Live content continues to play a key role in many broadcaster’s portfolio, despite current challenges in setting up live productions. IBC365 looks at some of the innovations the industry has developed in live production over recent years

With much of the world in lockdown, producing live content is arguably more challenging than ever. Yet creating content live - be it news, sport, or light entertainment - remains a core staple of most boradcasters’ output.

live event mixing desk

Live innovation: How live productions lead the way

In honour of that, IBC365 is this week looking at some of the key innovations in live production.

Sport remains one of the most important types of live production and, in the age of instant news and social media, the live element is a really important factor for sports broadcasters.

In terms of innovation, one key area of development has been in the use of AI and virtualisation in live sport production, which has placed sport at the sharp end of the most cutting-edge production processes in the industry.

The market for live sports production is rapidly changing, from the audience demanding more highlights and greater coverage, with sports broadcasters and platforms responding accordingly.

But sport is no longer limited to that taking place on a field or a court or a track, with esports one of the fastest growing sectors in recent years. In fact, in the face of coronavirus, many sporting brands are turning even more to gaming competitions in order to keep their audiences engaged.

Like with traditional sports, esports is served best in a live environment. With huge audience engagement, around 453.8 million people worldwide, broadcasters and dedicated platform providers are well positioned to capitalised and monetise the esports enthusiasts, however, to do so successfully and seamlessly without jeopardising the integrity of the production is a challenge.

If there is one lesson to be learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that the industry needs to be more flexible in how it approaches production. As more broadcasters look at working remotely for live broadcasting, telecoms solutions such as 5G grow increasingly important.

The rise of remote production — also referred to as ‘at-home’ production or REMI (REMote Integration) — is going to be one of the most important wide scale technology advances over the coming years.

The industry could be set to see a significant sea change in the way that live events are covered and one that is inevitably putting pressure on the OB sector.

5G is not just transformative for delivery of content, however. It will also play a key role in transforming the live creative side, through solutions such as bonded cellular.

That could include news or sports events, where instead of linking up cameras to an OB truck using radio links, they are instead connected via 5G.

As Ian Wagdin, of BBC R&D explains, “We use quite a lot of radio links during a live production, so the question we looked at is where 5G might fit into that space, and how far can we push it so it meets some of the stretch user cases.”

Another often overlooked element of live production is sound. Many of the videos made during the current crisis are of empty streets, but try watching them back with mute enabled. It is haunting.

For use next generation audio in live productions, much of the focus has been on sports. But live broadcasts of music events such as Glastonbury or Coachella have grown in popularity in recent years. Could live music productions be the next big opportunity for immersive sound?