SVG Europe Sit-Down: Snell Advanced Media’s Tim Felstead on replay technology evolution and the challenges of new standards

Tim Felstead, SAM’s head of product marketing

Tim Felstead, SAM’s head of product marketing

Snell Advanced Media – otherwise known as SAM – launched more than 30 fresh products in 2016, including entirely new product lines. In addition, the company had about the same number of major feature updates with its existing offerings. According to Felstead, we can expect to see a very similar volume in 2017.

With SAM’s customers looking for a wide range of solutions to address the challenges they face in an evermore competitive marketplace – including IP, 4K, 12G-SDI, HDR, virtualised systems, lower-cost HD solutions, collaborative editing and production systems integrated with social media and linear – Felstead says that a number of product releases and solutions for all of these areas will be seen in the coming months.

A few weeks ago, you announced the formation of the SAM academy. What was the thinking behind that move?

With an array of product developments and technology changes, now more than ever, it’s important that SAM provides information and training to our partners so we can support them in reaching out to our customers. As part of our wider partner programme, we have announced SAM academy as the platform with which to achieve this aim.

The initial focus is on pre-sales information and technology overviews and the SAM Academy will consist of both in-house and regional learning plus e-training that will cover products, technology in bite size videos. Content will be available via the SAM Partner Portal as well as in a webinar format.

IP is, of course, the current ‘buzz phrase’. What are your latest developments in that area?

SAM has introduced increased network port speed connectivity across the whole portfolio of IP products, with 25G, 50G and 100G now supported.

In order to reduce overall infrastructure costs and system deployment time, SAM is providing further consolidation of audio and video signals on to fewer physical connections. The overall amount of core COTS network switches required in a system have also been reduced by providing greater network port density and efficiency across our IP product range.

SAM’s Morpheus UX defines a new era in multi-channel playout

SAM’s Morpheus UX defines a new era in multi-channel playout

VSF TR03 (the pending ratification of the SMPTE ST 2110 standard based on the VSF technical recommendations in TR03) is already implemented and deployed by Timeline TV – among others – across the entire SAM IP product portfolio. SAM will also be providing a seamless software upgrade path to provide official ‘SMPTE ST 2110’ standard support across entire portfolio, once ratified.

There will be further expansion of the SAM IP product portfolio to provide enhanced product functionality and workflows, including MV-805 – software enabled multiviewer solution based on a COTS platform utilising 100G connectivity, Audio XS – advanced audio routing and processing of AES67 streams, as required for complex audio breakaway workflow, and IQMIX – introduction of IP Gateways with 12G SDI (UHD) and 50G network connectivity, further bridging SDI and IP domains

Apart from the expansion of IP use, what changes have you noticed in sports production regarding the utilisation of your solutions?

Looking ahead, UHD with wide colour gamut and high dynamic range, plus multi-channel audio are certain to have a big impact in live sports broadcasting. All of these will combine to increase the ‘wow’ factor in valuable live sports content. Rights holders and their production companies will need to invest in equipment that can support these elements in the highly charged and fast moving live sports environment.

Adding this extra functionality into an already complex live sports production environment can be a challenge. SAM has addressed this with solutions for video switching, replay editing and the supporting infrastructure – including over IP – that remove much of the complexity the introduction of these elements will bring.

You say that SAM’s Morpheus UX defines a new era in multi-channel playout. What exactly is that ‘new era’?

For many years, broadcasters have been looking to create operational efficiencies – and in many cases to good effect by advancements in playout automation vendors’ GUI modifications – but it was still a case of trying to make your operation suit the GUI.

With Morpheus UX, SAM has taken the opposite approach, allowing the UX to be tailored specifically around the operation of individual or multiples of channels for any genre of playout in a completely flexible and user defined way. To achieve complete operational agility, it is necessary to divorce operation from a physical install. By virtue of its web-based nature, the Morpheus UX achieves this by providing complete remote operation from anywhere in the world.

SAM demonstrated the world’s fastest live sports production and replay workflow at CABSAT 2017.  What makes this different?

LiveTouch 4K is a complete package designed specifically for the high-pressure sports and live studio environment

LiveTouch 4K is a complete package designed specifically for the high-pressure sports and live studio environment

LiveTouch 4K is a complete package that is studio ready and has been designed specifically for the high-pressure sports and live studio environment. It is built on the latest SAM server technology and can be used to enable powerful workflows in standalone systems or integrated into a wider production environment.

The inter-server workflows make the system particularly effective in a 4K environment. Multiple servers can be pooled together allowing LiveTouch to seamlessly scale to larger 4K productions, creating flexible workflows and saving valuable rack space in trucks and studios. These larger LiveTouch zones can be treated as a single multi-camera production bank, allowing instant access to more cameras and feeds than any other system.

Integration with SAM’s 4K editors means LiveTouch removes the need to move media and breaks the physical link between replay and editing workflows, which makes for a completely unique 4K production workflow.

LiveTouch also has a very familiar look and feel, with the placement of key buttons and intuitive touch screen to make highlights and playback easier than ever.

What is your latest thinking when it comes to HDR? And looking ahead to the end of 2017, will we have seen any major developments in the area of 4K? If so, what will they be?

The key challenges for broadcasters and all media companies alike in 2017 will be the efficient creation, management and delivery to consumers of both HDR and SDR content for a plethora of different screens. Consumers always want the very best viewing experience – for example, 4K with HDR and wide colour gamut – while watching content on their expensive wide screen at home, but they are willing to trade quality for availability to view on a mobile device.

The challenge is to create the production and delivery tools needed to enable multi-format simultaneous workflows to manage the complexity of producing SD/HD/UHD/HDR for delivery to multiple platforms in parallel. At the same time, there is a need to understand the business models/opportunities AND keeping costs under control.

The market is moving strongly towards 4K and IP and SAM has made sure it is one step ahead of it in terms of our product offerings. This has meant providing the right combination of hardware and software for 4K production today, as well as potential future applications. The LiveTouch 4K highlights and replay system is a great example of the type of innovation that SAM is leading the industry with. LiveTouch offers the fastest, most efficient 4K sports highlights and replay workflows on the market today. The initial customer take up of 4K and IP products has been excellent and a vindication of our technology strategies. Customers like Telegenic have used the Kahuna 9600 switcher to facilitate 4K coverage of high profile sports events such as the UEFA European Championship, UEFA Champions League Final and the AVIVA Premiership Final. In terms of IP, NEP in The Netherlands recently moved to a fully IP production facility and a Kahuna switcher provides the backbone of its switching resource.

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