Malmö, Sweden, 9 September 2020: Production automation specialists nxtedition recently installed, commissioned, trained and handed over a four-studio newsroom system for Stockholm-based Expressen TV. Because of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, nxtedition was forced to achieve all this remotely, yet still got the new system on-air, on-time and on-budget.
nxtedition’s newsroom system is built on a suite of microservices to create a virtualised architecture, running on COTS hardware. For Expressen TV, the system was initially built at nxtedition’s headquarters in Malmö, more than 600km away. The kit was shipped to Stockholm where Expressen’s partners installed it in place.
Ordinarily, teams would be sent from nxtedition to test and commission a new installation and train the staff. But the microservices architecture means that the system is inherently ready for remote access and operation, so all these activities were carried out from the homes of each nxtedition team member. Deployments and configurations were performed remotely, and all the training was done using Google Hangouts, with the trainer logging into the Expressen installation remotely via VPN.
Journalists, editors, producers and engineers rapidly gained familiarisation with nxtedition's intuitive operation. This allowed for a phased cutover to the new technology and also to effectively meet the full on-air date of 2nd June 2020. Even with Sweden’s relatively light touch isolation policy, this was still a remarkable achievement while maintaining safety of both teams through remote working practices and social distancing.
“I am really impressed that we could make this transition so easily and fast,” said Robin Jansson, head of technology for Expressen TV. “Our window of opportunity to switch the entire broadcast system was very slim, but the design and structure of nxtedition makes complex and time-consuming things much easier and convenient.”
For nxtedition, Roger Persson, head of sales and marketing, added, “The world is changing, and not just because of COVID-19. Newsroom technology has to be flexible, capable of being accessed from anywhere, to deliver the fast and accurate facts first which audiences seek. Remote training was forced upon us by the pandemic, but it really brought home to the Expressen TV team just how simple it is to create scripts, modify rundowns, cue events and add live content from anywhere at any time. That agility was a key benefit when Expressen TV chose our suite of software and in today’s environment we can see it’s even more important than ever.”
By nxtedition staff | nxtedition | Published 29th April 2020
The Swedish Newspaper Expressen, based in Stockholm, switch their entire broadcast system to nxtedition – the ultimate storytelling solution. Expressen runs three channels 24/7: Expressen TV – news and breaking news, DiTV – a financial news channel and Sport Expressen TV – Sports news channel. These channels are broadcasted not just on TV, but also online and mobile.
Expressen has been making TV since 2005, with a re-launch in 2015 with a focus on breaking news and has become a seasoned player in the broadcast market for newspapers in Sweden. Their experience in the broadcasting arena over the years has made them aware of what they want, and need, from a storytelling solution in order to be “fast and first” with breaking news on-air and to devices.
“We needed a modern and reliable storytelling tool to allow us to be more creative and flexible to make sure that we can focus on what’s most important for us – which is to present breaking news to our viewers, and avoid struggling with complex broadcast systems so we can present the stories in a fast and reliable way,”
- Robin Jansson, Head of Technology of Expressen TV.
Expressen chose nxtedition because of its simplicity to learn, operate and scale. The unique storytelling and collaboration aspects overshadowed any other technical and over-engineered solutions.
nxtedition provides all the journalistic planning tools, story scripting NRCS, media management, rundown creation, studio automation, graphics, ingest with metadata, website clip publishing and final channel playout all from within a single nxtedition system.
Rather than using a mix of different software from multiple vendors, the entire team of 50 collaborate within nxtedition’s single unified system from story concept right through to production delivery. The efficiency and productivity gains in creating live and pre-recorded content in nxtedition gives an unprecedented speed advantage for breaking news to viewers over their competitors.
“nxtedition and Expressen TV is a perfect fit. Expressen is a modern organisation who realised that in order to be competitive and to always improve the experience for their audience they needed to adapt to new technologies fit for the 21st century”.
- Ola Malmgren, CEO of nxtedition.
