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EDITORIAL The year 2022 is full of promises and opportunities in the broadcast world. The entire TM Broadcast International team is facing it with energy and eager to tell you everything that will happen during this new year. In this issue you will find an example of the ambition that characterizes us.
We spoke to Bruce Devlin, outgoing Head of Standards at SMPTE, and he showed us that, apart from the technology, the biggest challenge facing IP infrastructures is the mindset of the people involved.
One of the most important sporting events at the beginning of the year is the Olympic Winter Games. With the 2020 Olympic Games very recent, due to their postponement because of the global pandemic situation, Sotiris Salamouris and his team tell us what are the biggest technological challenges involved in holding an Olympic Games below zero.
Another flagship, which also has a lot to add about the transition to IP networks, is the company Vizrt. Born as an enabler of graphics templates for broadcasters in the Nordic countries, today it has become an international company with a focus on the future of television. We talked to Gerhard Lang, Chief Engineering Oﬃcer of Vizrt, and he showed us the road ahead for the company.
Broadcast installations over IP networks are starting to become the most common reality in our industry. As we have already shown in these pages, despite the flexibility and performance they can oﬀer, they also involve added diﬃculties. SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) is there to solve them on the technological side.
OTT and VOD platforms are already part of the routine of content consumers around the world. That is, all of us. Given this situation, in which we can almost find more than one platform per region, we wanted to make a radiography in Europe and give you an overview of some of the most important of the old continent.
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TM Broadcast International #101 January 2022
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Published in Spain
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NEWS Olympics Below Zero Interview with Sotiris Salamouris To broadcast the Olympic Winter Games, Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) needs to deploy their technological assets in the context of winter sports and under below zero weather conditions. The extreme cold in Beijing and in the mountains and the distances between the venues where the competitions are held, are among the challenges faced by Sotiris Salamouris, OBS Chief Technology Oﬃcer and his entire team.
SMPTE: Standards for communicating the world Standards help turn disagreements into compromises and then into industries. These words from Bruce Devlin, outgoing Vice President of Standards at SMPTE, exemplify well the need to create rules in a world that increasingly needs understanding.
VOD in Europe Cinesquare Viaplay Videoland JustWatch
Metauniverse in Broadcast? With the Facebook universe changing name into to META, a new buzzword has emerged: metauniverse, or metaverse (as it is also called). In our broadcast and production environments, this may not have much capillarity, but nonetheless it could end up catching on.
Vizrt, making things easier for broadcast
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Telos Infinity V2.0: Infinity Dashboard Software free for all Infinity users Telos Alliance has launched Telos Infinity Software v2.0 for its matrix-free IP Intercom platform. The update oﬀers an enhanced version of Infinity’s Dashboard software, upgrades compatibility options and includes firmware for Infinity panels, desktop stations, and beltpacks. The V2.0 makes Infinity Dashboard Software free for all Infinity users, eliminating Dashboard’s former licensing scheme and giving users unfettered access to Dashboard’s entire feature set for systems of any size. Telos Infinity v2.0 also makes Telos Infinity hardware systems fully compatible with the Telos Infinity VIP Virtual Intercom Platform. By adding integration of Infinity VIP with the hardware-based Infinity IP Intercom system, users have a wide range of deployment options for diverse applications; whether on-prem, site-to-
site, in the cloud, or as a hybrid of these. The update includes integration with Telos Alliance’s new line of Axia Quasar AoIP Mixing Consoles. Quasar users can now remotely access an Infinity panel (VIP or hardware series) via the Axia Quasar console’s central touchscreen. Both products now include dedicated features that integrate Control Monitor GPIO Logic, Console Mic (as an Intercom source), Intercom LS (as an Ext PFL source), and remote gain control of Intercom LS output level from
Quasar. Dedicated GPIO functions are also extended to legacy Axia mixing consoles, Axia Fusion and Element, combining the mixer CR Monitor Logic functions. Quasar, Fusion, and Element users can also interrupt a backfeed from their console from an Infinity panel. Additionally, Axia Pathfinder Core PRO Routing Controller includes a set that allows users to add Infinity panel (key and control) functions to Pathfinder virtual and physical control panels. Finally, V2.0 includes Elgato Stream Deck integration.
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Pliant Technologies upgrades its CrewCom solution to enable high-density mode Pliant Technologies has recently announced the CrewCom v1.10 Update. This firmware and software update adds two features as well as several enhancements to its capabilities. Topping the list is the addition of the High Density mode. It is a selectable mode of operation that allows user densities to increase by more than fivefold. When implemented, this mode supports up to 32 Radio Packs (RPs) on a single Radio Transceiver (RT) while allowing any of the RPs to communicate using four available fullduplex talk paths. In addition, users could simultaneously deploy Normal mode-enabled RPs and RTs along with High Density mode-enabled hardware. “At Pliant, we pride ourselves on providing advanced communication products to the everchanging needs of the industry, continuously updating our product
oﬀerings to provide cuttingedge communications solutions,” says Gary Rosen, Vice President of Global Sales for Pliant Technologies. Pliant has also made system setup easier with its new Auto Configuration function. This makes the out-of-box experience simpler as a series of menus walk the user through the setup process by simply plugging in the needed hardware using standard Cat-5e/6 or fiber connections, turning on the Control Unit (CU), and selecting the Auto Configure menu option.
If more customization is required or a larger system with more than three RTs needs to be deployed, the CrewWare application can be used to create a tailored system configuration specific to the application. The system has also been improved, including external sync indication on both the CU and in CrewWare, auto system reboot when changing applicable system setup parameters, remote microphone kill per conference, and a new RP Summary menu added to the CU..
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Georgian Public Broadcaster modernize its technological infrastructure with Broadcast Solutions Group Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) has recently renewed technology and equipment in their MAM and playout infrastructure and they had counted on Broadcast Solutions Group. The assistance from Broadcast Solutions includes engineering, delivery and implementation of key production components. Today, 85% of the Georgian population receive the broadcaster’s programmes, which are also seeded by satellite and over the Internet in several European and Asian countries. The host two TV channels and several radio programmes. As part of this modernisation process, Broadcast Solutions implemented a new traﬃc system, ingest, playout, content gathering, graphic systems, MAM and the company’s own developed hi human interface control
solution. Broadcast Solutions’ hi human interface control system provides identifying signals in the On-Air part of the workflow and integrated with the new Grass Valley equipment, which was also supplied by Broadcast Solutions in this project.
Broadcast Solutions implemented a traﬃc system for future necessities. This included a particular localisation of user interfaces and metadata adaptation to the Georgian language. ETERE centralised ingest system and content gathering for the whole GPB complex
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allows for systematisation of archive materials besides performing operational tasks for file ingest and 32 channels baseband ingest simultaneously. With this upgrade, GPB works in HD, but all principal parts of the solution are ready for switching to UHD without essential investments.
As for graphics solutions, Georgian Public Broadcaster and Broadcast Solutions opted for ClassX used in GPB’s broadcast production, starting from creating graphics and planning up to automated playout under automation control.
management tool from ETERE streamlined the production workflows, thus allowing to combine several GPB departments into one single unit and fostering the interaction of the new infrastructure with the existing postproduction systems.
The MAM and file-workflow
As part of the modernisation process, GPB updated their IT infrastructure with equipment from HP, Arista and several others that integrate with modular high-performance storage for Post Production & broadcast – dynamic drive pool, ARDIS. George Kumsiashvili, CTO at Georgian Public Broadcaster, commented on the modernisation: “We replace our legacy production equipment with high-tech systems. This project pushes our Georgian First Channel programme to be one of the region’s most modern and high-tech media outlets. Additionally, the project design pays great attention to data protection and information security components.”
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Italian telco TIM relies on Broadpeak’s multicast ABR solution to optimize its OTT delivery Italian telecommunications operator TIM has recently optimize live sports OTT delivery with a multicast ABR (mABR) solution from Broadpeak. TIM delivers live third-party sports content to subscribers. The project will be deployed by CVE. “Thanks to Broadpeak’s mABR solution, which optimizes network performance for streaming
services, we provide the best technology for assuring an excellent customer quality of experience,” said Crescenzo Micheli, head of technology and innovation at TIM. “As a pioneer of multicast ABR technology, Broadpeak has solid experience and a reputation for delivering superior-quality live OTT content.”
Broadpeak’s multicast ABR solution includes the BkE200 transcaster server, nanoCDN™ agent, SmartLib library, BkM100 video delivery mediator, BkA100 analytics, and BkA200 video delivery monitoring. The BkE200 transcaster server pulls source ABR streams and embeds them into multicast.
Canal+ achieves low-latency 4K OTT streaming on Apple TV thanks to Ateme’s NEA solution Ateme has recently announced that
40 seconds to just five. Ateme is the
Canal+ has deployed OTT low-latency
first to bring to market a low-latency JIT
streaming on AppleTV 4K thanks to
Ateme’s NEA solution. This services allows users from myCANAL to watch sports events via HD or UHD with low latency and almost no delay compared to broadcast delivery. It is available through Apple TV 4K, iPad and iPhone devices with HLS compatibility.
“Keeping latency as low as possible while ensuring optimum visual quality is crucial for the viewer experience in live sports – think live football, rugby and Formula 1. But this has typically been a diﬃcult strategy to balance. With Ateme’s NEA solution we’re able to
Usin Ateme’s Just-In-Time NEA packager
oﬀer both, without compromise,” said
content and streaming providers are
Philippe Rivas, Distribution Technical
able to achieve a latency reduction from
Director at Canal+.
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CJ OliveNetworks.Co implements Pebble’s playout solution with integrator Besco
Pebble has recently announced the appointment of Besco as its channel partner in Korea. The partnerships brings another playout technologies in the Korean market. It is a combination of Pebble’s Automation, Integrated Channel and Pebble Remote (web-based monitoring) solutions for CJP, now known as CJ OliveNetworks.Co.,Ltd. Besco has been leading on an installation of a series of Pebble solutions including Pebble Automation, Integrated Channel and Pebble Remote, bringing 11 channels to air in the first phase.
