Last month, I ventured out of the office, and out of Wales, to head to London for the Broadcast IP Summit. The main reason for going was because one of our clients, Open Broadcast Systems, was sponsoring and speaking. However, as we focus exclusively in the broadcast and satellite industries, it is always valuable to hear latest trends and challenges from the people experiencing them.
End-to-End IP Making an Entrance
IP is of course a massive buzz word right now and we have seen some interesting announcements of broadcasters moving parts of the chain to IP. We are beginning to see some go a step further and Kieran of Open Broadcast Systems talked about a project just completed with Sky for an all IP Master Control Facility. Unlike many other IP projects, it is entirely end-to-end IP and end-to-end software based and it is being used by Sky News every day. One of the biggest challenges he cited was overcoming the mindset of the broadcast industry. He also pointed out that in an IP world, an encoder shouldn’t be considered just an encoder, it can be multifunction and a valuable processing resource.
One thing Open Broadcast Systems is very passionate about is the need for software centric standards. Kieran raised the issue that current broadcast standards are hardware centric and need to be adapted for a software-centric future.
Other broadcasters are of course also looking to go to a more IP centric future and we heard from the BBC, which is using IP in particular for a lot of sports and music content. Ian Wagdin at the BBC commented that with so much content, the broadcaster simply can’t afford to use SDI for all of it, so it is introducing IP contribution wherever it makes sense. Here in Wales, the BBC is of course in the process of building its brand new broadcast centre. Now I know the public will be able to walk around the ground floor, I’m already planning my visit. Starting with a brand new site means that bringing in IP is of course much easier than if they had been trying to replace the equipment in the existing site.
Taking IP Outside
One area I’m not so familiar with is that of Outside Broadcast. I, like many others, still imagine OB trucks with an array of satellite dishes on the roof and of course they still have a place. However, it was fascinating to hear about all IP trucks being used by both Arena (which has four) and Timeline. I guess I would also have imagined these to be used for mainly experimental and non-mainstream entertainment so hearing they are being used for premier league just shows how far we have come.
It seems the biggest challenge for IP trucks is connecting to other OB trucks and right now even the IP trucks have some legacy kit inside. I’m certain it won’t be long for that to change and I’m also certain those operating them will be glad of the extra space and reduction in heat, especially when capturing feeds from hot places.
IP for Remote Working
In the post production world, IP seems to be used to enable a much more efficient way of working. Both Jellyfish and ninteentwenty said that IP means their staff can work from anywhere, whether that be home or an office in a cheaper location than London, but get the same user experience they would get in the office. Interestingly it is apps like Facetime that are making that easier so you still get the face-to-face interaction when needed.
Ludo Frealy from ninteentwenty commented that ultimately it is “always about people.” When you find the right people you can trust and rely on, that is more important than where they are located. Interestingly, this was one of the key takeaways from the Workflow Innovation Group event the week before in Cardiff. There the focus was cyber security, but again it came back to having the right people you can trust and rely on to keep content secure.
When we are talking about people, one of the big advantages with IP, especially if you use standard IT hardware like Open Broadcast Systems does, is that you end up with an IT environment, which will be familiar to young people entering the industry. This makes training much simpler than in the days of big legacy broadcast specific setups and gives broadcast access to a much larger talent pool.
All that remains to be said for now is that it was an excellent event with some insightful presentations and discussions and I look forward to the next one! Thank you Broadcast Tech!