By Contributor | TVBEurope | Published 18th June 2020
TVBEurope recently featured an interview with senior staff at a major playout centre, talking about the “uberisation” of playout, and noting that they now had the capabilities to playout a broadcast channel using only software applications.
As a follow-up, we talk to three vendors who have been leaders in advocating virtualised software platforms, capable of running in the machine room or in the Cloud. Jan Weigner of Cinegy, Adam Leah of nxtedition and Ciáran Doran of Pixel Power, a Rohde & Schwarz Company, gave their views.
“Being a software company is the only thing Cinegy has ever done – we have been saying ‘SDI must die’ for years,” Weigner says. “We never considered being a hardware company. Our first systems used MPEG-2, because that was what was available when we started out in 2006. It just made sense to us to keep the content in MPEG-2 rather than continually converting back to baseband, because every conversion step degrades the signal.”
Doran adds that Pixel Power started out making hardware decades ago because it was the only way to get the performance its software products needed. “As soon as it was practical we moved away from being a heavy metal company. Pixel Power was the first to offer premium broadcast graphics on COTS hardware, and from there we became the first to develop software-only automation.”
Swedish vendor nxtedition started life as a systems integrator, and found that automation systems invariably had gaps between the supposedly fully-functional hardware products. “We wanted to provide our customers with a system that not only worked, but reduced complexity,” Leah explains. “So we developed the functionality in software, because that is the obvious way to do it.
“Systems should be easy to use, and easy to maintain,” he adds. “If you reduce complexity you do not need so many technicians, so you can employ more journalists and creative talent. And if the system is so intuitive you can learn it in a couple of hours, you can be more productive. Our technology is largely used in news production, and being first and fast with the news is always the primary driver.”
While the nxtedition platform is designed as a single-source solution, it does include APIs and the implementation of open standards. For Pixel Power, Doran emphasises that “open standards absolutely has to be the way to go.
“Broadcasters have always regarded themselves as different, wanting specific functionality for their unique operations. With ST-2110, they can continue to demand best of breed solutions.”
Weigner agrees that open standards are vital, but adds a note of caution. “ST-2110 is designed to be used within one facility – other standards exist for the long haul.
“DVB is an IP signal. UDP as a standard is 40 years old. All the building blocks for IP connectivity between facilities and functions have been in place for 25 years or more.”
All three agree that to achieve the necessary performance, software systems for broadcast need to be built on an architecture that minimises the processor demands by only using the precise functionality needed from moment to moment.
Microservices form the foundation of virtualisation, and virtualisation leads inevitably to discussion of the Cloud.
“Cloud is a conversation starter,” Doran says. “People want to talk Cloud, but the reality is that it is more secure and more cost-effective to do it on-premise. The business model of the Cloud is that it costs little or nothing to upload: the costs are in the download. So do the maths.”
Adam Leah of nxtedition adds, “Because video servers get very big, they need to be near at hand. Having them on premises works out significantly less expensive – we did the sums for one of our clients and one third-party server charges worked out at around three times the capital cost, per year.”
He also says that latency is a critical issue. “Broadcasting is very hungry: we need a new frame every few milliseconds. But the Cloud is not about synchronous delivery, it is about scale. It really doesn’t matter if it takes 100 milliseconds or 220 milliseconds to authorise a credit card transaction. These delays can be problematic in delivering video”
“What people really want is virtualisation,” emphasises Cinegy’s Weigner. “The Cloud is just virtualisation running on someone else’s computer.” For an application like broadcast, where processes are pretty constant, then you do not need the elasticity, so why pay someone else to provide a service you could do yourself?
One area where elastic scale is a positive benefit is in disaster recovery. “We have been preparing for the wrong sort of disaster,” Doran says. Planning for business continuity has traditionally been based on a lack of access to the primary facility because of fire or flood, so all the staff get in cars to drive to a replica installation somewhere else.
Covid-19 has brought a different sort of disaster: the staff cannot get to any sort of facility, at least not in the usual numbers. So the ability to access playout from anywhere becomes very desirable.
“German broadcasters, for instance, are looking into a common, shared playout facility,” adds Doran. “If you can access a playout installation in one region, why can’t you access it from home? You only need KVM, and IP KVM has negligible latency.”
