TVU Remote Commentator Offers Mobile Facilities Companies New OpportunitiesThe aphorism “necessity is the mother of invention” best describes what will be the lasting effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on TV production workflows, especially remote workflows.
Television production of live sporting events came to a halt in spring 2020 due to the pandemic, leaving massive holes in programming schedules and grounded many of the 53-foot production trailers used to produce sports.
The interruption wasn’t entirely bad, however. The hiatus in live sports production due to the pandemic gave mobile facilities companies the opportunity to identify innovative ways their clients could once again produce live television safely when sports play finally resumed. In some cases, these techniques were put into practice much sooner than expected.
Many turned to a new spin on REMI (or remote integration model) production in which virtualized video switchers, audio mixers, graphics systems and replay running in the cloud could augment pared back personnel and facilities on site or even replace them.
Rights holder clients responded enthusiastically, eager to adopt REMI in the cloud, REMI from a brick-and-mortar studio, scaled back onsite production, some combination of each—anything just to get back on track and once again produce and distribute live sports without any degradation in production quality.
In The Virtual Booth
Recognizing the need for a way to keep announcers safe, TVU Networks developed a cloud-based alternative to calling games in person from the announcer booth. With TVU Remote Commentator, announcers and color commentators can work from their homes or offices using a microphone, camera and a laptop computer running a browser-based client.
With TVU Remote Commentator, play-by-play and color commentary team members can work from anywhere there’s an internet connection and remain in perfect sync with one another and game action thanks to TVU’s auto-sync technology.
TVU Remote Commentator streams main game video to each commentator and video from each commentator to the other members of the announce team. That way game calls are up to the millisecond with game action, and each announcer can see the facial expressions and body language of the other announcers as if they were sitting together in the booth. Mix-minus audio capability ensures each announcer hears the game mix minus his or her own voice to eliminate possible confusion.
In effect, TVU Remote Commentator enables a virtual announcer booth to take the place of the booth at the sports venue. Doing so offers a ranges of benefits, from eliminating many sources of possible exposure during the pandemic to cost-savings, better personnel utilization and more monetization opportunities. TVU Remote Commentator even makes it far simpler and less expensive to produce sports in multiple languages for viewers in other countries.
The Mobile Facilities Perspective
In the short run, TVU Remote Commentator keeps announcer teams safe from COVID-19—a priority for rights holders wanting to maintain continuity in coverage, but longer term it fits nicely into the broader, ongoing transition to REMI production in the cloud. As this transition gains greater momentum, mobile facilities rental companies will transition as well in their commercial offerings, continuing to provide production capability at the venue, while giving their clients a means to handle virtually what was once done in a production trailer. TVU Remote Commentator is a logical next step in this virtualization.
There’s more to this story, however. TVU Remote Commentator can help facilities companies help their clients innovate their sports coverage in ways they may never have considered.
Not only can TVU Remote Commentator stream the main video feed to announcers to inform their coverage of a game, but it also can stream video from other cameras at the sports venue not currently on air, making it possible for announcers to see developments that affect the game. For instance, a camera—not on air at the moment but trained on the bench—could give announcers a heads up that the coach was instructing a player from the sidelines or getting ready to make a substitution.
The Future Is Innovation
Running these algorithms on the main video can give announcers valuable information to assist in their presentation. Further, all manner of statistical analysis of game play is available in the cloud and can be used to alert commentators of noteworthy game developments to make their calls more informative and on point.
Longer term, as more and more games are called remotely with the assistance of TVU Remote Commentator, machine learning in the cloud will build a repository of game situations and previous announcer calls. This will prove highly valuable as algorithms in the cloud draw on these historical events to assist announcers by offering them greater context and insight. The possibilities are limitless.
TVU Networks will one day succeed in taking this type of innovation to its logical end, enabling virtual commentators with voice, emotion and game insight to join the coverage team—perhaps even making it possible for games to be called without a human announcer.
Of course, people will always enjoy the human touch a real-world announcer brings to the table. But for smaller sporting events with limited commercial opportunity and much tighter budgets, a virtual announcer could make the difference between covering an event and taking a pass.
Each of these TVU Networks innovations –multiple streamed cameras to announcers, object and facial recognition algorithms in the cloud, stats-revealing algorithms and virtual announcer assist—offers facilities rental companies important ways to evolve their businesses and offerings to meet the changing needs of their clients.