NAB 2022 marked the return of international trade shows for the broadcast industry, which was met with great enthusiasm by a reported 52,000 attendees across the four days. However, with some travel corridors to the US remaining closed not all could attend. Reflecting back on the event I have pulled out four of the key takeaways.
The biggest buzzword of NAB 2022 was the cloud, and the opportunities it presents for broadcast workflows. Grass Valley showcased the developments of its AMPP system, Frame.io demonstrated its near instantaneous camera to cloud upload and editing software and Black Magic announced its Cloud Pod, a device which allows high speed storage and DropBox sync to facilitate collaborative working between individuals in different rooms, and different countries. These are just three examples of the many different cloud solutions presented at the show. , where cloud for live production workflows would have been but a whisper at any broadcast tradeshow prior to the pandemic.
Of course, the hype surrounding the prospects of cloud solutions raises several questions. Primarily, is the cloud the future of broadcast? The answer here is yes and no. Although the cloud can provide cost effective and/or ergonomic improvements upon current workflows, such as reduces the need for on prem equipment and staff, or improving the quality of experience for remote operators, which will enable higher utilisation of equipment and the best talent regardless of their location.
There are currently still issues which will prevent broadcast from making a full conversion to cloud native workflows. One of the key factors being the current lack of suitable infrastructure for end-to-end live broadcast cloud workflows for large events, such as the Super Bowl or UEFA Football World Cup. Upload and download speeds need to be near instantaneous for content producers to push and pull content up and down from the cloud at speeds that are close to real time and will not introduce significant latency to the broadcast. The reality is with high bitrate video signals that only in locations near to data centres and with ultrafast and reliable network connectivity is this possible. If this issue cannot be overcome, live broadcasters will never feel confident enough to lift their entire end-to-end live production pipeline to the cloud. Furthermore, not all locations have the internet capabilities to broadcast via the cloud network, meaning on prem workflows will remain highly relevant, especially in developing regions.
Despite these issues, some of the barriers cloud solutions were facing prior to the pandemic have been resolved. According to the team at MediaKind, the security risks surrounding cloud broadcast have been reduced, with companies such as Microsoft and AWS further developing cloud security protocols, giving broadcasters greater confidence and trust in cloud infrastructure. Furthermore, subscription based fees have always been a pain point for broadcasters, who typically make single large capital investments on new infrastructure on multiyear cycles that may need to last five, ten or more years to achieve a return on investment. Op-ex payment models hinder this traditional approach to ROI, and put broadcasters at risk of being locked into paying cloud providers year on year, something most broadcasters are not interested in. Though the predictable revenue base offered by subscription payment models is attractive to vendors, it marks a significant change to broadcast business models to factor this in. However, cloud providers have responded to this issue by developing ways to structure subscription feeds to look like capital expenditure, easing one of the key issues broadcasters have around investing in cloud.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, opinions have changed. The pandemic forced many broadcast technologists to rethink their workflows and find solutions that could facilitate socially distanced work environments and reduce the headcount of on-prem or in-venue crew, this has created a greater need for decentralised workflows playing directly into the benefits of cloud solutions. It now rests on providers to demonstrate they can deliver the performance that is required for a broadcast environment in real world deployments to encourage greater investment and adoption.
Immersive content took centre stage at Canon’s booth at NAB 2022, as the brand showcased the new Canon RF 5.2mm Dual Fisheye Lens for 180VR. The lens’ unique design overcomes issues with previous 3D video acquisition rigs helping to open up exciting new opportunities for content creation. A range of 180VR content shot using the lens could be viewed using a headmounted VR headset. The video has a unique look that can only be experienced with a headset as the 180 degree video when combined with 3D acquisition delivers an incredibly lifelike immersion in a scene thanks to the combination of freedom of movement, depth perception and benefits of video over computer-generated graphics.
