What is in this article?:
- Grass Valley CTO on a mission to expand creativity
- IT brings new freedom
- Redefining the way we do television with nonlinear production
When Karl Schubert, CTO at Grass Valley, looks into his crystal ball for next year and beyond, he sees broadcasters and media companies around the world continuing an industry-wide migration to file-based and IP infrastructures, and manufacturers supporting that initiative with an increasing amount of software and networked platforms that allow users to work collaboratively and a lot more efficiently. The coming year will be filled with significant innovations at Grass Valley and a focus on connected workflow optimization.
“The advantage of software is that it allows us to get closer to realizing what the creatives want to do,” Schubert said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about for a technology vendor. The closer you are to hardware, the farther you are from the creative process. When we speak to customers about their creative goals, we find can show them how we can help do the same current work with less physical technology in front of them. They immediately become interested. Who wouldn't? As a company, Grass Valley is working hard to enable creativity. So, the tools do not define the task, but the other way around. That’s how we’ll keep our customers and help them migrate to the next best thing and allow them to increase their productivity and realize their business and creative objectives.”
Getting there in the next few years is a challenge that Schubert has taken on with enthusiasm and an understanding that budgets are limited in many cases, so the digital workflow transition might happen slower than some might expect. This is especially true, he said, in emerging countries like China and South America, where many broadcast and production facilities are just now being converted from standard definition to high definition operations.
“There’s still a lot of opportunity to move customers through the digital transition as painlessly as possible,” he said. “Our goal in 2103 is to accelerate that transition as much as we can by making it affordable and future-proof.”
To this end, Schubert is currently leading several R&D teams at Grass Valley that are focused on adding new levels of capability, in the form of software applications, across Grass Valley’s live production solutions and networked nonlinear editing platforms.
“I think we’ve reached a point where the costs are right and the performance is there, so you can use off-the-shelf hardware and take application-specific software to do most of the things that we used to do in custom hardware and proprietary gateware,” Schubert said. “However, there is a limit to this. There will always be a need for specialized hardware in some parts of a facility and the live production chain, where FPGA chips and real-time processing cannot be substituted. But the amount of dedicated hardware required is getting less and less all the time. That’s good news for our customers.”
Yet, he cautions that software can't do it all.
“There will always be something that creatives want to do that we can't accomplish fast enough on the CPU/GPU combination,” Schubert said. “However, as the CPUs and GPUs get faster, it creates room for us to move today’s requirements to software and perform more advanced processing in hardware. I think there will be a continual movement of function to the CPU/GPU combination platform.”
For Grass Valley, software-based products are faster to bring to market and can be enhanced with new versions on a continual basis, all to the benefit of the customer. Once a product line has been established in software, it’s also more cost-effective, in the long run.
“In our goal of getting closer to realizing what creatives want to do, Grass Valley will be moving, and has already started to move, from using only traditional tools to a combination of traditional tools and software interfaces that control those tools,” Schubert says. “What we’re working on now at Grass Valley are product lines that don't require huge infrastructure commitments. Our customers say they want technology whereby the infrastructure — having to deploy multiple servers, for example — does not get in the way, but is actually an enabler to do a specific task you’re trying to accomplish.”
Schubert said he’s focused on bringing the same flexibility that virtualization has brought to the IT world. He refers to it as an “abstracted infrastructure,” whereby the user does not care where their video server, or router, or video switcher is located, as long as they have access to the content.
“If you are able to run that function anywhere in your network,” Schubert continues, “you now have an enormous amount of flexibility. The infrastructure [physical systems] shouldn't be the thing that is stopping you from doing the work you need to accomplish.”