Exploring the future of media technology
WINTER 2023 feedmagazine.tv
MICROPHONE SPECIAL DATA CENTRE DANGERS WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: BROADCAST TRIUMPH
AUTOMATION ROUND TABLE
IMMERSIVE AUDIO SPECIAL
EDITORIAL EDITOR Verity Butler
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STAFF WRITER Katie Kasperson DIGITAL WRITER Samara Husbands CHIEF SUB EDITOR Matthew Winney SUB EDITORS Ben Gawne, Martin Puddifer JUNIOR SUB EDITOR Lori Hodson CONTRIBUTORS Sarah Butler, David Davies, Kevin Emmott, Adrian Pennington, Fergal Ringrose ADVERTISING SALES DIRECTOR Sam Scott-Smith +44 (0) 1223 499457 firstname.lastname@example.org SALES MANAGER Emma Stevens DESIGN JUNIOR DESIGNER AND AD PRODUCTION Holly May JUNIOR DESIGNER Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman DESIGNER Emma Di’Iuorio SENIOR DESIGNERS Carl Golsby, Lucy Woolcomb DESIGN MANAGER Alan Gray DESIGN DIRECTOR Andy Jennings PUBLISHING MANAGING DIRECTORS Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck FOLLOW US linkedin.com/company/feedzine @feedzinesocial +44 (0) 1223 499462 +44 (0) 7376 665779 email@example.com
here’s no denying that the ways in which we consume content are changing. When putting together this issue of FEED , I found myself reflecting on one
We also examine the evolution of microphones, with global leaders in sound sharing their rich expertise on the subject. Plus check out Genius Interview, where we meet Sue Anstiss MBE, a life-long activist for women’s sport who demonstrates precisely how media can ignite change. Our focus on women’s sport doesn’t end there, either. Xtreme ’s exclusive round table shines a light on the impressive feat of broadcast that was this year’s Women’s World Cup. Finally, we see experts reflect on what M&E achieved this year, and what the future holds for our industry. Now it’s time to bid farewell to 2023 as we conclude our final issue of the year. Stay tuned, there are exciting things to come in 2024!
of the earlier forms of media consumption: radio. A century ago, radio rapidly became so much more than a box capable of transmitting sound, it became a socially unifying feature of any family home. Fast-forward to 2023 and this harmonious notion is still reflected through the innovative ways sound brings audiences together – despite our increasingly connected world. This is no less true for the emergence of immersive audio, which, as this issue covers, fuses the virtual with the live.
This month’s cover illustration was created by Emma Di’Iuorio at Bright Publishing
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IN THIS ISSUE
014 Happening: IBC 2023 FEED heads back to Amsterdam for another installation of IBC. Here’s what we found 006 Newsfeed Introducing Newsfeed! Our fresh, updated news section, keeping you up to date with media-tech scoops
080 Industry Inventory
It’s been quite a year in our sector! With 2024 nigh, it’s time to both reflect and predict
022 Immersive audio
Media consumption is often no longer a shared experience. Immersive audio is changing this
030 Microphone special Journey through mic history with leading vendors who had a part to play in its boom 040 Just the Numbers Our quarterly crunch of the crucial data. This time, we break down cable vs streaming
START-UP SNAPSHOTS 055 Infuse Video 065 Electric Sheep 079 Looper Insights
086 Sports Reporter
046 Genius Interview
The biggest news bulletins from the sports and esports divisions of broadcast media
Sue Anstiss MBE has dedicated her life to women’s sport, using media tools to encourage change
096 Women’s World Cup Our Xtreme round table pays tribute to the wonderful women behind a winning World Cup
056 Automation Masterclass Our expert panel divulge precisely why automation is essential to a seamless broadcast workflow
104 Piracy in sport 110 Satellite study
066 Data centres
Content piracy is rife, expecially in live sports. How are federations and broadcasters tackling it?
Most climate debates lead back to energy-guzzling data centres. But exactly why are they so harmful?
072 Happening: Be You
What looked like a Champions League qualifier alone was also a milestone in satellite innovation
This year’s Be You festival tackled issues of identity, diversity, ability and inclusion within media
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT FROM OUR PARTNERS
019 Pebble 020 CVP 028 Ross Video 036 Lawo
044 Atomos 052 Zixi 054 Brainstorm 062 Qvest
064 Signiant 070 MPB 076 Tata Comms 078 Adobe
095 TSL 102 Appear 107 Dejero 108 Sony
DELIVERING MAJOR STORIES IN MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY
Assassin’s Creed Mirage offered in Arabic GAMING
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is the franchise’s latest release set in ninth-century Baghdad, Iraq. The game follows a long line of stealth adventures, from Assassin’s Creed Origins , set in Ancient Egypt, to Assassin’s Creed Infinity , partially set in feudal Japan. Game developer Ubisoft has set Mirage apart in one key way: the characters speak Arabic. Previous Assassin’s Creed heroes have been English speakers, despite the stories
frequently taking place in non-English- speaking countries such as Greece or Norway. Mirage ’s developers wanted to maintain the game’s authenticity by having characters speak the local language, a classical version of Arabic which is still widely understood today. This decision opposes negative stereotypes of Arabic speakers in the media, which often depicts them as villains or terrorists.
