By Jenny Priestley | TVBEurope | Published 7 September 2020
TVBEurope asks four members of the media tech industry including Manor Marketing clients Pixel Power and Tradefair for their thoughts on a lack of trade shows, what aspects they'll miss, and what changes they'd like to see implemented.
Who would have thought at the start of 2020 the media tech industry would lose both NAB and IBC, its two biggest trade shows?
How far into 2021 the new virtual world of trade shows will spread remains to be seen. But for the moment, how does the media tech industry connect and showcase its innovations without a physical show? TVBEurope asked four industry experts for their views on a year without trade shows.
What does a lack of trade shows in 2020 mean for you and your business?
Stuart Russell, senior communications manager, Ross Video: The lack of physical events has been frustrating insofar as everyone at Ross enjoys getting face-time with customers and partners, and we always have cool new solutions to talk about, so it’s been a very strange few months indeed. That said, however, there’s no doubt that the number of people that we speak to at trade shows and events represents only a tiny fraction of our possible customer-base, and online activities give us an opportunity to speak to people who might not ordinarily make trips to the big ‘halo’ events such as NAB Show and IBC.
Ciaran Doran, EVP, Pixel Power: While there have been real drawbacks to the lack of tradeshows there are real benefits to online video meetings – the customer gets to bring more people than could have made it to Amsterdam or Las Vegas and we get to give them more time with more key staff involved in the presentation and demonstrations. Since all our solutions are software defined and virtualisable we can demonstrate anything from anywhere, to anyone.
Mark Birchall, managing director, Tradefair: The past six months have been an interesting, largely unprecedented and, let’s be frank, a painful experience for everyone. But, on a more basic note for these purposes, moving abruptly from a physical trade show to a virtual facsimile required many of us to restart from scratch and recalibrate everything we know and apply it to a “new now”, which is no small undertaking.
In my view, the relative success of a virtual event depends on what is delivered over that virtual platform(s). For me, a virtual event that has live interaction via chat and video – and includes live presentations and a degree of business matching – can work. But it will work better if conducted in real time rather than as a virtual content basket to be plucked from when convenient. There’s a place for the latter, of course, but for engagement you can’t replace “live”, virtual or otherwise.
It’s a given that the aim of trade show participation in every case is to do everything possible to increase the odds that the event will work for you. And that requires time, expertise, and most of all, engagement. If you’re not all in, you can’t expect to get everything you want out of it.
Bob Charlton, Scribe PR: Most definitely a saving in shoe leather and more time spent at home with the family, both of which are good. But seriously, I’m a big fan of the major tradeshows. At these events, my clients get face time with their most important customers, which is invaluable. Without these opportunities, my business has seen a boom – never before has targeted, proactive media relations been valued so highly by my clients.
Let me explain. Normally, at the tradeshows, my clients stage live demonstrations of their latest product developments, as well as special closed-door briefings of what is coming along soon. Without this option, they need to get those messages across using other means, and the trade publications are invaluable in this regard.
What aspects of trade shows will you miss?
SR: Definitely the human interaction. I get a big kick out of talking to customers and the press at shows about the new product launches; doing this online is obviously better than not doing it at all, but it does feel a little unreal and it’s not quite as satisfying. I also miss spending time with my colleagues – Ross is now almost 900 employees worldwide and the bigger shows are a fantastic opportunity to spend time with colleagues that I wouldn’t normally see. We’re fortunate enough to have great camaraderie at Ross and we all enjoy getting together and spending time at shows.
MB: Trade shows are very much a part of our lives. We very much miss the planning, preparation, and delivery of the UK Pavilions. It’s not just our livelihood. We all experience the phenomenon that, when we’re at shows, they become our alternate world. It’s “show time” life. Just like Tradefair, our clients see their existing client base; work closely with new companies, clients, and individuals, and spend considerable time learning, networking, and planning for the next cycle.
Additionally, it’s vital to use that time to gain an even better understanding of what’s happening in the marketplace and how clients are positioning themselves within that market. Broadly speaking, we generally see and regularly adopt the good things that people are doing, and we’re in a position to give advice to those who may be struggling with either their direction or with practical or logistical considerations. We can parlay our experience with companies that have been successful in their approach and share it with those could benefit from those ideas. I miss helping to make those decisions in person and share in the enjoyment of our clients’ successes as a result. That’s the best part of our job. It’s too early to tell if a similar sense of achievement can be had over an internet connection, but we’re all still learning.
BC: The tradeshows provide fantastic networking opportunities with key editors, journalists and industry analysts. Social distancing has changed into isolation and it feels like a long time since we were all together.
If you have news worth telling, then organise a press event to communicate this. I really miss the thrill I get from arranging these events – whether it’s a press conference or a smaller roundtable press and analyst briefing during the show.
Also, specifically with IBC, I will miss the opportunity to see the new exhibitors and what they bring. The tented pavilion at the front of the RAI (Hall 14 I think) is an Aladdin’s Cave of new and fascinating products and services – very often with exhibitors on tiny stands with shoe-string budgets. Visiting these stands is definitely something that I will miss this year.
How likely are you to return to physical trade shows in 2021, or do you think virtual is the way forward?
