While broadcast and AV used to be seen as very separate entities, both are built around the concept of the playlist and discrete, triggered events happening in a carefully choreographed sequence, with a schedule and items that need to take place on demand. And it’s not just broadcast borrowing technologies from AV; with an increasing use of cameras, mixers, signals, audio, lights and graphics, live events increasingly resemble broadcast shows.
The ongoing move towards IP production across the broadcast industry has meant a shift from proprietary and specialist — often expensive — equipment and made it possible to build a high-quality video workflow without using a single SDI-component.This has opened up a world of possibilities for broadcasters looking for cost-effective yet high quality new technologies that will help them to meet the rising expectations of audiences. Many of these technologies are crossing over from the AV sector, from video conferencing technologies to hi-res LED displays to graphics technology.
While broadcast and AV used to be seen as very separate entities, in reality the two have much in common. Both are built around the concept of the playlist and discrete, triggered events happening in a carefully choreographed sequence. There is a schedule and a number of items that need to take place on demand, often necessitating the exact timing of separate parts of the workflow. And it’s not just broadcast borrowing technologies from AV; with an increasing use of cameras, mixers, signals, audio, lights and graphics, live events increasingly resemble broadcast shows.
One of the balancing acts that broadcasters and content providers over the world have to manage is that of costs versus capabilities, and nowhere is that currently more evident than in the use of AR and VR (virtual reality), which are among the newest technologies merging across the broadcast/AV boundary. Virtual studios have become more appealing because of the flexibility that virtual technology can offer, and the availability of powerful enough hardware at a price point that not just the big broadcasters can afford. Recent advances in software architecture and raw processing power, especially with a new generation of specialised GPUs, have meant that a far wider range of graphics options are available to the broadcast sector.
The pandemic has also triggered a rapid growth in virtual and remote production, which was still in its early-adopter stages at the beginning of 2020. As live events were seriously affected due to travel restrictions and social distancing, the accelerated uptake of virtual production technology allowed broadcasters to remotely connect with their audiences at a time when information and entertainment were required in equal measure.
The convergence of these diverse elements is that data-driven graphics, virtual technology and AR options, such as Edison PRO and other template-based products, are now available in cost-effective packages that do not imply any loss of image quality and do not need specialist skillsets to operate.
By using drag-and-drop operation, for example, these systems can be used by anyone, and allows users to enhance their productions with real-time 3D graphics and AR. All they need as a starting point is a Powerpoint file or a PDF, allowing broadcasters and content providers to re-use pre-generated assets in exciting new ways.
Such tools represent a new category of graphics tools that offer high-end quality at competitive prices, often with a library of pre-defined templates, scenes, furniture, pointers, screens, and other objects to populate the set, with some even offering a number of interactive templates to further customize a programme. Edison, for example, is also fully compatible with Unreal Engine, allowing Unreal’s photorealistic scenes to be used as 3D backgrounds, enhancing the looks of a standard studio.
Additionally, virtual sets can now literally cross the boundaries of the physical space available, giving broadcasters more real estate to play with, and ever more innovative ways of presenting information.
At the same time, for manufacturers this means opening up their horizons to offer a wider product range, making new tools that can be accessible to the wider public. The benefit of this ‘democratisation’ of the technology is that this stems off from the more advanced solutions already on the market, trully reliable and tested after decades of experience within the broadcast sector. An example of this can be Brainstorm’s InfinitySet as the advanced, broadcast-oriented virtual set that has been used by leading broadcasters around the world, which has allowed Brainstorm to develop a more accessible solution, as is Edison PRO, for wider access.
The upshot of it all is that effective and high-quality graphics and AR no longer need to be complicated or expensive, giving broadcasters the confidence to deploy them in an ever-widening variety of use cases.