The latest Assassin’s Creed creators also wanted to ensure historical accuracy, keeping the fictional Baghdad faithful to its ninth-century status as a centre of intellectualism and invention. Ubisoft hopes that players appreciate Mirage ’s commitment to its setting and characters, urging them to play in the original Arabic, though English is available as an alternative.
Snapchat could be facing a fine in the millions thanks to its AI chatbot, My AI. Snapchat under fire over My AI
According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Snapchat has failed to ‘adequately identify and assess the risks’ of My AI, which is especially problematic given the platform’s popularity with younger users. As reported in The Guardian , Snapchat has over 21 million
monthly users in the UK, with 48% being under 24 years old and 18% being between 12 and 17 years old. Minors are a vulnerable demographic when it comes to data privacy, and the ICO plans to ensure their safety, issuing an enforcement notice to Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc.
At the time of going to press, Snapchat has as yet failed to complete and publish an ‘adequate risk assessment.’ If it fails to do so, My AI will be blocked indefinitely in the UK. Santa Monica-based Snapchat is the first social messaging platform to directly implement generative AI.
Netflix ends postal service to make room for video games GAMING
One of the biggest streamers out there today, Netflix began 25 years ago as a DVD rental company, originally competing with the now-bankrupt Blockbuster. Over time, the mailing service was gradually phased out, as customers turned away from physical DVDs and towards their smart devices. As of September, Netflix has posted its final films, officially bringing this side of its business to a full stop. These lucky last customers get to keep their DVDs – free of charge – as a thank you for their patronage. In the meantime, Netflix has been focusing its efforts on a new segment: gaming. While video games have been available on the mobile app since 2021, the streamer didn’t advertise this service – until now. Netflix’s games are either based on original titles (for example The
Queen’s Gambit and Stranger Things ) or completely their own (like Reigns: The Three Kingdoms ), giving fans a mixture of new and nostalgic. Expansion from media or technology to gaming has not always been easy – Google’s own gaming service, Stadia, was discontinued this year. Companies such as Liverpool’s Ripstone Studios are currently developing games for Netflix’s audience of 238 million, many of whom may not be interested at first glance. By focusing on mobile games, the company is capitalising on accessibility, since the Netflix app is a built-in gaming device. It’s also less financially risky than big console releases, giving Netflix an edge over other entertainment giants. Granted, it will be some time before we can assess whether Netflix’s venture has been in vain.
Alvalinks has launched its first video- aware network observability suite, called Cloudrider. It proactively analyses network health by pinpointing the root cause of outages and errors before alerting providers, simplifying the troubleshooting process for live video delivery. SOFTWARE ALVALINKS ANALYSES NETWORK ATOMOS EMBRACES THE CLOUD Atomos Connect encourages a camera- to-cloud (C2C) workflow thanks to Atomos Cloud Studio, a collection of remote production services. Devices like Atomos Connect can instantly share footage, livestream to social channels and upload directly onto the editing desk, saving users valuable time and hassle during collaborative projects. Axle AI and Disk Archive Corporation are now offering media management bundles – starting at $29,995 – designed to improve workflows across broadcast, corporate, live events, post-production and many other sectors. HARDWARE AXLE AI AND DISK ARCHIVE OFFER
INDUSTRY CVP EXPANDS
CVP has expanded its Belgium facility, allowing for improved communications with, and shipping to, European countries. The new building, located in Vilvoorde, contains more than 850 sq m of offices, demonstration spaces, engineering workshops and warehouses.
ChatGPT reaches new heights
AI chatbot ChatGPT saw record numbers in September, with its mobile app hitting 15.6 million downloads and $4.58 million in gross revenue. While the app is experiencing a peak in popularity, its growth has
actually slowed – revenue grew by 39% in August, but fell to 20% in September. ChatGPT is not the largest AI app in terms of revenue – that would be Ask AI, which brought in $5.51 million in September.
A ChatGPT+ subscription, offering speedier response times, priority access and early exposure to updated features – costs $19.99 per month, deterring many users from making this sizable in- app purchase.
albert shares biodiversity guide for productions SUSTAINABILITY
Albert, Bafta’s sustainability branch and the leading voice in industry environmentalism, recently launched an in- depth guide to biodiversity and production. The guide – a 16-page presentation – outlines key facts about biodiversity, how it’s affected by climate change and laws surrounding environmental protection. The guide covers every aspect of production, from costuming to catering, providing suggestions for minimising impact. While the biodiversity guide focuses its gaze on production, it also states the importance of editorial decisions, including on-
Albert’s checklist is classified as one of five actions: avoid, reduce, regenerate, restore or transform. Albert offers certification to productions that complete its Carbon Action Plan, which both measures and then actively reduces carbon footprint. As sustainability becomes more significant in the industry – both from a socially responsible and strategic perspective – the Albert logo increases in value. Certified productions include 1917, The Graham Norton Show , Downton Abbey and Eastenders . Learn more about albert at wearealbert.org.