SR: I think physical events are unlikely to take place until the middle of 2021 at the earliest, so everything will be virtual until then. When shows do come back, I think footprint and footfall with naturally be lower – I know both NAB and IBC are expecting to run smaller events in 2021 and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. The larger shows have perhaps become a little bloated over the years, and the idea of smaller, more tightly focused events is more appealing to me. A hybrid model comprising physical events with virtual elements in complement looks to be the way forward beyond 2021 – that will allow us to reach a large international audience online and still share our stories with the people traveling to visit the physical events.
CD: The first real tradeshow in our industry will be special and we definitely want to be part of it. Virtual is good for certain things and we will likely continue the new found energies online. However, I believe that we will see a change in how we do business and it may be that tradeshows take a different form than before. Many of us have noticed how the world could suddenly change. There was a point where some business functions could not be done from home offices – perhaps some of that was due to inertia or certain cultural norms that prevented a change in thinking from the old ways. But when Covid arrived it was suddenly possible. I don’t think we should completely return to how it was before, but we need to find a new balance. I call it 2020-Hindsight. In years to come we should look back at what good things we could take from the 2020 pandemic.
MB: Most definitely, the tradeshows will return, and I will be at the front of the queue to get in when they do. But there needs to be a good pinch of common sense when they do.
I think the tradeshows will be smaller and different in nature. Personally, of the three major tradeshows (NAB, Broadcast Asia and IBC) I think that IBC offers the most compelling visitor proposition. For many years, it has invested significantly in its conference, technology workshops and creative masterclass programme. Also, it has developed much more elegant exhibitor communications through the IBC Show Daily newspaper and IBC TV News channel.
However, every tradeshow will need to address the 400 kilo Gorilla in the room, which is what to do with virtual events. Without doubt, virtual communications have saved our bacon this year. In fact, my clients are finding that there are many positives to come from a well planned and implemented virtual campaign in the way it enables them to reach larger customer audiences, most of whom would have missed the ticket to attend the tradeshows in person.
I believe this is work in progress with all the tradeshows and I will be interested to see how they develop this element of their evolving business plans.
This is the perfect time for the industry to pause and take stock of trade shows. What, if any, changes would you like to see implemented for when shows return?
SR: Trade shows are an expensive exercise and they don’t always deliver fantastic ROI when it comes to new customer acquisition as a metric. They are an important part of our marketing efforts, for sure, and I’m not denying the value of the customer face-time, but there’s a lot of FOMO psychology at play when it comes to shows and our industry is way behind other industries I’ve worked in when it comes to digital marketing. I think the time is now right for a reset – shows organisers should refocus on their core offering and make that fit for purpose, recognising that we as marketing professionals have plenty of (highly measurable and cost-effective) alternative ways to spend our budgets. Shows are not competing against other shows for our money – they are competing with everything else in the marketing mix, and they need to smell that coffee and act or they risk becoming irrelevant. Give us a tight and targeted event with a good online package to go along with it, and don’t be greedy with the costs; that’s the winning recipe!
CD: I’d like to see tradeshow owners realise that they’re not only in the events business where real life physical events are the primary goal, they’re in the business of bringing together the buyers and sellers – and doing that can take many different forms. The organisers who are able to truly bring out the value of the “connections” they can make between buyer and seller are the ones that can win in the current challenging business world.
MB: It’s important to understand that this temporary pause has given us all an opportunity to make a root and branch review of their trade show participation. What has gone right? What could have gone better? Is the budget realistic? Can we better allocate our spend? How can we spend less – or more – to maximise our impact? How can we use what we have learned about maintaining and enhancing our visibility over the last six months to augment our more traditional approaches and generate new business? The number of parameters to consider is long, but each should be carefully considered.
I would like the conferences to be live streamed. I don’t personally believe that live streaming or on demand availability, for a nominal fee perhaps, would stop serious people from attending the event. Conversely, what it could do is draw people from vertical markets who could not justify the expense of attending. They would be able to plug into what the latest thinking is and share that with their constituents, which could drive business, spur additional interaction, and prompt in-person participation at subsequent events. You could consider it an investment in creating a broader reach for the sector.
I also see a hybrid of typical physical exhibitors coupled with a designated virtual zone emerging. We’re not going to just abandon virtual once the physical is again doable. There are those who argue that virtual would give people and excuse not to attend in person. But as I have alluded to previously, I disagree. If anything, it will help drive future attendance. There’s only so much you can achieve over the internet, as everyone who has been watching “interviews from home” can attest.
BC: I attended my first IBC in 1994 and since then I can count the number of major tradeshows that I have missed on the fingers of one hand. They are fantastic events – they are beacons of technical innovation and best professional practice that guide our industry forwards. However, for many years it has frustrated me that there is such an intense focus on these events over four or five days and then very little for the remainder of the year. As an industry, we are adept at harnessing new technologies as they evolve. Now, I think there is a massive opportunity for the big tradeshows to harness virtual communications.
If they can do this, they will extend the reach of these fantastic global events, both in terms of the size of the audience that benefits from the event and in the period of the year when exhibitors can engage meaningfully with this audience.
By Ben Pearce | TVBEurope | Published 10 September 2020
I’ve been working with network area storage (NAS) for nearly 20 years and still see too many people buy what is clearly the wrong storage for what they need. Often, their decision is not based solely on perceived cost savings, it is usually a result of not fully understanding that the operative word is “shared” storage, meaning that the storage is about providing support for multiple files to multiple users. Looking at storage as a single purpose appliance has often proved to be short-sighted.
