THE FUTURE OF LIVE TV?
FROM ‘SHELTER IN PLACE’ TO ‘BROADCAST IN PLACE’ With current events dramatically changing our way of life and the way we work, it can be argued that with the M&E industry’s focus on moving to IP and the cloud over the past decade, broadcasters have been preparing for this moment. Social distancing and other measures taken to reduce the spread of coronavirus have forced broadcasters to not only “shelter in place” but also “broadcast in place” in their homes or other remote locations. Fortunately, for the vast majority of us, the elements of this change were already in place. Working on laptops from the local Starbucks or interviews over Skype, Google or FaceTime were already popular alternatives prior to the outbreak—now they are the norm. While some aspects of master control can be handled remotely, there still needs to be a skeleton crew to maintain operations at facilities. Social distancing and maintaining cleanliness and ensuring equipment is safe to use are important both inside and outside the confines of the studio. The process of producing a broadcast has changed rapidly, says Karl Paulsen, CTO of Diversified and TV Technology columnist.
INSIDE Managing Media Production Workflows at Home......... 3 Pandemic Reshapes News Business...............................11 How Remote Production Can Help Get Live Sports Back on the Air ......................................15 Studio Works: How TV Production in the U.K. is Coming Back.................................................17
Image credit: LTN Global
By Tom Butts, Content Director, TV Technology
“American Idol” went remote to finish its 18th season
“Operations are steeped in human interaction from conception to delivery. Yet that’s now changing, fast and furiously.” Vendors are also quickly responding to these changes, from more robust all-in-one, easy to set up media production systems to 6-foot boom poles designed to maintain safe distances during interviews. It could be said that the changes brought about by the pandemic could radically change and improve how broadcasters provide news and entertainment not only now but permanently for the future. In this month’s guide, we examine the changes in workflows and how major broadcasters like the BBC and major U.S. newscasters are adapting to the fast-moving changes in our world.
How are you handling the current demands of remote production? Share your ideas with us at email@example.com.
ON THE COVER Covering the pandemic from home Lester Holt manning a kids’ edition of NBC Nightly News.
GUIDE TO REMOTE PRODUCTION | JUNE 2020
Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images
MANAGING MEDIA PRODUCTION WORKFLOWS AT HOME How prepared are we? By Karl Paulsen The process of keeping sound or heat from spreading between spaces is a well-understood practice for the building and acoustical trades. Likewise, media facilities have used those techniques in their studios, control rooms and edit spaces. Recently mandated environments surrounding the coronavirus are impacting how news and live production workflows are dramatically altering how they produce and deliver their live and prerecorded show in ways they’d not previously comprehended. Working remotely isn’t anything new. News correspondents have worked from hotel rooms for years. Technicians administer datacenters virtually and the cloud is certainly the foremost example of how to accomplish features and functions in an absentee
domain without a doubt. Yet what is occurring now may—or already has— altered how production and studio facilities could be thought about for years to come. Newly adopted workflows now produce similar outcomes without the huge physical footprints, costs and overhead currently required for large-scale operations. Such changes could forever disrupt how news programming is created and delivered.
What’s Been Happening? Television production operations live heavily on the physical side. Think of the elements needed to produce a regular live news or entertainment proContinued on page 6 ❱
Is your company prepared to work remotely? M&E organizations have unique requirements that should not be ignored even in the wake of crisis By Jon Finegold, CMO, Signiant The last few months have driven home how disruptive unforeseen turmoil can be for the industry. While events such as the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and the SARS pandemic have demonstrated threats to business continuity in the past, the swiftness with which COVID-19 has impacted societal and economic norms is one more reminder that almost everyone needs remote access in order to be prepared to work from anywhere, often on short notice. One of the challenges faced in media is that it’s not that easy to just “take your work with you.” When dealing with large file sizes, highly valuable assets and collaborative projects, standard web-based collaboration tools — from Dropbox, Google Drive, SharePoint and Slack — which function wonderfully in most industries, lack a foundational technology necessary for most media projects: the ability to quickly and reliably transfer large files over the Internet. For that, you need file acceleration along with other enterprise capabilities to support the unique conditions of a distributed workforce, such as defense-in-depth security, flexible user administration, powerful reporting, super intuitive user interface design, storage options, and more.
Easy, fast, secure access to essential content...anywhere With Signiant Media Shuttle, end users can securely and easily get remote access any size file, from anywhere in the internet connected world. Signiant’s patented file acceleration technology will move files at speeds up to 100X faster than standard methods such as FTP without any restriction on file size. The end-user experience is simple to use and Checkpoint Restart will ensure that any interrupted transfer gets automatically restarted from the point of failure, offering unprecedented reliability under even the sketchiest of connection conditions.
