As content production acquires greater fluidity, it’s not surprising that more broadcasters are seeking cloud-based solutions for essential aspects such as QC and transcoding.

When it started to become clear a few years ago quite how huge and long-lasting the online content revolution was going to be, the debate about the role of the cloud really ramped up a gear. In particular, with supply and distribution demands becoming more complex and always evolving, there was a sense that it was a question of when, not if, cloud-based solutions would be enlisted to deliver critical content preparation tasks such as QC and transcoding.

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Geoff Stedman, Chief Marketing Officer of SDVI Corporation

The impression from a few days of speaking to vendors in this space is that that time has now arrived. Geoff Stedman, Chief Marketing Officer of SDVI Corporation, remarks: “As demand for content has grown and the number of distribution options has exploded, on-premise infrastructure is entirely unprepared (pun intended).

”Moving content preparation to the cloud provides flexibility and agility: it opens up virtually unlimited capacity, lets you select whichever tools are right for the job at hand and creates an economic model where you pay for exactly what you use.”

Two other developments are also playing a part here – namely the increasing receipt of incoming content in the cloud and the migration there of more archive content.

Stedman adds: “The cloud has become a preferred destination for long-term storage and security of original content masters. Once in the cloud, it simply makes more sense to process that content there. Instead of moving the content to on-prem processing, move the processing to the content.”

Tasks performed in parallel and at scale

There is a consensus view that one of the cloud’s greatest strengths in this area is its ability to support repetitive and processing-heavy tasks – in parallel and at great scale. As well as transcoding and (increasingly, AI-powered) automated QC, these tasks might include packaging, audio levelling, caption insertion and more.

“Instead of moving the content to on-prem processing, move the processing to the content,” Geoff Stedman, SDVI Corporation

“Tasks that are processing-intensive, such as transcoding or automated QC, benefit from cloud-based solutions because they can take advantage of the performance and scale of processing capabilities offered by cloud providers, enabling parallelism that can’t be achieved with limited on-premise infrastructure,” says Stedman.

“These tasks can be easily automated and they rely on software that can be deployed across cloud resources in an on-demand model. When demand spikes, [you can] easily spin up new cloud resources to provide more transcoding capacity or run multiple QC jobs in parallel. When demand recedes, spin down resources to match reduced requirements. Regardless of the demand, only pay for what you use.”

SDVI itself continues to see increased take-up for its SDVI Rally Media Supply Chain platform, which can utilise resources located on premise, in a public or private cloud, or any combination thereof. This platform, explains Stedman, “optimises all of the tasks and processes necessary to prepare media from ingest to delivery, and deploys all of the infrastructure needed to perform those tasks on demand. Supply chains can incorporate QC, transcoding and other content preparation applications, which are activated and deployed from within the Rally platform, giving customers the freedom to choose any tool and making those tools available on a consumption basis.”

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Anupama Anantharaman, VP of Product Management at Interra Systems

The latest resources at their disposal

Anupama Anantharaman, Vice President of Product Management at Interra Systems, points to the ability of cloud-based content preparation to take advantage of the very latest and greatest tools and resources. The cloud’s access to the latest technologies means that “users can have the best available hardware resources at their disposal. This is particularly helpful for compute-intensive tasks such as QC and transcoding.”

More and more, indicates Anantharaman, there is likely to be a tendency towards avoiding heavy investment in permanent on-site infrastructure.

With a cloud-based workflow for OTT, she adds, there is also the opportunity to “offload software installation and maintenance. Relying on the expertise of technology service providers to manage installations and provide maintenance, operators can focus on running their business and develop better content.”

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Baton: allows users to address their QC needs without investing upfront in hardware infrastructure, thereby simplifying content verification for quality and compliance.

Interra Systems’ own recent developments in this area include the availability of Baton QC as a subscription-based service in the cloud. The new service, Interra Cloud Services (ICS) – Baton, allows users to address their QC needs without investing upfront in hardware infrastructure, thereby simplifying content verification for quality and compliance. It also offers industry-standard pre-configured test plans, including Amazon, ARD ZDF, CableLabs, DPP and iTunes.

“Media companies will embrace cloud-based solutions at a faster pace than what we have seen up until now. This will be especially true for streaming,” Anupama Anantharaman, Interra Systems

Anantharaman anticipates increased traction for cloud-based content preparation as the streaming landscape evolves. “Media companies will embrace cloud-based solutions at a faster pace than what we have seen up until now,” she predicts. “This will be especially true for streaming, where the ability to spin up and spin down QC/monitoring systems at locations closest to customers is desired.”

Affordability and scale

Rick Young, senior vice president Global Products at LTN Global, says that the company’s quest to provide greater cloud-based capabilities has “been in progress for several years now”, but confirms that demand has accelerated recently for content preparation in the cloud. “The biggest challenge [many broadcasters now face] is how to prepare content in the right formats for the right channels, and to do that in a way that is affordable and at scale,” he says. We are now a long way, he indicates, from the days “when it was all about creating one channel or show or evening [of content]”.

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Rick Young, SVP of Global Products at LTN Global

With solutions including LTN Live Video Cloud, Young says it “makes sense for LTN to think about [cloud-based content preparation] in two main buckets: one being the services that we provide as completely managed services, such as with transcoding and QC; and two that we deliver the specific tools [needed in each instance]”.

Both approaches are likely to remain popular as the OTT sector evolves through what is – historically speaking – still a fairly formative stage in its development. At present there is a strong tendency in the market, says Young, “to want to be able to experiment and to get services up and running quickly – and the cloud allows that. Some of those experiments may fail, of course, although hopefully not as often as they succeed! But the cloud allows these experiments to happen [inexpensively and quickly].”

Last word to Stedman, who indicates that as cloud storage begins to be employed for a wider range of new and existing context, cloud-based content preparation will become more ubiquitous. “A cloud-driven solution for content preparation makes even more sense for media companies that are already using cloud storage for their assets,” he says. “Once a content master is in the cloud, derivative assets can be easily and quickly created using cloud-based tools that can process the content without having to move it, saving the time and cost associated with cloud-to-ground and ground-to-cloud file transfers.”