Weigner makes the point that the Cloud business model of very low cost uploads plays into this disaster recovery application, as you can have all the content and software ready and waiting for only hundreds of dollars a year, and spin-up playout channels very quickly should it become necessary.
“It is not only about CPUs,” he says. “One of Cinegy’s early projects was about accelerating video using GPUs – we have 20 years’ experience. GPU virtualisation in the cloud tremendously reduces footprint. You only need one CPU cored to run an HD channel if you have GPU acceleration. So you can run an HD channel for maybe 20 cents an hour.”
By Lewis Kirkaldie| Cinegy| Published 6th July 2020
As the ramifications of the Coronavirus pandemic descended on all our lives, those of us who could made the shift to working from home wherever possible.
While in our industry a great many of us were already fairly used to doing at least some work from home on occasion, we weren’t normally doing it while simultaneously wondering whether we should invest in the next trade show, where we would find our next egg or bag of flour, or if we’d be able to earn enough to buy it if we did.
Some, like Cinegy, implemented business continuity plans and simultaneously took advantage of the period of cocooning for some deep introspection, focus, and idea generation. It also gave us and many others a chance to work out how to prepare for what we expect a new normal to be like (which in our view is basically to bring forward by a year or two what it was going to look like anyway). It has to be said that although it was a bitter pill to swallow, not having to prepare for, engage in, and follow up major trade shows has, at least in the short term, had its benefits.
Many have been forced – not unwillingly – to learn in a compressed space of time a lot more about how to successfully work remotely, without leaving our current, often home-based, workspaces to fill in gaps that used to just involve a daily commute. I’ve missed the smell of a whiteboard pen…
In broadcast, one of the first things to go while working remotely is cables – running SDI leads to staff houses isn’t going to be viable (or will just create some truly epic trip hazards). Enter the alternative – the Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) protocol. SRT demonstrates its value with two key strengths:
SRT provides that security and confidence. To describe SRT as a safety-net below a high-wire would be a poor metaphor. SRT laughs at the safety net, uses that high wire to drop some civil engineers at the far end, and throws up a four-lane suspension bridge. Then it sets some fireworks off for New Years from the support struts and loans out selfie-sticks for tourists. SRT is a bit of a show-off.
And recently, SRT was put through its paces in the second of a series of global SRT interop plug fests hosted by Haivision. Over three days, vendors from around the world joined forces to list and provide SRT-enabled streams for people to test the veracity of their respective technologies with SRT acting as a truly open interoperability enabler. It turns out that the midst of a pandemic, truly awful as it is, turned out to be an ideal opportunity to focus on the kind of widespread and highly detailed remote testing that many organisations don’t always have enough time to do as thoroughly as they would like during their usual course of operations.
You can only do that kind of testing, especially in current conditions, with some form of formal, cross-industry collaboration, which in this case in this case the SRT Alliance, an industry wide open-source initiative dedicated to overcoming the challenges of low-latency video streaming, which now has more than 350 member companies.
And 350 members and counting is pretty close to the saturation point for companies that have a vested interest in video streaming and is a percentage of membership almost unheard of in any field of interest. Collectively, these companies have seized upon the vision of SRT Alliance founders Haivision, plus early adopters such as Cinegy and strong supporters such as Microsoft, Avid, and many others. It’s actually far easier today to name the handful who aren’t members of the SRT Alliance, and that’s great for everyone involved and the industry at large.
SRT has changed the way companies work. Following the initial paralysis of the pandemic, many companies realised they should have moved their disaster recovery plan further up the company agenda and took immediate steps to bring it to the fore. Those and other plans are now being implemented, albeit while working under a number of understandable constraints.
One of the upshots of this is that it has shone a more positive light on both the benefits of the viability of home working for some, and the benefits of cloud computing. Why sit in the same physical location as the technology your broadcast backend runs on? The concept of distributed platforms is finally getting the traction it deserves – the benefit of distributed platforms requiring no operational human visits suddenly looks like a silver bullet. If something is amiss in London, you can fix it by spinning up a new virtual machine from your sofa in Singapore.
As a result, cloud-based operations have carried on throughout recent events with little or no disruption. Those who have such an operation now appreciate it even more, and those that don’t have started looking far more seriously as to how they might migrate some or all of their relevant operations into that model.