Figure 1: Media Shuttle Share Portal offers users access to files and folders from any location.
Signiant has always been committed to storage independence, meaning that our software allows access to assets regardless of where and how they are stored. Our SaaS platform is now being used by more than 500,000 media professionals from every country in the world and is connected to thousands of on-prem and cloud storage endpoints, providing a seamless experience to end users who need access to content anytime, anywhere and from any type of storage. For example, with a Media Shuttle Share portal (figure 1), end users can log in securely from anywhere in the world and access assets without knowing or caring what type of storage is being used or where that storage is located. Figure 2: Media Shuttle admin dashboard provides control for the media operations manager. Their experience is seamless and identical across all storage types and locations. With Shuttle, the operations teams get complete control (figure 2). They can customize portals (including About the Author matching native languages), manage user access, and report Jon Finegold joined Signiant as chief marketing officer on all activity from the web. Remote access to media assets in 2017, bringing 20+ years of experience in launching and has never been easier. growing software companies. After working as a software engineer, Finegold became a pioneer in SaaS, helping to launch Utilize cloud storage for a seamlessly OpenAir in 1999, one of the first B2B SaaS offerings which was remote access experience acquired by NetSuite in 2008 (and later Oracle) and remains a For many looking to build a supportive remote leader in its category today. He also led the launch of where.com, infrastructure, cloud storage has become an invaluable a SaaS platform for mobile location aware advertising, which resource. With Media Shuttle, it becomes easier than ever was acquired by PayPal in 2011. Finegold was chief marketing before to take advantage of cloud storage. While many officer at Scratch Wireless from launch through acquisition companies still rely on on-prem storage, cloud storage and then founded and ran a consulting firm called Digital offers IT teams the ability to spin up the storage they need, Jolt to offer part-time CMO services to early stage technology immediately and without ever setting foot in the office. So, companies. for a company that needs to quickly implement a remote work environment, they can easily set up an S3 bucket or Azure blob and then Signiant can provision Media Shuttle to work with that cloud storage literally in minutes — entirely remotely! Be prepared At one point or another, it’s likely that remote work will be crucial for any media organization’s success. Waiting for calamity to inspire the shift just makes businesses more vulnerable than they need to be. For those who want to learn more about what you should keep in mind while implementing a strategy that supports the unique conditions of a distributed media workforce, read our guide “7 Must-Haves for Remote Work in M&E: Key considerations for accessing large media assets.” Any industry as vast as M&E can be unpredictable, and the surrounding unpredictable world only makes it moreso. However with Media Shuttle, businesses remain prepared for any disruption that may come their way — whether it’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or (hopefully) something less severe.
About Signiant Signiant’s enterprise software provides the world’s top content creators and distributors with fast, reliable, secure access to large media files, regardless of physical storage type or location. By enabling authorized people and processes to seamlessly exchange valuable content — within and between enterprises — Signiant connects the global media supply chain. Learn more at signiant.com.
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gram when most of the human elements are in the same building. Now imagine that 50–75 percent of those elements are being “disassociated” physically from one another. Imagine when one studio changes to multiple studios—and they’re not located in traditional spaces, they’re now in people’s homes. Major news organizations usually have control rooms seating 12–15 production personnel composed of tech managers, directors and others. Editorial spaces have in excess of 200 desktops and a dozen-plus craft edit suites. Audio needs editing and live-to-air spaces. Still, 3D and animated graphics need large
Newly adopted workflows now produce similar outcomes without the huge physical footprints, costs and overhead currently required for large-scale operations.
displays with high-performance compute stations. Add a myriad of web-producers, writers and researchers and you have a huge assortment of people who must all commute, share spaces and consume resources every day. Support-wise there are ingest managers, archivists and MAM wranglers. Add the studio personnel (robotics, lighting, shaders, stage managers), hair and makeup greenroom personnel, field reporters and technicians and a gaggle of remote equipment to produce “live and breaking news” whenever needed. Numbers quickly grow towards a hundred or more. Many work functions demand physical people attached to physical gear, fixed to cables that attach to dedicated equipment housed in a complex (usually enormous) central equipment room (CER). Until cloud technologies, nearly every studio function and show activity was centered around similar infrastructure support spaces—purpose-built for activities associated to dedicated people. Even when productions moved somewhat “out of house” or some processes extended into the cloud, elements basically required tablets, cell phones and laptops connected through high-end CPU workstations. Network connections, software management, storage, MAM and archive, ingest and playout, local and distance support… and operations grew more
complex and more specific. Operations are steeped in human interaction from conception to delivery. Yet that’s now changing, fast and furiously.