Videosys Broadcast has appointed Joseph Electronics as its official North American distributor. Based in Illinois, the company has over seven decades of experience, offering technical expertise as well as transportation and installation. VIDEOSYS APPOINTS JOSEPH
screen portrayals of species, locations and products which may be damaging to the environment. Productions could unintentionally encourage viewers to visit at-risk habitats or interact with endangered animals. Broadcast journalists, documentary filmmakers and other creatives should consider their activities before, during and after every production. Each item in
STREAMING NETFLIX ENDS FREE ACCESS
TIKTOK TIGHTENS RULES According to data presented by Atlas VPN, TikTok removed over 106 million videos for violating its community guidelines in Q2 2023. On top of this, the platform wiped a total of over 107 million accounts. The report suggests the increased removals are a response to concerns over TikTok’s ability to protect users from harmful content and exploitation. SOCIAL MEDIA After two years, Netflix is ending its free plan in Kenya, which gave users access to a selection of shows like Bridgerton and Blood and Water. Netflix has said it plans to introduce an ad-supported subscription, purported to cost £4.99 per month, to encourage new business.
Amagi and 24i have partnered to power Virgin Media’s new FAST channels on its television platform, Virgin TV. The launch includes 14 channels, monetised through ads, with attractive new content and an improved user experience. Virgin TV rolls out FAST channels
Adobe MAXes out its offerings
Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications are getting an upgrade with new Firefly-powered features, increasing power, precision and ease of use. At this year’s Adobe Max – the world’s largest creativity conference – the company announced that Premiere Pro users can now publish directly to major social networks like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok. Plus, a new ‘Share for Review’ button will introduce Premiere users to Frame.io, without them having to leave the application, for more seamless collaboration. Premiere Pro and After Effects also contain impressive text- based editing improvements and Roto Brush availability respectively. Adobe Stock now includes ‘video templates,’ a collection which combines Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects and Motion Graphics templates. The cloud’s new Firefly design model supports text-to-template capabilities, fully editable in Adobe Express. For both these and further upgrades, head to adobe.com.
Danish broadcaster TV 2 Kosmopol has introduced nxtedition, a production automation specialist, into its workflow. Nxtedition’s platform will improve newsroom automation, making TV 2 Kosmopol’s programming more efficient and delivering timely, relevant news content to its end users. SCANDI STATION GETS EFFICIENT
MuxIP has struck a deal with Cindie, a LatAm digital streaming platform specialising in independent entertainment. The automated solutions providers will supply FAST channels for Cindie’s content, delivering both film and television programmes via OTT along with cable and satellite. MuxIP throws its hat into the fast ring
CLOUD Amazon and Microsoft face competition investigation
Amazon and Microsoft are facing a probe over
free choice. With Amazon and Microsoft essentially monopolising the cloud computing sector, businesses struggle to switch providers. CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said: “Strong competition ensures a level playing field so that market power doesn’t end up in the hands of a few players – unlocking the potential of these evolving digital markets so people, businesses and the economy get the maximum benefits.”
Ofcom estimates that, in 2022, the cloud computing sector was worth about £7.5 billion, with many – if not most – businesses relying on cloud services. The CMA is investigating whether the market’s current state is competitive, proposing a conclusion by April 2025. By measuring concepts like the difficulty of switching providers, the CMA can judge whether Amazon and Microsoft should be limited in their scope.
INDUSTRY IBC ANNOUNCES AWARDS
their domination of the UK cloud computing market. According to Ofcom, the pair control between 70 and 80% of the UK sector, with Google – the third-largest player – controlling only 5 to 10%. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently analysing the issue. Market competition is a crucial component of a thriving economy, one which encourages fairness and
IBC revealed its award winners for 2023, which include Warner Bros Motion Picture Group (international honour for excellence award), Eurovision Song Contest (changemaker award) and the Women in Streaming Media Mentorship Program (special award for social impact).
M2A PARTNERS WITH PANASONIC M2A Media and Panasonic Connect have announced a strategic partnership, combining M2A’s cloud-based video solutions with Panasonic’s A/V expertise. Through this collaboration, broadcasters can now access a one-stop software solution for remote production via M2A Connect, integrated with Panasonic Kairos.
EUROPE’S FIRST GEO-CLOUD Cubbit recently unveiled its new
distribution agreement with Exclusive Networks, a cybersecurity specialist for digital infrastructure. Cubbit’s geo- distributed approach allows data to be securely stored across multiple locations within a single country.
KIDS ENJOY IN-CAR ENTERTAINMENT Toggo, a child-centric, multi-screen entertainment service, is now available in cars thanks to 3 Screen Solutions (3SS). The first of its kind, Toggo is a native app based on Android’s Automotive OS, providing kids with TV shows, movies and a digital radio station.
INTERNET SAFETY India stands firm against child abuse
The Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) sent notices to social platforms X, YouTube and Telegram, requesting that all child sexual abuse content be immediately and permanently removed. If the companies do not comply, they could be stripped of all protection from legal liability.
Representatives from both YouTube and Telegram said their platforms have a zero- tolerance policy for child sexual abuse material and all such material is manually removed upon identification. Meity also suggested that the platforms take steps to ensure that abuse doesn’t appear online in the first place.
