A move to IP throughout the content creation and distribution chain will help broadcasters exploit next-generation technologies such as 4G broadcast, virtual reality and immersive viewing spaces to provide audiences with richer and more compelling experiences.
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, BBC R&D applied its work on IP Studio and Object-Based Broadcasting to demonstrate an extensive end-to-end platform for live event broadcasting.
This paper reviews this trial, and outlines recent work on proving the concepts demonstrated at scale through collaboration with industry partners and with programme makers.
It further outlines an approach that allows production facilities to generate time aware media objects that can support next-generation consumer platforms.
Profound change to the way media is produced, distributed and consumed is upon us.
For live events, this offers new opportunities to provide audiences with richer and more compelling experiences.
Next-generation technologies such as 4G broadcast, virtual reality and immersive viewing and listening spaces will allow audiences to enjoy an event as much as those at the venue (or possibly better than being there).
Furthermore, the consumer will have a more personalised relationship with the production, receiving the content and data of interest to them, while still benefitting from a properly authored experience.
In the last few years, BBC R&D has been researching these themes, considering some of the potential changes to the nature of the content and the means to produce them, the means to deliver them and the means for the audience to enjoy them.
Collectively, these advances can be thought of as parts of a New Broadcasting System.
The kinds of user experiences we have been researching fall into three categories:
Dynamic, responsive & personal content. While linear, scheduled programmes will continue, the content will exist in a form that is capable of being recapped and presented in a way that responds to the audience member, their time and context and the devices(s) they are using.
Audience as explorers. It will be possible to capture a ‘digital space’ and give audiences the ability to explore that environment. New ‘media playgrounds’ emerge.
Co-creators & collaborators. As production tools move into the Internet, it will be possible for everyone to access production environments. Broadcasters can embrace this to widen our audience’s involvement in our content.
A key concept in the realisation of these kinds of user experience is the handling of the constituent parts of the media as objects, where the individual media assets (whether live or recorded) may be addressed separately.
Metadata describes the relationships and associations between various objects, to describe the editorial intent. At the point of consumption these objects can be assembled to create an overall user experience.
The precise combination of objects can be flexible, and responsive to user, environmental and platform specific factors.
The characteristics and potential benefits of Object-Based Broadcasting and a case study is further described in (1)
This approach is applicable not only as part of an audience-facing delivery and presentation platform, but also upstream within a production environment.
As part of its research into the New Broadcasting System, the BBC R&D IP Studio project (2)(3) has specifically been investigating how production media objects should be handled.
2014 COMMONWEALTH GAMES
To investigate the approach of the IP Studio project at scale, BBC R&D demonstrated a live ultra-high definition (UHD) outside broadcast made using end-to-end IP for the duration of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Live video and audio were delivered from three games venues to a public exhibition at the Glasgow Science Centre and broadcast via the department’s trial of UHD distribution.
As shown in Figure 1, this provided a test of a live production distributed across three UK cities and synchronised wherever it was needed for viewing and broadcast distribution.
This enabled facilities and staff to be located according to operational need, and reduced the numbers required at each competition venue. For example, the audio production and commentary position were located in London.
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