In short, remote production has gone from being the catchphrase of the moment to a proven, fully legitimate working practice that now also encompasses the expanding possibilities of many other forms of remote working, including from home.
SRT has been, and is, one of multiple catalysts that have enabled these shifts, the predominantly positive workplace and even cultural ramifications of which will continue to emerge in the coming months, years, and perhaps decades as the shape of content delivery continues to redefine – or create - “normal”.
The ability to jointly and/or independently confirm SRT interoperability greatly accelerates its deployment and implementation, which in turn streamlines the delivery of high-quality, low-latency video across the public internet which, in layman’s terms, translates as “one less thing to worry about”.
And one less thing to worry about, at home or the office, is a universal “yes please” these days.
By Jennie Priestley| TVBEurope | 30th July 2020.
Cinegy's Jan Weigner on why it's time lawmakers mandated media archives.
Being asked to write an opinion piece about thoughts concerning MAM, archive and storage and all the related technologies is a great opportunity for reflection on the last 20 years I have been in this industry. Another aspect that plays into this introspection is the global pandemic situation and the even more recent #BlackLivesMatter protests that have ignited a whole other debate regarding our not too distant history and how this is embodied in public monuments such as statues of past dignitaries, or closer to our industry, in old TV programmes such episodes of Fawlty Towers or films like Gone with the Wind.
Starting on an emotional level, the immediate response is an overwhelming feeling of frustration and a sense of self-entitled “I told you so”-ness, however helpful that is.
But the fact is, that after all these years too many broadcasters or media companies still do not have an over-arching technical archive strategy.
In many cases the situation is even worse than it ever was as tapes and other media have deteriorated and are gone for good. Moving to digital “workflows” has not made things any better. Silos, departmental islands, regional islands, different buckets of storage anywhere you look. Many, many databases, all leading their independent lives or dying quietly when projects or shows end. Each of these silos have their own social media “strategy” publishing their bits to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok or whatever the respective countries’ local flavour of this is.
On the one side, if you still have not digitised your SD video tapes, don’t bother and save us all from the trouble attempting to do so today. That ship has sailed and a number of decades of television are lost for good. On the other side, there is not too much hope for the future either, unless publishing clips to YouTube is the archive strategy. But does gifting potentially valuable content to the social media quasi monopolies absolve you of your legal, historical and ethical responsibilities to have a properly managed archive? Seemingly yes.
But that is not the answer. It can’t be. There is no guarantee that any of these social media platforms will persist. Nothing is constant other than change. Remember MySpace – the fabulous platform once backed by Murdoch? Google+ anyone? A company does not even need to disappear into obscurity. It is just enough for them to decide that this is something they don’t do anymore.
Archiving what gets published to social media platforms is of historical importance. The Trump presidency should have made that abundantly clear. How can you look back in 50 years from now and not look at how social media was much more instrumental than television? The televised, endless press conferences are also important records, but are historic records that need to be kept.
Who do we rely on doing this? Who chooses what is kept and what is not? Just this choice alone allows to shape future views on these events.
The United States at least has the Library of Congress, but it is equally unprepared to deal with the avalanche of data brought on by all the social media platforms. Preserve books, magazines, television and film for future generations. But a lot of our public lives take place online. Does not every YouTube video with more than one million hits also deserve eternal preservation in the Library of Congress? Or only ones with US political relevance? No to Canadian clips? Or British ones? No space for Brexit recordings?
Where is the Library of Congress for social media platforms for all the respective countries? Answer: there is not. If the rotting tape archive of your organisation is a real problem, the digital black hole we have created is an infinitely bigger problem.
The likes of Google, Facebook and all the many others will not willingly guarantee preservation and archiving of all the content they harbour. No one is safe from bankruptcy or “business changes”.
Anyone who publishes to airwaves, streams live or puts content on social media in a professional capacity must be obliged to archive this for at least 10 years. Think of a media Sarbanes-Oxley Act that requires media professionals and companies to archive. While we are at it, I would mandate a standardised set of metadata as well and a temper-proof digital fingerprinting preventing alteration.
Oh no – the cost, the additional work, and all the other blah blah blah people will come up with! The financial industry survived the Sarbanes-Oxley Act quite well.
There is no excuse. There has never been one. This never has been about technology. Not for decades.