New podcast promotes media careers
Media Careers, a new podcast led by Carrie Wootten, targets young people interested in just that – media careers. According to the ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage survey, 77% of media employers reported difficulty in filling roles, due primarily to skills shortages. The podcast aims to eliminate barriers to entry and instead promote jobs in media production, development and distribution. Each episode of Media Careers features a guest speaker who’s an industry professional,
whether they be full-time or freelance, on- screen or off-screen. Guests have included Emily Bergun, associate technical specialist at Sky; Gareth Ellis Unwin, producer at Bedlam Film Productions; Sarah McGettigan, head of TV at Pinewood Studios; and Jonathan Coad, PR crisis lawyer at Coad Law. Media Careers is available now on all major streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music.
MAJOR WORDPRESS ACQUISITION Wordpress.com and Tumblr owner Automattic announced the purchase of another company, Texts.com, which brings all messaging apps together into one dashboard. Bought for a tidy $50 million, Texts.com offers end-to-end encryption, the ability to schedule messages and the option to mark messages as unread.
Spotify expands with audiobooks In early October, Spotify announced that Premium
YOUTUBE MUSIC INCORPORATES AI YouTube has introduced a new feature that allows users to create customised playlist art using generative AI. The new, experimental feature allows users to scroll through a number of themes, followed by a choice of prompts. Once those selections have been made, users can click ‘create’ and then choose from a selection of AI- generated images of their playlist art.
users in the UK and Australia can enjoy up to 15 hours of audiobooks per month with their subscription. This feature is scheduled to hit the US in the coming months. That said, Spotify Premium prices increased in both the US and the UK earlier this year. Founded in Sweden in 2006, Spotify has since become the world’s leading platform in music and podcast streaming, with over 220 million paying subscribers as of June 2023. In 2022, it launched audiobooks, challenging Amazon’s Audible, with its other main competitor being Apple Music. Premium subscribers can choose from over 150,000 audiobook titles, with the option to purchase additional ten-hour top-ups as desired.
‘X’ PRICES UP Elon Musk has revealed plans to launch two new tiers of premium subscriptions for social media platform X, formally known as Twitter. Commenting on the plans via X, the tech entrepreneur and owner of the app said the new offering will include a lower cost package with all features and adverts, along with a more expensive advert-free subscription option.
FACEWARE GOES TO UNI CJP Broadcast Service Solutions is the new exclusive provider of Faceware’s motion capture solutions for the education market, bringing the technology to universities across the UK. Students on virtual production and games creation courses can benefit from practical applications of facial capture.
LIVE For-A’s flyaway kit enhances events
For-A has provided a flyaway kit to Dubai-based event production specialist MediaPro International. The system will help produce high- res displays for live events across the Middle East, including concerts, sports and fashion shows.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) takes to the stage each and every year in three theatres, including the oldest Elizabethan stage in the Western Hemisphere. The OSF uses Clear-Com to bring Shakespeare’s iconic work into the 21st century. The OSF recently added Clear-Com’s Central Station to its FreeSpeak II Wireless Intercom and HelixNet Digital Partyline system, which services both the 1200-seat Allen Elizabethan Theatre and the 600-seat Angus Bowmer Theatre. The 300-seat Thomas Theatre includes two Arcadia systems, supporting multiple daily performances of classic titles such as Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night . Though the festival hasn’t yet returned to its pre-pandemic scope, Clear-Com’s solutions have improved and ensured connectivity for years to come. LIVE Clear-Com upgrades Oregon Shakespeare Festival
LIVE Lawo celebrates Bastille Day
For the 11th time, Paris celebrated Bastille Day – which commemorates the storming of the Bastille and beginning of the French Revolution – with a classical music concert underneath the Eiffel Tower. Lawo helped bring Le Concert de Paris to life, aiding French public broadcasters and the Eurovision network with their live sound requirements.
Ahead of the event, Lawo installed two mc²56 mixing desks at the front of the house, a separate one for stage monitoring and another in France Télévisions’ OB truck. To manage mixing radio and TV audio, Lawo deployed the mc²66 console in Radio France’s mobile production unit, supporting feeds from more than 140 microphones.
Featuring performances by the Orchestre National de France and the Chœur and Maîtrise de Radio France, and arrangements by Beethoven and Mozart, the concert saw a crowd of 100,000 gather on the Champ de Mars. The event saw over 3.25 million viewers on France 2 and even more listeners on the France Inter radio channel.
IBC 2023: FLASH MOBS, AWARD WINNERS AND TRANSFORMATIVE TECH
Words by Verity Butler
September saw the doors of the RAI opened once again, with IBC 2023 attracting 43,065 attendees from 170 countries. From male-dominated talks to sustainability struggles, here’s what FEED took away from this year’s show
rom 15 to 18 September, the team from FEED joined over 43,000 attendees in flocking to Amsterdam’s RAI convention centre to celebrate business innovation and discover all there is to learn about the latest in media technology. It was reported that there were 1250 exhibitors, and a 16% increase in total attendees – an upturn that was palpable when navigating the bustling show floor, which felt a far busier hive of activity than the show’s post-pandemic debut last year. “We’ve seen a fantastic turnout from the entire industry at IBC 2023,” describes Michael Crimp, IBC’s CEO. “There was a real sense of purpose at this year’s show as business leaders and tech innovators came together to help our industry navigate change and build a better future for media and entertainment. “I’d like to thank everyone for the ongoing support and participation – we’re looking forward to seeing you all again next year.” This year’s content programme emphasised three core pillars: Transformative Tech, Shifting Business Models and People & Purpose. The number of
speakers lined up had also increased from last year to over 325. WHAT WERE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT? There’s always a dizzying swirl of buzzwords present at trade shows; some stay resolutely at the top of the conversational food chain, however there is always a rise and fall in topic popularity each year. The topics we picked up on, both in the show’s many talks and from exhibitors on the show floor, included the following: • AI • 5G • VR/AR/XR • Gaming • Edge computing These topics were also emphasised by proof- of-concept demonstrations delivered by the IBC Accelerator Media Innovation Programme projects, which championed cross-industry collaboration and new use cases. The focus on gaming was especially hard to miss, with IBC’s launch of an immersive Esports Showcase. Working in partnership with Unlocked, the latest innovations in esports production and delivery were presented; the showcase also acted as a valuable space for industry experts to explore key trends and opportunities at the intersection of gaming and media.
