There is an increasing trend among those who create and distribute content to build their own systems and solutions.

IABM’s most recent Buying Trends Survey found that end-users are building 40% of the products/solutions they need using in-house or contract resources, and the outlook is for this to increase to around 50% in 2-3 years.

In the ‘Why we built it ourselves’ session at the IABM Annual Conference, Red Bee Media, Réseau Vià and Volucap Studio spoke about why they have taken the build it yourself (BIY) path, what they achieved and how technology vendors can play a part in the process.

Red Bee Media: Building a relationship with vendors
Alex Dubiez, head of global playout and studio solutions at broadcast and media services provider Red Bee Media, opened the session.

“We have to meet a new paradigm”: Alex Dubiez

He said: “We have to meet a new paradigm – ready to consume, on-demand, interconnected. This has an impact on the whole value chain, starting with the audience and working all the way back through broadcasters and media companies to service providers and integrators to technology vendors.

“Beyond technology and beyond innovation, it is the very relationship between these groups which is impacting things. What we need is more collaboration – more interactivity.”

Dubiez went on to give two examples where greater collaboration would help everyone.

“The first is how we build solutions today – we need off-the-shelf building blocks which are far more flexible than monolithic architectures.”

This means vendors need to get their products ready to onboard a services supply chain – building blocks that fit seamlessly into the space between the infrastructure and control layers.

“Vendors need to ensure that their products can be hosted in our environment – guaranteed to work and be very quickly deployed.”

Equally important to Dubiez is the commercial model.

“We need true modular pricing and licensing – what we want is output phase pricing. This is not just a question of Capex v Opex, but also the value we get from the product has to be mapped to the product price. We need to know this from the start so we can plan properly.”

What does this mean for vendors? “We need you to get your products ready to onboard into a services supply chain. The service provider also has a role – we need to collaborate to understand how we can make best use of your product,” Dubiez explained.

Dubiez’s second example was how Red Bee delivers value to its customers. “It’s about how we manage innovation. Our customers need to change – to adapt to the new world; they’re facing fierce competition. They come to us to do things differently – they are ready to have the conversation, and want value delivered to their door.

“The first step is for our vendors to deliver innovation as a commodity that we can test with minimal investment for all of us. Otherwise the risk is that innovation stays in the lab – which is not good for anyone.

Red Bee playout operation

Red Bee playout operation

“The next challenge is how we turn this innovation into true business value,” Dubiez continued. “Is it more cost-effective? How does it scale? Does it deliver value? The last thing we need to take into account is speed – the market is changing very fast. We need speed – from the research lab into production as fast as possible – which will deliver ROI for both the vendor and the broadcaster. With greater collaboration we can face this challenge and be far more efficient in how we turn innovation into business value.”

So how does this new way of working affect Red Bee’s supplier relationships? “Today we have fixed terms, contracts, RFPs etc. What we need is more collaboration – we need to test, experiment together, use a phased approach, be proactive – ready for when it needs to happen; we need to be fast; this means being prepared. Is it good enough?

“The contractual relationship will exist but how can we bring more collaboration into it? How do we make this happen? Vendors need to communicate about how they do things, how easy is it to onboard, deploy, operate, interconnect their product - and check the commercial model. Be ready to test your solution with us, get ready to do a POC with us. We have a facility for this – our Red Lab London is where we test new products in a service supply chain environment, as well as providing a collaborative space to have these conversations.”

Réseau Vià: Hyper-local news in the cloud
When French news provider Réseau Vià launched its pioneering local TV service spanning 22 stations, it needed a new approach for fast, low-cost production. The solution was a BIY content supply chain with AI-enabled advertising and cloud playout.

Philippe van de Velde, technical director of parent company Médias du Sud, explained how the company married its own technology with products from Imagine Communications to achieve this, and described the benefits Réseau Vià is now enjoying as a result.

“In 2014, we had a number of local stations producing a lot of content but the workflow between them wasn’t sufficient; we needed a solution enabling easy exchange between them in terms of video content and global workflow – so we created the Myvideoplace platform.

“The key to the system is the common video core – enabling editors to share more, broadcast more and monetise more – all through a web standard browser. Myvideoplace handles everything including formats, with automatic transcoding. We also developed iOS and Android apps with Aviwest to enable recording and editing, and sending video over Wi-Fi/4G.

“The thing that really stands this solution apart is the qualifying of the content metadata; copyright is already managed in Myvideoplace. The icing on the cake is that it is a native anti-fake news system because all partners are journalists, and you can connect your story to any outlet you choose,” said van de Velde.

Today, Réseau Vià has 22 local TV channels covering 32million people, and plans to grow this to 30 channels reaching 40 million people by 2020. “The network we have built makes it possible to do this cost-effectively. To make our advertising offer powerful we needed to be able to offer the same slots across all channels – a common brand and graphics, global negotiation power and subscription support without hiring dozens of people. For playout we needed a solution that fits in 4 sq meters of space to support these 30 channels,” van de Velde explained.