Storage costs? 1000TB or 1PB of disk storage can be had for less than $40K. That would hold approximately 40K hours of XDCAM HD422. 40K hours for $40k – or one dollar per hour, easy enough to remember. This gets cheaper all the time. There should be no business that can’t factor this into their business model. Also, the “nuisance” of a mandated archive will help protect business and will act as legal proof in case of disputes.
It is not the money. Seemingly archive is not sexy. Worse, most managers see it purely as a cost factor with no or little upside to it.
I could now start my diatribe on how short-sighted this is and that a corporation-wide archive which makes all assets immediately available to anyone planning or producing news, sports, drama, documentaries, children’s programming and even reality, immediately pays back in spades. With “available” I mean also during production, as well as rushes, and not the select bits that end up being broadcast or published to streaming services or social media.
But the reality is that especially with larger organisations this falls on deaf ears on many levels.
The question managers seem to ask themselves consciously or subconsciously: a) Will this get me promoted, b) Will I still be there when this is all done and dusted and I stand to take credit for it?, c) Will this show up positively on this or next quarter’s bottom line?, d) Do I get to go to the cool parties for doing this? As the answers are mostly negative, so are the chances of pulling off the big picture.
Yes, in the silos we will find Production Asset Management Systems or news systems with PAM, maybe some with an attached MAM mostly to migrate storage. This all falls into the category production workflow acceleration, but is not aiming at strategic, long term archival.
Ultimately, the lawmakers need to mandate media companies and professionals to maintain archives, and also exactly what and how. Including social media. Again, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act comes to mind. Without this, no adoption of long-term archive strategies will occur and those that maintain archives will shape and define future generations perceptions of this period in time. Who do you want that to be?
By Adrian Pennington | IBC 365 | 6th August 2020.
The industry isn’t stopping at 8K. All bets are off in a million megapixel-plus future where massive digital screens, VR and lightfields take centre stage.
Ultra High Definition is far from the last word in TV resolution. Though not yet widespread, the industry is going beyond 8K UHD and entering the era of “Super Resolution” where there are no limits to what can be achieved.
Common broadcast systems may not reach let alone exceed 8K any time soon but Super Resolution technologies capable of new creative options and visual experiences will eventually consign even 4K imaging to a blur.
“The moment when the resolution ceases to matter and we can cover 12K or 16K resolution per eye for VR (virtual reality) - which requires 36K or 48K respectively - we are getting somewhere,” says Jan Weigner, Cinegy co-Founder & CTO. “Then there is volumetric video. 12K just gets us warmed up.”
Reading, UK, 19 August 2020: Starfish Technologies, a pioneer in transport stream processing and advertising insertion, has been granted European and US patents that cover a range of techniques employed within its TS splicer product. The TS Splicer is a software-based solution for clean switching of encoded transport streams and is used for media switching and content replacement for advertising insertion and slating.
Starfish Marketing Director Peter Blatchford said, “We are incredibly proud to have been granted patents that cover a number of techniques that were invented by our engineering team. The benefits of these techniques enable the TS splicer to offer clean switching of encoded streams across different modes of operation. Our customers have long recognised the benefits in the performance of our product and we are delighted that this intellectual property is now formally protected.”
Munich, Germany, 05 August 2020: Cinegy GmbH, the premier provider of software technology for digital video processing, asset management, video compression and automation, and playout, has released the latest version of Cinegy Multiviewer 15.2, solidifying Cinegy’s position as the leading IP and multipurpose multiviewer vendor.
Cinegy Multiviewer 15.2 is the most flexible multiviewer ever, great for on-premise and remote monitoring applications.
Streams from satellites, camera feeds, playout devices and other local or remote sources all need to be monitored. Cinegy Multiviewer displays and analyzes these signals, raising alerts for any detected signal problems. Running as a service operating on commodity IT equipment, video streams can be received over IP, eg UDP/RTP, NDI, SRT via Ethernet or using standard SDI cards.
Notable features introduced include latest version NDI support, using Cinegy Encode as an SDI output option, SRT encapsulated IP input and output stream inputs, and support for encrypted SRT streaming on input.