ACTIVE AGENDAS There was plenty to occupy the time of the 43,000 attendees who landed in Amsterdam in September
RISE UP Rise, a group for women in broadcast, as always pulled out all the stops to empower the usually outnumbered female show attendees. It raised the show curtain on Saturday with a flash mob in collaboration with Streaming Media and GalsNGear. Helen Weedon, managing director of Radical Moves, who took part in the flash mob, was quoted in IBC Daily: “We want to show that women are here in force, but highlight that this might be less noticeable as soon as you enter the show floor.” This much was true, and it was hard to ignore the skewing of the equality scale when it came to numbers of male panellists and speakers as opposed to women and non-binary, a recurrent issue at so many trade events throughout the year. But initiatives like Rise having a growing presence at historically male-focused events offers hope for the future. At the Rise stand, 250 ‘emergency kits’ were given away – little bundles of essentials for any woman doing her rounds on the show floor that needed it. Additionally, Rise organised a Safe Car Initiative, which safely escorted 40 women back to their hotels after their evening events had concluded.
THE FOCUS ON GAMING WAS HARD TO MISS, WITH IBC’S LAUNCH OF AN IMMERSIVE ESPORTS SHOWCASE
TOP TALK One of our favourite talks from the whole of IBC 2023 took place on Friday. Its title was ‘Winning over Gen Alpha: What broadcasters and brands need to action now.’ Otherwise known as the ‘second-generation digital natives,’ Gen Alpha differ from Gen Z due to having the opportunity to be connected since they were born. This reliance was further heightened during the Covid-19 pandemic, where school was switched to screens. “I think that the speed of change in how everybody’s consuming, engaging with and making content means that there will likely be a paradigm shift. Second-generation digital natives will be the evolution,” stated Matt Risley, managing director of 4Studio at Channel 4. The talk expounded that ‘generation glass’ and ‘screenagers’ are misnomers, and there is much more to these under-13-year-olds that brands, media outlets and retailers had bargained for. It also explored how young Gen Alpha creators are demonstrating impressive content creation skills as well as a seemingly innate ability to build a brand and market their platforms.
THE AWARD GOES TO… IBC also announced the 2023 winners of its prestigious Innovation Awards and Social Impact Awards. “The winning entries epitomise today’s IBC, which looks to inspire, foster and recognise the transformative innovation and critical change we are witnessing across the media and entertainment industry. They represent the pioneering and collaborative spirit at the heart of IBC, bringing imagination and vision to the work they are doing and sharing it with the wider community,” said Michael Crimp. THE WINNERS OF THE 2023 INNOVATION AWARDS WERE: • CONTENT CREATION The BBC and partners for the world’s largest pop-up 5G stand-alone public network for live broadcast contributions using shared spectrum, deployed for the coronation of HM King Charles III. • CONTENT DISTRIBUTION Sky Group for its cloud-native software playout platform and the origination of linear content TV channels across European territories.
• CONTENT EVERYWHERE KAN, which changed the way Israel
TODAY’S IBC LOOKS TO INSPIRE, FOSTER AND RECOGNISE INNOVATION
watched the Qatar World Cup 2022 and Eurovision 2023 with Sport Buff real-time interactive engagement.
THE WINNERS OF THE 2023 IBC SOCIAL IMPACT AWARDS WERE: • SOCIAL IMPACT AWARD RTVE, which used AI to provide local election news coverage of nearly 5000 small Spanish municipalities. • DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION SWI swissinfo.ch, which introduced a data-driven process to evaluate the use of inclusive language in its newsroom. • ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY Iron Mountain Data Centres, which are on the path to using 100% locally sourced clean electricity 100% of the time to make its operations carbon-free.
WATCH ME! Check out how our IBC 2023 went down!
NOTHING BUT PROGRESS Michael Crimp, IBC CEO, spoke passionately of IBC’s mission in an evolving industry
KEEPING UP In an evolving industry, it’s crucial to keep customers current – whether it’s the latest and greatest equipment or the most attentive service. Pebble specialises in both
e hear it all the time: automation. With advances in broadcast tech and demand for greater
ALWAYS DELIVERING Pebble is the perfect playout partner; learn
more about its software solutions
efficiency, essentially every aspect of production has seen a shift towards automation – playout included. For over two decades, Pebble has provided playout services, specialising in real-time, software-based solutions for the ‘most demanding broadcasts,’ according to Neil Maycock, chief commercial officer. In the company’s years of business, it’s seen significant changes in consumer behaviour – particularly a move from traditional models of distribution towards VOD. “One of the biggest challenges in the broadcast industry is balancing the growing digital VOD market and the traditional linear television market,” explains Maycock. “In many cases,” he says, “digital services are growing quickly in terms of revenue, but most are still loss making. Contrast that with linear, where there is minimal growth or even decline in advertising and subscriptions, but margins are strong, and these services are profitable. “For the playout market specifically, broadcasters are looking to optimise their investment in linear services,” continues Maycock. “They’re seeking greater automation – and technology which can be deployed on cost- effective, hybrid infrastructures.”