Moving Toward Isolation Once most functions were branded to discrete, dedicated devices, which were, at best, connected to an internal LAN or an SDI-router. They likely functioned using KVM-like technologies to control or manage the relatively nearby components found in the central equipment room. Multiviewers of enormous proportions governed the images, sound, and metering interpretations. More recently, organizations have embraced new features using virtual machines and/or cloud-based technologies to supplement, administer or orchestrate functions previously associated entirely around “on-prem” physical, dedicated hardware. Operations and workflows, which were likely candidates for change included graphics, acquisition, storage, playout, asset management and some distant/occasional use activities such as an EFP remote or a feed from another location. Each had a consistent and structured agenda based upon managed workflows governed by functions attached to connections to/from the devices. Previously such workflows were relatively straightforward. Dedicated people sat at dedicated machines and moved files, images or operational commands using a mouse and keyboard. Communications depended upon dedicated intercom stations with multiple channels that could be easily selected from a panel. Essentially, this was a local “one-to-one” operational workflow, exemplified by activities like a remote feed for a live broadcast. When addressing real-time images or sound, operators used a router panel on a dedicated “network” that was associated internally to a fixed format and flow. To stream images to another location involved workflows with another set of encoders, gateways and networks connected between internal or external locations.
Dematerialization With the recent world changes and in a very rapid fashion, many of the traditional one-to-one production activities have become “dematerialized,” i.e., taking the physical association of hardware/software and moving it to a position that could be connected to or from anywhere else. Such new workflows would become the most significant challenge a broadcast network enterprise would face since portability became the norm for content collection and transmission.
GUIDE TO REMOTE PRODUCTION | JUNE 2020
Dematerialization is not new and was headed in those directions for some time. We just hadn’t expected this to occur in such a risky, isolated environment. Change has demanded instantaneous scaling that dissected the studio talent and put them in locations they’d not expected before. Production workflows have taken segments of local facility-based operations and immediately associated them into cloud and cloud-like productivity. Operators and talent both are now connected through internet associations using cloud support products such as IaaS, MyCloudIT, XenApp Express and AWS Workspaces. Even before the COVID-19 crisis forced operations into isolation, a standard PC from an off-site location would connect via AWS Workspaces to a secure high-resolution, compressed PC-over-IP client such as Teradici’s “PCoIP.” For real-time operations, users need a highly responsive computing experience. By employing advanced display compression, end users can associate with on-premises or cloud-based virtual machines to emulate an alternative to their once
“local” computers. Essentially, the users work directly and remotely on their servers, but from afar at home or other locations. Virtual workspace architectures will now compress, encrypt and transmit only the pixels (instead of the data) to software clients, including mobile clients, thin clients and stateless endpoints. For graphics, the coupling of the endpoint engines and compositing means that artists can see precisely what they are creating with minimal delay and no reduction in image quality.
Workflows Evolve as Comfort Levels Expand The first week of this new REMI-like production model was assembled with cell phone and laptop cameras, usually functioning in dual capacity. Once a comfort level was achieved, week two moved into locations adding (or adapting) 42-inch and above displays to put rolling backgrounds behind close-ups. Images were fed live from laptops played via VNC connections or files. Audio processing and equalizaContinued on page 10 ❱
Fig. 1: Simple, high-level overview of remote live broadcast news production where most of the key staff, including live talent (anchors, interviewers), are no longer working at the main broadcast studios. Even the control rooms are doubled to isolate as many people from each other.
VITEC openGear Cards Offer Production Freedom with Leading Streaming Performance VITEC now offers the Diamond Encoder and the Ace Decoder in an openGear form-factor to fit the popular, open-architecture chassis designed by Ross Video. The openGear (OG) modular frame system is supported by a diverse range of manufacturers and offers the freedom to choose cards for the OG chassis that fit specific remote production workflows. The VITEC Diamond OG cards provide a main board and an I/O module that is two slots wide, resulting in a high-density IPTV solution, with up to 10 cards in a single chassis.
