EVS: Replaying 30 years of innovation and looking to the future at NAB

NAB: EVS’ stand at the 2016 exhibition

NAB provides the industry with an annual opportunity to look to the future, but for EVS – celebrating its 30th anniversary this year – the Las Vegas exhibition is also a chance to celebrate the company’s past.

At this year’s NAB, EVS is billing its presence as a showcase of the result of 30 years of innovation, with products and services spanning live production, replays and highlights, content management and distribution, real-time processing and routing, as well as video assistance for critical decision-making during live sports.

It’s a long way from the company’s origins, as chief marketing officer Nicolas Bourdon explains. It was in February 30 years ago that the company was officially created by two founders:  Pierre L’Hoest and Laurent Minguet in Liège, Belgium.

They had a fascination with video, but as an architect and civil engineer, it was video dedicated towards building and construction, such as 2D renderings for architects. “They failed twice,  and so they reoriented towards broadcast and luckily decided to associate with one of their suppliers of video cards – the third founder of the company – and this became the recipe for success with technology that combined video recorder based on hard recording associated to a basic replay system, the beauty of which enabled replay while recording and provided an alternative to the tape or VTR-based recorder.”

The EVS stand at NAB 2003

The company’s early years were then characterised by its pioneering work in tapeless TV technology, with its Live Slow-Motion (LSM) system swiftly becoming the standard replay technology broadcast sporting events.

A couple of years after it was founded, EVS was present at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta as a supporter of Panasonic Supermotion cameras and since then, EVS has been a regular fixture at the largest global sporting events, routinely part of the production infrastructure at Summer and Winter Olympic Games, FIFA World Cups, UEFA European Championships.

“I would say it was around the early 2000s that we had the next generation of servers,” says Bourdon. “So there was a second wave of acceleration; we saw the introduction of our first HD system and then there was a big acceleration between to 2008.

“Also, the implementation of the first IP director, which I would say was a smart move from the trucks towards the studios where we had effectively entered into production asset management for the big events like the US Open which effectively received the first asset management system, along with OBS and HBS.

“So on top of actually doing the all the replays and highlights in the trucks, we were providing solutions that were ingesting all the feeds from the different competitions, and then logging everything. So everything was recorded on EVS servers and offered as a service for all the media media rights licensees. Really, the first launch of that was in 2006 for the Torino Olympics, followed by the FIFA World Cup and then we kept expanding from there.”

Read more Interview: EVS CEO Serge Van Herck on innovation and exceeding expectation

“But really, I would say it was at the end of 2019 when Serge (chief executive Serge Van Herck) joined… we were successful already, but we were still looking at where to develop. We had a really hard time to agree on the vision, and so we did an exercise and formed a new management team and undertook some strategic exercises. We brought together 35 people from different departments, and we did a series of workshops and went through a process of defining what we called the ‘BHAG’ – the ‘big, hairy, audacious goal’. We asked ourselves, who do we want to become? And, and we did that exercise and we came up with the conclusion that we want to be the number one in live industry.”

At the heart of this, is an ongoing shift from products to solutions, explains Bourdon. “We had some 80 different products, some isolated product bits and pieces here and there, which we were trying to sell independently from each other. The challenge has been to turn those into solutions, with the ultimate goal of building an ecosystem.

“The goal we set back in 2020 was to be number one in live production by 2030, so that gave us ten years to change; to expand our portfolio and change from products to solutions, meaning that we combine different products together with a level of service. And this is where we created LiveCeption, MediaCeption, MediaInfra and then lately MediaHub and Powervision. So we have five categories of solutions, which are effectively a combination of products plus service as well. ”

NAB 2024

During a press conference ahead of NAB, Bourdon spoke about what EVS will focus on during the exhibition. VIA MAP, the integrated media asset platform bridging the worlds of production and distribution – connecting together the different environments of LiveCeption, MediaCeption, MediaHub and PowerVision and allowing navigation between them, will be showcased.

“Second is the introduction of new business models, where we will present a new XT-VIA licensing model offering three different flavors from the same server — Multicam, Spotbox and Sportlight — offering different types of density but also multiple applications customers will be able to activate and de-activate on demand.

“Another innovation we will bring is extensions to Neuron high-density processing with the new audio channel shuffling, but also the multiviewer with low latency and high-density ability to really master all types of control rooms in terms of multiviewing.”

For the Cerebrum control system and orchestrator EVS will introduce a new touch panel and also several categories of user interface that will be packages for different types of applications done in that domain.

“Looking at artificial intelligence we have XtraMotion that offers automated I-frame regeneration of all camera frame rates. On top of that, our team has been working on AI proof of concepts in preparation for productisation.

The EVS stand at last year’s NAB

“One of them is deblurring, highly required in live environments with real-time processing to increase the sharpness of the image used for replays. Another one with AI is auto-cropping, changing the aspect ratio to adapt to the different types of smartphones for social media taking into consideration the tracking of motion and actions,” said Bourdon.

The theme for this year’s anniversary is ‘Family & Friends: Together for Live’, which Bourdon said is a representation of the gratitude the company has for “the hundreds of customers, 620 people working as part of the team at EVS, the 7,000 operators worldwide, and also our suppliers, partners, and shareholders. All of these people are creating the real value of what EVS is today”.

And it’s not just products and services that will be on display in Las Vegas. As Bourdon explains: “As part of our celebrations, we are introducing our dedicated EVS beer, specially brewed in Liège, called La Trente (The Thirty), which all EVS friends and family will be able to taste this year.”

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