LIVE AND IN COLOUR Playout automation is what it sounds like: “executing a time-based schedule of content, including programming and commercials,” states Maycock. When live elements are introduced, the simple concept becomes slightly more complex. “Playout systems must react to frequent, often short-notice changes – for example, ensuring commercial breaks don’t clash with critical moments in the live action.” Pebble Automation simplifies live playout with context-based rules, continuous media validation, high-res pre-viewing and more. In the interest of always facing forward, Pebble recently announced a partnership with Op2mise, “which uses AI to help generate automated FAST channel schedules,” describes Maycock. ONE STEP AHEAD It’s key to stay with the times. Pebble does this in two ways, according to Maycock: “Maintaining an active R&D roadmap and providing proactive and engaged customer support. “Systems such as playout often have evolving needs throughout their lifetime, to cater for programming or presentation styles,” adds Maycock. “Fundamentals – such as supporting
PLAYOUT SYSTEMS MUST REACT TO FREQUENT AND SHORT-NOTICE CHANGES the latest operating systems and security – are key for mission-critical systems.” At Pebble, investing in a technology means investing in the future, not just the needs of today. Customer service is equally important. “It isn’t sufficient to install a system and not communicate with a customer until they contact support with a fault,” argues Maycock. He suggests regular contact to ensure the ‘optimum experience’ and a positive, personal relationship – something Pebble prioritises. More information: pebble.tv
WATCH ME! Find out what Pebble does in just 60 seconds. Follow the code below now!
OPEN INVITATION Having celebrated its grand opening, CVP Fitzrovia is perfectly positioned to become a prime destination for creative professionals
VP is entering its next era with a new showroom to prove it. Based in London’s Fitzrovia neighbourhood,
the single-storey space holds the best gear, letting production pros get their hands on equipment before making a commitment. But CVP Fitzrovia is more than shelves and display cases – it’s meant for collaboration, education and community engagement. SHOW AND TELL CVP’s new Fitzrovia building is both attractive and utilitarian. “We spent a lot of time trying to find a new place,” says Darren Simpson, sales director at CVP. “The old showroom was lovely – it just wasn’t as functional.” First and foremost, it contains a curated selection of products, from cameras and lenses to lighting rigs and dollies. “We’re trying to use it as a destination for people to come to – DOPs, focus pullers, anyone in the industry – as a space where you can touch and feel things, rather than going on the website,” explains Simpson. “People can arrange to come in and build their own camera kits, or test different types of lenses. “It’s an open showroom we can use every day – without having to dismantle,” adds Simpson. “We’ll have events and workshops – all relevant to the industry.” This includes virtual production sessions with a lighting rig and LED volume. WE INVEST AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT IN THE SERVICE AND THE VALUE
CVP Fitzrovia promises to stay busy with regular events, listed chronologically on the CVP website. “The plan is to have at least two or three workshops running out of here, per week. There will always be something going on.” MULTI-PURPOSE SPACE CVP’s doors are open to all, whether they’re London-based or travelling from afar. “It’s an easy place to get to,” explains Simpson, given its proximity to King’s Cross, St Pancras and even Heathrow. During its grand opening alone, CVP welcomed guests from Liverpool, Malta and the US. It’s also fairly accessible, lacking the precarious staircases of old London townhouses. For locals, CVP’s central London address makes it ideal for filmmakers wanting to invest time in checking out equipment and being inspired by some of the many experiences slated to occur within the space. There’s an enclosed meeting area which is less distracting than the office or a coffee shop, but more laid back than a library. “We have extra desks for manufacturers and have even had interest from people who just don’t want to work from home,” says Simpson. With an appointment or booking secured, this is a great place to convene. OUTSIDE THE BOX While CVP may be best-known by filmmakers, it’s not confined to one area of production. “We’re invested in broadcasting,” says Jon Fry, managing director. “We’ve been pigeonholed as a little bit cine, and there’s a reason for that – we appeal to that market.”
For broadcasts and live streams, CVP offers encoders and decoders, intercom systems, wireless monitors and cables, among other accessories. “We are brand agnostic – we sell everything,” asserts Simpson. “People ask why they should spend X amount of money more for this brand over that brand, this model over that model.” PTZ cameras have been an especially big hit. CVP carries over 200 models, including brands like Birddog, Canon, Panasonic and Sony. For those visiting Fitzrovia, the PTZs can be found just inside the front door. THE FLOOR IS YOURS Variety, accessibility, sustainability: these are all attributable to CVP. More than simply buying and selling, “we deliver beyond boxes,” says Fry. “We actually invest an enormous amount in the service and the value.” CVP Fitzrovia invites customers to start a conversation. “We’re not just telling people what we think they want to hear. We’re asking: what’s relevant?” admits Fry. “We’re keen, and have a bit
COME AND SEE CVP’s Fitzrovia showroom is stocked with hundreds of PTZ cameras
to learn here. Come talk to us.” More information: cvp.com
Words by Kevin Emmott
We no longer need to be together to have a shared experience, with people now consuming live content in a variety of ways. But this loses a large part of what makes live events so compelling: connection to the action. FEED explores how immersive audio invites us back in
ot that long ago, when something was live on TV you had to make time to see it. You had to show up and be physically present in front of the box. What if it was never shown again?
