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‘We’re still in the stage where we’re getting significant gains out of actual intelligence’

TVBEurope sits down with Imagine Communications' president Steve Reynolds to discuss the rise of AI, the use of "actual intelligence", JPEG XS, partnerships with other media tech vendors, and more

Everybody’s talking about artificial intelligence, whether you work in the media tech industry or not, AI is the big talking point at the moment.

AI isn’t new to the media tech industry, vendors have been employing the technology for quite some time.

But with the rise of generative AI such as chatbots and AI-driven images, more and more media tech vendors are considering what the technology could offer as we go forward.

Steve Reynolds

One such company is Imagine Communications, which has been looking at how AI could enhance both its video and production products. “We haven’t launched any products yet that include AI,” he tells TVBEurope. “There’s a little bit of uncertainty right now in the market as to how things like ChatGPT are going to be used, so it’s a little bit speculative for us right now to build any of that technology into our products.”

But, adds Reynolds, from a technology standpoint obviously, Imagine is looking very closely at what it could be doing with AI and machine learning to enhance its products. “Bottom line, we want to help our customers make content more efficiently, and we want to help them monetise audiences more effectively,” he adds.

“There’s no question [AI and ML are] going to be a big piece of the future. There’ll be some growing pains that we have to go through, there’ll be regulatory stuff, there’ll be business model stuff that’s got to get figured out, but we’re definitely keeping an eye on it.”

Imagine’s Aviator platform

One of the ways AI is already being employed is in creating metadata. Imagine’s Aviator is cloud-native platform that uses metadata to enable broadcasters, MVPDs and digital-first providers to plan, make and monetise premium-quality linear and OTT content from a single, unified platform.

Currently, Aviator does not employ AI, relying instead on Imagine’s product team to create algorithms that deliver repeatable and valuable results. “Graham Heap our product manager says, we’re still in the phase where we’re getting significant gains out of ‘actual’ intelligence,” explains Reynolds. “Moving forward, can AI and ML improve that? Yes, of course it can. And so those are the kinds of things that we’re doing research on now to understand where we can continue to improve. But as a first step, just getting the metadata built into the system is pretty dramatic. That’s what this Aviator framework is all about, tying together the plan, make and monetise pieces of content delivery.”


Another big topic of conversation within the industry is the rise of the ultra-low latency codec JPEG XS. Imagine has implemented the standard into its Selenio Network Processor, its IP media processing platform. 

“JPEG XS is high quality with low latency,” explains Reynolds, “and if you’re doing production in the cloud, or you’re doing contribution into cloud, both of those things become critically important.”

At NAB 2023, Imagine launched Magellan Connect which extends the path-routing capabilities of Magellan into the cloud. It means users can include cloud infrastructure as a part of their entire video path. “The reason that we’re doing that is because as customers implement these hybrid topologies, they need to be able to see the entire topology, they can’t have this kind of dotted line where it says ‘prem’ on one side and ‘cloud’ on the other,” explains Reynolds.

“They need to be able to see across the line and into what’s happening up in the cloud, because ultimately, the endpoint for JPEG XS is somewhere up in the cloud, and you need to be able to control that.”

Just before NAB Show, Imagine announced a partnership with Vizrt to integrate the Viz Vectar Plus cloud live production solution with Aviator. The aim is to provide a single cloud production/playout product to enable live production workflows for sports, news, and live events to feed downstream live linear workflows. 

Imagine is not in the production business,” states Reynolds. “We’re more on the origination and monetisation side of the business and so we work with partners on the production piece, and that link with Vizrt is getting tighter.”

Imagine also announced a strategic partnership with Amagi, to provide significant benefits to TV networks and broadcasters, including a better-managed path for cloud migration, hybrid operations and orchestration, improved monetisation through advertising, and extensive reach into FAST and CTV platforms.

“We’re working with partners that have deep expertise. Amazon’s a great example. Vizrt is a great example. Amagi is a great example. IntoPIX is a great example. We’re really trying to work with companies in this space who are experts at what they do,” he concludes.