As more and more applications require the need for flexible and robust remote production options, finding new ways to leverage the existing studio infrastructure, like the openGear platform, is essential. VITEC is a market leader in developing low latency encoder and decoder products, which are now available to work on either the openGear OGX or OG3 chassis in addition to standalone appliances. With these additions, organizations have all the flexibility they need to tailor a streaming platform best suited to the environment along with robust streaming output for the most demanding video applications. VITEC’s openGear cards provide reliable, continuous operation with adaptive cooling, redundant power supplies, and hot swappable capability. VITEC’s Diamond OG Encoder offers 4K or multichannel HD HEVC and H.264 encoding from SDI inputs. The Diamond OG allows up to four inputs of 3G/HD/SD-SDI or composite video and will address a diverse range of applications for
the broadcast, military, and enterprise markets. The encoder provides low latency streaming from 4x SDI/Composite sources simultaneously. The next-gen HEVC video compression support reduces the network bandwidth utilization by up to 50% compared to H.264, reducing transmission costs and data connection concerns. The Diamond OG is compatible with multiple stream protection protocols including SRT, Zixi™, RIST and Pro-MPEG, ensuring reliable video transmission from remote production sites. VITEC’s Ace OG Decoder takes VITEC’s popular Ace portable decoder and makes it available in the openGear form-factor. This singlechannel HEVC and H.264 decoding card is designed to
provide broadcast quality video for the best possible viewing experience, every time. The HEVC decoding capability ensures low latency at any bitrate and on any network, plus is supports the same stream protection protocols as the Diamond OG. The Ace OG Decoder also features time-synchronized playback, ensuring perfect synchronization of multiple independent IP streams for remote production or any live application where IP streams must be played back in sync.
6/10/20 4:35 PM
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Yet that’s what’s needed for the least amount of latency between home studios and the main studio. tion soon followed as consistent levels needed to feed Getting IFB to the remote home studio adds anothinto local encoders before sending the signals across er tier of complexity. Multichannel and multi-access a public internet connection. IP-based communications become essential when By week three, viewers begin to see “home-lightoperating in several simultaneous locations. Intercom, ing,” two (or more) “sets” from the same home and using “virtual link” products (e.g., VLink) is a good even multiviewers, prompters from PCs or equivalent start; yet substituting a tablet-button-set for a physical making up the new workflows in the new environbutton-control-panel is not an ideal workflow. Expect ments. to see multiple updates in these product lines. Making sure that the right amount of connectivity and the highest level of quality with the least amount of lag are prompting personnel to place PCoIPSecure, Virtual Private Clouds devices at every endpoint. Once called “thin-clients” Link-bandwidths make all the difference when or “zero-clients,” PCoIP capabilities have taken signal spinning up multiple activities into a VPC or when transmissions as “direct connections” from laptops interconnecting studios and CERs between major direct to CER-based high-performance graphics or metropolitan locations. Having 10G or higher convideo servers or feeds between make-shift home nectivity, while a luxury for many, is essential at a studios and primary control rooms at the network’s network level. studios. Most will use card-based zero clients that outSecurity services also play important parts that limit perform software-based applications on desktops hands down. Fig. 1 is a simplified, high-level overview showing how remote home/ studios, graphics designer/operators Getting an approximate level of studio and staff can work in quarantine or isolation. During broadcasts, two intercom-like functionality is the nemesis of studio control rooms and a separate daily show productions, so far. audio room keep the reduced facility staff spaced apart (e.g., TD and local producer in one control room and director and other production staff occupy the other). Control room multiviewers are replicated, encoded (and control) network access. Products with adaptive and sent to the remote sites as compressed video— MFA (multifactor authentication) permit flexibility allowing each remote operator, talent or artist to see when adding sites at the peak of a breaking story. the same content as is in the live control rooms at Firewall rules (set by the appropriate user, applicathe studios. tion, port-set and IP addresses) need to be extensible Operators must have the same user experience at to gain appropriate access on a tier or tailored workremote home studios as when at the studio facility. space. Pushing the MAM to the edge via a web browser lets producers (editors) cut proxies or push cut items Where Does it Go From Here? either to editing or direct to control room for playGiven the social distancing paths certain to be here back. Using core-native floating licenses, i.e., the for many months, these new workflows change the “bring your own license” option, through to remote dimensions of how technologies, like bonded-cellular, editing and VXF is now commonplace. will migrate. Many clever enterprises are rapidly changing the production domain and these adaptations may become the links to a new way of designing Keeping Connected and outfitting studios. Only time will tell. Where is the biggest headache? The missing elements in “the COMMs,” according to network manKarl Paulsen is CTO of Diversified, SMPTE Fellow and agers providing feedback for this article. Getting an frequent contributor to TV Technology focusing on approximate level of studio intercom-like functionalemerging technologies, topics of media storage, workity is the nemesis of the daily show productions, so flows and the cloud. Contact Karl at ivideoserver@ far. Cell phones with earbuds have limited functiongmail.com. ality.