But live events are as much about feeling like we’re part of something bigger as they are about the actual content, and as we access more of our media on devices, we are increasingly disengaged both from the action and each other. In these environments, it is not what we see but what we hear that provides the connection. It’s no surprise that the desire for immersive or spatial audio is on the increase. FEELING THE CONNECTION According to Qualcomm’s latest State of Sound Report, spatial audio is the next ‘must-have’ feature. More than half of those surveyed claimed that “spatial audio will have an influence on their decision to buy their next pair of true wireless earbuds, and 41% said they would be willing to spend more for the feature.”
For many people, squeezing in front of the TV is still a worthwhile social activity, but widespread connectivity means it doesn’t have to be. Today, we have unfiltered access to whatever we want, whenever we want it, wherever we are. We don’t have to rush home from work to watch the World Cup final live on TV if we can watch it on the bus on a device we keep in our pockets. HOW COOL IS THAT? The irony is, in this increasingly connected world, more and more of us are consuming media content in a totally disconnected way.
When we think of immersive audio, we think of 3D sound – and it’s everywhere, from gaming to streaming music to live broadcasting, adding value to each presentation. According to audio and recording manager Gerardo Marrone, who has spent this summer producing a series of live immersive events at London’s Kings Place: “There has always been a sensory conflict between what you see and what you hear, but the main focus of the performance no longer has to be on the stage, and can provide an intimate connection between the art and the people. The audience becomes part of the performance, not just a witness to it.” Whatever the medium, spatial audio adds value and turns a presentation into an experience. But while more consumers are switching on to it, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. BINAURAL AUDIO Binaural audio is a two-channel format which dates back to 1881 and provides an immersive environment by mimicking how our ears work. When we hear sound, we organically filter it depending on location. Binaural recordings take positional information from a pair of microphones and apply a filter, similar to how we do. We do this naturally using three localisation cues. The interaural level difference is how loud the sound is, so if it is louder in one ear we know the source is on the side nearest that ear, while the interaural timing difference is how long it takes to get from one ear to the other.
The third is head-related transfer function (HRTF), which provides information based on average ear and head shapes. It provides information for the height plane as well as position and distance. Binaural recordings are often created using dummy heads, complete with mics implanted in dummy ears. For programming, these effects can also be created artificially using delay and panning on an audio workstation or mixing console. The reason we’re banging on about it is because binaural mixes are a big reason why immersive audio is so popular. Binaural is a standard two- channel delivery, so consumers only need a pair of headphones to experience it. And as Qualcomm knows, this is the preferred delivery method to millions of phone users across the planet. THE BIG NAMES Developed in 2012, Dolby Atmos has done more to popularise immersive audio than anything else and is the most recognisable encoded immersive format around. It consists of essentially a 5.1 or 7.1 surround mix, with additional speakers in the height channel. Apple Music is another early adopter that has worked hard to bring spatial audio to market, with millions of people experiencing it through Apple Spatial Audio, which decodes Atmos content to a binaural format across thousands of songs on the streaming service. These implementations have helped consumers appreciate the benefits, and the content production industry is responding positively, with stereo albums
not only being converted to spatial formats but mixed as immersive-first productions. Robert Edwards is a double Bafta award- winning sound director and fellow of the Institute of Professional Sound. He has spent nearly 50 years mixing audio across live news, sports and entertainment and has been working with multichannel audio since the introduction of 5.1 surround sound in the mid-2000s. “Apple Music is a great example of immersive integration,” he says. “For a lot of music the default delivery is an Apple lossless mix in Atmos because it does sound incredible. You can have a seriously good listening experience and the music world is embracing that. “Classical music really does benefit from the space that is created in the music, but a great stereo mix is paramount as it still has to sound good on the radio. Equally, people are enjoying a value-added experience.” FIREWORKS Edwards understands the value of spatial audio better than most. In 2022 and 2021, he presented millions of viewers with full live, immersive coverage of both the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Winter and Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. In fact, as a testament to how popular the format is, those events provided immersive coverage for more than 100 different events, with audio in the height channels as well as 5.1 surround. “You’ve got to have a plan for immersive,” says Edwards. “You can’t just roll up with 12 microphones and expect to get something out of it. It is more subtle than that and needs more care. “My mixing philosophy was to divide the stadium into levels. The field of play was a 5.1 surround mix
MIXING MASTER Robert Edwards is a double Bafta award-winning sound director and fellow of the Institute of Professional Sound. He understands the value of spatial audio better than most, having worked on live events including the Eurovision Song Contest and the Beijing and Tokyo Olympic Games
at ground level, but we had another plane at the same height as the PA speakers, and because big events like these often have firework displays, there was a third level to provide extra oomph for people listening in an immersive world.” WHAT IF WE’RE NOT THERE? This highlights one of the challenges of where we are on the road to full spatial audio, and one of the challenges for sound engineers is how to cater for all listeners. Despite the popularity of 3D soundbars, which bounce height channels off the living room ceiling, and spatial renderers, which create binaural mixes for earbuds, we are all at different points on that journey – and we are not all there yet. The vast majority of people are still living in two-channel stereo world, and not everything is attached to a streaming service which will automatically create a spatial mix for you. “How your fantastic multichannel mix ends up when it is downmixed on TV speakers for the majority of people when they are sat on their sofa is an age-old problem, and a lot of effort goes into ensuring the downmix still sounds good for the majority of viewers,” says Edwards. “In an Atmos presentation, you are often adding information into the height channels, which doesn’t necessarily contribute in a positive way to what you’re doing at the base level, so there’s a balance to be found. If the mix is a totally dedicated Atmos mix and you know all your immersive channels are staying as discrete channels, then that issue is lessened. But you must be aware how much colouration these extra layers add to any downmix most viewers will be experiencing.