Cinegy fully supports the SRT Alliance which is visible in its entire product range. Head of Product Management Lewis Kirkaldie said, “For years the world of broadcasting has been anticipating an open and reliable technology to move signals around. Numerous attempts have been made by different enthusiasts across the industry but none of them got closer to fulfilling the requirement than the brilliant SRT.”
Multiviewer Version 15.2 offers further enhancements of its SRT support with additional SRT output encryption support along with DNS resolving for SRT URL addresses.
Kirkaldie adds, “The new Multiviewer has a great many performance optimizations and compatibility enhancements to run even more reliably on the latest Microsoft operating systems, as well as embracing the latest and greatest technologies and protocols widely used in the industry.”
Cinegy Multiviewer 15.2 also fully supports 8K workflows via IP or SDI. Cinegy's 8K capabilities were first deployed in 2015 upon the release of its Daniel2 codec which at the time was capable of decoding 16K video at 280 fps with an Nvidia Quadro M6000. Cinegy has further optimized and integrated Daniel2, making it ubiquitous through the software product range. Cinegy Multiviewer 15 joined Cinegy Capture PRO and Cinegy Air PRO in supporting 8K, via IP (SRT/RTP/UDP), SDI, NDI (e.g. BMD DeckLink 8K Pro) confidence software broadcast solutions when the major update v15 was released earlier this year.
For more information, see the latest release notes here.
London, UK, 27 July 2020: Trams Ltd, a leading value-added reseller and IT solutions provider, is proud to celebrate its 30th Anniversary this month. Established in 1990, Trams is a well-respected and proven supplier to a variety of blue-chip organisations across the media & entertainment, finance, education, oil, gas and energy sectors.
“Trams has been the perfect partner for us in terms of supplying the services we ask of them. From hardware/software to cloud services, we have been extremely happy with the Trams performance and feel very well looked after. We look forward to working together for many years to come! Keep up the good work!” – SkyBet.
Becoming an Apple Authorised Reseller in 1993, Trams continued to establish accreditations from a wide range of manufacturers including Dell, Cisco, Quantum, HPe, Lenovo, Jamf and many more.
Warren Peel, Managing Director, Trams Ltd said, “Our reputation and performance has been built on our clients’ confidence in Trams’ dedicated and experienced colleagues, together with strong and lasting relationships with our manufacturer partners. Without our valued staff and clients, this 30-year milestone would not have been possible. We would like to extend our thanks to all who have supported us throughout the last three decades.”
“Trams has always demonstrated the highest competencies in front of our most demanding media and entertainment customers, served by an amazing team of skilled and committed professionals,” explained Anniek Snauwaert, Sales Director, EMEA M&E of Quantum. She concluded, “Happy Anniversary Trams, the entire Quantum team is excited to help as a vendor of choice during the next 30 years of growth.”
Having received numerous awards for IT services across B2B and the education sector, Trams continues to deliver its award-winning service. “Despite the challenges of Covid-19, Trams is committed to working closely with its customers to ensure delivery of reliable, IT solutions making the financial, logistical and technological challenges of a “work anywhere” workforce, possible,” concluded Peel.
For more information on Trams Ltd, visit www.trams.co.uk/about/30th-anniversary
Aldermaston, UK, 29 July 2020: Having completed a number of projects in recent months despite the constraints of the global pandemic, SI Media and GB Labs reflect on the underrated value provided by global and regional partnerships.
Based just north of Venice, Italy, SI Media is an international broadcast software solution provider – including its proprietary “.YES!”, an HTML5 web-based and cloud-oriented suite for media asset, broadcast management, newsroom computer, and playout automation system for master control rooms and studios.
Dominic Harland, CEO/CTO GB Labs said, “Because so many of SI Media’s customers already use our storage, our systems have now become an integral part of what they recommend as part of their workflow and production solutions to new and existing customers - and one of the installations we have just completed together in Asia was for a new online and nearline archive for master control and production workflows using our FastNAS storage system.”
GB Labs provides the world’s most intelligent NAS shared storage technology, wrapped in simple to use yet ultra-powerful appliances designed specifically for media professionals. GB Labs pioneered NAS technology more than a decade ago, and continues to advance its capabilities - in-house – daily.
GB Labs’ storage products are stable, reliable, and scalable in ways that fit elegantly with any modern requirement. It can be used for both MCR and production workflows, which for a software orientated house such as SI Media is a key element in providing a complete technology solution.