Besco, which is an equipment and services provider from Korea, has supported Pebble in translating its user manuals into Korean, and provides first line support on the company’s behalf. Also, it has been fundamental on supporting successful Pebble test systems prior to the implementation of the large scale channels. “The Korean market is one of the most technically advanced in APAC,” said Samir Isbaih, Pebble’s VP Sales, Middle East and APAC. “Pebble has market leading solutions that are
both flexible and technically demanding, providing a combination of diﬀerent I/O (SDI,NDI,IP compressed and uncompressed), extensive redundancy schemes (1+1+1), multiple graphic plugins, on-premises/ remote operations and much more, all in one system. Combined with Besco’s local expertise and support, Pebble is confident we can oﬀer the Korean market the most technically compelling solutions in broadcast playout automation and IP broadcasting.”
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Gravity Media to produce UEFA’s match nights for three more years International company Gravity Media has recently renewed its agreement with UEFA for Matchnight services. The agreement consists of a new threeyear contract for the production of services for all of its competitions, which are the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League and the inaugural UEFA Conference League. This partnership began with the first season of the UEFA Champions League in 1992/93. The deal includes highlights programming, digital content, commentaries, and a live instant highlights show for all UEFA’s rights holding broadcasters. This new agreement brings with it a major increase in production services, on Thursday nights in particular where Gravity Media’s production centre plays host to more than 120 editorial and technical staﬀ, including 32 commentators delivering
world feed commentary to broadcasters around the world. To accommodate the growing demands of these match nights, Gravity Media’s London Production Center has been redesigned to include a new and expanded multifunctional suite, which houses the VT operation and monitoring obligations on match nights, as well as additional commentary booths and galleries. Nick Symes, Director of Technology for Gravity Media, oversaw the project, “With the expansion of
the Europa Conference League and the increased required for fast turnaround production facilities and workflows, our new operational areas needed to oﬀer a flexible suite of tools to enable our production teams to deliver the complex set of requirements for delivery of a bolstered UEFA matchnight operation. The new facility occupies a newly refitted room and is equipped with flexible monitoring positions, dedicated talkback all integrated into high specification technical furniture.”
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Digital Cinema Collective trusts SilverBack-V fiber camera adapters to give live productions a cinematic look Digital Cinema Collective
(DCC). “That means using
and data signals for
has recently comunicate
digital cinema cameras
the benefits of SilverBack-V
from Sony, ARRI, Panasonic
productions onto a single
fiber camera adapters
and others with a variety of
tactical or SMPTE hybrid
from MultiDyne Video
cinema lensing to enhance
& Fiber Optic Solutions
any broadcast production
regarding its live production
with a film aesthetic. The
model. Their professionals
SilverBack systems help
have utilized several
us incorporate these
cameras into the broadcast
models in productions
workflow, which has not
such as Democratic
historically been easy to
National Convention Digital
Production and ABC holiday
James Coker, Technical Engineer, who has used the SilverBack-4K5 on many large multi-camera shows, says that “We do live-to-air and live-to-tape events, which have diﬀerent yet challenging timeline
The SilverBack-V and
demands. I can now get a
SilverBack-4K5 both convert
10-camera production up
“We specialize in multi-
digital cinema cameras
and running in four-to-six
camera TV shows that
into studio cameras for live
hours, compared to what
capture a cinematic feel,”
said Aaron Cooke, CEO,
used to take up to two days.
These converters transform
Digital Cinema Collective
multiplex video, audio
The SilverBack-V has a more
direct mounting interface that makes camera adaption even faster. From there it’s just pulling all the feeds from the I/O of the cameras, including SDI 12G, 6G, and 3G signals, as well as sync, timecode, power, audio, intercom and other important elements for the editors.”
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Kromers and TJ Sports: banking and eSports communication with the broadcast label thanks to TSL Products by learning how to
universally control all its
configure and maintain
core production equipment
systems. The solutions
including routers, multi-
also allow for remote
viewers, vision mixers,
production and control
camera, or media servers.
within live streamed events and virtual productions. TSL’s broadcast controllers TSL Products broadcast control solutions are designed to create a unified overlay for any system infrastructure, whether SDI, NDI or ST-2110. This allows broadcast and pro AV customers to take control of production kits
provide a solution for a variety of tier-one AV end users, such as Kromers, a technology consulting agency specialising in audio-visual systems, and TJ Sports, one of the largest eSports production centre from Asia.
TJ Sports required a centralized control system to carry telecast productions across multiple venues, regarding the growing number of teams, competitions and cities participating in eSports. SL’s TallyMan system hosts centralized scheduling and control of the overall signal in the entire studio
Kromers was recently
complex, including five
called on by an investment
studios, five control rooms
bank and global financial
and the core server room.
services company to deliver
Simultaneously, the system
a control infrastructure
carries out centralized tally
that could provide flexibility
management as well as
With TSL’s simplified
for both in-house teams
some personalized items
and external clients. The
throughout the broadcast
dedicated support and
installer turned to TSL’s
training sessions pro
broadcast control system
scheduling signal pre-sets
AV customers can take
to provide its client with
to streamline operator
ownership of configurations
a common platform to
across a facility with a single interface, including presentation, cameras, multi-viewers, graphics and
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TAG Video Systems reach 100K monitoring points around the world TAG Video Systems
source paradigm that
announced that it has
manages and utilizes
analytics to provide
Kevin Joyce, TAG’s Zer0
users with the insight
Friction Oﬃcer, revealed
required to build
the milestone as he
performant linear media
recapped the Company’s
to be monitored. Workflows
2021 achievements which
must be deployed in
also include the launch of
multiple zones around the
its Media Control System
globe with multiple bit rates
for diﬀerent resolutions
Joyce credits TAG’s 100% increase in points probed and monitored during 2021 to the company’s capacity to work with every kind of
to accommodate diﬀering bandwidths. TAG’s ability to anticipate and innovate quickly gave us a wide footprint in all new and emerging sources
workflow, support emerging
which allowed streaming
protocols, and its cloud
services to work reliably
and eﬃciently, a real
Joyce explained, “Because of the explosion in streaming
necessity in today’s direct to consumer world.”
systems. The foundation of the MCS is TAG’s MCM (Multi-Channel Monitoring) that monitors every type of signal from live production through OTT delivery. The MCS collects the voluminous raw data and metrics from the MCM using the power of the cloud to create actionable insights. Using an opensource paradigm, the MCS serves as an aggregation engine capable of exposing that data to standard third party analytic and
and adaption of cloud
Adding to this milestone
technologies, every linear
is TAG’s newly launched
such as Elasticsearch,
channel may have up to 16
Media Control System
Kibana, Grafana and
diﬀerent flavors that need
(MCS). The MCS is an open-
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Red Bee Media provides channel aggregation services and POP in Faroe Islands for Vodafone Iceland
Red Bee Media announces that it is providing aggregation services to Vodafone Iceland. The telco accesses live signals through Red Bee’s channel store. Also, as a request from Vodafone Iceland, Red Bee has deployed a dedicated Point of Presence (POP) in order to deliver channels from Faroe Islands to Iceland. “Signing up to Red Bee’s Channel Store has given us access to a smart and simple channel aggregation solution, enabling us to
update the content in our broadcast packages easily, whenever we need to,” says Þorsteinn Gunnlaugsson, Manager Broadcast Services, Vodafone Iceland. “Red Bee also showed added flexibility in setting up an additional Point of Presence for us to be able to deliver live television signals from Farao Islands to our subscribers in Iceland.” The Red Bee Channel Store includes internal and external playout sources, fixed-line fiber
connections, web streams, secure internet delivery and satellite down-link through Red Bee’s own teleport facilities. “With the Channel Store, we have created one of the most comprehensive and flexible channel aggregation services in the world, and we are seeing a constantly increasing interest from telcos, streaming services and broadcasters all over the world” says David van Kemenade, Product Manager for Red Bee’s Distribution Services.
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Swiss radio broadcast-company CH Media installs Lawo diamond radio consoles Swiss radio stations “Radio 24” and “Virgin Radio Switzerland” recently installed Lawo’s diamond radio consoles. The integration was handled by Swiss systems integrator SLG Broadcast. A total of seven audio consoles have been installed, so far. Each of the three identically equipped broadcast control rooms provides workstations for an anchor and a co-host, plus a news position and two guest positions. The anchor works
at a 12-fader split console,
“You can work quickly
while the co-host uses
and comfortably with
a 4-fader unit; a 2-fader
the diamond. If the word
module for the news reader
‘intuitive’ fits anywhere, it’s
rounds out the installation.
here. After a very short
The IP-native diamond is based on the open AES67/ RAVENNA audio-over-IP network standards and also complies with ST211030/-31 and ST2022-7
time, you can operate it without even looking. You also feel the quality immediately, just by pressing a button or touching a fader. And the control surface is so
standards. The Power Core
compact that we really have
mixing engine provides
a lot of space on the table,”
expandable I/O connectivity
Dominik Widmer, host of
for AES67, MADI, analog,
the Radio 24 morning show,
AES3 and Dante®.
PyeongChang © 2018 Olympic Broadcasting Services
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Interview with Sotiris Salamouris
To broadcast the Olympic Winter Games, Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) needs to deploy their technological assets in the context of winter sports and under below zero weather conditions. The extreme cold in Beijing and in the mountains and the distances between the venues where the competitions are held, are among the challenges faced by Sotiris Salamouris, OBS Chief Technology Officer and his entire team. We talked with Sotiris about these difficulties, and he told us that, to overcome these challenges, they heavily rely on the very extensive experience of the OBS technical team, with several Winter Olympic Games already successfully delivered during the last two decades.
Sotiris Salamouris, ©2021 Olympic Broadcasting Services, Silvio Avila.
What are the main diﬀerences between the technological infrastructure deployed in Tokyo and the one you are deploying in Beijing? The main diﬀerence is not a matter of Tokyo and Beijing; the main diﬀerence is that we broadcast a Olympic Summer Games and now we will be broadcasting the Olympic Winter Games. The technology and infrastructure can be the same or similar, but how it is deployed in the Winter Olympic context is, by itself, really diﬀerent. Winter environments need
WINTER ENVIRONMENTS NEED OTHER REQUIREMENTS AND FACE DIFFERENT CHALLENGES. IT IS NOT NECESSARILY ONLY WEATHER-RELATED, WHICH PLAYS AN IMPORTANT FACTOR, BUT THE FAR LONGER DISTANCES BETWEEN SNOW VENUES AND THE IBC AND ALSO THE INTRICACIES OF THE SNOW SPORTS BY THEMSELVES.
other requirements and face diﬀerent challenges. It is not necessarily only weather-related, which plays an important factor,
but the far longer distances between snow venues and the IBC and also the intricacies of the snow sports by themselves.
