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MAGAZINE (PRINT & ONLINE)
VIDEO ROUND TABLE
NEWSLETTERS (TWICE WEEKLY)
THOUGHT LEADERSHIP AND CASE STUDIES
P networks are well-established in the world of media production. The question companies now ask is not whether to incorporate IP-based tools, but which flavours they will use and in what ways. The newest addition to the mix is 5G cellular technology, which enables much faster data speeds and lower latency, creating better experiences for end users and new opportunities for content creators and owners. But moving broadcast-quality live video across a public IP network of any kind requires a smart protocol to protect and a software platform to orchestrate and manage that stream. Video transport specialist Zixi has been working on improving the delivery of live video over 5G in partnership with Verizon and AWS via its new AWS Wavelength Zones, which embed AWS compute and storage services within data centres at the edge of a 5G network. Zixi isn’t just experimenting for the fun of it, it’s currently working with a major “Broadcast quality means ‘no errors,’” says Zixi’s CEO, Gordon Brooks. “When it comes to 5G, people don’t think about the B2B media workflows companies use to deliver content. They think of the possibilities for consumers or in-venue experiences, but there are also cost-effective 5G capabilities available now that enable you to do things you can’t with satellite.” This first use case involves a distribution in which 5G bonded with 4G LTE Advanced will be used to deliver a national broadcaster ’s content live to affiliates across the country in 4K UHD. “Distributing 4K over satellite just breaks the satellite – too many bits and bytes,” says Brooks. “So we’re taking a live signal from New York using the Zixi protocol, putting it into the AWS broadcaster committed to going live with broadcast-quality video over 5G technology immediately. Wavelength Zone via 5G and moving it to where it can best be distributed to those affiliates via 5G all managed by Zixi’s Software- Defined Video Platform.” AWS Wavelength Zones are still being rolled out across the US so Zixi has developed some clever workarounds. Many regions will still be running 4G LTE Advanced networks, and Zixi is able to bond 4G LTE and 5G availability together, which allows sharing of bandwidth between the two signals as well as a fail-safe in the case of complete failure of one or the other. The cellular bonding is backed up
with contribution from the public internet, allowing the signal to reach just about any location. This is broadcast television, so the bar is 99.999% reliability. Zixi also employs network-aware adaptive bit rate technology to help mitigate against throttling bandwidth speeds on the fly. “Using Zixi’s unique ability to adapt the video quality to the available bandwidth, hence maintaining stream continuity and minimising QoE impact,” explains Zixi’s vice- president of customer success and solutions, Emeka Okoli. “This advantage can be leveraged by endpoint devices with varying degrees of bit rate thresholds.” Content security over 5G has also been part of the Zixi/Verizon trials. 5G brings benefits for connectivity, but what content security advantages – or vulnerabilities – come along with it? “Protecting content as the signal traverses different various network segments is paramount,”
FEED: It’s been a busy year, but especially for news organisations and the companies who serve them. How did you and your organisations weather the storms of 2020?
RUBA IBRAHIM: All the plans that we had last year at Al Arabiya had to be thrown away.We had to totally shift the way we were thinking, the way we were operating and our priorities.We manage two news channels and digital platforms, websites and social media. News is our bread and butter. We expected 2020 to be all about the American elections, and then we would have other coverage in our main target areas in the Middle East and North Africa.We only broadcast in Arabic with English only on our website. At the beginning of the pandemic, of course, there was panic.We always had plans to go to the cloud and to function remotely, but we had only tested a couple of things. Suddenly we were in a situation where, in a week, we had to pull most of our staff out of the office.We kept about 15 to 20% of the critical newsroom staff and had to make arrangements for people to start operating from their homes.We needed all our reporters, producers, graphics people, creative people, promo people – almost everybody except for the playout was operating remotely. There were challenges – and there are still challenges – but it went on without a glitch on air. And that was my main concern, that the change go unnoticed by the audience. But one of the main challenges we had is that we were in the process of launching our new newsroom and studios, which was a big project we were working on for the last year.The launch was supposed to take place mid to late March, and then the pandemic came.We wondered if it was an appropriate time.To brag about your top-notch, futuristic studio while people are dying is not very appropriate. At the same time, people have worked so hard and the studio has a totally different look, so people will know. When we realised things weren’t going back to normal, we thought we might as well launch the new
studio, and it was successful. We introduced a lot of new technologies; automation, robotic cameras and new augmented reality. We function in an Avid environment, use Dalet for some of our asset management on the programme side and are big customers of Vizrt. It’s been challenging, but I would call it a successful experience.