“Why did we do all this? Mainly because we couldn’t find tools that matched our needs.” Philippe van de Valde, Médias du Sud

“Each local station had its own workflow and way of working – we needed to create a new standardized workflow that enabled them all to concentrate on creating content. This gives us cost saving on space, power and network. For playout we chose Imagine Versio – which gives us a bilateral relationship between playout and our platform. It’s a full IP system with no video cabling. To achieve this, we had to skip from traditional broadcast skills to IT – to learn our jobs again!

“This system gives us flexibility and a software-based approach; this means the system can follow our needs – we are not locked into one approach. We manage all hardware and infrastructure in-house. Myvideoplace is used today by 50 companies – newspapers, players, linear TV. We process 12,000+ videos a month; all information and content go through this platform. It’s not just a regular MAM but a global solution which includes services such as web streaming and players for live and VOD. A single video can be embedded on several websites increasing viewership massively – enabling us to share more and monetize more - all with a single post of the content on the platform,” van de Velde added.

“For linear TV we needed a powerful traffic tool. Having looked at existing solutions we realized we had already built a big bit of the traffic system and I didn’t want to spend time adapting, so we decided to create it ourselves. Based on a web interface, we have brought this into service in less than a year. It’s also connected to the back office so we can track all the metadata. We work with containers – I haven’t seen this anywhere else; this is a great way to produce news programs; again, we built it ourselves.

“We push out blocks of playlists and get a direct response from the playout system, with no flat files exchange. For managing monitoring on the remote sites (TV Channels) – usually you could spend €20,000 on hardware coders – we again decided to develop this ourselves. Our remote decoders are based on Raspberry Pis (£50) and we managed a little delay. For system and hardware monitoring, we turned to Zabbix – a very powerful open source program – and adapted this to our needs.

“Why did we do all this? Mainly because we couldn’t find tools that matched our needs. On a philosophical level we also wanted to do something smarter for our industry with new economic models, special for the cross advertising for the TV and web. There is an open source tool for almost everything, and we have also hired specific skills and involved geeks, ‘forgot’ the usual broadcast way of doing things and adopted an agile methodology,” van de Velde concluded.

Studio Babelsberg: Volucap 3D studio
In June 2018, the first volumetric studio on the European mainland opened in Studio Babelsberg under the flag of Volucap GmbH. Andreas Martin, manager media solutions, Interlake Media and Rainer Kellerhals, Industry Lead Media & Entertainment EMEA, Microsoft, explained how this milestone was achieved.

“Mixed reality sits at the interface between physical reality and digital reality – blending the physical and digital worlds,” Kellerhals explained.

Source: YouTube / Volucap

Volucap's volumetric capture studio in Babelsberg

“There’s a continuum between AR – augmented reality, where data and graphics are inserted into the user’s field of vision, and VR – virtual reality, when the user is immersed into a digital world. With Windows Holographic, we’re supporting that entire continuum, allowing you to create those see-through experiences where holograms are inserted into your field of vision and also occluded headsets to immerse you into a digital experience. So Mixed Reality gives you all the options – from ‘enhancing’ the physical world with digital objects to ‘immersing’ the user into a digital experience.”

“We did a proof of concept at the Porsche museum in Stuttgart by projecting a hologram of the designer of the Porsche 911 - shot at the Microsoft volumetric studio in 2016 - explaining his design around an actual car, giving visitors a really immersive experience,” Martin added. “This encouraged us to move forward and develop our own ‘high end’ volumetric studio – the Volucap 3D Studio in Babelsberg.

The companies collaborating on Volucap are Arri, Fraunhofer, Interlake, Studio Babelsberg and Bertelsmann UFA. It has been up and running since summer 2018, and is larger than the Microsoft volumetric studio. It is centered on a 6m rotunda with 200 ARRI light panels to produce flat light and eliminate green screen reflections. It has 32 3D stereoscopic cameras to give depth estimation, producing 34Gbytes/sec of data. This is processed using Fraunhofer human body reconstruction technology.

“The Volucap 3D studio offers new ways to connect, interact and share ideas with audiences,” said Martin.

The studio produces a point cloud from characters acting in the rotunda, builds a texture mesh and then compresses it for use on mixed reality devices. These holographic representations of real people can be processed in the same way as computer-generated models and placed in either real or virtual worlds. The studio is fully booked for the first half of 2019, with applications ranging from fashion to medicine and 3D e-Learning. Kellerhals sees plenty of applications in the media industry: “This technology extends users’ ability to interact with content,” he said. “This creates new opportunities for media because it gives viewers more time and new ways to view and interact with content.”

So why did the group decide to build it themselves rather than just recreating a version of Microsoft’s volumetric studio?

“First of all, we wanted to make it bigger and maybe a little bit better than Microsoft’s studio, from which we have learned a lot,” said Martin.

“Improvements in the capture technology and processing were required; it’s pioneering technology, which requires ongoing R&D.” Collaboration is also key: “We learned a lot from our first shoots and are making week-to-week improvements and we are also exchanging information with the handful of other volumetric studios around the world,” Martin concluded.