What I’m saying is that measuring peak performance and IOPS (input/output operations per second) as standalone criteria for purchasing a storage system is a mistake because those figures are often misleading. A single peak-performance figure provided by a manufacturer is not indicative of the totality of what a storage system can provide to a specific facility at which it is deployed. A high peak-performance figure may sound impressive, but doesn’t take into account multiple file access requirements that take place in a typical shared storage environment, so that figure is more applicable for DAS (directly accessed storage) systems. In short, IOPS are almost meaningless unless you know exactly what parameters were configured in the tests that were performed to arrive at that figure.
It’s too easy to arrive at misleading figures that promise false economies. The issue is that sales collateral that emphasises peak performance and IOPS figures are so prevalent that they distort the truth and lead, in many cases, to unhappy users when they subsequently find out that the claims on which they based their purchase decision bear little resemblance to real-world performance.
Back to basics
Hard drives come in many shapes and sizes, from many different manufacturers, and each manufacturer chooses what to adopt and promote from numerous storage model types and technologies.
What many end users don’t always grasp is that storage capacity alone is not a good measure of its ability to perform the tasks they need a storage system to do or to eliminate the bottlenecks they are buying it to fix.
It’s common for people to want, indeed expect, high, 24-hour duty cycle performance from a high-density RAID. But to achieve that, you need a very specific type of hard drive that comes at a higher cost than the consumer-grade drives that many assume will be “good enough”. And, like many things when you decide on a cheaper, “good enough” option, it soon costs even more to retroactively put right.
Thinking outside the capacity
There are many aspects other than capacity that impact storage system performance and reliability. For example, communal backplanes that address RAIDs inside NAS storage; the storage interface; and the number of paths and the quality of the host-based adapter (HBA) also play key roles. However, the benefits of getting these areas right are often overlooked in favour of focussing solely on greater capacity or lower cost. Again, too many people consider price-per-terabyte to be the sole purchasing parameter rather than taking a more holistic view that encompasses the entire spectrum of what a system can do when it’s designed, configured, and deployed to take advantage of a system’s entire range of capabilities.To get optimal performance, all of those aspects must work together.
Think of it this way: A race car that is installed with a very powerful engine, but with a too light chassis, standard gearbox and high street tyres to save money, is likely to spend more time in the garage than out of it, let alone ever be competitive in any races.
The best way around this somewhat short-sighted decision-making is to fully understand the potential ramifications of choosing the least-cost option. Ask detailed questions.
For example: Is the RAID level achieved in hardware or software? There are advantages and disadvantages to achieving the RAID level with either approach, so it’s important to find out which will work best for what you want to do. In some cases, it might be that a hybrid hardware and software-based RAID level system is the most appropriate option, but too many find this out after they’ve already installed a relatively cheap storage system that has little or no chance of delivering what they need. And all because they didn’t ask anything other than, “How much per terabyte?”
The OS is everything
I’ve been discussing questions to be asked and choices to be made concerning purchasing NAS, but I want to identify the main differentiator of any NAS, and that’s the operating system (OS) on which it runs.
No, I’m not talking about Windows or Mac. With NAS, the limitations of those operating systems are quickly reached and exceeded by NAS systems running on powerful hardware. Off-the-shelf operating systems are not suitable platforms for any professional shared storage system.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of NAS storage systems on the market today use generic, OTS operating systems that purport to turn hardware servers into functional NAS. The problem with that approach is that they must cater for a wide range of different hardware configurations from good to bad, which means that they are specifically tuned for none and even for those they can operate requires a great deal of compromise in many important areas.
Those faux NAS systems are “kind of” functional, but there are still major issues with them. For one, they’re unstable, and they also suffer from being designed to run on the lowest common denominator, which means that they are not computationally able to take full advantage of whatever hardware it may run on, no matter how good that hardware is. NAS hardware performance that looks good on printed specifications by the marketing department tends to fall short of real-world performance after it’s deployed. An additional problem with that is, having spent the money on a new NAS, the buyer just can’t understand why there’s been little or no improvement.
And after that money’s been spent, the boss is going to want to see those improvements, too. That’s why it’s vital to seek out hardware that can reach its full potential by working seamlessly with specially developed OS software that is highly tuned to achieve peak performance and functionality. Every component of a system must be perfectly matched and finely tuned. Hardware, software, OS…everything.
Testing is key
It amazes me that most storage system suppliers do not test their systems in high bandwidth editing and content creation environments with multiple workstations. It’s true. Most don’t.
And that’s a problem because it’s precisely those high-end editing and creation environments where many of these systems will be expected to perform. But it is too common for storage manufacturers to simply take the highest peak figure for bandwidth or IOPS that they can “in theory” achieve and publish that as their benchmark network storage and performance.
They then use that figure in the marketplace, claiming that you can just divide their figure by the number of workstations to calculate the performance that will be simultaneously delivered to each, which is patently absurd. Storage just doesn’t work like that.
I know I risk repeating myself, but it’s a fact worth reinforcing: Peak performance figures may look good on paper and sound compelling from a salesperson, but they usually only tell you about how that system is theorised to perform in a single scenario that probably hasn’t even been tested. What they don’t tell you is how a system will actually perform under the load of multiple machines, often around the clock, which is exactly what the real world requires.