GUIDE TO REMOTE PRODUCTION | JUNE 2020
PANDEMIC RESHAPES NEWS BUSINESS Crisis has strengthened the bond between anchors and viewers. Will it last? By Michael Malone It has been, by every conceivable measure, a perfect storm for news viewing. As the pandemic rages on, people are stuck at home and are desperate for timely information related to this enormous, horrifying story. And news outlets, ranging from cable news networks to broadcast news divisions, are eager to provide viewers with the latest. But what happens down the road? When the pan-
demic eventually dies down — it has to, right? — will viewers still be fervidly searching out news on TV? There’s no way news can sustain the lofty ratings of today, but many executives are hopeful to see a bump when the massive story of 2020 subsides. “We’ve exposed the audience to our programs and we’ve gotten before new audiences,” Kim Godwin, executive VP at CBS News, said. “I hope people who watch us now appreciate the journalistic integrity of our shows. I hope the audience gets used to watch-
Covering the pandemic from home (from l.): ABC News chief medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton, Gayle King of CBS This Morning.
ing us and likes our journalists.” As the coronavirus curve has flattened across some parts of the country, news consumption has ticked downward from its high levels in the early days of the crisis. News programming comprised 19% of total TV time March 16-22, according to Nielsen, and dropped to 17.5% April 6-12. During March 16-22, subscription video-on-demand viewing on platforms such as Netflix was 15.1% of TV time, which ticked up to 15.4% April 6-12. In an era when one hears about fake news on a daily basis, the TV news organizations are optimistic that the pandemic has drawn a clear line between established news outfits and the less credible ones. “There’s a reason viewers are turning to us now and trusting us at a terrible time,” ABC News VP of newsgathering Wendy Fisher said. “They’re not turning to
demic got viewers into the habit of seeking out timely information from their favorite networks, and perhaps strengthened the bond between a particular anchor or host and viewers. With viewers stuck at home, many can watch a daypart they don’t normally tune in for. “My expectation is that people will be more engaged and interested,” said Rashida Jones, senior VP at NBC News and MSNBC. “The work we do gives us the opportunity to showcase for people who haven’t watched us—show them what we do and what we are capable of doing. Hopefully, that brand can continue when we cover other stories.”
New News Demeanor News may never look the same after the pandemic clears out. The coronavirus has been a deeply personal issue, with more than 1,000 deaths a day
ABC’s David Muir interviews President Donald Trump in Phoenix, Arizona, for the May 5 edition of World News Tonight.
us for fun. They’re turning to us because we provide information at this time of difficulty.” Even before the pandemic, slow news days were increasingly uncommon in the modern media landscape. The post-pandemic days will surely be newsy too, which benefits the networks. For starters, America will decide on a new president inside of six months. TV news will be all over that, and so will viewers. “This story does not seem like it is leaving, but we have long-range stories we’re staying focused on,” said Jay Wallace, president and executive editor of Fox News Media. “I do think people will be checking in with news for a long time to come.” Network news executives are hopeful that the pan-
nationwide at its peak. At a time when it has become somewhat common to see politicians showing their emotions while updating residents on corona, anchors too are at times scrapping their stoic demeanors while reporting this story. Some news veterans suspect the indifferent comportment that has long defined TV anchors is giving way to a more human bearing. “The Voice of God—I’m not sure that’s what people are looking for now,” said Wallace, who describes Fox News’ anchor-viewer connection as the network’s “secret sauce.” “They are looking for people who are in this together—this sense of, you understand my struggle.” Deborah Jaramillo, associate professor and director
GUIDE TO REMOTE PRODUCTION | JUNE 2020
of the film and television studies program at Boston University, and author of “Ugly War, Pretty Package: How CNN and Fox News Made the Invasion of Iraq High Concept,” said giant news stories typically vault an anchor or two to the next level, as President Donald Trump’s election did for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Showing emotion, such as CNN host Don Lemon getting choked up over fellow host Chris Cuomo’s coronavirus diagnosis, may help launch TV talent. “There’s a greater emphasis on humanity, a greater emphasis on emotion,” Jaramillo said. “You see that conveying of emotion playing out in public on cable news. Perhaps some of that connects with viewers.”
Homebound anchor Al Roker doing the weather from home on NBC’s Today.
