SVG Europe Sit-Down: Qvest Media’s Daniel Url on the future of remote production and AI
Qvest Media is a systems architect in the fields of broadcasting and media technology, specialising in the television, media and telecommunications industries. The company has locations in Cologne, Berlin, Paris, Munich, Dubai, Zurich and Singapore with a team of over 200 employees. Qvest Media offers 360° expertise in the design, development, implementation and operational support of media technology infrastructure and is also one of the biggest suppliers of dry-hire equipment and systems solutions for live broadcasting of events, sports and entertainment. Our discussion with managing director, Daniel Url, begins with a reflection on Pyeongchang.
Broadcasting of the recent Winter Olympics was a huge undertaking. What was Qvest’s role in that event?
Qvest Media supplied German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF with state-of-the-art media technology and a wide variety of AV and IT components in order to set up a networked, live production platform in the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in PyeongChang and in the National Broadcast Centre (NBC) in Leipzig.
At the centre of it, performing central ingest, highlight editing and playout, was an EVS installation comprising EVS IP Director, XT Access Ultra High Performance systems as well as 25 EVS XT production servers with Multicam Software. For asset management and and to optimise file-based workflows, we opted for an integrated solution centring around the Avid Interplay family of products.
Having been such a huge undertaking, we are more than happy that most of the equipment Qvest Media provided was shipped to Russia after the end of the Paralympics to be used in the FIFA World Cup.
Earlier this year you announced a strategic sales partnership with systems manufacturer Simplylive. How does this benefit your customers?
At Qvest Media, we always aim to provide our customers with the best technologies on the market. In the field of live production, Simplylive is truly a game changer. Simplylive’s production solutions combine easy to use and highly intuitive user interfaces and controls with powerful live production systems, allowing broadcasters to dramatically cut the costs of live broadcasts, while at the same time ensuring high product quality. So, using our wide distribution network to roll out Simplylife’s product line up, be it sales or rental, is in itself already of great benefit to our customers.
Yet, given Qvest Media’s position on the European market and in the MENA region and its experience in live production technology, we are in a unique position to provide them with added value. Under the label Qvest Media Academy, we will offer training sessions on Simplylive’s portfolio for live operators and there will be an international roadshow, where Simplylive’s ViBox all-in-one production solution can be experienced first-hand and tested on a demo system. The kick-off was just a short while ago on 21 March 2018 in Cologne.
How do you see remote production developing over the next few years?
I expect remote production to be adopted increasingly as a standard production model over the next few years. With the live events industry booming as it is and considering the growing competition from over the top (OTT) providers, broadcasters need to find more efficient ways to produce and deliver content. In many cases, especially with IP broadcasting technology widely available, remote production may provide a solution, as it significantly decreases the equipment footprint of production.
Take the Winter Games; the remote production system for ARD and ZDF minimised the production resources needed at the IBC in Pyeongchang, making it possible to centralise many production tasks at the NBC in Leipzig.
Has the take up of IP Technology for broadcasting met your expectations or is there still some way to go?
We have come a long way when it comes to integrating IP solutions into existing structures or setting up entirely IP-based systems, and we are very happy with the way the industry embraces IP as the future of broadcasting. In fact, most of Qvest Medias recent projects centre around IP.
Just now we are designing a new fully IP-based technology centre for Swiss production service provider tpc. Its infrastructure incorporates the latest in IP-technology in order to streamline and simplify operational processes and workflows. At the heart of it, a full-IP SMPTE ST 2110 backbone that makes infrastructure as a service, mobile first, content everywhere, UHD HDR – you name it – a reality.
Last year, we completed works on Sky Sport HQ, Sky Germany’s landmark sports broadcasting centre in Munich. Its routing infrastructure is based on the most extensive Riedel Communications MediorNet backbone deployed to date, comprising nearly 150 frames, including and providing almost 1,600 video and more than 15,000 audio connections.
Where will we be with regards HDR by the end of 2018?
The technology is there, and at Qvest Media we are more than willing to put it to use wherever it is needed or wanted. Apart from that, in 2018 we expect HDR to gain more currency in the consumer market, thereby paving the way for it to become established on a greater scale.
How do you see artificial intelligence (AI) systems being used in sports broadcasting?
We see huge potential for AI in areas like content classification, clustering, information retrieval and analytics. Already today live tools are smart enough to track camera movements and reliably analyse the content of any given shot, providing commentators, in real time, with additional information on the game situation and the right graphic overlays.
Yet, virtual enhancement effects like real time player tracking, tied-to-field statistics display or instant graphics like, for example, offside lines, nine metres circle, distance to the goal are just the beginning. Especially in the field of real time sports analytics, we see a lot of room for further developments. We see the future of live sports broadcasting to become still less dependent on human operators, relying nearly entirely on autonomous AI systems that provide the analytical base for sports commentary.
Do you have a European sports case study you can share with us?
Yes, Sky Sport HQ, the afore mentioned new production and broadcasting centre that we built for Sky Germany. It’s one of Europe’s largest and most advanced broadcast infrastructures for live sports production and unparalleled in its production scope, from major league Bundesliga football, handball and tennis to international mega events such as the Champions League.
Apart from a great number of studios, control rooms, editing suites, voice-over booths and other ultramodern production facilities, it boasts an IP backbone, workflows for augmented reality and a state-of-the-art media asset management system. All in all, it enables Sky to produce all sports content in-house and distribute it via a wide variety of channels; linear TV, OTT services, web portals and social media.