COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the dynamics of live production for the broadcasting industry. The initial doom and gloom of almost complete live event cancelation or suspension gave its position to the resurgence of live productions, albeit in different forms. With physical restrictions dictating who can be on-site, the transition to a remote production model has been the only way to maintain a degree of normality in live production. Numbers show that the consumer demand for live content is higher than ever with the monthly live video viewers now estimated to reach 151.5 million, that is 15.1 million higher than initially predicted in early 2020.
Despite the unprecedented pressures on broadcasters to quickly become accustomed to the new reality of live broadcast, the industry as a whole responded well. Smart IP technologies have enabled broadcasters to transition to remote production workflows and leverage centralized and agile production teams.
“Smart IP technologies have enabled broadcasters to transition to remote production workflows and leverage centralized and agile production teams.”
The limits of on-site production in the era of COVID-19
Even without pandemic-induced restrictions, on-site production is complex. Depending on the type of event, traditional production models rely on large, costly mobile units comprising trucks, crew and equipment.
These trucks serve as production control studios that deliver the live production to downstream distribution platforms like RSNs, local stations, networks, and digital or social destinations via IP transport, fiber, or satellite.
The configuration of hardware for live production is both time-consuming and labor-intensive. Even a small scale production such as a live news report from a remote location can often require expensive satellite news gathering vehicles and transmission trucks. Sports events like The Masters, one of the first sports to be staged again during the pandemic, also pose logistical challenges as coverage sprawls across the entire course and requires a lot of equipment and several production staff to deliver the optimal viewing experience.
Remote production unlocks unlimited potential
Remote production brings several benefits, especially in today’s broadcasting landscape. A remote production model requires much less hardware on-site as the gear is primarily responsible for aggregating and managing the transmission back to the central production studio.
“The viewer is unable to realize that the production is being produced off-site, at a studio, or anywhere in the world.”
When produced correctly, the viewer is unable to realize that the production is being produced off-site, at a studio, or anywhere in the world. This production model aligns well with social distancing protocols and current travel limitations as less staff need to be on-site, which leads to significant cost reductions. Remote productions are estimated to cost approximately 20% less than traditional on-premise productions and do not require any capital investments by the broadcasters.
Working from centralized production facilities with dedicated and experienced staff means that the access to state of the art technology and industry-leading professionals is democratized for all industry players, opening up opportunities across the board.
IP transport drives the shift to remote production
Executing the division of labor between on-site personnel and centralized remote teams requires reliable connectivity. Satellite transport networks have traditionally been used for their reliability and reach. However, the one-to-many delivery model is unable to keep up with the expectations of greater regionalization of content and the variety of emerging distribution channels. IP transport compensates for these limitations and provides faster backhaul options, making it possible to deliver high-quality and regionalized video and audio from any location. The ubiquity of the internet enables cost-effective transmission to any geographic location and destination, be it linear, OTT, or cloud platforms.
There are several options for types of connectivity between venue and studio. The basic internet infrastructure is not sufficient to meet the quality and availability requirements for media delivery which leads to:
- Packet loss
- ISP failure
“[Managed transmission networks] deliver live, broadcast-quality video anywhere in the world with ultra-high reliability and ultra-low latency.”
Managed transmission networks overcome the limitations of the transport protocols that utilize the public internet and provide confidence, with high reliability and proactive monitoring and support. These protocols deliver live, broadcast-quality video anywhere in the world with ultra-high reliability and ultra-low latency.
In other cases, box-to-box solutions with protocols such as SRT or RIST can also enable connectivity. However, the ultimate decision for backhaul transmission depends on factors such as what is currently available at the venue, lead time, and latency requirements.
The right production workflows for the right live event
“Broadcasters get the capabilities that best suit the type of live event covered without being confined to a one-size-fits-all mindset.”
One of the important lessons of 2020 is that flexibility is a critical success factor in these unpredictable times. Remote production provides the flexibility required to create unique workflows that include anything from logistics and staffing to graphics creation, delivering excellent viewing experiences to all audiences. Broadcasters get the capabilities that best suit the type of live event covered without being confined to a one-size-fits-all mindset.
A blueprint for the future of live production
“[A hybrid production model] provides the flexibility broadcasters need to best future proof their operations and maintain the cost and resource efficiencies achieved so far.”
Remote production has enabled broadcasters to move their media workflows beyond hardware-based solutions that are expensive, inflexible, and closed systems, and benefit from the flexibility and agility that remote workflows allow.
Even post-pandemic, we won’t be able to predict a return to traditional, on-premise production models for many — if not most — events. A hybrid production model combining remote and on-site production capabilities can cater for the needs of specific live events. This model provides the flexibility broadcasters need to best future proof their operations and maintain the cost and resource efficiencies achieved so far.