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Evolution of workflows

evsNow is the time for production engineers to prepare for the workflows of the future.

By Ian Hollamby*

The speed at which media production workflows and technologies evolve is unparalleled. Driven in part by mandatory Covid-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures, the emergence of new innovative tools has intensified, especially those that enable effective remote and "at home" production.

In fact, 2020 has accelerated several trends within the industry. IP infrastructures and workflows continue to grow in importance, while remote productions have taken on new importance. In the face of constant disruption, broadcasters and content producers have had to adapt quickly, adopt new solutions, and rethink the way they produce content. Workflows that are flexible, scalable, reconfigurable and future-proof have never been more essential.

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Therefore, production engineers must look ahead and make sure they are properly prepared for what the future will bring. To meet the demands of content-hungry consumers with simultaneous productions and delivery of online content, social media and linear TV, it is vital that they are equipped with the skills and tools to embrace the new workflows that live productions to come will demand. However, there are several key challenges that stand in its way.

Obstacles to overcome
In the remote work environment we find ourselves in, ensuring efficient workflow orchestration across multiple sites, including task scheduling and resource management, is a key concern. Productions are becoming increasingly complex, making it difficult to ensure coordination between disparate operators in a transmission center and support systems. This can lead to inefficiencies that can affect the overall quality of productions. For example, it is now common for production engineers to have to manage a variety of devices and multiple people using different systems, often resulting in complex and process-intensive workflows that could be automated.

Controlling remote facilities, personnel, and devices that span great distances can seem like a losing battle, especially as operations escalate. This is a challenge that has intensified with remote transmissions and full remote productions becoming more common due to Covid-19. Remote comment positions, temporary production settings (using flypacks), live connections coming from all over the world – everything needs to be monitored, configured and controlled no matter where the equipment is located.

All this has to happen smoothly during operations. However, many existing control systems simply cannot cope with the level of complexity involved. Having to switch between multiple custom device apps or change settings on the fly can be time-consuming and ineffective. Only a system that can be distributed across multiple locations and can integrate with any number of devices will provide the control and visibility that is now required.

In addition to complexity, there is the growing demand for IP, which provides the agility and scalability needed to support higher resolutions, such as UHD-4K or HDR, and is more sensitive than SDI environments. This introduces new ways of working for everyone involved in the production ecosystem. Keeping live video streams in sync with audio over IP networks is tricky, and not all engineers are yet fully accustomed to this new technology. This presents the need to integrate IP flows into your workflows without drastically changing your work processes. As such, new protocols and formats are causing concern, all complemented by the need to deliver more value and increase productivity.

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Borderless production
There are several steps production engineers must take to overcome the challenges they face, adapt to new workflows, and ensure they are fully prepared for the future. For example, the growing influence of IP infrastructure, whether for a new facility, truck or flypack, is not something that can be ignored, while dealing with incoming sources from the cloud or through remote installations is quickly becoming the norm rather than an exception.

It is vital that engineers understand how these technologies can disrupt their workflows during setup and operation. This can be done through online training courses and virtual events. Engineers are at the forefront when it comes to the evolution of workflow processes, so regular training to continue developing their skills and experience is essential.

Most importantly, they must adopt a barrier-free workflow: one that incorporates the best devices, located anywhere, all controlled and monitored by an open system. In addition to optimizing workflows regardless of scale and type of connectivity, this will allow them to measure where time is being spent and how efficiency can be improved, providing opportunities for continuous operational optimization.

To achieve this, they must resort to a control system that can adapt to any combination of connectivity and devices that comes their way. As the momentum behind IP-based workflows continues to grow, having such a system in place will allow production engineers to control and configure their traditional routers and devices, as well as being ready for IP media streams, all within one platform.

Ultimately, production engineers must prepare for the new era by rethinking the way they produce live shows and events. The future will require a new level of agility in terms of the equipment they use and how they control devices in live environments. By embracing a borderless world of production and continuing to develop their skills, they will be empowered to adopt the workflows of the future with confidence and success.

*Ian Hollamby is Director of R&D at EVS.

Richard Santa, RAVT
Author: Richard Santa, RAVT
Periodista de la Universidad de Antioquia (2010), con experiencia en temas sobre tecnología y economía. Editor de las revistas TVyVideo+Radio y AVI Latinoamérica. Coordinador académico de TecnoTelevisión&Radio.

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