SportTechUK 2013: reflections on the IT, broadcast relationship

The IT revolution in broadcast is well underway, as panellists attested during a session on file-based workflows at SportTechUK last week. But there is still much work to be done to continue to bring the IT and broadcast engineering communities closer together.

“To see the benefits of IT just look at the Netherlands where each stadium in the country has a direct fibre connection to the broadcast centre,” said Laurent Petit, EVS, product manager. “There is a whole world of possibilities where live capture can be [more easily tied] to post production and used for the second screen. We are only at the beginning.”

Bruce Devlin, Amber Fin CTO, moderated the discussion that touched on everything from the need for consistent and simplified IT standards, the role of traditional IT equipment (aka not built by a traditional broadcast manufacturer), and more.

Arnd Kohrs, Aspera, senior sales engineer, for example, said that projects Aspera has been involved with, like the NBC Olympics workflow that allowed for an NBC facility in New York City to move content as files to London last summer, made the point that commoditised hardware that is used for storing large databases can be suitable and more affordable than other options. NBC Olympics, for example, had a ‘Highlights Factory’ that allowed editors in New York to work on low-res proxies of content that mirrored the high-res content and was connected via 10 Gbps links.

“It’s a good idea to jump on the IT bandwagon and profit from the revolution,” he added. “And without core IT technology it would have otherwise been difficult to move content around as files. And we’re helping the industry to transform to multiple layers so they can have innovative second-screen applications, distributed workflows, and editors around the world cutting highlights.”

Inge Hillestad, Nevion, product manager, added that evolving technologies like JPEG2000 and mature technologies like MXF wrappers that contain audio and video files continue to change the way IT technologies can be applied.

“Contribution [via file-based workflows] today can have frame alignment of video, audio, and data and maintain the timing relationship,” he explained.

And metadata, as always, continues to play a larger and larger role in making sure content not only gets from point A to point B but is also retrievable and usable.

“Metadata has come of age now,” said Matthew Gyves, Adobe Systems Europe, senior business development. “And now you have a digital archive and extract information from it where as just a few years ago there was no practical application for that metadata.”

But MXF, added Gyves, is not the panacea for everything. “Before you know it there were tweaks to MXF and the standard started to bloat,” he explained. “So it becomes meaningless and useless. The whole industry has to try and agree on an [approach to MXF].”

Shane Warden, IMG Media House, general manager, added that there is often a feeding frenzy for content when it comes into a facility. And IT technologies have become so prevalent that the fear is not the feed going down but an IP conflict that can often prevent access to the right content or impact how content is ingested into a facility.

Scott Luehrs, Avid, global solution consultant, said that metadata strategies today need to look beyond simply describing the content. “More and more people need to get their hands on content, whether on site [at the event] or at the broadcast centre,” he said. “It allows the automation of processes…and in sports there is such a demand for structured metadata and standards. But those are no longer the responsibility of the broadcast community but the business side.”

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