In the previous year, the technology and trends roadmap had an area noting the COVID impact in various technologies. It was a battle to quickly respond to sudden closures and locked-downs that related directly to taking on the risk of trying newer technologies. Frankly, there was nothing to lose. It might not be broadcast quality, however viewers were anxious to get pretty much any fresh content regardless of the quality, basically COVID Quality became the norm.
These efforts dramatically affected various aspect of the industry’s future direction. When getting into the specifics, some technologies were simply put on hold while others flourished. It was less about risk and more about figuring out how to use pretty much any technology available to line up with revised business plans.
Our IABM Roadmap Group had noted that is was appropriate to denote some of the adjustments made due to COVID – how new technologies were adopted, adapted or even accelerated from a normal adoption curve.
General-purpose corporate tools and solutions were quickly embraced for use in professional media workflows. Remote collaboration has become more acceptable. The jury is still out on whether this can foster longer-term innovation. Capture devices such as PTZ and mobile/tablet cameras are mature in their own markets, however still in the early adopter phase within our industry. Low latency remote desktops are well accepted for production now.
New technologies, such as continuous near real-time push of files from field camera to cloud-enabled production, are emerging which fulfill a need to keep staff in the field and out of offices. Linear publishing is taking advantage of newer formats such as social, gaming and streaming. All in all, the use of various cloud services is no longer in early adopter stages, however many certainly aren’t fully mature as certain aspects such as redundancy are still in question.
The cost benefits of remote production are well understood. Although there are still some last mile challenges hindering remotes, they are quickly diminishing and thanks to the growth in 5G networks even more options have become available. At-Home/REMI production is becoming more the norm with network orchestration and redundancy becoming key. Virtual control and production rooms have become more collaborative. Remote monitoring is more crucial and needs to become a priority.
Cloud switching, although accepted and working quite well for certain types of events, is far from mature. Many experts are questioning when this will become the norm for sports due to lack of deterministic feeds and processes along with the power needed for 4K mixing and effects. This points directly for the requirement of cloud-based systems to measure and dynamically adapt and align variable contribution latencies, and will be key to wider adoption in live production.
Virtual audiences have as many detractors as supporters, so with lockdowns constantly happening at random, this won’t go away quickly,
Using cloud to replace large editing systems is considered as fairly risky rather than that of bleeding edge.
A great example of this is international news organizations connecting to all their bureaus remotely, therefore freeing up news teams on the ground from the creative side, passing on to others anywhere in the world using cloud tools. Having this tighter integration between headquarters and regional bureaus, journalists and camera operators along with metadata assures that when the content comes back, it all matches up. The same goes for home-based activity, however use of these tools demands robust, diverse, secure IT infrastructure, consistent high-speed connectivity, and home UPS systems.
The immediate need to deliver existing services to distributed users combined with the relative immaturity of dynamically scalable cloud-native solutions for many broadcast applications has driven architects to implement less efficient but immediately available lift and shift strategies. We should expect broadcast vendors to enter a re-factoring phase moving towards cloud-native applications.
Videoconferencing solutions continue to dominate collaborative activities on both a local and global level. The pandemic has created a competitive race to see who can offer the most user-friendly, feature-rich and secure apps for niche media activities.
Many typical board-room media planning and corporate sessions are still struggling with remote collaboration undertakings. Remote content production and broadcast demands are pushing these technologies further including collaboratively produced live shows in multiple locations, even risking 5G only connections.
Cloud and Hybrid Cloud solutions are no longer considered as risky. However to get beyond the lift and shift period, to be efficient and environmentally friendly, containerized compute with dynamic and scalable object storage is in early adoption stages as it becomes available for broadcast tool chains. Scalable object storage is a commodity, but performance file services remain difficult to achieve cost-effectively. Cost models and fully scalable storage across various platforms remain a concern. Many vendors don’t provide performance models.
Having multiple public compute hyperscalers all working off the same cloud library assets currently doesn’t scale well when using multi-edge as part of a cloud deployment. Redundancy strategies are required and broadcast vendors must produce cloud-native solutions to move into a mature offering. Environmental concerns will add to the push for cloud-native solutions.
Compute & Storage
GPUs (graphics processing units) continue to dominate specialized AI servers. FPGAs remain key to low-power niches and network acceleration. Multiple GPU platforms like NVIDIA’s Omniverse™ combine broadcast and VFX applications, running on workstations and adding real-time video services to NICs. PCIe Gen5, doubling the speed of Gen4 to 32GT/s (gigatransfers per second), is in very early adoption.
QLC (Quad-level cell flash memory) has the promise of delivering the same performance as we get from high-end enterprise flash storage, however has faster wear that can be hidden to a certain extent with capable flash controllers.
Facial/object recognition, camera-tracking and Speech-to-text are solid. An important aspect of AI is looking at network details correlating user data outgoing paths from different CDNs and OTT content, hence figuring out why an outage has happened and avoiding new outages. AI for failure analysis is becoming practical on the back end to make operations and technical systems more efficient.
