Sustainability matters: Embracing a modular IP and cloud-based approach to live production with Sony
By Norbert Paquet, Sony Europe head of live production.
Every business in the sports broadcasting world is driven by its bottom line. However, as concern over the environment, climate change and our planet’s future builds, it is no longer enough to look solely at financial performance to achieve success.
Today’s customers and stakeholders expect more. We, as businesses, expect more. There is a heartening shift towards more sustainable practices and processes in every industry and with our Road to Zero plan for a carbon neutral Sony by 2040, our organisation is no different.
To that end, one of our focus areas is live production. The wider broadcasting industry is already moving at pace to reduce its carbon impact, yet live production has remained sticky at the wheel. Why?
Because live production is a dynamic beast. Every production has its own nuanced requirements, dependent on many variables: studio or location, power supply requirements, on-site staff needs and so on. Unfortunately, we can’t just apply one templated, end-to-end approach to live production that solves all the sustainability challenges. There isn’t one.
But it follows that if the inherent problem is that there are many moving parts, surely there is space to embed more sustainable actions in some, if not all, parts of the production chain? That is to say, if we break down live production systems and operations into individual components, can’t we identify individual opportunities for sustainable solutions that diminish the overall carbon impact of a live production ecosystem?
The answer is yes, we can. Leveraging IP and cloud technology allows this modular approach to become a reality. By providing operational solutions that embrace modularity through IP, virtualisation and the cloud, modular solutions can be enabled across the complete production lifecycle (engineering, set up, production, tear-down).
Today’s software and cloud-enabled technology can be used to power the core processing capabilities required for a production. For instance, all the functionality of an OB truck would remain, but the functions would be split into parts (rather than all housed in one monolithic facility) and IP technology would be used to interconnect each part together if needed. The parts can be separated or combined depending on the unique needs of the production.
Flexibility built in
The result is that a live production player uses only what it needs. It has the flexibility to adopt the workflows which work best for it, including remote or centralised production. Using remote and distributed systems also means production can be run across multiple locations – for example, a control room in London can be connected to a live set in Manchester – without the cost, both monetary and environmental, of physically transporting equipment between sites.
Cloud technology is very cost-effective in terms of equipment as well; in this context, considering the tendency to employ extra equipment on productions just to handle periodically higher processing loads, the benefit is enormous. Cloud computing can be used as a full solution in the modular approach, or as part of a hybrid solution where it complements grounded, mission-critical systems that cannot be replaced with cloud – it can handle peaks in processing and reduce the need for extra equipment that is otherwise idle most of the time.
It also reduces costs by enabling remote working and placing less drain on resources at physical sites. Remote production staff further means fewer feet on the ground moving between locations, and the versatility for people to work on more than one project at a time. Everyone’s personal carbon footprint goes down.
This means no more hugely over-resourced productions that have to over-prepare ‘just in case it’s needed’; and no more OB trucks carrying 40 tonnes of equipment at once, travelling the land and emitting greenhouse gases that presently account for a quarter of Europe’s emissions. By employing modular solutions linked by IP, operators can slash their on-site infrastructure, transport costs and risk of overprovision, and substantially reduce overall emissions.
At such an embryonic stage, it is difficult to truly quantify the effect of modularity on sustainability in live production. But, based on reasonable projections, it is easy to imagine that in time the impact will be hugely rewarding.
In a recent trial by the IBC’s Accelerator Media Innovation Programme, a team of broadcasters and technology providers used an IP workflow to broadcast a Premier League football game and saw considerable cost benefit from a modular approach. The amount of fuel required on-site was reduced by over 50%, and on-site technical infrastructure by 70%. Smaller OB trucks were utilised as their functionality was broken up, resulting in a 5% reduction in tonnes of C02e in comparison to traditional approaches.
If operators within the sports broadcasting sector embrace this opportunity to minimise resources and waste wherever they can, the industry will both future-proof itself and create positive long-term growth for the entire value chain. As 2023 approaches we are optimistic that live production will play its part in a sustainable ecosystem of broadcasting on the global stage.