling the days in the 1970s when studios had plumbers on staff because transmitters needed to be water-cooled, Ennis believes technology is all part of a continuum.
In the 1980s, micro-processors started to find their way into studios Then we went digital. I dont see the newer implementations like blockchain or microservices or IP and the cloud as a takeover. I see it as a continuum, and what we are talking about today is just the next step in that journey.
His next question was: Do you think the cloud is delivering along the entire media value chain?
The question inspired quite the story from Bloem of the MBC Group.
Sometime around 2002, I was running an online infrastructure with servers in our building, he recalled.
It was a full server room with all the fixtures that you would expect with backups and fire extinguishers, and the servers had multiple power supplies.
Everything was redundant for reliability. However, one power supply did fail, and caught fire and set the other power supply on fire as well, and eventually, took down the rest of the servers. This was the moment I vowed never to run my own server on premises again. It took us about three weeks to recover from this.
Of course, then you get into a broadcast company and you realise one needs to have hardware in the building. Applications such as SharePoint and databases are relatively easy to move to the cloud. With video, just the amount of data and levels of connectivity you need creates a huge problem besides being costly. Bandwidth is a huge challenge concerning video. Even though I do not want to run servers, I have had to acknowledge in the past few years, that it sometimes makes sense.
Kapoor, a big believer in the cloud, said: Broadcasters have far more acceptance towards the cloud, with the scalability it offers. Also, the cloud allows your locally created content to be worked on remotely from another location, which is a huge benefit for studios.
Reiterating the issues that stop a company from fully embracing the cloud connectivity and hosting costs Ennis asked Van Dam about the third critical issue of security.
We were one of the early adopters of cloud playout. We did run into arguments related to security. People are afraid of putting stuff on an intangible cloud.
My stance on this issue is that a company that runs hosting or cloud services as their main business will be a better choice in cooperation with the in-house broadcast IT department. To hack particular information from Amazon or Microsoft would involve crossing so many hurdles. Companies such as Microsoft are very proud of the number of certifications on security they have.
Bloem added: As for virtual security, to me there is no difference between the company network and the cloud network. You have to put in place proper configurations and firewalls. The main difference is the cloud is a lot easier to secure. This may seem counterintuitive to many people though you cannot physically see the server, the cloud is many times more secure on multiple levels.
Shifting the conversation to AI, Ennis asked whether this technology is adding value to the workflow.
Bloem responded: Any software now claims to have AI in some form or the other. Startup companies will tell you that they mention AI to investors because it sounds cool. Many people dont even know the difference between AI and machine learning. But AI is amazingly broad in its applications for broadcast, from analysing video and translating text to finding scenes to recognising faces on video and much more. An increased proportion of processing is fueled by AI and it is exciting because it is starting to get commoditised and easy to use.
An increased proportion of processing is fueled by AI, and it is exciting because it is starting to get commoditised and easy to use Adriaan Bloem, Senior Manager Online Platforms, MBC Group
With Netflix poised to use AI techniques to compress codecs and optimise network data transfers, the panelists agreed that more broadcasters are deploying AI techniques towards audience engagement, content planning and network management. While Van Dam spoke of deploying AI for more efficient use of media libraries, Kapoor said his company is in the process of implementing AI on OTT platforms and weighing options to outsource or do it in-house.
The final discussion on blockchain was in equal parts a crash course on the term for those in the audience not familiar with the concept, and a critical look at the usefulness of the solution for the broadcast industry. Ennis asked the panel about the impact of blockchain on distribution and payment for content, and on protection, if any, from piracy.
Referring to an earlier panel discussion on content creation, Van Dam stated: We can use blockchain in content creation. The first panel spoke of needing more writers. I believe there are a lot of good writers in the world. Smart contracts within blockchain will help the work to be monitored and picked up and worked on by someone else, with transparency and monetisation at every stage.
Smart contracts within blockchain will help the work to be monitored, and picked up and worked on by someone else, with transparency and monetisation at every stage Peter Van Dam, Technical Advisor CEOs office at LIVE HD Broadcast Facilities
Earlier this year, Spotify acquired Mediachain Labs, a company developing better technology for connecting artists and other rights holders. The start-up is working to leverage blockchain technology in order to help solve problems with attribution, complete with an attribution engine for creators and a cryptocurrency that rewards creators for their work.
While Bloem spoke of the possibility of global collaboration over cloud with content producers receiving royalty automatically using blockchain-based solutions, Kapoor lauded the security offered by the technology.
Bitcoin uses blockchain as infrastructure, and until now we have not heard about hacking in bitcoin I believe coders and developers are working towards the next level where content can be broken down and stored for greater security.
Blockchain could very well be the future of DRM, Bloem pointed out.
DRM is based on centralised servers. But if you build a DRM based on transactions, and distributed ledgers using encryption, it does not matter what you use to play your video. It could be an app some 15-year-old devised, or it could be the official app from the broadcasters, because the transaction per video is what is counted on the ledger. That would be an exciting application.
Regarding piracy, the panel agreed that blockchain will not preempt the placing of a camera in front of a screen and illegally recording the movie. The new technology, however, may allow for more platforms for distribution of content. The ease of use for the viewer would help fight piracy.
While 2018 looks set to be the year when new technologies in broadcasting are deployed at scale, so that they no longer remain mere buzzwords, the path forward is not uniform.
The cloud, observed Van Dam, like any other technology needs to be used where required. Technology needs to serve people.
Kapoor concurred: The new technologies need to be cost effective and suit your business model. You need to pick up technologies that make you a better broadcaster.