Deduplication of content through AI/ML analysis identifies the most efficient place to be storing content or moving between storage tiers when appropriate.
AI/ML techniques are now used in sports ball tracking and audio mixing.
Cognitive intelligence is coming into TV sets, which enhances parts of an image depending on what’s going on within the scene. ML-based upscaling to 4K is already well established in higher-end consumer televisions and will continue to evolve.
Rather than production companies constantly making content match different viewing devices, AI takes care of this automatically, by understanding screen size limitations, hence filling in the details.
Immersive & Imaging
Simultaneous production of both standard and high dynamic range is quite mature using hardware. The immersive side was on the “back-burner” as people rushed to remote their operations and their workforces, however by mid-2021, immersive became one of the fastest growing investments. Volumetric capture (RGB+Depth) systems continue to improve in quality/reduce in cost, and when combined with LIDAR-scanned (Light Detection and Ranging-scanned) point-cloud environments, are driving fine-pitch LED walls. LED walls for production continue to improve with techniques like auto-defocusing, atmospheric inputs to line up with the live talent’s environment.
AI/ML takes imaging to the next level i.e. creating super slo-mo from standard camera feeds with ML frame interpolation. New generation low light, 4K PTZ cameras with optical zoom are being used by earlier adopters to make their productions more efficient. Having smooth pan and tilt mechanisms, they can be used directly on-air.
We have seen a shift from blockchain being seen as pie in the sky or not yet relevant to media to some early implementations. Of note are new mesh-based innovative techniques that have an alternative approach to CDN-based delivery. It’s also being seen in the area of rights management, being the logical place to take advantage of the inherent advantages of distributing metadata via blockchain.
There is hope that blockchain will assist with parsing out deep fakes. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) using blockchain for broadcast viewer interactivity is in early adoption.
Security must be considered at all stages of product development, deployment and operation. Recent events have accelerated decentralized production and rapidly pushed tools out of the studio and into the homes of staff – secure operations in fundamentally insecure remote contexts. Security processes are still too manual, allowing room for errors and breaches including mistakes and compromises at scale. Moving towards a more containerized universe, authorization of containers needs improvement.
Technologies such as VPN, Zero Trust, Endpoint Protection as well as cloud-based security and tools are applied enabling remote operation and fundamental business continuity across production and business units.
The use of micro-services for multi-platform and multi-cloud environments will be the key for interoperability. Server virtualization is standard for many workloads, although latency-sensitive & graphics-intensive tasks like color correction are slow to embrace virtualization. Advances in virtual GPU and NIC software stacks improve utilization of shared resources. A newer approach is where containers use the same host OS and the orchestration layer, allowing re-use of libraries and other server resources.
Network virtualization allows software-defined network functions to be spun up and down. Newer efficient methods like Mesh Networks and SD-WANs are mature.
Transport & Networking
1, 10 and 100 GbE networks are commonplace, with 25GbE interfaces becoming so. 400 GbE is emerging with 800 GbE in development. The industry drivers are uncompressed low latency live content, live remote production and collaboration.
Interoperable standards and recommendations (ST 2110, TR-1001-1) with dropping bandwidth costs have enabled IP WAN-LAN convergence. SDN and new orchestration offerings have enabled real time remote production and transmission while driving down production costs and enabling more creative offerings. NDI® 5 has adopted more enhanced capabilities.
CDI (Cloud Digital Interface) allows the transport of uncompressed video inside the Cloud, with high reliability and network latency as low as 8 milliseconds.
Aside from live content, OTT is solid and common. AI/ML techniques are improving compression, however licensing isn’t standardized. Having video anywhere, on any device, at any time is commonplace, not just expected but demanded.
The push for virtual zero latency continues. ATSC 3.0, NextGen TV and 5G deployments are well underway. Monetization models are still very much in flux. Churn is a constant battle with hope that AI will assist. UHD delivery over satellite is mature in several markets.
Smart media devices pioneered Internet-of-Things (IoT) and now “Smart Speakers” enabled by Amazon, Google and Apple technologies are quite mature and have evolved as a centralized point of coordination, control and consolidation of increasingly large numbers of diverse consumer IoT home automation devices – with media functions at the core. This signals the emergence of yet another significant paradigm for aggregation, control and monetization of consumer experience.
Esports productions are becoming less of a trend, as they are mature and use standard techniques as high-end sports productions do. There is a solid blur between the crossover of gaming technology and entertainment productions- i.e. synthetic productions, camera locked LED walls/ceilings. It may go without saying, however is often ignored: the production of video for Social Media is a must.
The divide between streaming audiences and linear viewers continues to grow. This being said beyond sports, news and some very strong live entertainment programs, many linear services are repeatedly struggling to attract a full demographic range of viewers. Being a CTO, I consider this because of the great divide between understanding and accepting new technology. Accepting new technology will come with risk, however not accepting new technology comes with a larger risk – which is survival! Hence my top thoughts for 2022, embrace Hybrid, Interactivity along with Security all while producing/ publishing compelling programs by using many of the technologies and trends noted on this roadmap.