SI Media EMEA Sales Manager, Paolo Favaro further explained, “With the current restrictions on site visits and other practical uncertainties, it’s a major bonus to have a technology partner and hardware supplier you can count on in any scenario. Moreover, the speed with which we receive support for a proposal, and the expertise with which it is delivered, is remarkable.
“Adding GB Labs storage to our recommended portfolio has brought several benefits to our project proposals: It expands our influence on the projects; it increases our overall value; and it enables us to set up and test a complete workflow in our laboratories, minimising wastes of time and risk. It also provides the stability of using the same provider and the certainty of the reliability of the proposed system. A partner with the quality of technology provided by GB Labs enables us to expand what we offer to our clients and minimise the time typically required to build and deliver a system to a specific request.”
Harland concluded, “The importance of mutual trust and respect - especially during difficult circumstances – cannot be overstated. Providing partners with high-quality products and the highest standards of support during normal operating conditions is a core value for any successful business, but it really pays dividends when the going gets tough. We are delighted to have contributed to the ongoing success of SI Media and look forward to many more projects to come.”
London, UK, 16 July 2020: Mo-Sys, a world leader in precision camera tracking solutions for virtual studios and augmented reality, has brought virtual studio production within reach of everyone with StarTracker Studio, the world’s first pre-assembled production package. The system is scalable to any size production, and can support 4K Ultra HD.
Critical for virtual studio and augmented reality production is to track the position of each camera in three-dimensional space across all six axes of movement. StarTracker from Mo-Sys is proven as the most precise and reliable camera tracking package, using dots on the studio ceiling (“stars”) which are placed at random and tracked to plot camera positions with extraordinary accuracy.
To make virtual studio production accessible by all, StarTracker Studio bundles the tracking with cameras and mounts and a high-performance virtual graphics system based on the latest version of the Unreal Engine and the Ultimatte keyer. Mo-Sys’s unique plug-in interfaces directly between the camera tracking and the Unreal Engine, for extreme precision with virtually no latency.
All the hardware – including Lenovo PCs with Titan RTX GPUs – is mounted in a rolling rack cabinet and pre-wired, and all the software is loaded and configured. All the user has to do is design their unique virtual environment, power up the StarTracker Studio rack and start shooting.
“StarTracker Studio enables any organisation to create premium virtual studio content easily and simply, at an attractive price point,” said Michael Geissler, CEO of Mo-Sys. “We have made it simple by bringing the best equipment together, from respected vendors like Blackmagic Design/Ultimatte, Lenovo, Canon and Cartoni.
“That hardware works with the incredible virtual graphics power from the Unreal Engine, tied with perfect precision to real objects thanks to Mo-Sys tracking,” he continued. “It gives the user access to top end effects like hyper-realistic reflections, soft shadows to emulate real-world lighting, continual depth of field processing to emulate lens performance, and occlusion handling, so talent can walk around virtual objects. In other words, top-end, uncompromised virtual production, in a simple one-stop package.”
The standard package is supplied with three Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K cameras with Canon 18 – 80 zoom lenses, and paired with Mo-Sys StarTracker tracking units. The kit also includes a camera jib, a rolling tripod and a camera rail set. An 8 channel Atem production switcher provides the live output for broadcast or streaming, and three video recorders are included for separate programme, key and graphics recording. Smart switching means that only one Ultimatte keyer is required for the system, rather than the more conventional one keyer per camera.
The package also includes the Mo-Sys Beam In kit to bring remote guests into the virtual studio. Every element can be used in HD or 4K Ultra HD. Three radio microphones and an eight-channel audio mixer are also part of the solution.The system is scalable up to the largest size of virtual production. Rack kits are available to support either eight or 16 cameras. The complete system is pre-configured by Mo-Sys before shipping, and Mo-Sys will also provide all support, including training in technical and creative aspects where required.
“We have all had to find new and inventive ways to keep up production over the last few months,” said Geissler. “StarTracker Studio is ideal for the new normal, especially including our Beam In kit for remote contributions. This is a powerful production platform aimed at anyone who wants to create virtual studio and augmented reality content, without the time and investment setting it up themselves. Hang a green screen and, with StarTracker Studio, you are good to go.”