IBC2015 Q&A: RT Software’s Luke Harrison Talks 4K, Cloud-Based Telestration, and VR and AR

RT Software arrives at IBC with a number of new products, including a cloud-based graphics system designed to make it easier than ever for an editor to add telestration to a piece of content. Luke Harrison, technical product marketing manager, RT Software, recently discussed some of the innovations and industry trends with SVG Europe.

Luke Harrison, technical product marketing manager, RT Software

Luke Harrison, technical product marketing manager, RT Software

Sport production is at the centre of your IBC plans, and your product area is one of constant innovation. What do you see as the top two or three new features and products you are offering at IBC?
After successful customer trials, IBC will see the official launch of tOG-Vista, RT Software’s panoramic 4K/UHD or 2K/HD stitch solution for reducing costs and increasing production values. tOG-Vista takes the live outputs from two side-by-side static cameras and stitches them together to create a single, panoramic view of the entire field. Joysticks can then be used to move virtual cameras around the panoramic view to produce multiple HD or SD outputs. Incorporating live and near-live telestration provides a wealth of value for broadcast. We will be showing live demos throughout IBC.

Also new for us at IBC2015 will be a cloud-based version of our telestration system, tOG-Sports, allowing access to the tOG-Sports interface over a Web page that greatly enhances a facility’s workflow. For example, an editor who wants to add telestration to an edit can log in to tOG-Sports from a Web page, create their clip and send the clip back to edit. Or a graphics operator can log in remotely, add telestration to a clip, and send it to playout.

IPTV, distribution of video over IP rather than SDI, is expected to be a big theme of this IBC, and, as a founding member of the IP Production Group (IPPG), RT Software will be able to show customers our latest developments in this field.

Whilst not a product innovation, I am sure a lot of our visitors will welcome the addition of the tOG-Sports Bar this IBC, where they will be served refreshments from 16.30 each day whilst being able to see some of the latest innovations by customers using our solutions. The tOG-Sports Bar will [open] officially on the first day with a presentation by Jamie Hindhaugh, COO, BT Sport, as to why they chose RT Software to provide the graphics for their new Champions League coverage.

3D graphics of all sorts continue to become more commonplace within sports productions. What are you hearing from customers in terms of their current and future needs?
We are seeing a lot more demand for augmented-reality graphics, where 3D graphics are brought into the studio or even on location at pitch side as virtual objects, allowing presenters to interact with the graphics. Innovations in render technology have enabled us to present high-detail HDR content with PBR detail for an even better visual experience. Presenter interaction is, in many cases, boosted by allowing them to manipulate the graphic via a tablet, in our case facilitated by HTML control.

To make the best use of such graphics, customers are looking at data visualisation, representing data in a graphical way for things like stats or heat maps to actually tell a story. In this case, the graphics become much more than just a pretty gimmick and add real value to the viewer. We will have a live demo of both VR and AR on our booth at IBC.

UHD services are also on the very near horizon and, in the case of BT, already here. What does it take to make your current products 4K/UHD-capable? Is the computational power there today, or does more work need to be done to have the workflow match the speed of HD workflows?
To be honest, UHD or 4K from a pure graphics point of view has little impact on our rendering pipeline. You do need an increase in GPU power, but not a lot. The issue (as it has always been) is how to get the pixels in and out. True 4K50/60p is a high-bandwidth operation. But hardware is available now that achieves this, so our solutions have been 4K- and UHD-capable for some time. We were one of the first graphics companies delivering 4K-graphics solutions, were involved in the first tests in the UK, and are on-air with the first 4K channel in the UK, BT Sport.

The bigger questions are High Dynamic Range and frame rate. We have changed our pipeline to be fully floating point, [which] will enable us to achieve higher component depths. Frame rates above 50/60p are fully realisable once hardware and standards become available.

In the case of virtual or augmented reality, UHD does place much higher demand on the accuracy of camera-tracking technology and lens calibrations. With higher resolution, any drift or “swimming” of the graphics compared to real objects during camera movements becomes much more noticeable to the viewer.

What do you see as your marketplace advantage compared with the competition? What features and technologies set RT Software apart?
Our general render platforms, tOG3D and tOG2D, continue to provide outstanding render quality, flexibility, and innovation at a realistic price to our customers. Combined with HTML and built-in touch technology for control gives RT Software a unique edge in the overlay-graphics market.

Customers love the ease of use and multiple workflow options of tOG-Sports with telestration. Getting graphics to air quickly, whether by an operator or the presenter, is essential. Being able to tell a story is one thing, but you must be able to react to incidents within a short time frame, or the moment is lost.

Whilst tOG-Sports comes with a comprehensive palette of graphics as standard, the ability to create custom graphics also goes down well with our customers. If they come up with an idea for a graphic that is not included as standard, chances are, it can be created, helping them to forge their own on-air identity.

Integration to third-party virtual-reality camera-tracking technologies is available across all our product range. This makes tOG-Sports even more powerful, allowing it to add things like distance markers in horse racing live during the event. We support all major vendors and continue to integrate to new technologies as they develop, so customers of our VR solutions can choose whichever tracking technology suits them.

RT Software’s development and creative teams have a wealth of experience going back to the BBC’s first experiments in 3D and VR back in the ’90s. An intimate knowledge of techniques such as per-pixel shading and physical-based rendering means that the quality of our rendered output always comes out well when compared side by side with that of the competition. This and our ability to be on hand to help customers in what could otherwise be a painful transition to 3D/VR have given us some of our most prestigious customer wins.

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