Zixi is developing tools in partnership with Verizon and AWS to make 5G a go-to technology for live broadcast
n 2020, IP production took centre stage for media production. The need for flexible, remote workflows during Covid lockdowns – with talent and crew often working from their living rooms – pushed companies who had been sitting on the fence to finally embrace the scalability and flexibility offered by the Internet Protocol realm. IP means more feeds from more sources, which is an amazing resource to have – better to be swamped with too many choices than stuck with one locked-off camera with rain on the lens. Even small productions now have the facility to pipe in video from a huge number of sources. But this cornucopia of options – especially when a good percentage of them might be in remote locations – requires better monitoring systems to keep teams from being overwhelmed. But getting the right multiviewer solution for the IP world also means solving some technological problems. According to Jason Taubman, the senior vice- president of technology at mobile production company, Game Creek, the move to IP has been driven by hardheaded business decisions. “One of the things that pushed us to IP to begin with was the ability to expand the capability of our OB trucks without expanding the weight or size. We now have clients asking for 4K HDR productions at scale and, in order to pull that off, we need to look to technologies
that provide a lot higher density in terms of the infrastructure,” he says. When shopping for multivewers to monitor these new higher-density productions, the most important quality for Taubman is low latency. The SDI world, despite its limitations, was capable of delivering virtually zero latency. Tackling latency issues has been one of the fundamental tasks in developing IP technology for broadcast. “For the longest time we were doing discrete, stand-alone multiviewers, rather than a matrix-type multiviewer. The processing time in the matrix multiviewers was just too long. We like to keep our multiviewers to sub-frame latency in the live environment,” he adds.
THERE ARE ALSO COST-EFFECTIVE 5G CAPABILITIES AVAILABLE NOW THAT ENABLE YOU TO DO THINGS YOU CAN’T DOWITH SATELLITE
CARL SWANSTON: It was similar for us at the CBC. Fortunately, we were on the heels of all of our main projects.We had a large technical renewal project inToronto, updating our studio facilities and control rooms, and we ended that project last summer. So going into the winter, we were in good shape. My colleagues on the French side in Montreal were in the midst of moving locations, and that has been quite challenging. We were reporting this news through January and March, but it wasn’t hitting home. And it wasn’t until the beginning of March that people started getting into contingency modes.We started securing outside facilities for radio and television.We locked down our building to guests.We had cameras and remote radio booths set up in the lobby for guests. We had opted for the Google ecosystem a few years ago – we’re heavy users of Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Hangouts – and that was really helpful, because our people were already using these tools. Also we had stockpiled laptops for a Windows 10 project and for the Olympics, and on the English-language side we were able to deploy 530 laptops to the staff that needed them in a few weeks. So luck was on our side.We had to quickly add Citrix licenses andVPNs. In some instances, we deployed people, like graphics designers, with their desktop computers.We also quickly discovered Teradici, virtual desktop technology. All of our editors work remotely. It’s odd, because we have edit suites that are completely empty, but the editors are accessing those CPUs and editing remotely. It’s quite eerie, seeing all these empty rooms and yet the machines are all busy working. Also, CBC is not new to remotely producing news and special events like the Olympics.We had a very robust team of production folks helping us with technology. But part of the difficulty was it all happened during March break, when kids are off school.With daycare and camps closed, everything shut down and our employees found it very difficult to be home working with kids that need attention.
“ALLTHE PLANS THATWE HAD LAST YEAR HAD TO BE THROWN AWAY”
Esports made its return to in-venue tournaments with this spring’s Dota 2 Singapore Major, produced by PGL FEED34_Cover EY JN AB.indd 1
says Okoli. “Zixi applies several security mechanisms, such as DTLS using ZEN Master to mitigate against eavesdropping, DDoS and man- in-middle attacks. These security mechanisms help certify that all the recipients along the chain are who they say they are.” There are many opportunities out there for 5G to improve the customer experience, as well as drive new revenue. “The cinema industry, for example, has been one of many sectors hardest hit by this year ’s Covid-19 pandemic,” explains Okoli. “5G can offer a technological boost for big-screen venues with ultra-low-latency, high-volume data transfer to leverage live broadcast content, high-quality – even 8K – content for sports. ”Besides being more reliable, the truth is that speed does matter on 5G. For instance, Zixi’s free OnAIR mobile app has been used for live sports and ENG across hundreds of stations. With Verizon 5G, along with Zixi’s adaptive bonding, we were able to successfully test a live 4K 60p contribution feed from an iPhone at 20Mbps bit rate at under 100 milliseconds. The test was conducted with bonded multiple 5G access points for seamless fail-over.” He concludes: “Consumers will expect to experience higher quality feeds for various live content, such as breaking news events, live sports and crowd sourced content. This is truly game changing.”
WE WERE DOING DISCRETE, STAND- ALONE MULTIVIEWERS. THE PROCESSING TIME IN THE MATRIXMULTIVIEWERS WAS JUST TOO LONG
Lawo has solved the problem of bandwidth- hogging signals, which can handicap large-scale multiviewers. With its vm_dmv multiviewer app for the V__matrix platform, even UHD signals are easy on the eyes – and the IP network
Raoul Cospen, director of product strategy for news, Dalet
ON AIR Al Arabiya’s brand-new, state-of-the-art newsroom had to launch in the middle of the pandemic
Tom Dickinson, president of US-based operations, TSL Products
Ruba Ibrahim, director of operations, Al Arabiya
Mark Pizzey, BBC key account programme manager,Vizrt
Carl Swanston, director of news operations, CBC News
Neal Romanek, editor, FEED
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