Modern and powerful — yet cost-effective — products are now helping broadcasters do more for less, and in less space. And cost reduction does not need to affect the quality of output. IP connectivity makes live event coverage even more affordable and accessible, allowing for cloud-based workflows and very cost-effective bulk transport of uncompressed media.
The Evolution Of Live Production Audio
Traditional broadcasters worldwide are seeing huge competition from on-demand web streaming services. To counter this, they are looking to cover more and more live events, and are increasingly moving into regional and collegiate sports to meet the demand for broader choice and a more tailored viewing experience. However, lower advertising revenue from individual events demands a more cost-effective approach to live production.
Full Broadcast Power In A Smaller Footprint
Modern and powerful — yet cost-effective — products are now helping broadcasters do more for less, and in less space. Rich feature sets specific to live broadcast, automated and assistive features, greater control integration between systems, and slick UI design with a focus on usability all help to reduce the burden on operators and scale down the space needed for control surfaces. As a result, modern broadcast facilities — both mobile and fixed — can now be very compact while still outputting live material in real time.
Cost reduction does not need to affect the quality of output. We are seeing huge demand for affordable compact audio mixers, but crucially, these are live broadcast-specific products with a full feature set that belies their appearance — offering capabilities under the hood that rival much larger traditional consoles.
The features include powerful surround DSP, monitoring, and metering at a price point not normally associated with a broadcast-specific mixer. This kind of product allows controls rooms to be very compact, fitting more into a facility, and mobile units can become much smaller too.
The IP Revolution Drives Remote Production
IP connectivity makes live event coverage even more affordable and accessible, allowing for cloud-based workflows and very cost-effective bulk transport of uncompressed media. With more video and discrete audio channels being transported around the world at low latency, production operations can be shared between remote sites and broadcast centers.
An alluring aspect is the emergence of remote or “at home” production (also known as remote integration or REMI). Traditional mobile production has very expensive equipment and skilled staff tied up travelling between events, setting up, and tearing down, often just for a few hours of coverage a week.
Remote production yields huge cost savings and efficiency improvements; remotely controlled, IP-connected kit allows the expensive equipment to be located in a broadcast facility where it can be utilized more effectively. Control rooms can switch between jobs and remote venues, with plenty of engineering staff and operational cover on hand. Plus, operators are able to work in the same daily environment, without travel expenses and setup time.
With the growth of remote production, mobile companies will be able to meet the demand for content with much larger fleets of much smaller vehicles that save on fuel and secure storage costs, are much easier to maintain and quicker to set up, and can leverage lesser skilled local staff at remote sites.
Remote production is nothing new. We’ve been doing it in one form or another for many years in various forms, but the IP revolution is making it much more accessible and affordable. The days of costly satellite uplinks and dark fiber that can only pass limited amounts of content, often with time alignment challenges, will soon be a thing of the past, as more people move to IP connectivity.
To achieve this, broadcast engineers are having to either become IT network-savvy or work with IT engineers who understand the requirements of broadcast. That shift is happening, but as manufacturers, we need to make it less of a technical challenge and provide systems that are easy to set up and configure. At Calrec, that’s where we’re headed with our own products, and through collaboration between equipment manufacturers and IP service providers.
Until now, truly remotely controlled productions have been relatively small while operations gain confidence in configuring connectivity, but scale is not limited by technology – and we’re already seeing 20-plus-camera shows being produced. As systems and connectivity become more plug-and-play, we will see more productions becoming more ambitious in the near future.
As manufacturers collaborate to prove the interoperation of their systems under different conditions in real world situations, and work toward easier plug-and-play setup, broadcasters will be able to tackle more ambitious projects with much less effort. The benefits of IP are not just about connecting geographically remote systems; IP will extend throughout facilities as well to improve workflows and save costs at every level.
Manufacturers and broadcasters alike are rising to the challenges, and the IP-based remote-production future is bright. Solid, proven systems, with a wide, broadcast-specific feature set and a range of connectivity and media format options are opening the door to increased coverage for lower outlay.
Pete Walker, product manager for Calrec Audio, has been in the broadcast audio industry for more than 20 years. With a background in electronics, he gained extensive experience as a customer support engineer, working with operators and engineers globally. At Calrec, Walker uses his field experience to produce equipment, features and functionality that improve efficiencies and solve problems for broadcasters.