The CEO of virtualised media production solutions pioneer Nevion talks to David Davies about the rapid rise of decentralised production and the company’s hugely fruitful collaboration with Sony.
If certain technological trends can be said to have had a defining moment, then that moment is now for distributed (or decentralised) production. The current global crisis has intensified the need for broadcast teams to be able to work remotely and flexibly on multiple projects – often subject to immediate change and quick turnaround schedules. No wonder, then, that distributed production – whereby ingest, the actual production and the actual equipment used are distributed geographically – has lately assumed greater prominence in the broadcast tech debate.
In many regards, says Nevion CEO Geir Bryn-Jensen, it makes sense to perceive distributed production as “an extension of the idea of remote production, but where literally all the resources – rooms/studios, equipment and staff – are ‘federated’, ie. pooled into the production capability. The overriding idea is that production can be much more flexible and cost-effective as a result – not just in terms of the use of the equipment, but the staff as well.”
For a broadcaster looking to introduce more flexible working practices, it is vital that “any IP project, whatever the size, should take into account that long-term goal of federating resources to enable distributed production.” Recent months have found Nevion delivering “a large project for a major broadcaster which involves exactly that, with studios and control rooms in 11 locations (and indeed 11 countries) connected, and two data centres providing all the processing resources. We are supplying all the connectivity to make that happen.”
Underpinning Nevion’s approach to IP-based decentralised workflows is its popular VideoIPath convergent orchestration and SDN (software defined networking) control software system. Subject to continual updates, the system’s more recent additions include support for the NMOS (Network Media Open Specifications) IS-04 and IS-05 standards.
The VideoIPath platform, says Bryn-Jensen, “has become an imperative component for customers who are looking to achieve the transition to more IT-oriented operations, because it has the ability to orchestrate all your assets, workflows and more. VideoPath is also part of [our strategy to provide] business and service-oriented platforms that have direct value to our customers.”
Nevion’s other primary ‘building block’ for IP-based infrastructures is Nevion Virtuoso, a standards-based, virtualisation-ready, software-defined media node that can perform a variety of real-time functions in converged LAN/WAN networks. Developed to help broadcasters respond to the need to be “increasingly nimble and agile”, Virtuoso can enable users to “achieve a faster time-to-production and greater cost-effectiveness.”
Delivering ‘end-to-end’ solutions with Sony
Of course, Nevion’s ability to help customers achieve migration to IP-based production has been further strengthened in recent years by its partnership with Sony. Signalled by a June 2019 announcement that Sony had become a significant investor in Nevion, the two companies are focused on developing IP-centric solutions for broadcast and other industries.
It is possible to see this partnership, says Bryn-Jensen, “in the context of this whole transformation process where broadcasters are looking for wide-ranging expertise to help them get it right. Prior to this partnership we had been having internal discussions about how we should expand, and were aware that although we could engage with customers completely in terms of connectivity, they often also wanted advice on all the assets and equipment involved in the production and creative processes – cameras, glasses and so on. So we began thinking about finding a partner with whom we could go to the market and ask customers if they wanted to buy end-to-end solutions.”
The partnership with Sony has delivered precisely that, and it will continue to “evolve as the requirements of the media production ecosystem change. We have been looking at how the production market is likely to evolve, and we believe that we have a lot of the answers – although I can’t share them with you right now! (Laughs). But I can definitely confirm that it is a long-term relationship.”
Bryn-Jensen also offers his opinions on two other major trends – cloud-based live production and 5G. In the case of the former, he points to the growing interest in both full-scale cloud and hybrid workflow environments, and believe that “the Covid-19 situation will further accelerate the move to the cloud. The value of a cloud-based proposition is now well-established in terms of its economy of scale and scope, and its capacity to support resource sharing”.
As for 5G, Nevion is presently a contributor to several EU initiatives, including 5G-VIRTUOSA (led by Nevion) and 5G-VINNI (led by Telenor). According to the project website, 5G-VIRTUOSA aims to “explore through real-life examples how 5G wireless communication can be combined with virtualisation concepts from the IT industry to enable broadcasters to produce live content (such as sports or music coverage) more efficiently and cost-effectively across locations to meet growing consumer demand.”
Nevion regards 5G as having considerable potential for live production – both as part of distributed production set-ups and quick turnaround, ‘pop-up’-style productions. “5G can evidently be regarded as a new transportation technology that will be very relevant for live media production.”
With so many emerging technologies to keep on top of, it’s no surprise to discover that Bryn-Jensen regards one of Nevion’s primary objectives as being to help customers identify and implement those technologies that “help them to become more agile. From Nevion’s perspective, the recent past has witnessed a huge transformation as we have gone from hundreds of hardware products to two platforms that revolve around software and services. But that means we are able to be much more efficient in providing solutions that allow broadcasters to focus on their core business – producing content – and not worry about the technology itself.”
For more information about Nevion’s solutions and projects, please visit https://nevion.com.