By nxtedition Staff | nxtedition | Published 22nd May 2020
Blick TV is making Swiss media history and breaking all the boundaries of traditional publishing & broadcast mediums. Its ‘web first’ live news platform, powered by nxtedition, means Blick TV is the first digital-only TV broadcaster in Switzerland. Blick TV chose nxtedition to take care of journalistic planning tools, story scripting, media management, rundown creation, studio automation, graphics, ingest with metadata and final channel playout all from within one nxtedition system.
Based in the newsroom of Ringier Pressehaus, Zurich, Blick TV is taking a radically different approach to live news coverage by leveraging nxtedition’s unique capabilities to collate, produce and output content to Blick.ch and the Blick app as both a live video stream and video on demand.
Blick TV isn’t predicated on the traditional linear television format but instead relies upon news which can be updated every hour and also broadcast live in the case of breaking news reports. Viewers can watch live or on-demand at the Blick.ch website and on the custom-designed Blick app. The editorial focus is on breaking news, politics, business, sport and entertainment.
‘Ringier has the courage to conquer television and reinvent it for the Internet. I am really looking forward to working with my competent, creative and powerful team’
-Jonas Projer, Editor-in-Chief of Blick TV.
The installation was a collaboration between Qvest media & nxtedition. Qvest worked over the summer to build a two studio installation complete with green screen, virtual set, respeaking subtitling along with the two control rooms and robotic camera systems.
nxtedition provides all the journalistic planning tools, story scripting, media management, rundown creation, studio automation, graphics, ingest with metadata and final channel playout all from within a single nxtedition system.
Blick TV broadcasts 16 hours a day in 15 minute repeating segments between 6 am to 11 pm each day before switching to a repeat playout stream to complete the 24-hour news cycle.
Rather than using a mix of different software from multiple vendors, the entire team of 48 collaborate within nxtedition’s single unified system from story concept right through to production delivery. The efficiency and productivity gains in creating live and pre-recorded content speeds up and enhances the production workflow vastly.
‘I was very impressed with the flexibility and adaptability of nxtedition. It was very easy to tailor it to our specific workflows! Also, working with minimal technical staff, every bit of automation counts, and especially reducing potential sources for human error in the control room during fast and complex live shows. nxtedition helps us with that with its many clever and well-designed features.’
-Beat Vontobel, Head of Technics
A good example of these gains can be measured in how nxtedition’s unique ‘salami-slicing’ feature is utilised by Blick TV. During each live segment, every individual news story is automatically sliced off the nxtedition ingest server as soon as the director steps into the next news story.
Each newly created video ‘slice’ is automatically added to the repeat rundown for the live stream channel, as well as available for publication for VOD. This is achieved without any human intervention at all and all the salami clips are packaged for playout with subtitles and graphics included as metadata.
The mobile version of Blick TV can be viewed in both portrait and landscape format with no pause in the streaming and all videos have graphics and subtitles overlaid inside the app using metadata that streamed with the video.
Directors are capable of accessing each individual story segment for any graphicsor subtitle corrections, new developments or even drop in live over any segment, anytime day or night. By fully exploiting these productivity gains, when breaking news happens – Blick TV can truly be ‘fast and first’ to on-air.
“Blick TV is the first digital TV in our country and we are the first to be live within minutes if something happens,”
- Christian Dorer, Editor-in-Chief of the Blick Group.
“This has been a great project for all of the team at Blick, Qvest Media & nxtedition. The challenging vision that Blick set out to us at the beginning of this project was always a perfect fit for the nxtedition solution, it’s exciting to see it all up and running today. We worked hard alongside the Blick team and Qvest Media to create a truly 21st-century virtualised news solution for the Blick audience to enjoy”.
- Ola Malmgren, Co-Founder & CEO of nxtedition
By David Davies | IBC 365 | Published 25th June 2020
Implementing some degree of cloud-based playout has been a marked trend for a while now, but this year’s momentous events are certain to accelerate developments, writes David Davies.
In the context of the profound changes that have impacted most aspects of broadcast workflows during the past few years, it was surely only a matter of time before playout underwent a similar quiet revolution. That has now arrived in the form of cloud-based playout, which opens the way for broadcasters to enjoy greater flexibility and cost-efficiency, either as a sole platform or as part of a hybrid playout infrastructure that typically includes on-premise facilities.
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.”