IBC2022: This Technical Paper explores ITV’s investigation into harnessing the opportunites of the cloud.
For ITV, there were four key goals that drove us to investigate and try to harness the opportunities of the Cloud. The first goal was to explore the potential of a secure, virtual space for production teams to create, collaborate and have the ability to scale their resources & toolbox up (or indeed down) at speed. The second goal, was finding new ways to reduce hardware and office space costs, (as well as exposing the total cost of editorial, storage and the often-invisible wrap around of Engineering support). The third was to continue to keep up with the latest versions of software and answer previously unanswerable Disaster Recovery requests without the need for CAPEX justification and investment. Lastly, the fourth, but by no means any less important goal, was that we wanted to turbo-charged the drive towards a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly production environment for our Creative Teams.
Our finished output was 10 x 45min shows and, ultimately, a valuable discovery was that creating television remotely and inside a Virtual, Cloud-based environment is viable (it actually works!). As a healthy bi-product, it is also much ‘greener’ when compared to more traditional, ‘on-prem’ ways of working - saving 40 metric tonnes of CO2 or, to put in context, Greenhouse gases of 9 vehicles for an entire year or CO2 emissions from 5 homes for a year, per virtual edit suite!
By the end of March 2020, we had adopted a wide range of software, techniques and various ‘creative’ mechanisms to enable our teams to continue editing the live shows, through remotely accessing systems in a now very quiet West London office base. By April, around 75% of our editing was achieved by people working offsite – which was very much unprecedented. We all worked together as a team to keep the shows on-air, sending out video tutorials and extra hardware (monitors, keyboards, long ethernet cables etc) to help turn our colleague’s homes (actual example in Fig 1 below) into satellites of remote edit suites.
However, as time went on, the global pandemic created a catalyst for more permanent change and new trends started to emerge. There was a new appetite for experimentation and increased demand for technology-based solutions to problems. The notion of making do or ‘getting-by’ was now replaced by phrases such as ‘Sustainable New Normal’ and ‘working from home’ was now a necessity as opposed to a rare privilege.
One shift was that the technology teams suddenly had a more prominent seat at the table and a new-found voice (as opposed to the historical main visibility largely being when ‘things went wrong’). Around the same time, the DPP called many members (most of whom are industry leaders & their suppliers) to contribute to a white paper on the Cloud and its use in Broadcast Media. This started with a discussion and concluded in a 60+ page write up with some powerful quotes to reaffirm that our industry really was changing as a direct result of lessons learnt during Lockdown 1.0.
‘The Cloud for Media’ researched and authored by Rowan de Pomerai in early 2020 was a particular source for re-affirming what we were already witnessing in our own areas with quotes such as “COVID has increased the sense of urgency among media companies to work in the cloud” and it also cited research estimating that ‘49% of the world’s data will reside in public cloud environments by 2025’.
Around the same time our Senior Leadership Team were actively encouraging us to run trials and prove the concept of Editing in the Cloud. To de-risk the trial, one of our extra, pre-recorded commissions (a cookery show called ‘John & Lisa’s Weekend Kitchen’) was selected to test out the new production environment in the Cloud.
It cannot be stressed enough that nothing like this was available ‘off the shelf’, so we decided to collaborate with both internal Cyber and Enterprise Common Platform Teams and external resources (including 3 rd Party suppliers Microsoft, Accenture, AVID, Telestream and Support Partners) to build something for a very specific use-case. Around approximately 10 months later the setup was built, tested, users on-boarded and we were ready to create some TX content, fully in the Cloud.