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In the case of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, we have venues much farther away than the venues we average have during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. This causes many challenges and also forces adaptations when it comes to the technology that we normally use. You mentioned that the biggest challenge is to adapt the technology you have, because it’s essentially the same, to this environment because of the sports and even the weather. What is the main diﬀerence between summer and winter sports? Why do you have this need? First of all, there are many outdoors sports when it comes to the Olympic Winter Games. Of course, there are also some outdoor sports in the summer environment, but they are in very diﬀerent conditions. All the outdoor sports, during winter, are taking place up in the mountains. And that means that they
have their very own special broadcast needs. To operate under winter conditions is not easy for the people that will use these technologies and for the equipment itself. You have to take this into serious consideration. Some of the systems that you would normally use during the summer, you cannot use in winter because of the cold temperatures and the winter environment.
mountains and the IBC is considerable. This also limits you. Apart from this, which I consider the most significant challenge we face, ice sports such as hockey, figure skating or speed skating, which take place indoors, are more controllable and do not present as many challenges. How do you transmit the feed that you capture in a mountain to the IBC?
You have to be aware of this when you are deploying new equipment and technology. New technology is not usually tested under extreme environmental conditions, and the use of this equipment in winter is a niche, so companies tend to not prioritize these tests. You need to ensure all these gears will function well in the specific environmental conditions of Beijing.
Let’s concentrate on live transmission. Telecommunications infrastructure is diﬀerent because we implement special technologies that can eﬃciently transmit signals between much longer distances. So there is a diﬀerent overall telecommunications architecture that we’re building in the winter environment of the Games.
On the other hand, another element you have to consider is distance, as I said before, distances between the venues with sports happening in the
Another fundamental diﬀerence is that we have a secondary broadcast hub. It is diﬀerent from Olympic Summer Games where we only had the IBC
(International Broadcast Centre). In this winter environment, we also have a mountain broadcast centre that, in the case of the Beijing Games, is called ZBC (Zhangjiakou Mountain Broadcast Centre). Zhangjiakou is a region up in the mountains where most snow sports are taking place. The ZBC also acts as a hub of signal contribution. This means that signals that go to the IBC have to pass, first aggregation and then delivery, in that location. Then, they all are transmitted across a very resilient network all the way from the Zhangjiakou area to Beijing. The distance between the two locations is quite significant, you need almost two and a half hours to travel from one area to the other. Fortunately, there is also a high-speed train that can reduce the travel time to a bit more than one hour and allow us to move more quickly between the two locations. Of course, the challenges that we had in the Tokyo edition will also happen
here because we are going to have our signal production in UHD-HDR format. This format is much more demanding in terms of bandwidth needed and overall signal quantity to be transported. But we have to say that, there is an infrastructure that has already been planned and that would make this happen. How will the contribution and delivery work in this Olympic Winter Games edition? We need to deploy several networks for the Olympic
most straightforward distinction, between the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, is that we establish a resilient contribution telecom trunk between diﬀerent locations, in this case, between the IBC and the ZBC. The contribution network is a network that is built to support the collection of all signals originating in the venues. Quite often, it also supports content delivery from the IBC back to the venues. Therefore, the collection of all content feeds from our production units in the venues, where the actual production takes
WE ARE BUILDING AN INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION NETWORK ALSO MANAGED BY OBS. IT IS GLOBAL AND IT CONNECTS THE IBC TO SEVERAL GLOBAL POPS (POINTS OF PRESENCE) OVER RESILIENT INTERNATIONAL FIBRE LINES. Games to take place. The
place, to these centres,
WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
the IBC and the ZBC, is the prime function of the contribution network of the Games. And then, of course once the content is available in the IBC, we subsequently distribute it to the Rights Holding Broadcasters (RHBs). An important recent development, compared to the past Games is, that although several RHBs are in these two hubs, and they can collect the content locally, many more now work remotely. That is why we are also doing international distribution of our content too and we have diﬀerent ways of doing this. We are building an international distribution network alsoPyeongChang managed by OBS. It ©is2018 global and it Olympic Broadcasting Services. connects the IBC to several global POPs (Points of Presence) over resilient international fibre lines. We have them in cities like New York, Frankfurt, London, Hong Kong, or Tokyo. Of course, Beijing is a hub too. These are places where the networks actually terminate and where broadcasters can pick up the signals, go
the last mile and get it to their own headquarters in their own territory, wherever they are. Apart from the full fibre based international connectivity, we also oﬀer to the RHBs the option to pick up our content over satellite. Satellite distribution is still a quite viable option for massive, multilateral, content delivery, like in the case of the Olympics. We utilize three diﬀerent satellite systems, one for Asia, one for Europe and one more for the Americas. One additional benefit of the satellite distribution is of course the fact that an RHB can connect to receive signals with very little need for establishing a “local mile” connection solution by themselves; this fact makes satellite still quite a relevant reception option, especially for the smaller RHBs. Are you trying more than you tested in Tokyo in terms of distribution? Yes, we are, of course. We are extending the use of all the new technology deployed in Tokyo. We
are leaning heavily, for example, on IP because we have converted our old signal contribution and distribution core for UHDHDR and IP signals, and so on. In Tokyo, we used 5G to cover part of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. And for Beijing we are doing a much wider distribution of 5G technology. This time we are also using 5G for part of our live coverage. These cameras are provided to us by our partner Intel. For example, certain of or our wide view cameras are 5G-connected. These cameras are placed in locations where they will capture iconic content from diﬀerent venues, and they all will contribute back to their respective venue and/ or the IBC via 5G. We are also using 5G as a way to replace some of our wireless cameras. Normally, for such wireless cameras we would have used legacy RF technology, but for these Games, and for the first time, we can rely on 5G. This change is going to happen in a number of sports like curling and
cross-country, alpine and others. We think that 5G is here to stay, but we also think that not all the elements that are necessary for a broadcast workflow are available yet. We are in a kind of transition, but this time our 5G use will be much wider than ever before. We started using 5G for the first time in the PyeongChang Games, then increased a bit in Tokyo but in Beijing it is the first time that we are almost “going mainstream”. We will be deploying more than 25 5G enabled camera systems in these Games. You also have to take into account that the availability of 5G technology in China is bigger than what we have had so far. Our telecommunication partner, China Unicom, is probably the most advanced telecommunications company at this time in the world in terms of 5G deployments. Every sport venue of the Olympic Winter Games already has full 5G coverage. So, is there an eﬀort by China Unicom and
Intel to create this 5G infrastructure or did it exist before? The overall deployment of 5G in China is a country initiative. China Unicom is one of the two main telecommunication companies in China, they have a huge installed base, and they are moving fast to establish more and more 5G coverage in the whole territory. They have prioritized Olympic venues, of course, and by now they are all 5G-covered. It is true that this infrastructure is a public 5G infrastructure. This means that it is oriented to the use by the general user, which is normally the main interest of telecommunications operators. I mean this is where they are all interested in entering, because this is where the biggest market is. When it comes to broadcast we are in a diﬀerent mode of operation. But we also can get a benefit from the 5G technology. The technology may be the same, but the deployment
configuration is diﬀerent because broadcasting is more interested in “uploading” content than in downloading it. If you are a generalpurpose consumer and you
WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
use your cell phone, you are most interested in getting content to your own device. The focus is then placed on the downstream bandwidth from the base station to the devices. Whereas
EVERY SPORT VENUE OF THE OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES ALREADY HAS FULL 5G COVERAGE.
when you’re interested in using 5G as a broadcaster, you’re interested in using it to bring content into the network. China Unicom, however, was willing to make this kind of adaptation in order to support our broadcast requirements. That is because they are also interested in exploring this secondary market, and there are several things that we could do when it comes to optimising the network for uplink use. When we need quality of service, an adjustment is made to prioritise the service we need. That way we avoid congestion problems. This is the first level. The second, which
is even better, is splitting the network and giving the broadcast more parts. This technique is known as slicing. Of course, the third option is that you can even have a dedicated network. In our case, we will have China Unicom did the slicing for us to have our piece of a secure and reliable network. It is very interesting to see how it ends up working in these Games. Changing the subject, I wanted to ask you about the tests you do to test your technological equipment. Can you explain to us what they consist of? Yes, of course. We perform a combination of tests. First of all, we test equipment itself; we check if it can withstand environmental conditions such as deployment at very low temperatures. This is the easiest part because the manufacturer has already conducted their own testing. Manufacturers will need to experiment if their gear can work at 20/30 degrees below zero.
Of course, they will do it, and of course, they are responsible for that. The trickiest part comes when you have to prove your own systems. Because it’s not just about using standard equipment, it’s about interconnecting equipment and having equipment deployed that is a combination of various systems along with our cabling, along with the levels of operation, etc. The only way to really test it is to put them in similar environments and see how they work. And that’s not all. It is one thing to go yourself and set everything up, but it is another thing to worry about how our staﬀ will handle this equipment in these conditions. And that’s a necessity because they have to be able to handle it, no matter what. We do it ourselves through diﬀerent tests in diﬀerent situations. Today we can certify that the tests are done and that our equipment works. If I may, I would like to add something else that is diﬀerent from the Summer Olympics and that has to do with the operability of
the technology. Because it’s not all about deploying technology, of course, technology must be operated. And you have to be aware that the Winter Games has a much more dynamic schedule than the Summer Games. The content creation schedule can be modified by many unforeseen surprises. Normally, when you are planning the total coverage of a sport, you know the
complete schedule. You know when you’re going to start, you know when you’re going to finish and you align everything according to this schedule. You align your personnel, the procedures, the lineups, the checking, the testing, everything. But in a winter sport, you cannot do this. It is very common, mostly due to winter conditions, to experience a highly dynamic schedule. Many things could happen in the field, which can
WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
lead to postponements, cancellations, delays, all these kinds of things. All of this creates an additional layer of complexity because all of our operations are generally very wellorchestrated, so this is not just a matter of; “OK, well, I can delay a little bit longer and have my systems reprogrammed to do something else.” Yes, but that particular system or these particular people
WINTER GAMES HAS A MUCH MORE DYNAMIC SCHEDULE THAN THE SUMMER GAMES. THE CONTENT CREATION SCHEDULE CAN BE MODIFIED BY MANY UNFORESEEN SURPRISES.
are going to be required to, maybe, later on, do something else. Well, then you have sort of a domino eﬀect that you have to be prepared for.
three years in the future. And nowadays, technology related, three years are almost a century. So many things will happen during that period.