And it’s critical to understand that differentiation. The very high bandwidths we’re talking about normally require at least a couple of workstations or servers to test and confirm performance figures, but most manufacturers use speed testing software that reads only one file at a time It also writes the same file, which is easily cached by the storage and therefore skews the results. This is why GB Labs always tests on real world edit suites with real media streams; not just to generate the highest figure we can get away with for marketing purposes, but to ensure the honesty and integrity of our performance figures.
Delivering ‘real world performance’ to a network
It’s important to understand that powerful storage in a server room can equate to powerful network performance. Yes, eliminating bottlenecks by utilising the latest network protocols, connectivity, and distribution methods is important, but that’s not something most NAS systems enable you to do.
There are, however, a few exceptions. What a good NAS will do is control the delivery of data by automatically making intelligent decisions on who gets allocated what portion of the overall bandwidth. Sophisticated controls like this are rare, but they are increasingly necessary to ensure Quality of Service (QoS) to the many users on the network.
Moreover, finding a system with the ability to dynamically adapt to usage and deliver 100 percent of the available bandwidth narrows the field of potential NAS solutions even further.
Therefore, choose wisely
All of the above are just some of the reasons to take time to carefully analyse the storage system investment you are about to make. The acronym ‘NAS’ is a broad term that is rather too loosely used to cover many different grades of technology offerings in the market, many of which, in truth, have little or nothing to do with true NAS. As I’ve said, limiting your research to how much it will cost per TB is short-sighted and will end in disappointment, not to mention wasted time and money.
So research your NAS options to determine all of what you need to deliver for your business, not just in terms of capacity to store additional assets, but how that storage can streamline your business whilst simultaneously providing the best and most efficient experience for multiple users, both now and in the future.
Most of all, make doubly sure that each and every component is highly tuned to the others. It’s the only way to get what you paid for.
By Jenny Priestley | TVBEurope | Published 10 September 2020
The news that the media technology industry’s two main trade shows will take place within a month of each other in 2021 has prompted plenty of reaction from vendors.
Last night, NAB announced next year’s show will take place from October 9th-13th, with IBC having previously confirmed its 2021 dates for 10th-14th September.
What does that mean for vendors? Will they be willing to attend and show new products at both shows?
TVBEurope speaks to several of our clients as well as other vendors who traditionally attend both shows to hear their thoughts.
Stuart Russell, senior communications manager, Ross Video: “I can certainly understand why NAB decided to push the show dates back for next year (increases the odds of the event actually happening!) and make an early announcement on this. Clarity now helps everyone with planning, and that’s very welcome. The obvious issue is the close proximity to IBC. I can only assume that 2021’s NAB Show will be focusing on the domestic and ‘short haul’ audience, with IBC catering for the European crowd. My biggest concern is how we can manage the logistics of two events so close together. I’m assuming both events will be hybrid in nature, with a mixture of physical event + online activity, but companies with a global footprint (like Ross) will have some important decisions to make about the movement of equipment and people. My gut feeling is that many brands will choose to skip next October’s NAB show and return again in April (if the event reverts to its traditional dates in 2022). Either way, we certainly welcome the early notice and the additional planning time it provides.”
Martin Coles, VP of marketing at IPV: “It’s understandable that NAB has made this difficult decision given the available information. Certainly this shift begs the question, how will IBC and other shows fit into this change, and what will it mean for product development? We’ve been amazed at the innovations that have come out of this crisis, and while previously companies tended to revolve announcements around these tentpole shows, the industry is now innovating and adapting to new technologies not because we can but because we must.”
Daniella Weigner, MD, Cinegy GmbH “One can understand NAB taking this decision now, which gives a lot of notice to its exhibitors and partners. It’s also probably the right decision for NAB, considering that the feasibility to travel and conduct large exhibitions is, at this moment, still very uncertain even into next year. It’s also probably the right time frame for NAB. It does however pose a quandary for exhibitors who usually do both NAB and IBC, to cover the two massive geographies. Logistically, many exhibitors from outside of the US sea freight their booths, and possibly don’t have two on hand…as IBC is a month early, the booth kit might not be available. Another aspect is staffing around this time. Having what are considered two major trade shows in Q4 2021 will pose some decision making. Which one? For North Americans, the choice is clear, NAB will be the winner. For the others, I believe IBC will be the choice. The end effect will be that NAB will become even more of an American trade show, with a smaller footprint that will lose the small to midsize companies.”
Rob Malcolm, CMO, Imagine Communications: “The continuing pandemic means these are challenging times and making decisions even a year out is hard. We sympathise with the organisers of both NAB and IBC. We know they are prioritising safety, just as we at Imagine have to consider our people and our customers. But we have to be clear that holding IBC and NAB within a month of each other puts a huge strain on our business and indeed on the wider industry. Key executives and teams would be away from driving the business forward for two weeks or more in a month, which is more time than most companies can afford. We have yet to formalise our plans. We may well look to treat NAB as a local US show; IBC as the European event, with very little crossover in terms of staff. However we will continue to support other regional events, including NAB New York, to meet the expectations of our customers.”
Alison Pavitt, marketing manager at Pebble Beach Systems: “The proactive move from NAB is to be applauded. Vendors will benefit from this early decision as work on budgets and plans for next year’s shows begins this far out. Clearly the show now comes hard on the heels of IBC, which brings its own logistical challenges, and this new timing is likely to massively reduce the non-US attendance to the show next year.”