Short Cuts With Cuomo having hosted from his basement, NBC’s Lester Holt anchoring NBC Nightly News from his apartment and the vast majority of newsroom staffers toiling from home, the networks have redefined news production over last couple of months. In several markets, including Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C., competing news stations are teaming up to send a lone photographer to a static news event such as a mayor’s press conference, then sharing the video. Fewer photographers on site means better social distancing and frees up photographers to chase down more enterprising stories. “It’s so smart and long overdue,” Andrew Heyward, Knight senior researcher in TV news innovation at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said. “The culture of innovation that emerges from this results in a smarter workflow.” — Wendy Fisher,
Networks and stations alike are getting better every day at producing newscasts with talent and staffers spread around a given market. “I was pleasantly surprised to realize we could function with people working from home,” Fisher said. “I had a lot of trepidation about it. You realize, something you think you have to do this way, you actually don’t have to do it that way.” Execs said viewers are more lenient about production values that may not be what they are accustomed to. “People are starved for information now,” Godwin said. “They really don’t care if the live shot is not 100% well-lit. Skype and Zoom work just as well if you ask the right questions.” With Manhattan’s CBS Broadcast Center closed, station-level talent, both at CBS’s owned stations and affiliates, have anchored “CBS Evening News” on weekends during the crisis. Debby Knox and Bob Donaldson, anchors
There’s a reason viewers are turning to us now and trusting us at a terrible time. They’re not turning to us for fun. They’re turning to us because we provide information at this time of difficulty. VP of newsgathering, ABC News
groceries on “CBS Evening at WTTV Indianapolis, News,” David Muir reportanchored the CBS Evening ing on a high school prinNews May 9-10. Godwin cipal visiting his graduating called it “a terrific experistudents on ABC’s “World ment” that benefits both News Tonight” and Harry parties. Smith speaking on “Nightly “We get the opportunity News” about homemade to strengthen our relationgreeting cards. “I think ship with affiliates, and it’s it’s just us being human,” an opportunity for them to NBC’s Jones said. “It’s increase their exposure,” human moments that show she said. we are all in this together.” With CBS News unable Time will tell if positive to send live trucks to all news occupies more than corners of the country, she the final slot in an evening added, the affiliate base newscast after the crisis, plays a vital role in helping but the pandemic has cercover all regions of the U.S. tainly stoked a desire for The pandemic promptinspiring content. “There’s ed NBC to launch “Nightly definitely a thirst for some News: Kids Edition,” — Rashida Jones, senior VP, other news,” Wallace said. which Holt anchors, in NBC News and MSNBC “With all the vegetables mid-April. The newscast we serve, people do want targets uncommon news some sweets. They’ve had consumers. “It helps enough Q&As with docchildren process what is tors.” happening,” Jones said. Time will also tell if TV news, a vital part of peo“We’re making sure the youngest among us are ple’s lives during the pandemic, remains vital viewing informed and educated.” when things get back to normal. The networks are Jones said there’s no end date set up for Kids eager to keep meeting sky-high demand. Edition. “Some people who discover evening news might stick around,” said Heyward, former president of CBS Good News News. “They see how important TV news has been on Newscast producers have been keen to inject a bit a very complicated story, and that should enhance the of good news in the broadcasts, such as Steve Hartman value of TV news in people’s lives.” reporting on a newspaper deliveryman handing out
The work we do gives us the opportunity to showcase for people who haven’t watched us — show them what we do and what we are capable of doing. Hopefully, that brand can continue when we cover other stories.
Homebound anchors (from l.) also include Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier and Chris Cuomo working while fighting off COVID-19 on CNN.
GUIDE TO REMOTE PRODUCTION | JUNE 2020
HOW REMOTE PRODUCTION CAN HELP GET LIVE SPORTS BACK ON THE AIR A return to life as normal won’t happen soon By Glenn Adamo With lockdown measures easing in many places around the globe and a return to something resembling “life as normal” hopefully on the horizon, one thing in particular is on the minds of ardent sports fans: namely, getting live games back on their screens. Rebroadcasts of classic games and sports documentaries such as “The Last Dance,” the acclaimed Netflix and ESPN series, are feeding the appetite Glenn Adamo for all things sports while live events have been put on hold. A spike in esports on TV screens, such as the record breaking eNascar iRacing series, has also helped. Yet these options only go so far in satisfying sports fans’ hunger for genuine, live physical events. As the world steadily comes to grips with the global pandemic, leagues and broadcasters are now keen to find the most straightforward ways to get live sporting events back on air as soon as they can. A return to life-as-normal is of course a shared goal for most industries, but what has become clear is that, even with an easing of restrictions and economies slowly opening up, the effects of COVID-19 will continue to reverberate in sports and other walks of life. A world in which arenas are packed with fans, and international travel is once again the norm for teams and sporting personalities, will not return any time soon. Instead, sports leagues and rights owners must prioritize the welfare and well-being of staff, fans and players, likely leading to a “halfway house” scenario: games played behind-closed-doors with just key par-
ticipants attending. As broadcasters and sports leagues around the world look at ways to begin bringing live sports back on air, one approach makes more sense than ever: remote production (REMI).
