Remote Production Is Now The De Facto Way To Produce Content Cost-Effectively
Due to limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and, to keep operational costs down in light of increasing content costs, media companies have been forced to reassess how they operate, The de facto solution: distributed remote production.
Remote production – whereby live and nonlive content from a given event is produced away from the host venue – is certainly nothing new, but the rate at which the media industry has shifted to decentralized or “at-home” workflows has opened many people’s eyes.
Live productions, both on-site at an event and in a studio, have traditionally been costly, labor- and resource-intensive, but a variety of remote production strategies are changing all that. Thanks to ongoing advances in IP-based and cloud technologies, virtually every aspect of the production workflow – from the capture and production of live footage to media asset management, transcoding, video playback and graphic insertion – can now be managed remotely without the need for cumbersome equipment and hardware, large teams of production staff, and significant upfront investment.
At a time when the media industry is evolving faster than at any point in its history, and cost pressures are at an unprecedented high, remote production is enabling rights holders and broadcasters to deliver more content to more screens across more devices than ever before.
Today, the benefits of remote production, such as increased flexibility, speed and scale, not to mention the enormous reduction in travel costs and carbon emissions, are bearing fruit throughout the entire content supply chain, and represent a step change in the industry’s ability to deliver richer, more captivating viewing experiences.
The required technology now exists for large production teams to operate from the comfort of their own homes. Editors, replay operators, camera shaders, production switcher operators and others are able to collaborate from wherever they are in the world, generating clips, highlights and longer form content seamlessly between multiple locations.
To meet this growing demand for content, sports broadcasters have been moving towards remote production workflows for some time, with many now capable of working across continents and time-zones without compromising on quality.
Web-based platforms and tools for coordinating content creation are enabling teams of producers, editors and other staff to collaborate, access and edit multiple live video feeds from multiple locations. Meanwhile expensive, cumbersome hardware is fast becoming obsolete in the live production environment as more live sports content is being produced and distributed across a growing number of platforms using cloud-based production services.
Today, even the largest sporting events can be covered by a small team of camera operators and on-site technicians, meaning one production crew could potentially manage several events in a day. For media companies, the result is enhanced operational efficiencies, a marked reduction in staffing, travel, equipment and logistical costs, and an associated decrease in the environmental impact of live productions. Remote production can also help expand programming output by reducing setup costs and increasing the number and type of events covered. What’s more, any cost-savings as a result can be reinvested back into content production, therefore boosting profitability.
Overcoming latency does, however, remain a fundamental challenge in a remote broadcast environment that spans multiple locations and potentially incorporates varying levels of connectivity. In any live sports production, reliable bi-directional communications between producers, on-air presenters and reporters are critical and must be maintained throughout to ensure a good quality broadcast. Remote production, with its potential for higher latencies, can easily disrupt the flow of conversations and lead to interruptions, which can lead to a bad experience for viewers. A recent report by the IABM looking at the impact of the coronavirus found that the pandemic “is leading to an irreversible shift in media technology investment” as companies move away from legacy models towards digital business workflows. With many prioritizing technologies that enable remote working and content production, companies reported a 67.3 per cent rise in investment in virtualization technologies and a 59.8 per cent uptick in spending on remote production specifically.
Content production is also moving more quickly to the cloud, particularly for those virtual tools that enable remote collaboration and editing.
For governing bodies and rights-holding broadcasters, remote or at-home production offers a practical way to overcome newfound logistical challenges, such as unforeseen scheduling clashes, cross-border travel restrictions, stricter health and safety protocols, and social distancing. That’s why, after the widespread suspension of live events due to the pandemic, many sports rights holders and broadcasters responded by adapting their production processes to navigate these unfavorable conditions.
Indeed, the experience of dealing with the fallout from Covid-19 has led many organizations to accelerate their efforts to build entirely new production models for the future, fueling the belief that the media industry is unlikely ever to return to the old, pre-pandemic ways of producing content.
What used to be limitations due to the physical barriers, where the operator or talent needed to be next to the equipment, those are now no longer barriers which are holding production teams back because, with the cloud, they can easily get connectivity. Operators, talent, decision-makers like directors and producers, as well as audio directors, graphics operators and replay operators, can have immediate access to all of the images that they need so they can make those real-time event decisions to produce shows at the same quality that they used to produce when everyone was at the event.
And more importantly, all of them can do their job from the comfort and safety of their homes. All they need is a web browser with internet access. And this distributed model can scale almost infinitely.