Dominic Harland, CEO/CTO, GB Labs: “This is a tricky situation for us because we traditionally support and exhibit at both IBC and NAB. We have an American office, based in LA, and for them, NAB is important. We are fortunate in that we have staff, kit and stands in both locations, but with regard to the marketing and support, especially follow-up on the leads generated, this is bound to cause some issues. At the moment, we are evaluating the situation and will continue to do so.”
Bob Charlton, Scribe PR: “I’m reminded of IBC’s strapline they have used for a number of years – IBC – run by the industry, for the industry. When I apply this to the news that broke overnight, I can’t see how NAB’s decision to reschedule its main event in October can help anybody in our industry. I would urge NAB to reconsider its decision, and I would also urge NAB and IBC to work together to ensure that the best interests of exhibitors and attendees are fully factored into their decision making process.”
Sergio Grce, CEO, iSIZE: “We are so pleased that NAB is going ahead in 2021 and that the community is making sure that the latest COVID guidance is followed for the safety of all participants, however, IBC is also important to us and our customers and therefore, we will be exhibiting and supporting both shows and regions.”
Adam Leah, creative director, nxtedition: “As a European company, we see IBC as the major opportunity for us to reach our customers and work collaboratively with our partners. Therefore, we will still support IBC. However, for those who traditionally support both NAB and IBC, I think this is going to make them pick which one they’re going to support. This could be when the Americas attend NAB, and the international community attend IBC.”
Ed Abis, general manager, Never.no : “It’s disappointing to see that NAB have made the decision to move the event so close to IBC in 2021. Generally, both shows are ideally situated within the calendar and majorly influence announcements, sales pipeline and product development. Organisations will have to choose one or the other, or, spread resources – including sales and marketing budget, and staff time – and go to both, potentially diluting the trade show experience, resulting in low-key events. This would be a shame for the event organisers and for the end-users, who eagerly await product showcases and high-profile industry presentations. Essentially, the big brands pull in the crowds, so if they don’t exhibit at either show, then it will have an adverse effect on the smaller companies that rely so heavily on trade shows.”
Richard McClurg, VP Marketing, Dejero: “First and foremost, the health and safety of our staff, customers, partners, event service providers, and all attendees is our top concern when considering our participation. One major show for an industry this size makes sense. Two does not. Especially a month apart. It creates a logistical nightmare for exhibitors. Perhaps what’s best for the industry as a whole is to alternate years between Las Vegas, Amsterdam, and perhaps other locations? And to take a hybrid approach of both physical and virtual elements. It’s impossible to predict the state of the pandemic a year out, and the willingness of attendees to participate in person, so like many media technology providers, we’ll be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach.”
Daniel Lundstedt, regional sales manager (Nordics & US), Intinor: “I’m of course sad to hear NAB won’t happen in April next year but at the same time, I really respect the hard decision that the organisation had to take.”
Mike Grieve, commercial director, Mo-Sys: “To the average exhibitor, I can’t see having two major tradeshows within a month of each other in 2021 being a feasible option. Many may choose to focus their resources on one out of the two and I would have thought that the one closest to their base continent and where the majority of their clients are will seem more attractive. Is it possible we will start to see a split widening between an American NAB and European IBC? At least NAB has made this decision with plenty of notice.”
Russell Johnson, director, Hitomi: “What makes NAB so valuable is the quality and diversity of attendees. If by postponing the event to October 2021, it means that more people will be able to return to this prime event then that seems like the right thing to do. We have learned to appreciate the value of face to face meetings all the more during these times of social distancing and look forward to being able to physically attend a tradeshow again when possible.”
CJP Broadcast Press Release: Ross-On-Wye, UK, 20 August 2020:
CJP Broadcast announces the successful completion of a video production and live streaming project for three of the highest profile games in the European sports calendar. A complete system centred on a CJP Live Sports Production System captured content to supplement terrestrial and satellite coverage of the events. CJP staff active at the matches included Managing Director Chris Phillips supervising technical setup, James Ruddock operating as Technical Manager, Kieron Sharpe and Kieran Phillips providing AV rigging support, Rob Dyton as Production Director and Chris Hollier as Remote Camera Operator.
“Covid-19 restrictions meant the venue was unable to host the capacity crowds normally present at semi-finals and finals,” Chris Phillips comments. “We were asked to augment the traditional broadcast coverage with behind-the-scenes content. This included manager reactions during the match, player interactions in the tunnel area and a focus on key international players. The resultant video would then be made available online for easy access by supporters during and after each match. Our role was to provide a complete production system plus an experienced installation and operations crew.”
“A key part of the challenge was capturing content from ‘red zone’ areas such as the substitutes’ bench and the technical control area. We provided four JVC cameras with motorised pan/tilt/zoom which were operated from our control base on the gantry in front of the press area. Two of the cameras were positioned in the tunnel. The other two were focused on the managers’ and subs’ benches. In addition to the robotic cameras, we had feeds from two Sony FS7 cameras provided by the host and operated by their own experienced freelancers, plus a JVC GY-HM660RE live streaming camcorder.”
