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Broadcast innovation and collaboration to take center stage at IBC 2015 Amsterdam

by Nitin Dahad

Part of the secret of successful innovation involves collaborative efforts, and this will be recognized in the broadcast industry at the forthcoming http://www.ibc.org/Content/Home Innovation Awards in Amsterdam. The awards will recognize projects which have involved real collaboration between suppliers and users, and have solved a real challenge in content creation, content management and content delivery.

The shortlist of 10 finalists reflects some of the key issues affecting everyone in broadcasting and electronic media today – including new ways to regionalise content efficiently, create collaboratively and engage with audiences more closely. Using the latest technology in real-world applications, is the key theme, and the finalists are end users of collaborative projects: broadcasters, media enterprises and service providers. Says Michael Lumley, chair of the awards judging panel, “Their technology partners span the industry and indeed span the globe: one finalist is a Latin American broadcaster, running software developed by an Indian company using a communications platform from Spain.”

Content creation finalists

channel 4 singer takes it all

Channel 4

Three very different projects are contesting the award for most innovative project in content creation, embracing social media, local radio and sports oversight. The first nominee is the UK’s Channel 4 and its talent contest The Singer Takes it All. This was entirely dependent on an app, first to allow the contestants to audition karaoke-style, then for real-time voting on live shows to choose a winner. Technology partners were Chunk Digital, Electoral Reform Society, Endemol and Tectonic Interactive.

ViLoR – Virtualised Local Radio – is the BBC’s project to reinvent services for the regions of the United Kingdom, keeping the content local but using innovative technology to reduce equipment costs by 75 percent. The 40 BBC local radio stations each have their own creative teams, but all using common centralised equipment. This is thought to be the first large-scale roll-out of broadcast technology as a service. Developed largely in-house, the project used skills and equipment from a large number of suppliers, including Atos, Broadcast Bionics, Cisco, Comrex, EM Computers, EMC2, Glensound Electronics, HP, IMI Mobile, Mayah, Microsoft, Oracle, Scisys, Technica del Arte, Telos Axia, VMWare, Vodafone and Vortex.

The third finalist, the National Basketball Association (NBA), as part of its mission to be the most respected sports league organisation in the world, operates a central broadcast facility in Secaucus, New Jersey. Now it has added a powerful replay centre, managed by software-defined networking, to allow its officials to provide review and decision-making. With the possibility of 15 simultaneous games and nine camera angles at each, that means managing 144 feeds while making it simple for the game officials to concentrate on getting the right decision quickly. Cisco, Evertz, Samsung, The Systems Group and Zayo came together to collaborate on the technology.

Content management finalists

Two of America’s biggest broadcasters are on the shortlist for the most innovative content management project, each pioneers of IP connectivity and software-defined video. Disney/ABC Television Group has implemented a real-time IP distribution system for content around its New York distribution facility, based on 40 and 100 gigabit ethernet and handling uncompressed HD for more than 200 affiliated stations across the USA. The technology comes from AC Video Solutions, Arista, Imagine Communications and The Systems Group.

ESPN is also looking to the IP future, and has opened the first large-scale, fully ethernet connected production facility in the world. Digital Center 2 is home to five studios, 16 edit suites, six control rooms and some of the most popular sports television in the USA. Its technology partners included Arista Networks, Evertz and Vizrt.

SBS Broadcasting in Amsterdam has been looking at ways to improve the viewer experience of its films and drama series. It recognised that maintaining dramatic, high contrast audio was key, but it needed to be achieved with the best loudness practices, particularly on channels with commercial breaks. Finally, it had to do it all in a highly efficient, automated workflow. The result was an anchor-based loudness normalisation workflow, using technology from Delta Sigma Consultancy, Minnetonka Audio and Nugen Audio.

Dock10 has rapidly developed into one of the most efficient production and post production powerhouses in the UK. It has always encouraged collaborative and remote working, and its implementation of Field Dock, which allows creative teams to connect into its post network from locations or anywhere else they choose, earns it the fourth nomination in this category. The technical team from dock10 worked with Avid and Limecraft.

Content delivery finalists

While many nations have gone through the analog television switch-off process, few are even close to achieving it in radio. Norway is the exception: in 2017 it will shut off its FM radio network, replacing it with a DAB+ service that reaches 99.5 percent of the population. The country’s broadcast transmission provider Norkring is leading the project on behalf of broadcasters Digitalradio Norge, NRK, P4 Radio Hele Norge and SBS Discovery. Technology came from 2WCom, Aldena, Cisco, GatesAir, Kathrein-Werke, NEC, NetCom, Net Insight, Relacom, Site Service, SmartGrid, Spinner, Telenor Satellite Broadcasting and Telmec Broadcasting.

AMC Networks International transmits popular television channels into Latin America. It recently faced the challenge of the need to tailor the content for Portuguese-speaking Brazil, differentiating it from the largely Spanish-speaking rest of the continent. Rather than face the expense of a separate Brazil feed when only some of the content needed replacing, it developed a sophisticated system which stored replacement content in the cloud, triggering it using watermarked break bumpers. It allows a seamless workflow between AMC in New York, playout partner Telefonica in Spain and local satellite distributor Sky Brazil, and uses technology from Amagi Media Labs.

Pac-12 Networks – the broadcast arm of the conference of 12 west coast universities – offers 850 live televised sports events a year. To manage all of this, it uses commodity internet connections to link a basic crew at the event with its three central control rooms in San Francisco. The technology, which allows talkback, telemetry and telemetric data to travel to and from sports venues as much as 2500 km away with less than a frame delay, was developed with Internet2, Nevion and T-Vips.

IBC is one of the key annual events for professionals engaged in the creation, management and delivery of entertainment and news content worldwide, attracting over 55,000 attendees from more than 170 countries.

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