AUDIO DYNAMITE For Robert Edwards, immersive audio will find a home in streaming platforms, but while now is the time to be creative, eventually the approach will have to be more commercially minded
“What you have collected in an immersive environment should also have a positive impact to the downmixes. With something like the fireworks, it was vital to make sure that this top layer was not just a Dolby Atmos effect. While promoting the fireworks for the Atmos world in the top layer above your head, I had to be mindful of how to integrate it so it could be heard in the main mix for those listening in stereo.” CHANNELS VS OBJECTS The way we have traditionally experienced audio in live broadcast is channel-based, where each audio channel is mixed to a specific loudspeaker; two channels are fed into two speakers for stereo, six channels for 5.1 surround, 12 channels for 7.1.4 immersive and so on. Spatial audio is different in that it treats some components as independent objects, and an object can be anything from a single commentator mic to a direct stadium PA feed, or fireworks. Each object has associated metadata to describe what it is, such as its level and where it is positioned in space, and immersive scenes are created using multiple objects which each have a place in that scene. Receivers on consumer devices use the information in the metadata to reproduce the
THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE ARE STILL LIVING IN TWO-CHANNEL STEREO WORLD, AND NOT EVERYTHING IS ATTACHED TO A STREAMING SERVICE
soundscape as the mixer intended, and create the downmix accordingly to meet the listening requirements of the consumer equipment. In this way, formats like Dolby Atmos can work for 3D soundbars as well as a stereo or binaural format; it is the metadata that contains all the information to produce every mix. GETTING PERSONAL Objects unlock opportunities for broadcasters to create more immersion as the embedded metadata also provides the ability for end users to personalise their listening experience. It enables viewers to change the contribution of enabled objects such as crowd noise or commentary, and while we are not there quite yet, broadcasters are close. AI is being trialled to create multiple audio mixes in real time, and the BBC is trialling personalised mixes from events like Eurovision, which Edwards was also involved in. “At Eurovision, metadata enabled the BBC to generate an immersive mix from the feeds I was sending them, but also offer a choice of commentary. It was an opportunity to look at real- time metadata manipulation where consumers can choose to listen to the show. In the future, this will extend to other languages. “Viewers will have access to select not only which audio they want to listen to but also where that commentary might fit in the sound field. You could choose to have the commentator as if they were sat alongside you, in the front and centre as normal, or even behind you. You could even turn it off. It goes beyond just immersive; it’s taking what’s being generated within the immersive environment and using it in a different way.” GOING OVER THE TOP Ultimately, as much as consumers are waking up to the benefits, we’re still waiting for the tipping point. Consumer buy-in is there, delivery methods like
the Audio Definition Model (ADM) are proven, and consumer equipment that enables spatial listening is everywhere. Content providers are also looking at ways to increase the value proposition for their customers, with Netflix already offering its stereo customers programming that creates spatialised experiences. Since June 2022, the streaming platform has been using Sennheiser’s Ambeo 2-Channel Spatial Audio renderer on more than 700 presentations to create what Sennheiser calls an ‘enhanced two-channel mix’ from an immersive signal. According to Edwards, it’s likely that it is in streaming where immersive audio will find a home. “While Sky’s standard production format for delivery is 5.1 and Dolby Atmos for premier sports, ITV has no requirement for any programming to be anything more than stereo, and other terrestrial broadcasters who have experimented with multiple- channel formats have pulled away because of delivery issues,” he suggests. “However, the Eurovision 5.1 multichannel mix is available on the BBC’s streaming platforms and YouTube in that same format. The market for this technology isn’t generally terrestrial; it is being led by the streaming services. “It’s going to come from the commercialisation of the product. Rather like Apple has done with its music service, somebody will take ownership and say we’re going to be a channel that’s going to do UHD and immersive delivery, rather like Sky have done for the Premier League, because those two things will go side by side. “Broadcasters have got to have a business plan for it. In the meantime, we’re all happy to experiment, to dabble creatively around and learn about it, because at some stage somebody in a suit will make it a selling point. And then all of a sudden they’ll ask where the content is. “And we can all go, yeah, we can do that – and it becomes the next big thing.”
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