“The Streamstar iPX allowed us to record ISO-style feeds from the six cameras and make these accessible in 15-minute segments to remotely located video editors so they could start producing final edited content while the game was still in progress. We expanded the 1 terabyte of onboard video storage in the iPX with a 16 terabyte GB Labs F-8 Studio recorder using a 512 gigabyte Nitro SSD Layer for ingest while editing. Content for editing was accessed from the F-8 by four edit suites. The system also generated an H.264 RTMP live stream for practically instant publication on social media. An HD/SDI clean programme feed was also provided from our system to the host broadcaster for use as an optional contribution feed within the terrestrial and satellite transmission.”
Available in several versions supporting up to eight camera inputs, the CJP Live Sports Production System provides a wide range production and streaming capabilities in an easily transportable unit. Its facilities include ISO recording, four-layer graphics, transitions, real-time replay, slow-motion replay, on-the-fly highlights creation, advert insertion, clip insertion and audio mixing. Operation is via a touchscreen and keyboard with the option of an external joystick for pan/tilt/zoom camera control. Full multiscreen monitoring facilities are included with the option of a second screen for commentator positions. An H.264 live stream can be fed directly to a TV station or third-party OB control suite via a 10 megabits per second link or via 4G mobile, with the ability to simulcast to multiple platforms and in-stadium screens. Up to 96 terabytes of RAID5 storage can also be attached.
About CJP Broadcast
CJP Broadcast Service Solutions Limited (www.cjp-bss.co.uk)) was established in 2011 to provide broadcast manufacturers and engineering companies with professional ITIL based service desk solutions. In 2016 the company expanded its portfolio to include digitisation of broadcast tape and film media to provide restoration of historical media archives into modern file-based formats. In 2018 CJP expanded its operation further, providing live production solutions, professional broadcast TV studio system integration and technical support services.
By Mike O'Connell | Pixel Power | Published 21st July 2020
Having lived with COVID-19 for a few months now, what have we in the broadcast industry learned? I can offer two take-home lessons.
First: we have to be a whole lot more agile than we ever thought. As broadcast engineers we have lived with the idea that a project takes a couple of years, from deciding what we want to do, through meeting vendors, maybe a proof of concept or two, then on to a final spec, installation, testing, training and rehearsals.
In 2020 we have had to roll out emergency solutions to keep our stations on the air in hours, not months or years.
Second, we have to have a much more flexible and perhaps bolder attitude to finance. An important part of that two year project timescale would have included an outline budget for first stage approval, then refining the project costs through to final contract.
But if we need a solution up and running this afternoon, we need to be able to pay for it by tomorrow – or maybe even this morning. The death of the capital budget is another transformative change that COVID-19 has brought to our lives. Opex is another of those buzzwords that has been around the industry for a while, without ever gaining too much traction. Inertia ruled and since broadcasters have always worked on capex it was felt no reason to change. Well now there is a reason.
First and foremost, Opex provides a tight alignment to output. Whether it is 3D graphics or a virtualized software only playout channel, an enlightened vendor and pay-as-you-play cloud hosting, you should pay for only the functions you need, when you need them. Pixel Power has allowed you to buy licenses outright, or by time, or by output for several years – a pure Opex model right here and right now.
Capex encourages you to have equipment sitting in the rack in case you need the facilities. While sitting in the rack that equipment is taking up space, power and air-conditioning even if it is not giving you an output and earning you money. If you only use 3D graphics for Saturday sport, why pay for the machine to be running the other six and a half days when it’s not working?
That principle applies on a bigger scale. We have a presidential election this coming November (although thanks to the pandemic, it is going to be a strange one). Do we really want to spend a lot of capital on facilities that, after November 3rd, we are going to have to find work for?
The other advantage of Opex is that the money can be found from multiple sources. If you need specific functionality – like complex graphics for an election – you can fund the licenses, for precisely when you need them, through the production budget.
The consensus of opinion during this pandemic seems to be that we may run out of content in August. To fill the gap, we are going to have to do things differently because we simply can’t have people working physically closely together any more.
If we need new equipment and techniques for a short time (we all sincerely hope that the pandemic will be over soon) then it makes no sense to spend capital on temporary equipment and facilities. And if it makes no sense now, is it not time to make Opex the primary way forward?
By Mike O'Connell | Pixel Power | Published 8th July 2020
As an industry we have talked about disaster recovery for a while. We know about business continuity, about how our audiences – not to mention our revenues – will disappear so fast if we drop off the air.
The problem is, most of us have been talking about the wrong sort of disaster. Received wisdom has been that, if our building catches fire or there is a gas leak up the street, we need to be able to relocate (our staff) to somewhere a distance away, where we have a duplicate set of equipment to keep us on air.
Well, now the disaster has come. And it is nothing like the disaster we prepared for.
Our buildings and our technical installations are all there in the different location. But, thanks to COVID-19, we can’t get our people there! As those who rely on traditional broadcast hardware technology for playout have found, it really cannot operate hands-off. It relies upon people.
At Pixel Power we have been talking about and deploying the solution to this for several years. It is virtualizable, software defined playout. You build exactly the production or playout automation workflows you need, from elemental, modular components. These software modules sit on standard IT hardware (Commercial and Off The Shelf, COTS), and are slickly managed to deliver precisely to your requirements.
Why is this so important? Because it leads to near-perfect protection from the unexpected, like COVID-19 – when you need to flip your operators to work remotely, from home.
A virtualized architecture can run on dedicated hardware in your broadcast machine room. Or it can take the processor and storage requirements it requires while residing in your corporate data centre. Or it can live entirely in the public cloud. Or it can exist across any combination of these scenarios.