Kick-Starting the Sporting Calendar While the remote approach to live production has been leveraged for some larger events, it is still the exception rather than the rule for mainstream sports. However, as broadcasters, other rights holders and leagues make the gradual transition towards normality, finding new, safer ways to deliver the compelling live sports content that fans demand is imperative. Indeed, the time is right for remote production. It is a practical, deliverable and proven option for producing live events that lightens the load when it comes to travel, equipment and on-site staffing. Remote production eliminates the need for large mobile units and crews at the event venue itself, creating a safer environment for production staff by ensuring that social distancing guidelines can easily be met. Employing remote capabilities means broadcasters and leagues can centralize production at their home studios or a dedicated third-party location—such as one of The Switch’s remote production facilities in Burbank or New York—with minimal crews onsite. This model involves broadcasters transmitting camera feeds, audio and equipment control over a private fiber network, at low latency, to the central facility.
viewership in March this year. When normal conditions resume, traditional sports broadcasters and leagues will need to meet this uptick in the demand for content across all platforms. Aside from significant cost savings, remote production offers the potential for higher-quality production, with the ability to support more camera feeds and specialty equipment, such as SkyCam and RF cameras. Centralizing production also brings the advantage of greater flexibility, and the ability to cover multiple events in one day—and REMI’s reduced need for travel and shipping of equipment makes it more environmentally friendly. What’s more, having a core group of experienced technicians covering a series of games for the same league is of huge value to broadcasters. An experienced crew knows what to expect, what to do and, critically, having worked together on a number of highThe Switch production team captures level broadcasts they will have the NFL Network CUSA game at the Burbank remote production facility. established great communication, ensuring productions flow seamlessly and maintain the same look and feel across the season.
From here, operators can then remotely configure cameras and other equipment at the event site. In short, as lockdown conditions ease, the REMI approach—pioneered over the past few years by The Switch and other live broadcast innovators—offers a faster and safer route for leagues, rights holders and fans to get what they want: live sports back on air. As we steadily move into the post-COVID era, remote production of live sports events is coming into its own—especially where rights holders tap into the expertise of a partner that understands live sports and has deep experience in remote production. In fact, remote production has already been leveraged by major sports networks and rights owners, such as NFL Network, which leveraged The Switch’s REMI services to produce and deliver a 10-game Conference USA college football schedule in 2019.
Life Beyond Lockdown
Saving Money Post lockdown, the advantages of remote production go far beyond the ability to have smaller crews and less equipment on site. The more than 30% cost savings give broadcasters and other rights holders the scope to improve efficiency and even explore ways that they can deliver live content, from online streaming of shoulder programming through to social media integration. Traditional linear TV has traditionally dominated live sports viewing, but it is far from the only game in town today. The live sports on-air vacuum is accelerating consumer take-up of streaming, with the new stay-at-home society accessing more streamed content than ever. Online streaming platforms have witnessed a 43% jump in viewership in the week starting March 29, according to analytics firm Stream Hatchet. Similarly, esports streaming service Twitch saw a 60% jump in
By enabling production crews to work in a home studio with reduced travel, remote production can also transform the impact on the work-life balance of staff, making careers more sustainable. This also means the pool of talent widens; skilled people who are normally unable or unwilling to constantly travel will now be drawn to working in the sector. These considerations will likely play an increasingly central role in the future evolution of live production. Remote production offers a win-win for fans and rights holders, and it makes a compelling case for becoming the “new normal” for live sports. With rising costs and elevated consumer expectations already putting pressure on the live sports industry, remote production provides many of the answers that broadcasters and content producers seek. In addition to providing a means to get live sports back on air as soon as possible, this approach also provides the tools broadcasters need to take sports production to the next level. Glenn Adamo is managing director of Production Services at The Switch.
