NAB 2019 Reflections: Migration, momentum and growth with Imagine Communications
Glodina Connan-Lostanlen is senior vice president and general manager for the Americas for Imagine Communications’ playout and networking sales and services. She also leads the company’s marketing activities globally. At NAB 2019, SVG Europe sat down with Connan-Lostanlen to get an overview of key industry trends, sports production highlights, and new technologies from Imagine Communications at the show.
“One of the key things for us here at NAB is to focus more on new real-life [IP-based] customer deployments and less on brand new shiny objects. Of course we do have our platforms and we’re building on them,” she said.
“We have recently had some wins with sports venues in the US. The number of projects we’re seeing for IP in live sports is skyrocketing. This year we have many deals in the pipeline, primarily in North America. They own their sports venues and they want to build greenfield IP [facilities].
“What we did with tpc in Switzerland, I think we’re going to see a lot more of – and not just the trucks but the studios they are making there as well. It’s real. The technology is there; there is still some work to be done on the control and monitoring side of things, the orchestration. We are making headway; we do have an early version of what it could like, and in tandem the standards are being finalised.
“We’re getting there. The momentum is there. We no longer have the question of ‘are we going to do it?’ It’s happening. It’s more a question of ‘how much are you going to take’? It’s still a hybrid SDI-IP approach. tpc is hybrid. But it’s no longer a question of ‘will it work, will we do it?’ It’s how and when.
“Business and practicality have driven the migration to IP in OBs. The technology has allowed less cabling – less equipment on the truck. That’s a big deal. That’s what helped push this. Much lighter. I think in this case the technology issues were superceded by the business benefits. And the [IP-based] switches have gone done in price. They have. And that will only get better.
“The other piece is 4K UHD. I would say sports production is the main segment where 4K UHD is a driver. In traditional broadcast I don’t think the push for 4K is there. But it doesn’t matter because it’s there in sports production so everyone wants it.”
What about the trend towards remote production: it’s still early days, but from some examples we’ve seen recently, the key benefits of crewing and sustainability suggest that as technology enables remote production the trend will only go one way?
“Right. How many new trucks are going to be built? Do we need trucks? Is the next truck going to be a backpack? And it’s greener, by the way. Plus the up-front investment: that puts pressure on the system integrators. We’ve seen it. I agree the remote production trend is only going to go one way.
“But we’ll also see a future with trucks carrying less equipment and more IP, it becomes a form factor. You learn how to re-think your workflow in IP and then you simplify it. The truck can be almost used as a sandbox now, for either IP production and also for big studios all in IP.
“The other transformation in Europe we will see is more sports bodies owning their rights and producing their own content,” she said. “That hasn’t really happened yet, but it is bound to happen. And when you get there, why would you ever need a truck? You will have your little broadcast facility. I think that is inevitable.
“At Imagine Communications we continue to add major blocks to our SNP, that gateway between the SDI and IP worlds. It is more than a gateway. We have pushed to do more formats including more HDR – where we are seeing a lot of demand.
“We’ve also added more features to our SDN orchestration, as that is definitely where the value is going. People don’t care any more that they had an SDI router or an Arista or Cisco switch: they want the operators to feel like it’s the same, so the focus on the control layer and orchestration is fundamental. We’re investing a lot in that area.
“On the playout side we continue to enhance our platform: with that platform model in place we add modules and make it better every time,” said Connan-Lostanlen.
“And to mention some good news at Imagine; in the last 12 months, maybe less, we’ve brought back 24 people that used to be former employees or people from the industry. That’s just an indication of how things are: we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves. Yes we have to focus on execution: but between the sports momentum and the playout momentum – as well as the targeted advertising piece, which is also skyrocketing in terms of growth – there’s lots of excitement here!”
In live production, Imagine Communications’ Selenio Network Processor (SNP) is established as a critical element in IP and hybrid video and audio environments. This high-density device bridges SDI and IP networks, providing video processing in a space- and power-saving 1RU. Designed with four independent, FPGA-powered processor blocks, the SNP gives users flexibility in adapting to various production workflow requirements in 3G, UHD and HDR.
The Magellan SDN Orchestrator (SDNO) is a software control solution deployed in multiple installations worldwide. It delivers full support for SMPTE ST 2110 and ST 2022-6, plus a list of third-party IP endpoints via native APIs and open protocols, making it suitable to orchestrate live production and playout operations.
The EPIC MV multiviewer provides new functionality including the ability to output compressed transport streams for remote or IP distribution of display mosaics, and interpretation and display of SCTE-104 and -35 triggers or alarms to enable supervisors to react promptly to high-value alarms. The EPIC MV software also now supports the latest generation of HPE servers for maximum performance.
NAB saw the latest in Imagine Communications’ playout functionality, including the integration between ADC and the Versio modular playout platform, allowing users to start using next-generation technology while preserving their capital equipment and training investments. At the same time, they can minimise risk by retaining their verified ADC system. With Versio supporting TS, SDI, 2022-6 and now with the introduction of SMPTE ST 2110, users can operate their systems across any format all with the same playout solution, migrating to IP at their own pace.
At the heart of Imagine’s ad tech work is xG platform, which lets broadcasters, MVPDs, vMVPDs and OTT players maximise the value of commercial airtime and optimise business efficiency with traditional unit or impression-based models for all delivery platforms, including linear, nonlinear, on-demand and mobile.
Imagine has introduced the latest generation of its xG GamePlan ad campaign optimizer. xG GamePlan is a cloud-based, scalable inventory optimiser that streamlines campaign planning and post-campaign analysis, without having to replace entire back-office traffic and sales systems.