SVG Europe Sit-Down: Luke Harrison from RT Software discusses developments in AR and AI

Since its inception in 2004, RT Software has achieved industry firsts such as per pixel lighting, shader frameworks and improved render techniques such as PBR.

The company has customers straddling all continents and a mature product range encompassing virtual studios and augmented reality, sports analysis, 4k video stitching, 2d and 3d overlay solutions and embeddable graphics libraries for OEMs.

Our discussion with Technical Product Marketing Manager, Luke Harrison, covered a whole range of topics.

You recently said “2018 looks to be shaping up to be a defining year for live graphics and video production”. What did you mean by that statement – and has your prediction been justified?

The move to virtualisation where broadcasters are saving on rackspace by rendering multiple channels of graphics from one workstation is happening. Our solution has been deployed with several major customers over the past year and it continues to be of major interest particularly in broadcast playout.

Luke Harrison, Technical Product Marketing Manager, RT Software

Part of what makes virtualisation possible is distributed control, where multiple users can control the same render resource from multiple locations. RT Software’s web control solution enables this by allowing control from any network connected device through a web browser with permissions defined by a log in. We have seen customers take this up in various different cases, such as an operator simply updating phone-in numbers or social media tags through to more complex graphics including use on a live football match.

As far as IP goes, standards have now converged into SMPTE 2110 and we see growth in this area. We continue to develop our products to encapsulate these standards.

Our support for NewTek NDI is now manifest by our inclusion of RT Software sports telestration products on the NewTek Web store, providing us with a new route to market for these customers.

We have consolidated our 4K support, with a number of installed bases and are continuing development on HDR to include both PQ and HLG. Our belief is that HLG will become the defining standard for live broadcast production, but support for PQ is important in broadcast playout.

Has the increase of OTT applications – with the same events being received on many different devices — affected the way graphics are created?

OTT means that more and more viewers have options to watch broadcasts in multiple different delivery and screen formats, sometimes simultaneously — “Second Screen”. They may be watching on a traditional 16×9 screen or a tablet or phone, over the air or by web streaming. The issue for all content providers is how to make sure their content fits each possible medium. For graphics creators, that means that canvas size and ratio is important. We have added support into our graphics products for abstract canvas areas — which means that we can support anything from the smallest mobile phone up to 16k video walls.

The challenge here is to enable workflows that provide automatic conversion of graphic templates to different platforms and we have managed in some situations to automate this. Our integration with Grass Valley Rio NLE allows simultaneous graphic definitions in multiple formats.

What is your latest offering when it comes to tOG-Sports?

RT Software is actually well down the path with our next generation of telestration products, Tactic.

Tactic takes all the functionality of tOG-Sports that users love, such as ease of creating graphic sequences for fast turnaround, but in a completely redesigned interface that allows even the most complex sequences to be built quickly. This includes ease of use features such as editable animation paths, an animation timeline and the ability to create composite graphics by combining two or more standard graphics together.

Tactic has already been released for the sports professional market where it has had considerably take up within leading clubs and federations, and we are looking forward to showing the full broadcast version this IBC.

Augmented Reality is almost a ‘must have’ for many sports productions. What is the next stage in the evolution of this technology?

We have seen at the last NAB and IBC that most broadcast graphic suppliers are incorporating support for the Unreal games render engine. Whilst this provides sophisticated render techniques the challenge is incorporating live content data, as AR sports production is heavily dependant on dynamic statistical display. In addition, content creation in Unreal is a time consuming and specialised skill if you want to get it right.

RT Software is taking a different path by combining support for Unreal with its already comprehensive and market proven render engine allowing users to gain the real benefits from both worlds.

What role is Artificial Intelligence (AI) playing in your future planning?

AI is changing the way people live and work in many different areas of life. However, it is important to quantify exactly what these are and whether the benefits are both real and worthwhile.

In our field, we see a number of areas where AI may provide additional benefits for live rendered graphics. Our Sports AR and Telestration products heavily rely on image based analysis, tracking and keying. In addition, sports data analytics requires complex data algorithms to produce meaningful results.

The development team at RT Software is already looking at developing AI solutions to address these areas, although in this highly competitive market it is a little early to provide details.

What do you see as your main challenge for the remainder of 2018?

The convergence between traditional linear television with on demand and OTT services mean that our customers are facing more and more challenges of increased competition, so are having to compete on reduced budgets.

In this environment, our challenge of providing an attractive solution at lower cost is even more important. To stay ahead of the game, RT Software recognises the importance of R&D and our development team continues to grow in size year on year to meet this demand.

Do you have a European sports related case study you can share with us?

Working through partners Timeline TV and Moov in the UK, RT Software has provided solutions for the Augmented Reality graphics at the Dubai World Cup, a horse racing event at Meydan race track in Dubai which includes some of the world’s richest races.

Initially, our solution was providing virtual distance markers and jockey silks laid down on to the track during the race. At the last event, we also provided virtual AR graphics, such as maps of the course and stats during the presenter-led segments from an outside studio trackside. This allowed the presenters to really tell a story in a dynamic and visually interesting way. Of course, all of this was done live in real time.

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