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Cinegy: SRT and Remote Working

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:

  • Secure - you can use SRT for AES 256-bit audio and video stream encryption, which is critical in times like these with widely dispersed workforces and distribution channels. Circuits that were once under physical lock and key at a broadcast or production facility now must travel back and forth to someone’s home or workspace, wherever in the world that might be.
  • Reliable - if someone is operating a channel or conducting an interoperability test from home, as a great many are right now, they must have a reliable stream to ensure that what they think they are transmitting is actually happening. It’s also possible that they could be up-link contributing or simply carrying on as best they can to fulfil deployment obligations. In any case, it’s imperative that people can have the confidence that what they believe is happening is reliably taking place.

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.

READ BLOG HERE

 

TVBEurope - Why there’s no excuse for not archiving your digital content

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?

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Cinegy featured in IBC 365- LOOKING BEYOND 8K INTO A SUPER RESOLUTION FUTURE

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.” 

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