Playout in the cloud means you never have to attend to the hardware. You can control every aspect of your output – even live interventions on premium channels – from a laptop, wherever you have an internet connection.
A lot of people are now talking about virtualized playout from the public cloud. Indeed, it’s great to welcome some of our industry rivals to the club. At NAB 2016 Pixel Power demonstrated premium channel playout, including live interventions, with sophisticated graphics & branding, hosted entirely in the AWS cloud. We did it in 2017, 2018 and 2019, too, and would have made it five in a row if NAB2020 had happened. But regardless of big tradeshows happening, the beauty is that we can demonstrate this to you right here, right now – because it’s ready in the AWS cloud.
Other vendors still view this as science fair stuff. We have this nailed. It is proven and it is delivered.
And it gives you flexibility. For those broadcasters who want to retain the traditional infrastructures, your primary playout can be in your building, with disaster recovery in the cloud. Or you can make the jump and put everything in the cloud, relying on AWS or whichever vendor you choose to sort out the geo-diverse protections for non-stop service.
No-one predicted the extraordinary impact COVID-19 has made on all of our lives. Who knows what’s next. It is your responsibility to put the best possible business continuity plans in place. We can help you make that happen.
By James Gilbert | Pixel Power | Published 5th June 2020
It is almost compulsory to start any blog at the moment by saying these are difficult times. What I mean is that we are having to review so many things to work with isolation and social distancing, while ensuring a minimal impact on what we have always been proud to call broadcast quality and production values. But ‘luck’ is when preparation meets opportunity and in the last few years we have been in the fortunate position to help our customers prepare well.
We have had to quickly find ways to work remotely, whether that is in production or in delivery. Remote control of playout automation is an obvious requirement, and that has focused a very harsh light on legacy systems, many of which simply cannot be managed at a distance. Virtualised, software-centric technology is capable of control from anywhere, by its very nature, from a remote facility or a home office.
Broadcasters need new interstitials, promoting new programming created in lockdown, and offering public service information. With on-screen talent working from less than ideal environments at home, good graphics are more important than ever. An ideal system would see an editor working from home create a template which an automated production platform could then populate into all the different versions required.
Obviously I am talking about the technology for which Pixel Power is famous. But the same ideas apply across the board. Broadcasters have to find new ways of working. To succeed, that depends upon two linked factors.
First and most obvious, they need this technology now. We don’t have the luxury of six months research and extensive meetings at NAB or IBC (we didn’t have NAB and no longer have IBC!). We want something that works now – today – that may not work the way we used to, but which will deliver the goods.
That in turn leads to the second point, which is that you have to be able to rely on the vendors supplying this kit. If you are not going to spend months in discussions and developing proof of concept solutions, you have to have 100% faith that what is proposed will do what you want.
You need a vendor that understands your business. We started Pixel Power in 1987 to develop broadcast graphics systems then moving on to master control, automation and playout. 33 years later the company still has a rock solid dedication to solely broadcast solutions. To ensure we really understand what broadcasters and content companies need, we recruit key staff from them: people like Toria Farrell, a former transmission controller and Malorie Delaporte, a former head of systems engineering.
For more than 30 years Pixel Power was a thriving independent business that in 2018 became part of Rohde & Schwarz – another privately owned, engineering led organisation. We share the same values of always working to understand our customers’ businesses and delivering the best engineered solutions whether software or hardware. The combined result of engineering stability allows us to serve our customers with the right technology that helps them move forward: creatively, technically and commercially.
It is too early today to say what the new normal will be. But it is clear that, for broadcasting and media streaming to recover, it will need to be more agile and able to respond rapidly to change. It will rely much more heavily on automation, remote operation in the first instance and later virtualization. Preparing for that new world of opportunity will demand software defined solutions and ever stronger bonds of trust between vendor and customer, to implement effective solutions quickly and accurately.
We understand that, and we are here. Whether you need a quick fix or a long-term strategy, talk to Pixel Power.
By Nikhil Pereira | Digital Studio ME | Published 27th February 2020
What are your plans for CABSAT 2020?
The great news is that both Pixel Power and Rohde & Schwarz are together on the same booth at CABSAT. We will be there to talk to customers about all our solutions in studio production, post production, delivery and distribution.
Give us more insight into the products and services you will be exhibiting at the show?
We are showing the following areas: Create and StreamMaster Produce graphics creation tools — with a 30 year heritage in graphics creation Pixel Power can show you how your brand can come to life, how you can automate your branding workflows and how to create a stunning new look and feel for both premium channels and across all your channel portfolio. StreamMaster Deliver (channel-in-a-box) and Gallium Playout (complete workflow automation for playout) will be one of the prominent demos on the booth. Full broadcast chain monitoring solution and multiviewing software using the Rohde & Schwarz Prismon solution set. Satellite amplifiers will be the star of the show with the new PKU-100 satellite uplink amplifier.
Who is your target audience and what should they look out for in your offerings?
We are looking for customers interested in innovative solutions where they want to save money or make money in their broadcast network. Customers who are interested in workflow solutions, future proof software defined tools that can scale and change with their business.
What is the USP of your products?
There are many unique selling points of our products and services but one of the most important things to note about Pixel Power and Rohde & Schwarz is that we focus on partnering with our customers throughout the whole journey from first discussion about a new project right through to the ongoing creative, operational and technical support over many years. We are an engineering led business and driven by the desire to deliver great solutions for great broadcasters for great content.
