With the broadcast industry in a state of flux, it is often difficult for broadcasters to make investment decisions in areas such as workflow. Digital Studio caught up with three professionals to find out the latest workflow trends in the Middle East.
Andrew Dix, head of workflow and media management, SAM
Pooyan Farnam, senior product manager, Advanced Media
Oscar Juste, director of sales, EMEA, Ross Video
DS: How are you finding the market for workflow solutions at the moment?
Juste: Buoyant! There is definitely a growing appetite in the Middle East for integrated workflow solutions and the manufacturers that can provide them. We’ve recently seen broadcasters and content creators in the Middle East starting to grapple with the same issues that have affected the industry in other countries: the need to maintain and grow audience share and revenues through more creative and engaging content, while juggling budgets that are static or declining. In this environment, companies like Ross Video are very well positioned because of our emphasis on partnership and value and the growing trend towards single vendor procurement. It’s not hard to find a vendor that will sell you a product; it’s not even hard to find a vendor that will claim to sell you a solution. The difficulty is in finding a partner with a comprehensive product range who will walk side-by-side with you along the road and offer the kind of expertise, consultancy and support that helps you succeed.
Dix: Workflows are getting ever more complex, whether that’s in terms of more and more multi-format signals coming in to a workflow, or the need for content to be delivered to an ever-growing number of different platforms at the other end. Workflows are only going to get more complex as the media landscape continues to fragment. Having visibility of and managing all of these various elements in a unified way is critical. SAM has a range of innovative tools and technology to help our customers deal with the growing complexities within the live production workflow.
Farnam: Cameras and equipment for content production as well as post production and playouts are mostly HD enabled. It is safe to say more than half of the Middle East are watching HD channels on their HD set top boxes (the GCC has the highest adoption of HDTV). Producers are investing to deliver high quality content, and broadcasters are investing in playout and delivery technologies. In the near future, there will be more focus on digitisation of workflows for multiscreen playout and delivery with improved compression technologies for a better transition to HD for all users in the region. Moreover, more investments in the network infrastructure will help the adaptation of IP based workflows with more users shifting to streaming services and multi-screen viewing rather than cable based television.
DS: How are doubts about IP and 4K affecting workflow investment decisions?
Farnam: Transition to HDTV with new HD file-based and tapeless workflows as well as video-on-demand and multi-platform delivery is being well adapted in the GCC region; whereas, this transition is happening relatively slower in other countries. More viewers will show an interest in subscribing to streaming services for a wider choice of content and entertainment options.
Juste: Globally, I think many working in broadcast have quickly concluded that end-to-end IP solutions are certainly possible, but it is still too easy to ‘do’ IP expensively and badly. That has acted as a bit of a sanity check and has made customers look twice at their upgrade paths. At the recent CABSAT show the IABM shared some statistics about the number of broadcasters and channels in the MENA region that are fully HD. It’s still not a huge number and this indicates that the majority of content creators have other, more pressing concerns. I think our customers are looking for some degree of future-proofing – they want to invest and update their equipment and they want to work with manufacturers that have solid, proven two to five year technology solutions as well as medium-to-longer-term IP strategies. And let’s not forget about 12G! At NAB this year Ross Video launched the Carbonite Black 12G frame, adding to our comprehensive 12G portfolio. I think 12G offers customers an accessible and powerful upgrade path and shows there is still plenty of life in SDI yet.
Dix: IP and UHD are not right for everybody. SAM’s focus is to help our customers migrate to any new technology or workflow that suits their particular operational and business needs at a speed and in a way that works for them. Our role as a vendor is not to tell our customers what they need; rather it’s to work in close collaboration with customers to ascertain the right approach for them - whether this is a hybrid or a full-IP solution. The additional cost and benefits of IP are not necessarily a clear choice for all businesses. For these customers, SAM is providing an alternative that suits their particular business needs by rolling out 12G-SDI support across a range of products. This is not to say IP and 4K/UHD are not happening, they are and we already have customers that are using our technology – whether IP infrastructure or UHD live production workflows – successfully.
DS: What’s the latest from SAM in terms of workflow solutions?
Dix: SAM has built on the success of its Momentum MAM product by using its powerful workflow engine to bring together versatile solutions. This includes the VIBE fast turnaround news solution which uses the workflow engine to automate processing of mixed format content for delivery to the web, social media and TV. In addition SAM’s Live Touch sports replay system uses collaborative workflows for integrated post production to allow highlights packages to get to air faster. Momentum customers have also capitalised on the recently introduced performance enhancements in the workflow engine. This allows them to automate intelligent on-demand content distribution from a central repository to regional centres in line with local schedule requirements.