Remote production: live content, low cost

Football
Marc Logez, Globecast
Opinion
September 1st 2017 at 1:32PM : By

How can sport broadcasters cut costs and increase coverage? Marc Logez, Globecast’s head of marketing, global contribution, offers some perspectives on leveraging remote broadcast

These are challenging times in the broadcast world as the industry faces increasing market pressures. For one, there's an ever-growing volume of content available to consumers today, and viewers are watching that content on tablets and smartphones as well as traditional TV. This puts a considerable burden on the contribution market because content requirements have changed while the sector also faces considerable downwards price pressure. Sending a single – or even several – produced OB feeds to broadcasters no longer necessarily satisfies modern viewing demands.

Nowhere is this more evident than in live sports productions where the demand for more compelling content (like better camera angles) to be packaged for multiple screens is a monumental task. Take, for example, a live football match. We know it’s very expensive to send a live production team to a stadium – and logistically complex - especially when that venue is a good distance from a broadcaster’s main facility. When you couple this with all of the necessary transmission costs, you’re looking at a hefty price tag.

This notion of ‘broadcast inflation’ is now a familiar scenario to broadcasters. Having to expand their scope of work without being able to increase their budgets is becoming common practice. Of course, the obvious answer is to cut costs, but how? And where? And all while increasing the dynamic nature of the coverage.

This is why we have developed our remote production service: it turns the concept of the traditional supply of a ready-to-broadcast feed(s) on its head. Let’s say you have an event like horseracing or rugby — events that takes place frequently at a fixed location where the action is spread over a large area. It makes sense to have a single, central remote production and switching operation because that way, camera and audio feeds can be brought back to this one particular site instead of having to send an OB truck (and a sizeable staff) to the venue several times a week or month. Think about the time and cost savings here!

Remote benefits

But what is remote production, and how does it work? The basic concept is quite simple. When feeds are received by broadcasters from a large event, they’re generally ready to broadcast and have already been produced. But by transitioning to a remote production workflow, resources are used more efficiently and the setbacks that are often associated with traditional OB productions are eliminated. We have worked to create a solution that provides a package of multiple raw camera and audio feeds — anywhere from three feeds upwards. This allows content owners and broadcasters to produce their own unique output from this content, whether at their home studio or at a central location.

With this model, broadcasters and other content owners can be supplied with dedicated camera feeds to easily create additional content for second screen viewing. At its core, remote production provides both economic benefits for rights holders and feeds that are far more suitable for today’s multi-screen environment.

Remote production opens up new possibilities for broadcasters and rights holders

 

As an example, late last year Globecast partnered with Imagina France to demonstrate our remote production system for the first time. During this trial run, the broadcast was of the French League 1 football match between Bastia and Bordeaux. Images from five dedicated cameras and their associated signals (CCU, tally, intercom, etc.) were sent from the Bastia stadium in Corsica to the Imagina France production truck in Boulogne, near Paris. This was acting as the central production unit where the director and his team were located. Globecast provided the signal transport via a 1Gbps link, with a total latency of 100ms in JPEG2000 and 350ms in H.264.

This trial went off without a hitch, though keep in mind that we’re talking about an IP terrestrial transmission here, not satellite. And the signals were all going over a dedicated fibre network, not the public Internet.

More pointedly, we already have the technology to allow this low latency and enable the director to ask the crew at the stadium to zoom or make any adjustments that are needed just as it happens in the traditional live production environment. We can then push this further as the technology evolves.

Diversifying content

Remote production opens up new possibilities for broadcasters and rights holders because providing multiple raw feeds helps diversify content. Plus, with multiple sources at a centralised site, you can produce a variety of programming formats of the same event for less money, which optimises monetisation.

Our remote production trial with Imagina France proves that it’s possible to provide the market with packaged or customised solutions that meet content providers’ needs. We’ve made this service commercially available in France and Italy, and we have plans to expand the offering to other regions (as fibre networks permit). We continue to conduct more internal trials using both JPEG2000 (which is expensive but provides almost no latency) as well as with major technology partners for testing other compression standards and encoding systems.