In 2011, I presented one of the first ‘Cloud in Broadcast’ papers at BVE. It had a technology ‘waves of change’ theme running through it and made the case that adoption of cloud in broadcast was inevitable for many applications and really time for the industry to take notice. On reflection, I’d say 5% of the audience were on board, 20% thought it had legs, 25% were curious, and to the remaining 50% it was, to use modern parlance, ‘fake news’.
As someone who is constantly trying to build better products, I’m always asking questions and listening to the ones I get asked. For several years now I’ve asked every broadcaster and media production company I’ve met what they plan to do about ‘the cloud’. I’ve had replies which range from ‘the media must never leave the premises’ (imagine in a rising Dalek voice to get an impression of the resolute belief), through to ‘we started looking in 2008 and have lots of workflows in the cloud already’ (just yesterday). What is interesting is how those answers have changed and how people are now starting to come to us to ask us about the big ‘C’ at tradeshows. So, here are some of the most common or interesting…
A lost tourist approached a villager in a rural area and enquired how to get to a famous landmark in another district. The villager responded: ‘Oh you can’t get there from here’. On the surface this statement makes no sense, but maybe in the villager’s context it does. Many existing broadcasters and media companies have an analogous problem with the potential journey to cloud; it isn’t easy, trivial or straight forward considering where they are today.
Strange as it seems, despite the limited number of broadcasters around the world, they all appear to have different requirements, equipment and as a result; workflows.
Those workflows get ever more complex as the methods of distribution continue to expand. We may have taken on VOD and IP delivery, but we've not given up on traditional broadcast. As I write this, Wimbledon is on. In the UK the first colour television was broadcast by BBC2 for the Wimbledon coverage on July 1st 1967. Yet, the last analogue TV signal was not finally turned off until 24th October 2012 and in 2013 there were still 13,000 households in the UK with black and white TV licences. So, don't expect to be shedding the older distribution methods anytime soon.
What if …… my Post House went ‘off line’ one day?
With the scale of shared storage and number of concurrent editing clients increasing so dramatically over recent years, the amount of ‘work in progress’ and the value of the ‘in production’ assets in the post production facility can often run into millions of pounds. It represents a significant ‘concentration of risk’. Ever shortening and demanding delivery schedules has meant the risk to a major post production business from IT failures or environmental hazards such as fire or flood, or even human error, has become intensified to an almost un-insurable risk. For top post companies, simply backing up data or implementing a disaster recovery scheme has become too crude, too slow and too late, as it may take several days to restore work in progress. The advent of 4K workflows has made the problem even larger.
Optimising edit storage, keeping track of where and which assets are used within a project, knowing how media is distributed between workspaces and when it is safe to delete content are real challenges faced with editing workgroups using shared projects.
PARKING from Marquis Broadcast was conceived with these challenges in mind and our range of solutions provide an Avid project and workspace aware toolset to analyse, manage and optimise shared storage.
Integration is one of the most fundamental challenges when it comes to an upgrade or purchase of new equipment. These days, communications between systems have greatly improved, at least on a file level. However, there are often subtle differences which means moving media and metadata around is not always as seamless as it could or should be.
Any connection issue results in a compromised and inefficient workflow. The subtle picture is as important as the big picture. One piece of metadata not being transferred, might be mission-critical if the whole workflow is based on that information.
If the systems employed are not flexible enough, users end up working to the level of the limiting factor in any workflow. Thankfully, it is now rare that a product or solution is a ‘self-contained island’. Most let information be shared in and out and create a standard file so the transfer of media can be achieved between systems. However, the problems come when the workflow requires more than just a simple file exchange. Metadata integration is often an area where non-standard integration is a common issue.
While the thought of fire or flood strikes fear into the heart of those responsible for managing IT infrastructures, the fact is that simple equipment malfunction, like the failure of a disk drive, or even human error itself, are by far the most common causes of local outages. Having a robust major disaster recovery plan in place is of course an essential business process in today’s digitally driven world, however, it is also important to understand how data will be retrieved in the event of more mundane issues too.
The fact is that with tight production deadlines few post houses or broadcasters could afford to start a project from scratch if their primary edit storage were to go down. As a result, many organisations have a significant vulnerability when it comes to maintaining business continuity.
Although many manufacturers are improving their support for data interchange, a solution appears at best, a long way off. Broadcast facilities that want to be more productive need to ensure that their editing systems work together without fuss. Unfortunately that is easier said than done.
Editing software packages are all the same. No, I know that is not right, but in terms of doing 90% of what most editors need to do most of the time, they all offer similar functionality.
To some extent editing software is now a commodity and is interchangeable. Editors are usually efficient and comfortable using one product to complete a project and facilities are increasingly allowing staff to use their tools of choice. Yet, inevitable differences between edit platforms and challenges arise when different parts of the same workflow are managed by different staff with each wanting to use a different platform. Managing such ‘cross platform’ workflows is a challenge due to the many integration issues. Both editors and facilities want and need ‘anything to work with anything’. Yet, this is far from the reality today and therefore integration is one of the greatest barriers to improving productivity that facilities face.