As reliability and security issues are improving, more broadcasters are seriously looking at the value of cloud-based services. The uses range from writing, editing and sharing stories in the field, to quickly creating graphics, as well as managing and editing online video. A recent study of video producers finds that only 23% are using a cloud infrastructure today, but that more than 75% are considering deploying it.
For the most part, broadcasters remain wary of cloud-based video technology. They see the efficiencies that could come from using the Internet and broadband connections for everything from graphics to media asset management to news gathering and editing, but they are not sure they want to rely on the cloud for critical productions or entrust valuable content to it.
Vendors say they understand the reluctance. “The workflow has to be bullet proof,” says Dana Ruzicka, VP of segment and product marketing at Avid. “Broadcasters in general see the technology and cost benefit, but it is reliability and security that has been making them more cautious.”
Trevor Francis, global marketing manager at Quantel, another cloud proponent, says broadcasters also have a considerable investment in more tangible, conventional technology. “They know they can send two guys and a microwave truck to location and they know how long it will take to set up and know that within a narrow margin it will work. People don’t like to expose themselves to the vagaries of the Internet.”
But resistance to the cloud may be softening.
An Ovum Research survey of 200 video producers around the world commissioned by Avid Technology and released at IBC last month found that only 23% are using a cloud infrastructure today, but that more than 75% are considering deploying it.
Rogers Media, a Toronto-based group TV and radio broadcaster, adopted Quantel’s QTube right out of the box in 2010 and has been using it for sharing content and for remote editing in sports and news.
“We’re very happy with it,” says Andrew Thomas, director of technical operations for Rogers’ Sportsnet. “QTube has opened up our ability to share between our various facilities in cities across four time zones…. We intend to grow the use of the product.”
For its use of the technology, Rogers Media was a finalist for a 2011 IBC Innovation Award.
One early adopter of cloud technology in the U.S. broadcasting ranks is Post-Newsweek Stations, which is using Chyron’s Axis World Graphics.
“We use Axis maps daily,” says Steve Owen, executive producer at the group’s WPLG Miami. “Producers are able to create any map they want — be that an animated or a still map — at their desktop in a very short amount of time. This allows us to have more control over the content.
“For complex projects, we do still use designers,” he adds. “But Axis maps allow us to do basic to pretty detailed maps ourselves. For breaking news, I can create a map and have it on air in five minutes, without having to call anyone.”
Felicia Steiger, design director for the Post-Newsweek Stations, says the service saves money, as well as time. “In the long run it ends up being less expensive [than the software previously used], which had a higher cost of upkeep,” she says.
So far, the cloud seems to be making its greatest impact in managing and editing online video.
“The cloud for broadcast video is still nascent,” says Stephen Streater, CEO of Forbidden Technologies. “All the innovation is happening on the Web side where broadcasters want technology that halves their costs and increases their output.”
This summer, NBC staffers in New York edited 3,500 hours of Olympic content from 70 live feeds from London. Material was uploaded to the cloud, edited in Forbidden’s browser-based editor Forscene and output to NBC Olympics’ YouTube channel.
“The number of editors can be staffed up or down according to the workload and at short notice, giving the broadcaster greater flexibility to scale,” Streater says. “To achieve a similar Web production without the cloud would mean stationing around 50 editors in London for the Games’ duration, incurring all costs of travel and accommodation.”
“Web video is a necessity for many TV stations, yet they do not have the manpower, budget or skills to deliver a premium service,” says Michael Worringer, director video products at online video platform Broadcast Interactive Media, which uses Forbidden to encode, repackage and syndicate to the Web more than 1,600 hours a day of news and sports content.
“Postproduction in the cloud is working and will proliferate,” Worringer says. “We still run into broadcasters tied into legacy workflows and hardware where they have two to three people managing servers on site costing thousands of dollars a year. Sometimes we scratch our heads. Cloud production will accelerate as the need to produce more and more content, faster and with fewer resources gets ever stronger.”
Proponents of cloud services reason that in time, more decision makers will conclude that cloud workflows can be more cost effective than maintaining on-site servers. They also point out that broadband will get faster and more reliable.
Among the newer offerings is Signiant’s Media Shuttle, a monthly subscription service that launched in July and is aimed at moving content in and out of broadcasters or post-production houses; and Adobe Anywhere, which was unveiled in September at IBC for collaborative post using Adobe’s video software.
Last month, Avid launched its cloud platform — Avid Interplay Sphere — with focus on distributed production. “Media storage, transcoding — if you look across the broadcast workflow, anything that you can deal with from a general computing standpoint — will eventually be something to which you can apply cloud technology,” says Avid’s Ruzicka. “We have to look at it very methodically and make sure we are delivering the security and reliability that the broadcaster has to have.”