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The challenges, opportunities and constraints of moving from hardware to software

The European Broadcasting Union's forthcoming Network Technology Seminar will look at how innovation in media production is shifting and its impact on the industry

Production technology has seen many major shifts and taken many leaps over the past decade, but one underlying change is perhaps the most significant.

From the way processing hardware is designed internally, to the introduction of IP-based signal flows that replace SDI, and the advent of cloud-based processing, the capabilities of the technology we use are now defined by code.

We are now in the world of software, which means change is faster, and the technology we have available is more ‘freewheeling’ – which is a challenge. Vendor lock-in is still a problem. But the technology has also become more malleable, and this presents opportunities for broadcasters. 

“It is our job as system architects to make sure that the required capabilities are available wherever and whenever they are needed,” says Ievgen Kostiukevych, team leader Media over IP and Cloud Technologies at the EBU.

“Broadcasters want a way to orchestrate their resources both on-prem and in the cloud, and ways to enable their producers to operate on both, seamlessly. We now have a situation where, in theory, that’s possible. We can do it in a way that’s agnostic to the underlying hardware and design software-based environments that can evolve in terms of capabilities. But we face new challenges in terms of interoperability, dependencies, insecurities around long term support, etc. Those issues create business risk and cost that we need to reduce.”

At the upcoming EBU Network Technology Seminar (14-15 June), three of the most influential decision makers in the world of production technology will discuss these issues with the broadcast community.

Andrew Cross, CEO of Grass Valley, Thomas Riedel, CEO of Riedel Communications, and Troy English, CTO of ROSS Video, are scheduled to join the CTOs and key architects of European broadcasters at EBU HQ in Geneva for a keynote session and panel discussion at the Network Technology Seminar.

The way Grass Valley CEO Andrew Cross sees it, there are still some lessons from the past that apply to the decisions that facility architects need to make today. “We can look at the most important factors that have driven the changes in media production technology and use those to understand what is coming next and where to go to from here,” states Cross.

The challenges broadcasters need to address while shifting to new technologies in an accelerated landscape of innovation will be top of the agenda at NTS – and not all of those challenges are purely technical, as Riedel CEO Thomas Riedel argues. “It is getting increasingly difficult to find well-trained staff that meet the demands of state-of-the-art broadcasting technology,” he explains.

“These challenges, however, also present great opportunities. What do they look like and how do we need to approach public broadcasting and use investments in the spirit of sustainability and innovation? I will offer some thoughts on this and on how technology can open up these opportunities and drive this paradigm shift.”

Ross Video CTO Troy English acknowledges that the landscape has become more fragmented and some choices more complex to make for producers, particularly in the cloud space. But he thinks that the path can be smoothed if all stakeholders participate in the conversation. “We are now at a point where the benefits that cloud technology can provide are becoming a reality not just for the distribution but for the production of live content, too. To truly take advantage of the promise of the cloud, a number of fundamental technological choices must be addressed. I’ll be examining these choices and will offer some thoughts on how we can all move forward together.”

The NTS 2022 conference is open to the wider industry and includes a demo area and networking. Registrations are open. 

NTS will also feature a lineup of technology demonstrations:

  • NVIDIA will demonstrate the ability to spin up the hardware-agnostic containerised software-based media pipelines with timing and NMOS capabilities provided by the underlying platform as services
  • Bisect, in collaboration with the 5G-RECORDS project and NVIDIA, will demonstrate an ST 2110 to SRT gateway functionality running as a container in a Kubernetes cluster and making use of the NVIDIA platform
  • GlobalM, a Swiss startup, will demonstrate the ability to orchestrate the SRT streams around the world using their cloud-based backbone and control software, an ideal solution for low-latency, reliable remote production.
  • Phabrix in collaboration with NVIDIA will demonstrate the new Rivermax Display functionality allowing the creation of a virtual desktop and streaming it as an ST 2110 stream with the hassle of timing and packet pacing delegated to the underlying GPU and DPU. Phabrix will also demonstrate the ability to monitor ST 2110 streams in RGB colour space

The NTS 2022 demos will be available exclusively to on-site attendees.