So the complexity of the venue technical operations and resulting automation required, as well as the technical workflows of the Winter Games, can make the operation quite a bit more complex than the Summer Games. However, the scope is smaller because there are fewer venues. There are approximately 10 to 15 venues compared to the 30-40 of a typical Summer Games. The complexity is sometimes far greater and requires more detailed planning.
It is clear that the trend, which we have already discussed, that has been strong in Tokyo and also in Beijing is going to continue. It involves creating a general technical infrastructure, and here technology, like IP and cloud help enormously. Many broadcasters are trying to be as flexible as possible in their own operations, which also means that there will be a tendency to create and to need more remote solutions.
Maybe you can tell us something about the next edition of the Olympic Games. Are you developing any technology related to broadcasting that will surprise everyone? Yes, but the surprise, of course, has to be kept as a kind of secret. I will tell you, first of all, that Games are
We will leverage it. We will also try to create new content because this need is always there, ever since the beginning of television coverage. There will be many surprises at the next Olympic Games, but we must be patient and, in a couple of years, we may be able to discuss them in an interview like this one.
Standards for communicating the world
Interview with Bruce Devlin, a.k.a Mr. MXF Standards help turn disagreements into compromises and then into industries. These words from Bruce Devlin, outgoing Vice President of Standards at SMPTE, exemplify well the need to create rules in a world that increasingly needs understanding. Rules allow communication between devices from different manufacturers in a world where the end result, the content, needs communication to exist. The technology is already available and the rules are already written. However, the transition to IP in broadcast is taking time. And, as a general rule, the advocates of this technology cite lack of education as the root of the problem. Here the work of SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) stands out. Education through the exchange of information and the creation of standards so that everything that is between manufacturers and end-users works correctly are their main actions. How does SMPTE work and what are its main functions? What are the advantages of embracing the IP transition? What is SMPTE 2110 capable of doing compared to NDI or other standards? What are its next steps? Let us discover these answers together.
What is SMPTE? Could you give us an overview? The SMPTE is the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. We’re just over 100 years old. We were founded, because back in 1916, there were lots of diﬀerent formats for the size of motion picture film. This variety caused
a lot of interoperability problems. Then, someone thought it would be a good idea to write down a standard. The idea was to have all the film with the same size, same thickness and same number of sprocket holes, so that we could distribute film around the country, America in that case. If you fast forward to today, you look around, and there are people putting diﬀerent sorts of codecs over IP. There are people putting diﬀerent resolutions over IP, people have diﬀerent synchronization mechanisms for IP, etc. If you are, for example, communicating with me through a Zoom call and you want to put it on air on a live broadcast, somehow you need to check the compatibility of the audiovisual signal at each one of those little steps in your chain, and you’d like to do it quickly. It’s certainly the same interoperability problem that we had in 1916, except nowadays, the boxes are full of electronics and not full of bits of plastic
in the market. A standard helps companies get more users of that technology more quickly. Let’s imagine that they come up with some brand new way of distributing sound. It’s likely that many people around the world are doing similar things. For example, with Immersive audio there might be several, similar ways of creating a bitstream. They all have the same fundamental goal of providing multiple channels that can be combined into a great audio experience, but we have diﬀerent interested bodies who are all trying to produce a similar result, with diﬀerent technologies. with bright lights, and occasionally, smoking things melting. Actually, no. Today, we still have boxes of things that occasionally melt, so that aspect of developing new systems has stayed the same. [Laughs]. Basically, SMPTE started as a membership organization and continues to be a membership organization with sections around Europe, around America, Japan, India and everywhere. Yes, we’ve
been making standards for 100 years, and we’re still doing them, but one of the main things that we do nowadays is education. We try to teach people about the fundamentals of audiovisual technology. How do these standards come about? What will happen if somebody has a bright idea? That somebody will probably try to exploit that idea and make it successful
Imagine that you’re a cinema owner. Representatives of the individual solutions might come to your cinema and try to convince you to install their solution in your theatre. Additionally, movie distributors might show up at your theatre and tell you that their movies are made with diﬀerent bitstreams. And, of course, you want to show all the movies. What do you do about it? That’s really where SMPTE comes in. We say: “Well,
it is possible to build an infrastructure that delivers a common bitstream and therefore simplify the distribution if we get all the proponents around a table and agree on the compromises necessary”. SMPTE creates a practical level of standards that allows operators to show more movies to more people and allows TV stations to show more TV to more people. We just want to make the world of cinema, television and streaming bigger and easier for all. You perform like a middle stage between the manufacturer and the customer. How do you do that? I’m going to use the analogy of an app store to answer you. You, as an end-user, want to record your voice with your phone. You search through the app store for audio recording, and you find tools that are for voice only, tools that are for music, tools that allow you to plug in an external array of microphones, tools that want you to pay €10 or €1 per year, and others that have
in-app purchases, that enable recordings longer than 30 seconds. Eventually, you find one that’s just perfect. Just the right price and with just the right features for you. Let’s think about what the app store is doing. The app store is providing metadata that allows you to make a choice. Some engineer thought that in order to make this market exist we have to give the end-user choice. They have to be able to compare apps against each other. We’re going to force the app designers to write down some key features of their apps. We also know there’s going to be two, three or four diﬀerent ways you’re going to buy it. The person who’s designing the App Store is trying to figure out what things the app designer wants to do, and what things the user wants to do. And you find the level of technology in the middle. In a way, what SMPTE does, is to act as an intermediary between what the manufacturers want to build and what the users want to do. SMPTE’s members provide the technology that has to be in the middle,
A STANDARD DOES NOT TELL THE PEOPLE HOW TO RUN THE BUSINESS, A STANDARD MERELY PROVIDES INTEROPERABILITY SOLUTIONS THAT ALLOW TOOL PROVIDERS TO ENABLE BETTER BUSINESS. THAT’S WHAT WE CARE ABOUT.
between these two endpoints of the market so that both can understand each other. A standard does not tell the people how to run the business, a standard merely provides interoperability solutions that allow tool providers to enable better business. That’s what we care about. Going back to SMPTE’s areas of action, you were talking about standards, membership and education. Could you describe these areas in more depth, please? We will start with membership. SMPTE has around 8,000 members all around the world. We tend to split our membership into sections that are usually located in
a geographical region to encourage members to meet and network. Sections often arrange meetings where people who are leaders in the industry talk about what they do. It’s a very simple formula. We get real people with real experience talking what they do in the sections. Because of COVID, we’ve been doing a lot more of this online. The next thing is education that comes in diﬀerent forms. The first is actually oriented around the section events where local expertise is given a bigger audience in section event. For example, the SMPTE UK section recently had experts from the BBC research and development department explaining how are they building IP networks, and how are they doing high
dynamic range. Then we have a range of formal education courses where you might learn about IP video, or how colour works, how IP networking works, how the components D-cinema work. This is SMPTE education: we educate the rest of the world about what we do, but we are also educated by other industries about what they do. That brings us into another activity of SMPTE, which
is liaisons. As Head of Standards, one of my jobs is to communicate with other organizations to make certain that we’re not duplicating our eﬀort but we’re working cooperatively and collaboratively. For example, we work with DVB because DVB deals with satellite and terrestrial links and SMPTE deals with contributing to those links. We work with the EBU because the EBU is a group of end-users, whereas SMPTE is more about the vendor community. And we work with many others including the W3C, CTA, ATS. The list is very long. That’s where SMPTE really
thrives and we end up developing standards in specific areas that are contributed by our membership, we provide education on those standards that bring in new members who have new ideas. Those new ideas go back to the members and we make new standards. This help drive the industry forwards. Let’s talk about IP facilities, what are the main advantages of migrating to IP in a broadcaster? Flexibility. That is the oneword answer. With SDI each cable carried one signal
in one direction. Imagine a flexible environment where, in the morning, you could be recording a soap opera in a studio, but in the afternoon you turn the set around and have a game show and in the evening you have a comedy program. Physically, it is a real challenge to move all the sets around, but also, in terms of the way that you might move the cameras or the signals, you’re fixed with SDI. As soon as you go to IP the signals flowing around your facility no longer depend on where the wires are. You can be bidirectional on a single cable. If suddenly, you were shooting a 4K drama in the morning but in the afternoon you want
to have some kids’ game show where every child has a GoPro on their head and you want a hundred cameras, you can do it with IP, and an appropriate budget.
morning could be in HD and the evening in 4K. It could be SDR or HDR. They are using the same kit, configured diﬀerently. And that is the flexibility that IP brings.
One of the biggest, most flexible IP facilities is being built right now (Eurosport) and is able to take 1,000s of signals and route them from anywhere to anywhere and bring them together and split them apart. They can make Italian football, Spanish basketball, British snooker, German motorcycle racing, or competitions across thirty diﬀerent countries in the morning and, in the afternoon, they can broadcast World Cup matches, for example. The
And why is taking so long and so much then?
ONE OF THE BIGGEST, MOST FLEXIBLE IP FACILITIES IS BEING BUILT RIGHT NOW (EUROSPORT) AND IS ABLE TO TAKE 1,000S OF SIGNALS AND ROUTE THEM FROM ANYWHERE TO ANYWHERE AND BRING THEM TOGETHER AND SPLIT THEM APART.
I’m going to start with a bit of history. In 1988, SDI was first demonstrated at IBC. That was the big thing, but really SDI only worked between two videotape recorders, two cameras, and one switcher. It took around ten years for SDI fully replaces analog circuit switching. If all you want to do is replace an SDI workflow with an IP workflow you just lift out the SDI, replace it with IP, and you can do it that in a few weeks. You go to the shops. You buy the kit. You plug the kit in. You put some converters where there is kit that will never support IP and it just works. But you didn’t buy the IP kit just to replace SDI. You bought the IP kit to, fundamentally, change your workflows in order to be super-flexible.