Moreover, other companies were showcasing their own innovations for the use of 360 and 180 video, for example, Verizon were showing how they could transmit a live 360 view of the Wimbledon arena that viewers can experience at home on Occulus headsets, with the ability to host group watch sessions and add point of view angles and screen overlays with extra detail to enhance the viewing experience.
There are many other ways to increase viewer engagement. Social media and data driven graphics continue to be popular. Dizplai have developed systems that allow companies to show graphics over their live feeds and allow fans to interact with them, including adding real time competitions and quizzes, and sending in personal photos.
These innovations are just the beginning, as we enter an exciting era of development where broadcasters are seeking to create more personalised and immersive viewing experiences, new technologies that can enable more engaging and interactive video consumption will be more sought after.
The cultural changes to the workforce that have been brought about by the covid-19 pandemic have created more openness to remote working and greater flexibility, so it is no surprise that companies have been further developing their remote working solutions.
Leading software vendors have highlighted their latest developments made to improve remote collaboration. Both Avid and Frame.IO (feeding into the Adobe suite) highlighted how teams of people from multiple locations can work together on a single editing project using their editing platforms, and Grass Valleys’ aforementioned AMPP was positioned as the future of live production able to simplify the management of both on-prem and remote applications and users.
With many places of education retaining remote working workflows developed throughout lockdowns during 2020 and 2021, Aver and Canon have introduced the ability to control PTZs with hand gesture detection. This simplifies camera control and enables presenters and on-screen talent to direct the viewers’ attention themselves. This can come in useful, for example, if you are teaching and need to move the camera away from the main whiteboard to another part of the classroom, as the hand gesture capability of the camera removes the need to return to the desk and interrupt the lesson, resulting in a more seamless remote classroom experience.
AVer’s MD330UI PTZ has also elevated remote working, specifically in medical care, as its removable camera head allows patients to give remote doctors a better field of view of their injury, as the camera can be freed from its mechanical base and brought closer to the subject to inspect details by hand operation allowing it to be put to greater use in remote diagnosis.
With the range of products and solutions at NAB geared towards enabling remote operation, it is clear that remote production workflows are here to stay. They are of course built on reliable network connectivity, which brings me to my fourth and final key takeaway of NAB 2022.
Prior to the pandemic the migration to IP video workflows has been a hotly debated topic by the broadcast industry. However, amidst the pandemic early adopters have been able to realise the benefits of networked video infrastructure and in many cases doubled down on their deployment of IP. The nature of socially distanced productions and limiting headcounts in facilities has forced broadcast engineers to look at ways to decentralise production and transition more operators into remote seats. This has given IP a chance to shine and as a result we return to NAB with a consensus that IP has proven its benefits and will be integral to the future of broadcasting.
However, it’s important to highlight the reality beneath this that many broadcasters still have predominantly SDI/baseband workflows in use. The deployment of more IP infrastructure will continue to take place over the coming decade and in many cases begin as a part of a hybridised workflow mixing sections of SDI and IP.
The past hesitancy to embrace IP has been due to a “wait and see” attitude taken by many technology decision-makers. This was the result of various IP protocols emerging over the past decade and appearing to vie for dominance as the best solution. This was initially detrimental to adoption as technology decision makers feared the prospect of investing in a technology that would quickly become obsolete at the hands of another competing flavour of IP becoming the dominant standard. This is not the reality. SMPTE 2110, NDI, SRT, Dante AV and other IP protocols each offer their own distinct advantages. Many network engineers will use a mixture of these IP protocols in IP deployments playing each to its own strength.
In the short to mid term we will continue to see the integration of complex hybrid SDI/IP workflows and a range of IP protocols in place. As a result, broadcast control products and software that can aid in the process of managing workflows and simplifying configuration and network management are a high priority.
All in all the return of NAB to Las Vegas was a show of force for the accomplishments made by the industry over the course of the pandemic. In person catchups and hands on demonstrations of broadcast technologies made for an invigorating and inspiring experience that once again proved the value of attending trade show events.
The Futuresource Broadcast & Pro Video team produce a range of market sizing and strategic reports across a range of product categories and topics.
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