Why A Remote Collaboration-Based Workflow Makes Sense In BroadcastingLive television production is a collaborative process much in the same way that orchestral music is collaborative. Both bring together multiple people with specific talents working in harmony to produce captivating entertainment experiences for their respective audiences.
Until the past year, most live TV productions were done onsite at a sporting or entertainment event venue. Camera operators, a director, technical director, graphics operators, slow-motion replay operators, audio engineers and many other production and technical experts would all work from a single or multiple production trucks tethered together, each drawing on his or her expertise to produce the show.
Of course, as with all things, there are exceptions. When it comes to producing live sporting and entertainment events, that exception involves transporting camera signals from a venue to a centralized production facility. There, the production team can collaborate just as they do in the field but without incurring much of the expense.
Dubbed things like “REMI” (Remote Integration Model), “at-home” and “homerun” production, the concept took shape decades ago with one of its first deployments by NBC Sports for coverage of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Since then, key technologies have evolved, such as the internet and blade servers with powerful CPUs and GPUs, that make remote collaboration possible, not in a centralized brick-and-mortar studio, but virtually in the cloud.
With the World Health Organization declaring the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, however, there developed an added urgency to adopting this approach – in the cloud, at a centralized studio with proper social distancing or some combination of the two with a limited number of crew members in the field—to maintain collaborative production workflows and protect workers from possible infection.
Beyond The Pandemic
The importance of this zero latency virtual production environment can’t be overstated. It is the lynchpin upon which a remote collaborative workflow hangs. Without it, syncing all of the elements in the production—switches between video sources, layering of graphics and titles and audio mixing—would be a major stumbling block.
To be absolutely clear, when the internet is used to transport audio and video packets from a sports or entertainment venue to the cloud, there will be latency. However, if each IP packet has its own time ID, it is possible to accommodate any transport latency in the cloud where discrete data flows of video and audio can be worked on separately by their respective production experts, such as a TD switching or audio engineer mixing a show, and married together in perfect sync at playout.
Production personnel assigned unique URLs control their own part of the show from a laptop computer at home, accessing the data flows they require to perform their specific production tasks –while all of the audio and video processing is done in the cloud. Upon playout, there is zero latency among these separate component parts, ensuring synchronization as the assembled show is distributed to the audience.
TVU Networks developed its TVU Producer specifically to enable zero-latency, multi-camera live production in a cloud-based environment. With TVU Producer, it’s possible to:
- Maintain perfectly synchronized data flows upon playout and distribution.
- Assign unique URLs to various members of the production crew to facilitate access to the data flows they need.
- Switch between live video from multiple cameras.
- Integrate pre-recorded segments, such as edited packages, into the overall production.
- Add graphics, titles and effects.
- Mix audio, adjust input levels and master output.
- Invite an unlimited number of remote guests to participate in shows.
- Create onscreen multiviews to bring remote guests together.
- Add AI-driven features, such as speech-to-text conversion, for automated closed captioning.
The Future Is Remote Collaboration
The primary benefit is the ability to produce more content, more affordably. Cloud-based video production collaboration makes it possible for the same production personnel who produce a game mid-morning to produce another in the afternoon.
That 2x (or even 3x) multiplier is only the beginning, however. Storing incoming audio and video in the cloud makes fast work of versioning content for foreign distribution, creating highlight reels for other shows and producing content for OTT, online and mobile distribution—all with the same crew.
Adopting this production strategy also means the number of people and the amount of equipment sent from venue to venue dramatically shrinks. As a direct consequence, so do expenses. Fewer people on the road means lower travel costs; and less equipment on site means lower rental charges.
Beyond expense, however, centralizing production in the cloud means broadcasters and producers can contract with the best talent regardless of where they are to work on a show without worrying about whether or not they can get to the venue.
Similarly, enabling production personnel to work from anywhere makes it easier for producers to find qualified substitutes when a sickness or unexpected circumstance prevents a member of the production crew from working. Conceivably, finding a qualified stand-in and integrating that person into the workflow could take mere moments.
Managing crews is only part of the logistics involved with remote production. The other critical piece is technology. Sending a production trailer or flypack to a venue requires scheduling and other logistical considerations. Should something happen to either en route, a Plan B must quickly be found. That can prove to be difficult on short notice given the finite universe of available trucks, each with its own commitments and schedule.
For all of these reasons, the future of video production will be based on remote collaboration. That’s not to say rolling fully equipped production vehicles to venues will entirely disappear. But as remote production workflows in the cloud continue to prove they can deliver comparable performance to those onsite, the reasons to stick with the traditional model will fade.
Foregoing much of the expense and all of the logistical hassles of sending people and production technology onsite should be incentive enough for broadcasters and producers to consider remote production. Enabling remote collaboration in the cloud that’s the equal of working onsite will prove to be what drives broad scale adoption of this strategy.
Tools like TVU Producer are already making that remote collaboration possible in the cloud. Ultimately, TVU Producer will prove to be one of the chief drivers behind broader adoption of this video production strategy.