Recently, we had a SMPTE+
you’re trying to do is a self-
event where we got lots
contained small production
of people who’ve built IP
with compressed feeds
facilities to just talk about
then ST 2110 is probably
their experiences. They all
overkill. If you’re trying
said that if all you’re trying
to do an Olympic Games
to do is replace SDI, just go
where you want 8K and
and buy it. You won’t notice
4K, and high dynamic
the diﬀerence. Then, if you
range, and you’ve got
don’t notice the diﬀerence,
1,000 microphones all the
why did you spend all that
way around the opening
money on a replacement? The reality is that IP enables flexibility. Flexibility means changing your working practices. Changing the working practices means changing the way people work. Changing the way
stadium, and they all have to come back in sync to the one mixing station, and they’re all 24-bit audio, and all the cameras that would do 12-bit RGB because you want the perfect quality; NDI can’t do that. ST 2110
people work … that’s hard.
is your only solution. That’s
I should also say it’s not
got the flexibility that you
just SMPTE who does IP standards. There’s an open specification called NDI. You can go out and buy it and
the thing about IP. You’ve want depending on what sort of program you’re trying to make and what
with it and you discover you’re doing things in a diﬀerent way to the way that you did before. Once you’ve trained your people you discover that there are diﬀerences between the way ST 2110 works and the way that NDI works. If all
1990s, we could build chips
your budgets are like.
fast enough to do SD and
What will be the next step?
write low-level software
it’s integrated into lots of tools and it works. You play
price to do 4K TV. In the
Let me tell you about the way I think technology will change in the coming years. When I joined the TV industry in the 1980s, we were fighting physics. You could not build the chips fast enough at a reasonable
HD. In the 2000s, we could that could do SD and HD. In the 2010s, we could write software to do SD and HD and 4K, and we could build chips to do any resolution that you like. We’re now in the 2020s, I can go to the shop and spend €400 on a phone that will do 4K.
clever am I? Those are the
walk around the set, and
only two barriers that exist.
wherever they looks, they
The standards and specifications we need nowadays are the opposite of what we needed in the 1980s. In the 1980s, you
need to make it repeatable, which is exactly the
started putting anything
opposite order of how we
on silicon. Now you build
did it in the 1980s.
build the platform out of stable components. For example, how do I connect a Unity games engine to
with my credit card, I can
out what standards we
system before you actually
make it stable. Then you
potential of the cloud, and
today we’ll build it, figure
and standardize them,
figure out what it takes to
the unlimited compute
in Spain? The answer is,
had to design the whole
the whole system and
Now, in 2022, we have
control the virtual camera(s)
a big LED wall with some metadata capture on the back of a camera? And, more complex, how do I
How is it going to change? Everything is going to be defined by software. The standards we will need will have to do with the vocabularies that the diﬀerent computer programs need to communicate with each other. In this way, we
will be able to have two
such as remotely controlling
vendors making diﬀerent
devices but communicating
cameras with a joystick? Or
in the same way in the
are no longer any barriers
even more important, how
same ecosystem. This
to processing video. It’s
do I could get my director
will reduce the risk of
literally, how much do I
photography in Los Angeles
want to spend and how
with an Oculus headset to
swipe and buy enough computing to do 8K in real-time if I want to. There
Cinesquare is a platform created by the Macedonianbased company CutAway. Its goal has been, from the beginning, to provide the many countries of the Balkans with a place to access their native cinema. But its growth plans are not truncated by the limits of geography. Its platform, in the future, wants to reach out to all of its compatriots, no matter how far from homeland they may be, because its content will make them feel closer to home. Sasha Stanishik is a film director and General Manager at CutAway and Nikola Tasevski is the company’s CTO. Together, they gave us a first-hand look at the services their platform offers, the challenges they have experienced in the past, and the many technological and business processes they are working on today. The many languages and nationalities in their region and the management of exhibition rights in different countries are part of the great challenges faced by a team that has developed its technological infrastructure by itself, without relying on third-party services.
Interview with Sasha Stanishik (General Manager) and Nikola Tasevski (CTO) at Cinesquare and Cutaway What is the origin of Cinesquare and its main mission? Sasha Stanishik: Cinesquare is a project of CutAway, a production and distribution company, founded in 2010. At the beginning we were, and we are still, one of the rare distribution companies in Macedonia that is focused on European content. I’m a film director and for me it is really important to make European content more visible in these territories (such as Macedonia) that have a poor distribution infrastructure. For example, in Macedonia, there are just two cinemas that are screening European films regularly. That is connected with the need to create Cinesquare. We wanted to solve that problem because if you want to watch some films which are
not blockbusters, in most of the Balkan countries the only place that you can watch them are film festivals. That is why we decided to develop our own VOD platform. We truly believed that there was a need for this niche art house content, which is not visible but is aligned with some European policies. It has big market potential. We began to develop the platform with support from Eurimages. With that grant, we launched our platform in 2016. Then we also got support from Creative Europe MEDIA for online distribution. That is how we started to develop our network with local partners. We wanted to become a hub for European films in the Balkan region. Today
we cover all of Southeastern Europe, which are 13 countries. And we are members of the board of the EuroVOD Network. What is your business model? Sasha: If you want to survive in this competitive sector and even in this more competitive region, we think the main characteristic you have to develop is flexibility. We have worked at this capability in several ways. We have flexibility because our technology has been developed by our own. We have all kinds of monetization and various business models: TVOD pay per view (especially for more exclusive content), SVOD with the subscription catalog of careful curated
titles and even AVOD with possibilities to advertising. We diversify our revenues as well. We also work as a tech company. For example, when the COVID pandemic started, we developed our Festival platform. The past year and a half, we had more than 40 festivals on our platform. We hosted some of the biggest festivals in the region such as: Panorama of European Cinema from Greece, Beldocs IDFF from Serbia, LIFFE from Slovenia, MakeDox documentary festival in Macedonia. Apart of oﬀering content, we oﬀer technical services, and, if it is needed, streaming services. Through these services we also make good connections with the whole distribution sector. What makes your platform diﬀerent from other VOD platforms? Sasha: When we started, we were the only regional VOD platform in Europe. The region we cover (SouthEastern Europe) is diverse, but it is culturally similar at the same time. The Balkan region has 13 countries
WE WANTED TO BECOME A HUB FOR EUROPEAN FILMS IN THE BALKAN REGION. TODAY WE COVER ALL OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE, WHICH ARE 13 COUNTRIES. AND WE ARE MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF THE EUROVOD NETWORK.
and 10 languages. That is a pretty big market, and to cover it all, we have local partners in most of the countries who are responsible for the promotion of the platform and choosing the engaging content for their own territory. We work together on the promotion activities, the catalog, and everything. For example, every user will see the platform’s interface translated into its own
language. Usually, we select with our local partners the most appropriate content to be translated based on demand reasons. What criteria do you use to choose content for your platform? Sasha: We still tend to handpick some of the titles, because most of our content is arthouse titles. We don`t rely entirely on the algorithm. Also, we do it with consultation with local partners with the people we know from each country. For example, if a famous person or a director curates content, this is a great way for promotion. I do not want to underestimate the algorithm; I think the best way for us is a mixture between the algorithm and handpicked content. What challenges does your platform face? Regarding the territory it covers, Cinesquare is a platform with a strong position. There is not a regional platform with that many territories. That strength is also a challenge. It’s not easy to acquire
rights for 13 countries. This fragmentation of rights is a real challenge for us. Another big challenge for us is how to prevent piracy and to protect the content from illegally downloading. Regarding this, we have invested a lot in security technology reinforcement. We have to make our partners believe that we are trustworthy and that we are capable of not allowing our users to download the content we show. As we said before, translation is another big challenge we have to face. The territory we cover is multilingual, and translation costs are really big. We want to invest in this in a near future. We have started to develop machine learning for translation. This will help us to be more sustainable in the future. Also, we want to attract other audience targets. We are working in a kid’s catalog based on gamification mixed with other interesting content for them.
What has been your biggest technological challenge? Nikola Tasevski: From our side, we try to come up with new projects and some new features, the solution that we can oﬀer to users to make the whole experience better. I would say, answering your question, that our biggest challenge is scalability and growth. The platform has to be available for a lot of users and it has
to allow reliable streams in all of the 13 countries. For example, when we host a festival, one of which Sasha mentioned before, we have a lot of new viewers. We have changed our server infrastructure recently in order to be more reliable. We have upgraded them and we have deployed new ones in some of the countries we operate in. Nowadays, our system streams content for more
Are you focused on growing internationally? Sasha: It is known that there is a big diaspora from that region in Europe and the world. In the future, we want to oﬀer to them the catalog of the local titles from the local countries they are from. There is a big necessity in bringing that content to each part of the world that has a possible viewer from the Balkan region. Will it be useful an international network to expand yourselves?
than 30,000 concurrent viewers.
protocols for content security.
Another thing I would like to mention is that every solution and service we oﬀer is completely developed inhouse. For example, we do not use any cloud platform. We have dedicated servers that we use, on the one side, for hosting the platform, and, on the other side, for content delivery. Also, we develop our own security
Apart from the video on demand, there is the possibility for live streams. There is a small technological diﬀerence, but in the end, we have an opportunity to serve thousands of users simultaneously, and, at any moment, we are able to activate more servers that on our network and boost the traﬃc potential of our system.
Sasha: Yes, it will. But there will be the rights problem again. In some way, we are now just doing that with festivals. Festivals platforms have their own rights with their own content. But the fragmentation of rights is a real big challenge for the future of the VOD platforms. At this moment, it is really hard, especially in our region because we are so many territories. We are prepared for this hypothetical future. We have the technological assets, we have the
know-how and we have the connections and the network. We are open to some strategic partnership. As I said, technology is not the problem, the problem are rights. What technology development plans do you have? Nikola: We are now working on launching a new platform with some new functionalities. We now oﬀer several models, such as pay-per-view and subscriptions. We have decided to completely redesign and redevelop the whole platform from the beginning. There are some newer technologies that will allow us to be more present in the market and to be more reliable. With the upgrade of the web platform, upgrades of our android and TV apps will follow in order to provide our services in a more modern, reliable and user-friendly way on every device. Every user has diﬀerent preferences when it comes to consuming VOD content, and they all need to be satisfied.
