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Uncertain times unveil creative opportunities

Grass Valley's Robert Erickson explains how creative thinking and taking a risk is the key to successfully navigating a new Covid-affected world

If we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that in times like this we need to apply all our creativity to find non-traditional solutions to our problems. In our industry, we’ve seen some pretty exceptional and innovative engineering break through.

Taking on challenges head on

Our customers tell us it’s just not feasible to spend money on new infrastructure, so it’s even more essential to maximise the equipment you have today. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and we’re definitely seeing that as people are getting creative. Engineers, who might traditionally reject new technology because of a more conservative stance, are now looking at new approaches. I’m hearing from our customers that they’re gaining immense benefits from these new workflows — benefits to production and logistics that will carry over well past the pandemic.

I’ve had quite a few customers call me and say, “I’ve got this strange idea. Do you think we can do it this way?” or “I’ve already got this hardware, and I need to get this solution done. Is there some software we can integrate into this environment?”. This is really where Grass Valley thrives. It’s exciting to see the creativity happening both with our latest GV AMPP (Agile Media Processing Platform) cloud-based SaaS solution and our traditional hardware solutions.

Covid-19 has taught us the power of questioning the status quo and putting new solutions into play.

We’ve already seen restrictions on some sports reversing to remain Covid-safe, but fans aren’t likely to make a return to arenas any time soon. Creativity and flexible workflows are what will help our customers survive, and even eventually thrive.

Using a hybrid approach 

Hybrid solutions are a great option when producing high-quality content in a remote, or otherwise, cloud-based environment. GV AMPP allows users to leverage the hardware they already have (GV cameras, switchers, and infrastructure) to produce content remotely. The platform allows these hardware solutions to connect to its network fabric, becoming a shared resource that can be viewed, monitored, and in some cases, controlled by the GV AMPP interface. Sometimes, new technologies can simply add to what already exists, and GV AMPP bridges the gap really well by blending traditional and SaaS-based solutions together.

Some customers have a traditional Grass Valley infrastructure, but their operators still can’t get into the facility due to Covid-19 restrictions. In this case, they can direct all of the feeds that would normally go into their multiviewers (MVs), QC stations, and operator workstations into GV AMPP. This gives operators the flexibility to work from any location and manage productions like they would in a more traditional setting. So instead of a technical director (TD) sitting in front of a switcher control panel in the facility, the control panel is in their home. GV AMPP creates an MV in the cloud that the TD can access using their home internet connection. And here’s the incredible part, this remote workflow has a very low delay (latency) – anyone that has access to the internet with enough bandwidth to view HD video can use it.

Maximizing existing equipment 

Of course, not everyone is producing content remotely using GV AMPP. Some of our customers are using GV production switchers and replay servers, with a traditional MV, to control their productions from any location. One recent example includes a customer operating our Kula AV switcher, with built-in multiviewer and software control panel. The switcher sits in one location, while the operator is 800 miles away using the control panel in their home. Customers are also using our Maverik panel or K-Frames with the Karrera Soft Panel (KSP) to control switchers from anywhere over a VPN.

One of the great things about working at Grass Valley is that our customer base is worldwide. If there’s a major production happening anywhere, we’re probably involved. We have an incredible opportunity to see the multitude of creative ways customers are using our products, then apply that knowledge to other workflows. One great example is Telegenic.

Part of the Euro Media Group (“EMG”), Telegenic, specialises in providing OB facilities that produce high-end sports and events. To assist with remote productions, Telegenic built a Remote Operations Centre (ROC) that works in conjunction with its fleet of OB trucks, regardless of where they are on the road. The implementation is powered by a suite of GV solutions, including our Kahuna production switcher with the Maverik panel.

The Maverik panel is uniquely laid out in an arrangement that purposely splits the director and TD positions to maintain social distancing during the direction and control of a production. A row of blank modules provides a clear separation and enables a Perspex screen to be placed across the panel that keeps line of sight and the monitor stack in complete view from both positions. At the same time, it maintains a safe physical barrier between the operators.

These are just a few examples of GV-based remote solutions that our customers are using. I’m energised by the acceleration of creativity we’re seeing as customers make the most of what they have. They’re creating an IT environment that allows them to stretch resources out, then finding the best MV solution to manage their production(s).

So far, we’ve seen customers set up a range of scenarios to get around workflow restrictions, with:

  • Kits and trucks on-site with crews quarantined — producing in fairly traditional methods
  • Creating content where the gear is in trucks and the operator or associate producer is working remotely
  • Completely decentralising the entire production workflow with a mix of hardware and SaaS solutions

Many of the changes that the pandemic has brought about have improved existing ways of working and are here to stay. We’ve also seen the true value of creative thinking and taking the risk to look beyond tried and tested ways of doing things. This is the key to successfully navigating in this new world.