What challenges is the market facing in the market sector your firm operates in?
“Buzz” and the need to be realistic. There is a lot of talk about new standards, new resolutions, new consumer features. But the reality is that most broadcasters don’t simply want to hear about the dream, they want to see the reality of how they can create a steady pathway to that dream over a period of time. In the past decades we have had the ‘time in motion’ studies, the ‘just in time’ movement, the ‘time to market’ period. In the 2020s I believe it’s the ‘time to trust’ decade.
What are your plans for 2020?
We will keep developing and delivering innovative solutions for our broadcaster and telecommunication customers who want to create and deliver exciting television programmes and movies — then help them deliver that to you and me on our screens at home or on the move, in the cinema or the stadium, to enjoy with family and friends.
By James Gilbert | KitPlus Magazine | Published January 2020 Edition
The first days of 2020 seem like a good time to reflect on what will happen to our industry in the coming months and years.
There are some things about which we can do nothing. The global political situation seems to be in turmoil. Populists seem to stop at nothing, and are certainly not hampered by the need to be truthful; the Middle East is in turmoil (growing rapidly worse as this article takes shape); and of course we still have no idea what the impact will be of Brexit, both for British companies and those based in the EU. All of these and more will be affecting the decisions of vendor companies every day in 2020 and beyond.
But what of our industry? The first point to make is that we are now in the end stage of the transition from broadcasting to content delivery, from linear television to content everywhere. The new model demands much more of delivery systems, yet technical budgets are not growing in step. Indeed, they are shrinking, so content companies are going to be looking for ever-more clever solutions.
Thanks to the growing power of COTS hardware and well-thought through software-defined architectures, both the technology and the solutions are available. The challenge relates to ‘people’.
First, the users of the technology need to buy into the new workflows and operational practices. Simply like-for-like replacement of a playout chain with a software-defined equivalent is not enough: it is definitely not a clever solution. We need to work together to create smarter ways to work, that take advantage of the new opportunities.
Secondly, we are not a young industry. It is something we regularly say, but we need to offer encouragement for the best people to join us. That has to start with STEM initiatives at school.
For all the talk of software-centric solutions, we will still need “broadcast engineers” in the future. It is about more than simply writing code. You may be able to add functionality to social media applications, or secure banking log-ons, but you still need a special set of skills and understanding to engineer a live sports broadcast. 2020 sees the Olympics and Paralympics: there will be very many engineers, with very many years of experience to their names, heading for Tokyo to deliver the quality and intensity of coverage that audiences demand.
Japanese broadcaster NHK will be claiming the headlines for its 8k coverage. But it is also important to remember that in large parts of the world SD is still the norm, and very few ordinary people will watch in anything above HD.
Just as the move from SDI to IP has proved slower than people predicted, this underlines a simple truism we should all remember: if you don’t need to be cutting edge, don’t make life difficult. If your SDI installation works, do not feel the need to throw it out any time soon, to replace it with an infrastructure which does not perform the way you expect it, and which needs additional skills which are still in very short supply.
That also applies to other new technologies for which wild claims have been made but have failed to deliver. There is a growing realisation that the idea of using the public cloud for large swathes of broadcast applications is a real case of the emperor’s new clothes.
That is not what the cloud is for; not what it is good at. By all means, set up disaster recovery in the cloud, to sit there costing very little unless the dreaded day should arrive. But for many customers 24/7 playout in the cloud really does not stand up to sensible financial and commercial analysis.
Having said all that, I am very optimistic for the future. We see good reasons for excitement in 2020, not least a tangible sales pipeline and a successful continuing recruitment programme. We are investing in a stronger team to support the delivery of better solutions.
I know we have been talking about solutions for many years, but it is truer today than ever that media companies want to buy working systems, not point products. They simply do not have the staff to decide what they need to do and evaluate the marketplace.
But systems integrators have to change, too. They are no longer stack and rack merchants, judged on the neatness of their wiring looms above all else. Today’s integrators have to manage the orchestration of the technology into the workflows that are going to deliver commercial and operational benefits.
Broadcasters and content deliverers still want to feel that they are buying the best of breed, and certainly do not want to get locked in to single-vendor solutions. So the need is for smart, capable integrators who can develop this orchestration, creating original software as well as configuring products from multiple vendors.
For companies like Pixel Power, that means we have to have strong resources to support integrators, helping them get the best out of our technology to achieve the desired goals of the end customer.
That, in turn, means that successful businesses will need a certain scale. Pixel Power became part of the Rohde & Schwarz group over a year ago now, and continues to retain its own identity. That seems to me an ideal solution: we have big company resources while retaining specialist skills.
2020 is definitely going to be an interesting year. I hope you are looking forward to it as much as I am.
By Adrian Pennington | IBC 365 | Published 5th March 2020
As more media organisations enforce home working, could the spread of the coronavirus hasten the transition to remote production?
While the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc and hysteria across the globe, the epidemic has accelerated the deployment of remote-working software to such an extent that many businesses may never look back.
“What has changed in the last few weeks is that working remotely is no longer a work-life balance argument, or a nice-to-have, it is now a question of business continuity,” says Daniella Weigner, owner, Cinegy. “Crisis is forcing change right now. This is a catalyst. It is also a major opportunity to get change done.”