Apart from the platform itself, we are constantly working on additional projects that are part of this industry and that we can broaden our oﬀer on our platform with. One of the things that Sasha described is the automation of translations for movie content and movies subtitles. We need to develop a custom machine learning model that will work well with “smaller” European languages and with more artistic texts or parliaments present on arthouse films. The initial plan is to work first for our platform, but once solutions are ready, we are open to sharing them with other OTT and VOD platforms. In this way, we are part of the UXP (Unified eXchange Platform) project, which is an eﬀort that is led by OUTtv from the Netherlands. This project aims to help new entities interested in creating a VOD platform. Platforms like ours usually have technological modules created by themselves for diﬀerent things. That technology could be reused
I THINK THAT ALL OF THE VOD PLATFORMS WILL NEED TO OUTGROW A BIT AND OFFER DIFFERENT CONTENT AND DIFFERENT FEATURES ON THEIR PLATFORM.
and it brings benefits such as allowing new entities to focus on the content and not to worry about technology. What will be, in your thoughts, the technological aspects of future VOD platforms? Nikola: If we have a look at the current trends, for example, Netflix with its videogames for smartphones, or Facebook with its Metaverse, all of them are connected with VOD, and every online service will be connected
in this virtual environment.
to, at least, three VOD
on European Commissions
I think that all of the VOD
platforms. Will they oﬀer
and under the policies from
platforms will need to
a combined service?
governments and their way
outgrow a bit and oﬀer diﬀerent content and diﬀerent features on their platform. There are also new technologies such as AI and virtual reality that are becoming more habitual, especially with the pandemic. People watch content at home but this experience has to be
Sasha: Of course, one of the problems in this sector
to handle these exhibition rights.
will be the saturation of the
In the end, some kind of
market. If you want to watch
aggregator package will
more diverse content, you
be oﬀered in the future
will need to have more than
that includes diﬀerent
just one, or even two, VOD
platform subscriptions. And, again, this problem is also connected with rights, which is why it is not an easy-solving problem.
much real every day, more
Maybe, in the future,
physical. And that is where
aggregators could oﬀer
VR comes in.
films to a particular audience based in a
What do you think about
country that has nothing to
the current business
do with the original rights of
model? Is it going to
the territory. The solution is
change somehow? Today this model results unaﬀordable because a user that would want to watch diﬀerent content has to subscribe
In the Nordic countries everything always starts with “Nordic Noir”. Its popularity has grown unparalleled and has embraced markets such as literature, cinema and television series. Its essence has captivated millions of viewers around the world. This is one of the keys to the success of this platform of Nordic origin, but as they themselves say; that is only the beginning. We offer you an interview with one of the most important VOD/OTT platforms in Europe. Viaplay was forged in countries such as Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland and today it has already expanded to Poland and the Baltic countries. Its growth plans include other European countries such as England or Germany and, in addition, they want to cross the great sea to reach the coasts of Canada. Quantity and quality come together in this platform that aspires to be seen by twelve million users.
How was Viaplay born? Mikael Svensson, SVP Strategy & Expansion: Viaplay is a streaming pioneer and has been leading innovation in this space for 15 years. We first launched back in 2007 – the same year as the very first iPhone – when we saw that streaming was fast becoming the future of entertainment. In 2014, with the market accelerating rapidly, we took the bold decision to double down on our investment. The knowhow and experience we’ve gathered every day since then give us a great advantage and are a big reason why, today, we have one of the most robust and scalable streaming platforms in the business. How has it developed through the years? Urban Löfbom, Product & Platform Manager, Content Platform: As streaming has evolved and become a mainstream entertainment option, it’s only natural for viewers continuously to expect even more
Mikael Svensson, SVP Strategy & Expansion
Urban Löfbom, Product & Platform Manager, Content Platform
Örjan Åberg, Solutions Architect, Streaming Experience
Louise Faerch VP, Viafree & Viaplay Programming
from us. I don’t just mean content, but the whole experience of using Viaplay. The development of the platform reflects that. For example, we’ve devoted considerable time and resources to making it easy for users to find something they want to watch. This becomes more important every day, as the amount of choice is growing so
much. It has driven all sorts of frontend and backend improvements that combine seamlessly for an intuitive user experience. Arguably one of our biggest achievements is Viaplay’s personalisation features. Our advanced algorithm processes your viewing history (and not just what you’ve watched, but what you started but never finished…) and matches it
with titles deemed to be of interest for you (i.e. from the same genre or director as a title you liked, or featuring some of the same actors). We’re now taking global steps with Viaplay. This requires us to re-think some of the technical choices we made years ago, as our viewer base and the demands on our platform are changing considerably. It’s a really exciting time and we’re looking forward to enabling viewers in many more countries to experience Viaplay. What is Viaplay’s business model? Mikael Svensson: Viaplay has two principal customer oﬀerings that we adapt based on the market. In the Nordic and Baltic regions, Poland and soon the Netherlands, we have a broad oﬀering that combines premium live sports, award-winning Viaplay Originals, Hollywood films and series, and kids’ content. In the US, where we launched on 15 December, and in the UK from the second half of
IN THE NORDIC AND BALTIC REGIONS, POLAND AND SOON THE NETHERLANDS, WE HAVE A BROAD OFFERING THAT COMBINES PREMIUM LIVE SPORTS, AWARDWINNING VIAPLAY ORIGINALS, HOLLYWOOD FILMS AND SERIES, AND KIDS’ CONTENT.
2022, Viaplay is more of a specialised service focused on ‘the best of the Nordics’, meaning Viaplay Originals and high-quality films and series from additional Nordic providers. What makes Viaplay diﬀerent from other OTT / VOD platforms?
Örjan Åberg, Solutions Architect, Streaming Experience: There are many factors that set us apart, both from a technical and content perspective. I think the most obvious one is the breadth of our oﬀering – nobody else has the combination of content that’s available on Viaplay. For example, we premiered more than 50 Viaplay Originals in 2021 and are aiming for over 60 in 2022. Our original storytelling has won prizes around the world – including a Best Series win for our drama series ‘Partisan’ at Canneseries – and we work with some of the biggest talents in the Nordic region and Hollywood to bring viewers experiences that just aren’t available anywhere else. That’s alongside long-term partnerships with many of the major Hollywood studios. Alongside that, we hold toptier sports rights like the Premier League, Formula 1 and NHL among others. These big international rights are balanced by attractive local sports
content – we recently took over the FIS winter sports rights in Sweden, Norway and Finland and have launched our own Viaplay Winter Studio, featuring expert coverage of events like cross-country and Alpine skiing which are household favourites in the Nordics. In fact, we’re well on the way to showing 100,000 live hours of sports every year, which makes us a global leader in this area. What criteria do you use to choose the titles you oﬀer on your platform? Louise Faerch VP, Viafree & Viaplay Programming: We have a large, dedicated team working with our content across diﬀerent areas – from acquisition and distribution deals and
IN THE US, WHERE WE LAUNCHED ON 15 DECEMBER, AND IN THE UK FROM THE SECOND HALF OF 2022, VIAPLAY IS MORE OF A SPECIALISED SERVICE FOCUSED ON ‘THE BEST OF THE NORDICS’, MEANING VIAPLAY ORIGINALS AND HIGH-QUALITY FILMS AND SERIES FROM ADDITIONAL NORDIC PROVIDERS.
overseeing production of our Viaplay Originals, to curating our local sites, working strategically with acquired titles and extracting insights from viewing data. For Viaplay Originals, we focus on telling unique stories and capturing local interest in each of
our markets. For acquired content, we work with key long-term partners to secure rights for exclusive series and movie premieres, popular franchises and the latest theatrical releases.
Across all our content, we always take into account market trends and performance data. We consider what content can appeal to audiences, both current and potential (i.e. in new markets or new age groups), according to our demographic research and focus groups. Seasonality is also an important factor, since we want to oﬀer titles that feed into campaigns throughout the year – including Christmas classics, Valentine’s Day rom-coms and Halloween horror movies, for example. It’s important to say that we take a holistic view of what’s on Viaplay, and that we are committed to representing the varied interests, experiences and cultures of both viewers and content creators. We want to leave no story left untold, so on- and oﬀscreen representation is a top priority for us. What market challenges does your platform face? Örjan Åberg: Our ambitious international expansion means we need to scale up Viaplay to deal with a
greater volume of content, customers and locally scheduled events. We’re constantly improving the performance and reach of our service for all our customers, and the complexity of this task increases the further we go beyond the Nordic region. As Viaplay becomes available in new markets, many more customers will use our service. We must also handle more volatile viewing patterns, with highprofile sports like Formula 1 expected to attract a huge surge in customers on race day (especially in the Netherlands when fan favourite and homegrown talent Max Verstappen gets behind the wheel). It’s our job to ensure a high-quality stream from start to finish for all our customers, wherever they might be. So, naturally, we are collaborating closely with local operators and infrastructure partners. These are all challenges, but they can just as easily be framed as opportunities. Scaling our Product, Data & Tech organization is also key to unlocking this
potential and staying ahead of the pack. We have invested heavily in our development team in Stockholm and intend to continue to do so. Recruiting the right developers, designers and data analysts can be competitive, but we are always open to knowledgeable, motivated people joining us on our exciting expansion journey.
How much of your content is broadcast in HD or 4K? Are there plans to continue growing in this aspect?
What is the cloud platform that hosts Viaplay? What services does it oﬀer to you?
What are your international growth goals?
Urban Löfbom: We have a partnership with AWS that allows us to scale to millions of customers in multiple markets without having to build our own data centres. We use EC2 for scalable instance hosting; DynamoDB, RDS and S3 for state and persistence; and Lambda for short running and ondemand tasks. While there are some common services in AWS, we also trust our development teams to choose what will help meet their vision.
Örjan Åberg: We currently run selected sports events in 4K in the Nordic region, with all other content in full HD quality. Our plan is to incorporate more 4K content on Viaplay – definitely something to keep an eye out for!