GUIDE TO REMOTE PRODUCTION | JUNE 2020
STUDIO WORKS: HOW TV PRODUCTION IS COMING BACK BBC Studioworks and dock10 tell TVBEurope about how they’re preparing for the resumption of studio production By Jenny Priestly As the U.K. eases out of lockdown, TV production on everything from “Sunday Brunch” to “Match of the Day” is beginning to resume. What does that mean for studio facilities such as BBC Studioworks and dock10? TVBEurope talked with both to find out how they’ve dealt with lockdown, and how they’re preparing for production to begin again. For the BBC Studioworks team, production at their studios at Television Centre hasn’t stopped. TVC is the home of ITV’s daytime programs, including “Good Morning Britain” and “This Morning.” Studioworks’ CEO Andrew Moultrie tells TVBEurope the team have been working collaboratively with ITV Daytime’s staff. “We’ve needed to be agile and adapt quickly to provide effective solutions that both adhere to government guidance, but also enable productions to continue,” he explains. “These measures have included stripping back studios so productions can run with reduced crew members, adjusting our approach to scenic activity and
implementing operating protocols from social distancing measures and one-way pedestrian routes, through to the implementation of screen dividers in our galleries. These measures are in place across all three of our sites.”
Open and Transparent Moultrie adds that this “new normal” has been adopted and respected by all parties. “It’s important to be open and transparent with everyone who works in our facilities,” he says. “We’ve actively encouraged our staff and clients to feedback any concerns or questions they have, so we can immediately address them. This united front across our workforce and client base has been fantastic to see, with everyone understanding the importance of the implemented changes.” dock10 has also implemented special measures, including temperature checking scanners, custom made shields in production galleries, two-meter distance markers, a one-way system, extra cleaning,
ITV’s Good Morning Britain broadcasts from Studioworks’ Television Centre facility
hand sanitizer stations and extra office space. “It’s been easy to add the new safety measures as we have a large television facility with a lot of space to work,” says Andy Waters, head of studios. Over at BBC Elstree Centre, the Studioworks post production team has also continued working. They recently supported “Talking Heads” for BBC One and just finished working on “Secrets From The Square,” a new show hosted by Stacey Dooley which goes behind the scenes of EastEnders. “At the beginning of June we facilitated a pilot in Stage 8 at Elstree Studios, which was our first show post-lockdown,” adds Moultrie. “Over the coming weeks we have a number of shows pencilled to return across our three facilities, but plans for these are still being discussed and finalized. “We have produced tailored working protocol documents for each of our three sites. These guides cover every element of working in our facilities, from our operating procedures and site access, through to our production areas and office space. The health and safety of everyone working on our sites is paramount and these guidelines and protocols have been designed with that front of mind,” he says. dock10 has also remained opened throughout the pandemic, with shows like “Bitesize Daily,” “Newsround,” “Blue Peter” and “Crackerjack” all filmed during this time. It will also soon be welcoming back other shows to the facility, including “Match of the Day.” Is dock10 implementing different measures for different genres of shows? “Each show is different, and we will be working with the production teams to ensure they have what they need to work safely, but the principles of social distancing are the same for everybody,” says Waters. “We will work with each production team to create a specific risk assessment for their production.”
“We’re continuously looking at new and secure ways of working with our clients,” agrees Moultrie. “As per usual, every show has a host of individual requirements, but for the time being all shows must adhere to the same workplace protocols that we have implemented to ensure the safety of all those working in our facilities. However, there are natural nuances that need to be taken into consideration in terms of set space, the number of people on set at any one time and the time it takes to get specific sets built.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to reveal any details about plans for ‘Strictly Come Dancing,’ other than conversations are ‘ongoing.’” Both facilities have implemented remote working during lockdown, with only broadcast-critical staff on site. With the gradual return of shows to its studios, Studioworks is beginning to phase more of its workforce, specifically production support and craft teams, back to its sites. “However, we need to continue to keep building populations as low as possible to allow for social distancing and will only bring in our teams on the days that they physically need to be on site, with our business support employees continuing to work remotely for the foreseeable future. We will continue to follow this approach until government guidance changes,” says Moultrie. “Much of the dock10 team can work from home as our IT systems allow for remote access and anybody that can work from home will continue to do so to keep as much space free for production as we can,” explains Waters. “Our studio managers and engineering team need to be on site, but almost everybody else can be at home. Our remote viewing system enables secure remote studio feeds for any of the production teams to monitor production safely from home.” “While we have social distancing, we will continue to enable remote working as it’s working very well,” concludes Waters.
GUIDE TO REMOTE PRODUCTION | JUNE 2020
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