Remote video production via IP
Two articles have recently been published by IBC365, an online editorial by the well-known industry conference: Testing the tools for remote production by Alana Foster and Is it time to sell the OB truck? by Tony Gregory. Remote video production is now officially labelled as an industry trend.
This post provides a quick overview of these texts as well as some comments with regards to our own remote video production solution.
Why go for it?
Gregory, a multi-camera director, coach and consultant, defines the term as “geographic separation of complex interconnected production processes” and clarifies the use case:
The thinking goes that a small team, or even a single operator, sets up cameras and other equipment — and all the ‘packaging’ processes of vision-mixing, graphics, audio mixing, happens in some far away, purpose built centre.
As our own users explained to us, this provides the following benefits to the video production company:
- Brings down travel costs for people: fewer seats on the plane, fewer hotel bookings, less time spent away from homes and families.
- Makes your team more productive and equipment use more effective: it is now possible to produce multiple events with the same resources.
- Come up with new video production formats: it is effectively possible to make television in a completely distributed way.
Gregory explains: in cases where production does not have to be in the proximity of the action, such as sports, music, theatre or conferences, video production can totally be made remotely — as long as there’s enough connectivity and bandwidth.
Obvious concerns for remote production are connectivity (reliability of the connection) and bandwidth.
One of the teams, who have been testing our solution,—the production arm of Philadelphia Eagles, an NFL football team,—told us that they rent a dedicated 1 GB connection to guarantee reliability of connection, which is otherwise difficult to attain at a game with 70,000 spectators. In this context, I love how Gregory boils it down to a very simple question that the production company can ask herself:
Key drivers are cost and quality. If connectivity costs are lower than the cost of taking a production team — then keep the team at home!
Unlike competition, our approach does not require that a dedicated line is set up—since we can stream up to 50 Mbps of low-latency video over the public Internet. However, in some use cases it does make sense to invest into a premium connection to make sure that there’s always enough bandwidth for you to use.
Alana Foster, a journalist at IBC365, mentions a number of companies who, as the text suggests, already offer products for the remote production scenario: Lawo, Net Insight and Nevion. Those are all very established vendors in the broadcast world, who will initially target large production companies comfortable with paying a premium price for equipment that organically integrates into existing workflows.
Since we have a different background, we’re likely to provide a more affordable and flexible solution. Here’s what our key selling points are today:
- Works over the public Internet and features built-in NAT traversal—which makes it easy to set up at venues, whose IT guy is not exactly your pal.
- Transmits up to 4K video at up to 50 Mbps, optionally uses NVIDIA for encoding.
- Provides sub-second latency from venue to studio and back.
- Seamlessly integrates into existing SDI and NDI® workflows, which makes it compatible with TriCaster, vMix and all SDI-based mixing solutions.
Steve Spaw, President at Shadow Technologies, a sports production company who tested our approach, told us:
We are looking to add this option to our arsenal of tools to support small to medium sized productions. The low latency and NAT transversal adds many exciting ways to help clients. We see the future of many small productions doing simple streaming to their CDN of choice, expanding their production quality and distribution to a higher level. The expansion of broadcast quality distribution, from simple RTMP streaming to over the air and over the top, transporting quality reliable video is a keystone in our business.
As software developers, constantly in touch with companies who build professional broadcast software, we feel that there’s more demand for quality content itself rather than content in extra high quality (4K and beyond). People value quality of content over video quality—they just want the content they love delivered to their screens, period. Rush Beesley, founder of RUSHWORKS, who are very keen on using PTZ cams, shared the following thought:
4K is great for zooming in to portions of the screen and retaining Full HD resolution at quarter size. You can use one camera and have either a wide angle or zoom into where the action takes place. This makes perfect sense, visually and economically. The 4K resolution itself, with the exception of theatre screens, does not improve the viewing experience that much — certainly not as much ass Full HD compared to SD.
The idea is: don’t invest too much into more resolution; invest in cost-effective ways to produce content that people want to see. Remote production is definitely one of those.
Another thought is that remote production is driven by the transition to IP. Seems to be entirely true since most of the people we’ve spoken to are not just aware, they are active adopters of NDI®, NewTek’s video-over-IP protocol. Here’s what Andrew Cross, CTO of NewTek told me in an email:
In our industry it is clear that “IP Video” is one of the big words of the moment. While we might be taking a lot of this for granted it is worth taking a step back and thinking about why there is this interest in the first place. When you look at how video is used today which is predominantly to move it between a camera and a monitor (with a few devices in between) then clearly SDI and HDMI perform quite remarkably well; almost anyone can just plug them in and there is a very good chance that they are going to work. The reason for IP is not because it is easier, it is not because it is better quality (SDI and HDMI are both uncompressed), the true reason is that it is the enabler that allows video to flow freely though every office building in the developed world and out beyond those walls and be accessible to anyone anywhere. Indeed it is this clear goal that has driven NDI which is why we have focused on the need to work on existing networks and infrastructure (and offering free tools to interface with SDI and HDMI) instead of simply acting as a replacement for what exists today. I believe that this is one of the reasons that use of NDI has clearly become as widespread as it has, as quickly as it has. While NDI enabled video to move seamlessly over local IP networks, the next step is going to be products like those from Medialooks that allow it to seamlessly jump between local IP networks.
Foster also mentions that 4K and 8K can be drivers for remote production. She quotes Olivier Suard, Vice President at Nevion:
The cost of upgrading OB vans to handle higher resolutions can be very expensive, and at the same time IP technology is eminently suited to the transport of 4K/UHD signals, which is helping to justify the cost of a move to IP-based remote production.
So, yes: it is time to sell your OB truck and give remote production a try. And the easiest way to do it—one that requires minimum investment and commitment—is to download our easy-to-use video transport app.