Mikael Svensson: Last year we successfully launched in the three Baltic countries, Poland and the US. We will launch in the Netherlands on 1 March, with a very competitive sports rights portfolio, including Formula 1, PDC Darts, Bundesliga, and later also adding Premier League football, together with our broad content oﬀering, and during the second half of 2022 we’re coming to the UK. In 2023 we’re also adding Canada, Germany, Austria and Switzerland to the list of countries. In total, we’re targeting 12 million
OUR AMBITIOUS INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION MEANS WE NEED TO SCALE UP VIAPLAY TO DEAL WITH A GREATER VOLUME OF CONTENT, CUSTOMERS AND LOCALLY SCHEDULED EVENTS. WE’RE CONSTANTLY IMPROVING THE PERFORMANCE AND REACH OF OUR SERVICE FOR ALL OUR CUSTOMERS, AND THE COMPLEXITY OF THIS TASK INCREASES THE FURTHER WE GO BEYOND THE NORDIC REGION.
subscribers by 2025, of
Mikael Svensson: We
popularity of ‘Nordic noir’
which 6 million will be in
believe the “stacking”
drama. This is a game-
the Nordic region and 6
behaviour we see today
million internationally. With
will increase with even
changer for our industry,
the increasing number of subscribers, we will naturally also continue expanding our content catalogue as well as sports rights portfolio. The multimedia content market is growing a lot and the oﬀer is huge for the viewer, what do you
more subscriptions per household. Our guess is that most of us will have
and shows that Viaplay’s expansion strategy is the right one.
a mix of well-established
It’s now possible for a
large services, combined
Nordic company to evolve
with smaller, niche oﬀerings
into a global streaming
based on regions or special interests. It is also evident that viewers are increasingly receptive to content in
player, and for our unique combination of local content and international sports rights to reach viewers in many new
think the future of OTT
languages other than
markets. Like we often
/ VOD platforms will be
English. We’ve seen this
say, Nordic noir is just the
ourselves with the global
Videoland was born as a physical rental shop in The Netherlands. That business model, a hit in the old days and a defunct way to watch a movie today, evolved into a Netherlands-centric SVOD service with a not inconsiderable second place, just behind Netflix. In the midst of the transition to the Bedrock platform, where the entire Videoland infrastructure will be merged and transferred to this new service provider, we wanted to talk to some of its representatives to tell us how their platform works, what challenges they face today and how they see the future of an OTT designed by and for the Dutch people.
How was Videoland born? Videoland’s history goes back to 1984 when it opened its first video rental shop. The digital part of the company was acquired by RTL in 2013 and in 2015 RTL launched Videoland as an SVOD service. How has it developed through the years? Videoland grew from an old fashioned brand into a strong local streaming platform with locally sourced and original content. It is a service
over 65 exclusive local
always on the lookout for
that holds a solid number
originals in 2021 and we
innovative and authentic
two position in the Dutch
invest firmly in local drama,
local content which reflects
market right behind Netflix.
documentaries and reality
what is relevant and current
Mid 2021 the service had
shows. Being part of the
in our society. It addresses
over 1 million subscribers,
RTL network Videoland also
the wants, needs, fears,
making it also the largest
has access to exclusives
hopes and/or frustrations
local SVOD service by far.
windows of RTL’s linear
of the Dutch people. If
our content is the talk of
What makes Videoland
the town, we know we
diﬀerent from other OTT
What criteria do you use
succeeded in striking a
/ VOD platforms?
to choose the titles you
Videoland is the no. 1
oﬀer on your platform? What market challenges
in local content in the
Our local, exclusive originals
Netherlands with the Dutch
viewer as the absolute
proposition from our
It is the growing
priority. We released
competitors. We are
competition on the
does your platform face?
infrastructure of your
RTL Group is already
present in several European
We use Kubernetesbased cloud microservices architecture.
next big step for
Netherlands is a beloved springboard for new
the migration of our subscribers to the Bedrock
both for playout and data
service. On the data side we
crowded market. The
The next big step is
We mainly use Azure,
media services as a main
entering an already
local focus, instead.
platform that hosts
engineering. We use Azure
streaming services are
Germany. Videoland has a
What is the technological
time. Each year new
SVOD service, e.g. RTL+ in
What is the cloud
services does it oﬀer to
countries with a local
use Snowflake. How much of your content is broadcast in HD or 4K? Are there
The multimedia content market is growing a lot and the oﬀer is huge for the viewer, what do you think the future of OTT / VOD platforms will be like?
plans to continue
We expect to hold a strong
growing in this aspect?
position in the Dutch market as the leading local
streaming services. They
All content is currently
produce local content, a
broadcasted in HD.
small percentage of what
Videoland oﬀers no
unique oﬀering, including
we do on Videoland, but
4K content, but we will
blockbuster titles, will be
it does lead to a higher
probably do so in the
able to gain a significant
demand on local content
market share. We also
those that have a large
expect innovations such
production and talent. What is the technological
streaming service. Only
Do you have any goals to
as live TV and live events.
Good news for Videoland.
Finding a way in streaming In this magazine we have seen firsthand the large amount of quality content being consumed today through streaming services on VOD/ OTT platforms. The offer is huge, but more importantly, the demand continues to grow. The consumer now finds himself in an intricate labyrinth where finding the right way to enjoy his favorite content can become a really complex task. The options are many and there is not enough time - or money - to explore them all. JustWatch was born as a guide to overcome the streaming labyrinth. The platform of David Croyé, whom you can read in these lines, is the perfect guide for the viewer. A guide to survive in the streaming wars.
information to each user? We have a team of several fulltime content engineers and many virtual assistants around the world to keep the data up to date and fix matching mistakes. We’ve built our own software to ingest large amounts of data every day in over 70 countries.
How was JustWatch born? The idea of JustWatch came from my personal problems of keeping track what is new and where I can watch a specific movie someone told me about on one of my - too many - streaming services I subscribed to, and my background in performance marketing. What is JustWatch’s business model? JustWatch has three revenue streams. The first one is the most obvious, that we monetize our own platform with aﬃliate commissions, freemium
and banner ads. The second one is, that we license the where to watch data and data insights to many partners and clients. The third one is the biggest and it is that we use the data from JustWatch to manage trailer advertising campaigns on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok for our clients like Universal, Paramount, Sony, Disney, Prime Video and many more around the world. What is the infrastructure required for JustWatch to provide the necessary
The JustWatch platform adapts to each user, what artificial intelligence and personalized recommendation solutions have you adapted? We’ve built our own machine learning models to create recommendation for each user based on the content they like, dislike, click on, search, put on their watchlist, etc. Do you work with information from VOD/ OTT platforms or do you collect it from databases? We have APIs from many
streaming services, but
What is the biggest
VOD platforms, it has
most of the times we crawl
been growing steadily
their websites like Google
you have faced?
for years and the user
does for search.
It has been to overcome
The posters and images
technical debt on the
are from several meta-
frontend side and the
matching system for the
is no longer able to enjoy that entire oﬀer. How do you think this market will evolve? Will the platforms continue
metadata across so many
to multiply or will they
countries and languages.
Do you use a virtualized
I expect the streaming
systems and Smart TVs?
environment to host
wars to rage on for several
more years with a few big
We have developed hybrid
global players like Netflix,
How have you integrated your platform into mobile operating
apps for Android and iOS based on VueJS as well as for Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, LG TVs, Samsung and Xbox which
Yes. We started out mostly on AWS and migrated mostly to GCP. What are JustWatch’s
Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max to use their scale to produce even more great content. I think there is also enough space for some late
followers like Paramount+
Throughout your 7
JustWatch will launch in
I expect some consolidation
years of existence, how
even more countries, add
in the midtier to longtail
has your technological
more streaming services
VOD platforms and AVOD
and launch on additional
are based on React Native.
We started our apps with Angular JS and migrated to VueJS and React Native and used several diﬀerent frameworks to be able
platforms. We are also thinking about adding streaming availability for sports and what we can do in the gaming area.
and strong regional players.
The problem of what to watch and where to watch with too much great content scattered across too many streaming
to work from mainly one
Regarding the global
services will remain and
codebase over seven years.
landscape of OTT and
JustWatch is here to help.
in Broadcast? By Asier Anitua, EMEA & LATAM Business Development Manager at Telefónica Servicios Audiovisuales
With the Facebook universe changing name into to META, a new buzzword has emerged: metauniverse, or metaverse (as it is also called). In our broadcast and production environments, this may not have much capillarity, but nonetheless it could end up catching on. The features of the broadcast metaverse are the immersivity of a live event on a television program into an interactive artificial universe. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and
advanced 3D graphics are used to, for example, broadcast a sports competition in a way that increases realism and immersion levels of viewers. Use cases have already occurred in golf championships in South Korea. Broadcasters, without neglecting their daily work, must already think about the disruption that will take place in years to come so they will be able to stay at the top of the entertainment ecosystem.
How can the broadcast audiovisual world be integrated into this multiverse? Does it make sense to get on this train? Tomorrow on the Internet seems to be heading to a multiuniverse and describes a future featuring persistent 3D virtual spaces that are shared and linked to a perceived virtual universe. It occurs both in entertainment and in business. A proof of this is teleworking, which is strongly gaining ground
after the pandemic, so
Either they will have an
what if it were done in a
ultra-large screen or
they will leap into the
Let’s imagine how today’s
augmented reality of VR
youth will perceive
need to be ready for both
television in a few years.
scenarios: they must focus
on generation of content with higher resolutions and definition, jump to 4K or 8K bandwagon and, in parallel, have content generated in V360 or even in virtual reality environments, whether consumption takes place in the metaverse or in the broadcasters’ own apps.
Audiovisual content creators must be prepared to allow viewers access to augmented reality content that complements a “classic” television program. Such as, for example, program characters and objects that may become interactive with users through their Androids, iPhones, tablets or iPads. We understand that the broadcast metaverse will be an additional means of communication between viewers and broadcasters. Apparently, the metauniverse is regarded as Internet 3.0, so it is important to be vigilant. TV viewing time, as we know it today, tends to decrease simply because the supply is constantly increasing and a day has only 24 hours, of which only some are devoted to entertainment. If there is an increasing oﬀer, VOD, OTT, games, metaverse... this means that viewers will spend less time watching television as we know it today. This is why it is relevant to include a TV component in these new ecosystems.
Let’s imagine a future in 10 years, for example, where viewers put on VR glasses for their entertainment in the cyber world, that metauniverse. Walk with their avatar through the big city and see on a big screen a live event, a match of their favorite sport that is being broadcast by the relevant broadcaster on all platforms and devices. This is where the synergy of the various worlds will lie, in live events: sports, news programs and others where viewer interaction will be the key, whereas watching them on time delay will lack any appeal and even any kind of interest. Facebook (now META), Disney, Nike, Balenciaga... are just some of the companies that are driving these cyberworlds known as metaverses. In these environments, TV has the opportunity making it on time and, for example, interacting with viewers as audience of a program or have a guest who will be a virtual avatar (this is reminiscent of Max Headroom, an iconic TV
series from the 80s)… Hybrid, mixed or 100% virtual possibilities are huge. This series of platforms can only exist by relying on the decentralization and protection oﬀered by Blockchain. Democratization of software, thus minimizing the costs of augmented and virtual reality, and the increasingly widespread use of Unreal in presentations with virtual environments are the beginning of this new universe that, without a doubt, we will see grow in coming years. Telefónica’s 5G and the future 6G will help accelerate the entire implementation of these cybernetic multiverses. The amount of information that will move on the Internet will grow exponentially and will provide users with access wherever and whenever they want. Virtual reality first is undoubtedly to come, just as Internet accesses today are mobile first.
