Grass Valley President Alain Andreoli sees Stratus ideally placed as the media workflow application framework for nonlinear production.
Cameras won’t go away wIth the move to IT
Turning to Grass Valley, Andreoli said, “We think having cameras is a big plus, they are never going to go away.”
And what about the move to truckless remote production using fiber links back to the switcher at the TV station? Andreoli believes that “there is a big value to have the producer in the stadium, to capture the buzz of the crowd. You can send a camera truck to the stadium and switch at base. Another possibility is fixed cameras, but they are not used most of the time, so they are not an efficient use of capital.”
One new approach Grass Valley is taking is to make cameras more configurable. A feature like slo–mo could be turned on through a software license. Having flexible tools that can be configured cuts down on inventories and provides for those who want to get best-of-breed performance. Those who want a more cost-effective operation, where the programming doesn’t warrant the best, can use the camera in the base configuration.
Day-to-day sports events do not need the tools found at the Olympics or World Cup. A base configuration may be good enough for the run-of-the-mill production, and the extras enabled for world-class events that need the extra facilities. Such software-enabling allows producers to match the cost to the requirements of the event.
One of the business methods that has been adopted in the IT sector and is coming into favor for broadcasters is outsourcing, swapping capital expenditure for operational expenditure. This brings additional players between the technology vendor and the broadcaster, specifically systems integrators and service providers.
Andreoli explained how broadcasters used to employ sufficient technologists to plan new projects. The technology of broadcast systems is now getting so complex and evolves so fast that it no longer makes sense for broadcasters to retain a pool of skilled engineers when they may only be needed for six months every three years.
“You need scale for systems integration,” he said.
It makes sense to outsource project work to specialist systems integrators who can keep their team of skilled engineers fully occupied across many projects. Today’s systems integrators offer much more than teams of wiremen terminating cables and wiring racks. They can design and commission storage and networking, the core of any broadcast system. Andreoli sees Grass Valley consultants helping the integrators, who may be building systems for the service providers that operate broadcast systems for the broadcasters. CAPEX becomes OPEX, and skills migrate from broadcasters to the systems integrators and service providers.
The current playout service providers “are doing a great job of providing services after the broadcaster has done the ‘magic’ of live production,” he said. "With the economies of scale and using only a few large facilities, they can provide cost-efficient operational services. Most broadcasters are now thinking, 'What am I going to use for my next workflow tool, which will make me more efficient?'”
Over the last five years, some major networks have built their own workflow systems, but now they are running into the problem of how to maintain them. The interfaces to third-party equipment change as new software is released, with the consequence that the broadcaster must constantly update the custom interfaces.