Virtual events and remote production: How the entertainment industry is adapting to the new reality

December 9, 2020 by Perry Weinstein, VP, Entertainment
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The entertainment industry is a global economic powerhouse. The US media and entertainment sector is the largest worldwide, bringing $735 billion annually in revenues and contributing approximately a third to the global industry. However, according to PWC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020–2024 report, the media and entertainment industry is predicted to contract by 5.6 percent ($120 billion) during 2020, the sharpest fall in the last 20 years.

PWC expects growth to resume, predicting that in 2021 entertainment and media spending will grow by 6.4 percent. The optimism stems from the industry’s resilience when dealing with the impact of COVID-19. When physical entertainment activity came to a standstill overnight, the industry turned to digital to satisfy the increasing consumer demand for at-home entertainment. Blockbuster movies were released directly online, concerts and theatrical shows were live-streamed, and production studios adopted a fully remote working environment.

Remote live video production workflows and virtual events became the engine powering the industry’s return. Remote production tools and virtual events have not only enabled the resurgence of entertainment but have also achieved efficiencies that will continue after the pandemic.

Remote production tools and virtual events have not only enabled the resurgence of entertainment but have also achieved efficiencies that will continue after the pandemic.

Living the experience

Apart from a booming economic sector, entertainment is a multi-dimensional concept that serves many purposes. Entertainment activities such as concerts, theatrical shows, or film viewing extend beyond instant fun and gratification.

Attending a live performance is about experiencing the atmosphere and vibes as much as watching the performers.

Consumers are looking for emotional connections and a sense of community. Attending a live performance is about experiencing the atmosphere and vibes as much as watching the performers. The powerful emotional effects of physical events on audiences and artists constitute both a strength and a weakness. COVID-19 has changed the dynamics of the entertainment industry, ruling out any type of physical contact.

The entertainment industry players needed to deploy technological solutions that would allow them to bring these experiences to life in the digital world.

Remote production changes the art of the possible

On-site live video production is a costly operation that requires a large volume of equipment and crew to be on-premise. With the pandemic putting an abrupt halt in activities that relied on physical presence, the entertainment industry turned to remote production workflows.

IP transport, with its ability to provide faster backhaul options delivers high-quality video and audio from almost any location.

A remote production model uses a small amount of on-site equipment, mainly cameras, to aggregate and manage the transmission feeds back to the centralized production studio. This model enables geographically dispersed teams, including artists, support and production staff to stage shows and access state-of-the-art production facilities. To take advantage of shared centralized personnel and studio resources, reliable connectivity between the venue and the central studio is critical. IP transport, with its ability to provide faster backhaul options delivers high-quality video and audio from almost any location.

Remote production workflows made the return of live events possible during the pandemic without losing their identity and spirit. For example, American Idol, one of the most impactful and high-rating television programs in the US, crowned its next winner during the lockdown. Through robust, reliable network connections for all contestants, judges, and production crew members, the show could replicate the emotional interactions between participants in a remote environment.

Virtual events


Elevating virtual experiences

The cancelation of physical shows saw virtual events becoming a standard in entertainment. Cloud technology has simplified the complexity behind live-streaming events by ingesting and distributing an infinite number of live video feeds to linear and digital destinations. While it is challenging to replicate the emotional connections and in-person interactions of live physical shows, virtual events are an entertainment category that delivers bespoke experiences. Extended Reality (XR) technologies create immersive experiences that augment live performances and facilitate audience engagement.

Extended Reality (XR) technologies create immersive experiences that augment live performances and facilitate audience engagement.

Virtual fan engagement is a fundamental element in virtual events for both fans and artists. Activating audience members across different formats requires acquiring, aggregating, and managing hundreds of live fan feeds in a reliable, secure environment with bandwidth redundancy. Production houses need new fan engagement workflows and pioneering solutions to ingest and manage this type of content that elevates production.

The future of entertainment is hybrid

Although it is difficult to predict when and in what form physical shows will return, virtual events and remote production are here to stay. COVID-19 accelerated the entertainment industry’s transition to IP and cloud technologies has already showcased increased ROI as well as cost and resource efficiencies.

Even if not going entirely virtual, events will be increasingly incorporating virtual aspects and delivering hybrid experiences

Even if not going entirely virtual, events will be increasingly incorporating virtual aspects and delivering hybrid experiences. Hybrid live productions enhance physical performances, creating new types of connections between audiences and artists that were not previously possible. Examples of augmented hybrid experiences include:

  • Pre and post-show fan engagement and virtual fan community building
  • Extension of the shows’ geographical reach at lower cost
  • XR-enhanced immersive experiences
  • Personalized experiences and interactions between fans and performers

Reinventing entertainment

The entertainment industry has shown remarkable adaptability in the face of uncertainty. Artists, event organizers, and production companies leveraged their creativity and innovation to rise to the challenges. Digital transformation is changing business models and opening up new revenue streams. Remote production, alongside content aggregation and distribution capabilities, has allowed the industry to reinvent itself.

As entertainment production and consumption are changing, new hybrid models will enable the emotional elevation that performers and audiences seek.

As entertainment production and consumption are changing, new hybrid models will enable the emotional elevation that performers and audiences seek. Through its resilience, the entertainment industry has shown that despite adversity, human connections persist, even in different forms, and are more important than ever.


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