Making things easier for broadcast Vizrt was born with the ambition to make things easier in the media. From the template-based graphics systems they developed in the beginning, to automated productions with a single operator or graphics systems that adapt the same content to each of the possible devices, whether they are composed of square, vertical or the classic horizontal and panoramic screens. We chatted with Gerhard Lang, CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at Vizrt about the past, present and future of television and live events and the Norwegian company has a lot to add to how broadcasting will develop on IT infrastructure and software.
How was Vizrt born? Spreading the idea of a graphics template approach around the world and securing the approval and endorsement of broadcasters everywhere was the beginning of the Vizrt success story. Vizrt was born when Pilot Broadcast Systems merged with Peak Software Technologies—resulting in operations in Norway, Israel, and Austria. At that time, the company provided the industry’s first, real-time, template-based graphic system. Over the years, Vizrt has established oﬃces around the world for professional services and has acquired leading, innovative companies to expand its portfolio. In 2019, Vizrt Group was formed guided by the single purpose of enabling ‘more stories, better told’. The Group contains NewTek, NDI®, and Vizrt. All three creative businesses are built on innovation and grown by experts. Was Vizrt the first to develop a graphic template?
Gerhard Lang, Chief Engineering OﬃceR.
Well, technically Vizrt invented a graphics system based on a template that had placeholders inside the graphics for broadcasters to fill in or change before playout. Since we had real-time capabilities, we were able to enable that. The graphic template also ensures consistency with displayed information dependent on how producers filled in the templates. In turn, the template conserves time, and resources by
eliminating the need to create a new graphic from scratch each time. At the time, it was quite revolutionary. Did Vizrt develop the graphic template system for TV2 Norwegian broadcaster? Yes, Vizrt originally developed the graphic template for TV2 Norway. The company developing the control application, Pilot Broadcast Systems (PBS)
at the time, was a spin-oﬀ from TV2. PBS was looking for a graphics system to render graphics in realtime, with all content being provided shortly before playout. Nothing was preprocessed—everything was happening on the fly and on-air. The graphic template was a huge Vizrt advantage, as it enabled broadcasts to reuse everything created in diﬀerent locations. Graphics could also be implemented in a virtual studio as the graphic control remained the same—regardless of use or location. What happened after the Vizrt merger? After the merging of Peak and RT-SET, Vizrt went
public and was listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange— this is when we started to see the full potential of Vizrt as a company. Our tools were easy to use and the technological capabilities achievable with graphics rendering was in high demand. With a template approach, broadcasters could integrate graphics nearly everywhere—in virtual studios, during a sporting event, or within virtual advertisements. The possibilities are limited only by imagination, and we collaborate with our users to ensure the technology lives up to their needs. Did Vizrt face technological challenges?
IN 2019, VIZRT GROUP WAS FORMED GUIDED BY THE SINGLE PURPOSE OF ENABLING ‘MORE STORIES, BETTER TOLD’. THE GROUP CONTAINS NEWTEK, NDI®, AND VIZRT. ALL THREE CREATIVE BUSINESSES ARE BUILT ON INNOVATION AND GROWN BY EXPERTS.
For us, technology is less of an obstacle and more of an enabler to overcome challenges. Vizrt relied on software from the beginning as it is flexible and is constantly evolving. I think the reason behind Vizrt’s scalability is because of our core focus on software and the agility it presents for customers. Does Vizrt plan to rely on hardware products anytime in the future? Software is where we excel and where we deliver the best in the industry. However, hardware is an SDI requirement as it converts an SDI stream to a frame to use inside the computer; we must collect the input somewhere, and we must send it on. The same is true for the SMPTE 2110. For 2110 we use specialized hardware, but it’s inside a standard, oﬀthe-shelf computer that can be purchased anywhere. The CPUs and GPUs we use are standardized too. When it comes to NDI®, the standardization goes even further, as you can use any network interface card
that is available on a PC to send and receive video at exceptionally high quality with low latency. Looking into Video-overIP Standards, were there any challenges with NDI®?
FOR US, NDI IS A TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION FOR HOW VIDEO IS CAPTURED, SENT, AND RECEIVED.
For us, NDI is a technological innovation for how video is captured, sent, and received. We invested very early in IP and have always kept a very close relationship with NewTek, even before NDI was born. The simplicity and reliability of NDI is a key factor to its performance— and that was in a LAN environment. In June 2021 Vizrt Group launched NDI 5 which coincided with the pandemic pushing most technology to the cloud for interconnectivity. NDI 5 with NDI Bridge brings the same simplicity and reliability that users had in the LAN environment, to a WAN environment. We are also actively addressing and expanding our portfolios with other IP standards, most notably SMPTE 2110.
Could you tell us about a recent case of where IP and software defined visual storytelling was implemented in its completeness? We have an outstanding use case in an SMPTE 2110 environment: Welt TV Studios in Berlin, Germany. Welt TV’s studio is completely based on Vizrt components. The studio utilizes Viz Mosart for automation, Viz One for asset management, Viz Pilot Edge for journalist workflows, Viz Multiplay for video wall content control, and Viz Engine to power, interconnect, and output content sources. Notably in this case, everything is softwaredefined. There is no mixer
in a Welt TV production— it’s a completely switcherless broadcast. Additionally, the whole studio is run by a single operator as the production is predominantly automated. In theory, it could be fully automated, but you want at least one person overseeing the production. The goal with a system such Welt’s is to reduce human error by adding as much automation as possible to the workflow. Let’s go back a few years and talk about the integration of the Viz Engine and the Unreal Engine. Could you tell us what that process was like? Vizrt has had several iterations of the integration with Unreal Engine, each a step toward the ideal balance between the advantages of a game engine and a broadcast engine. Vizrt has a team dedicated to finding this ideal combination and the search is far from over—we are constantly working to improve the integration and extend the
use cases we provide for our customers. Vizrt chose a game engine because it brings to life motion backgrounds, artificial intelligence, interaction of characters, and more. As a result, customers can deploy an environment where simulated assets are incredibly realistic for viewers – immersing them into next-level experiences via broadcast. We chose Unreal Engine as they have unparalleled physics engines and animation systems. Together, Viz Engine with Unreal simplifies the everyday workflow so more can be done with less eﬀort at a higher level of quality, which in turn wins and retains audiences for customers’ productions.
What is the roadmap for Vizrt’s product innovation? Looking toward 2022 and beyond, a primary focus for us are cloud solutions. We are looking to create cloud-first workflows for our customers to distribute and scale content. Another focus is developing a unified workflow for our clients to create consistent content across various platforms. End users need to adapt and version the graphics and composition of the video for a cohesive story depending on the platform. For example, graphics are diﬀerent if you’re using a large 16:9 screen primary output, versus a vertical video. We want to establish a process to streamline design and deliverables
across the platforms for consistency alongside unleashing the designer’s creativity. This process will include adaptive graphics, adaptive storytelling, and composition use. Could you elaborate on the idea of versioning content for diﬀerent platforms? Let’s say a news studio wants to output live streams for mobile phones and for a large screen at the same time. The audience needs to see the coverage while also understanding and digesting the information. In this case, the studio will send the maximum amount of information, what would be displayed on the large screen, to all the other renderers for display on the other devices, in this case a mobile phone. All the content from the large screen won’t display on the mobile phone. Instead, the information is reduced to the bare minimum content while still conveying a comprehensive message for the audience.
The rendering and versioning must be applied when the content is displayed as a square video or a vertical video. The same applies to additional information- formatting and graphics may look diﬀerent depending on what device the audience is using. That kind of adjustment, the reduction in information or diﬀerence in appearance, is what the Vizrt system takes care of. The operator gives the command, and the system ensures the content is rendered correctly for the desired format.
How did you develop this system and manage all that information? Our control applications can handle many render systems at the same time, so it’s a one-to-many relationship, and endto-end. The system will filter and send the precise content that production teams need for each type of content. Each signal automatically discerns the format for which it is transmitting and discards what it doesn’t need for each specific device.
How does a company like Vizrt, that creates solutions to simulate real environments virtually, and permit remote work solutions, see the future of television? We see a shift to adaptive storytelling in the coming years for television producers and broadcasters. Being the first to air is increasingly important to engage audiences. What will also happen is a shift to use the cloud. Cloud-based productions will allow
teams to eﬀectively work from home, or anywhere, without interruption and continue to produce the same high-quality content as if they were on-prem. Bandwidth is a production factor that is continually growing and quickly outperforming
STREAMING AND VOD CONTENT HAVE ALREADY CHANGED TRADITIONAL TELEVISION DRAMATICALLY. OF COURSE, VOD PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE, BUT WHERE WE SHINE IS IN LIVE PRODUCTION AND GIVING CUSTOMERS THE TOOLS TO TRANSMIT CONTENT TO DIFFERENT PLATFORMS.
other capabilities. This will continue to advance the move toward production, especially live production, in the cloud. This cloud
dramatically. Of course,
from studio automation
migration will take a few
VoD plays an important
to recorded shows
years, and I don’t see
role, but where we shine
through Story Recorder.
production studios begin
is in live production and
Story Recorder enables
100% replaceable via the
giving customers the
producers to record live-
cloud, but a strong hybrid
tools to transmit content
to-tape segments but still
of on-prem and cloud will
to diﬀerent platforms. In
pause, revisit an element
addition, we give customers
or previous point, or rectify
the opportunity to have Is television as we know
the content available as
it, by which I mean
VoD as soon as possible, in
linear television, going
the best possible format.
to change because of the
That’s why we launched Viz
influence of streaming
Mosart 5 in October 2021.
and Video on Demand
a mistake to improve the show. With that level of flexibility and agility, producers can redo parts of their content or reuse and version it for a new format
We wanted to give
output or graphics overlay
producers the ability to
widening the possibilities
Streaming and VoD content
replicate the ease and
of production whether its
have already changed
traditional, or next-gen. We
of production ranging
enable it all.