There was an air of optimism at this year's EBU Production Technology Seminar. While the challenges for public broadcasters have not changed – do more with less, reach youth audiences, increase agility and flexibility – there is more clarity about the tools and workflows needed to meet those challenges.
After several years of discussion about how and when, there is now confidence in the cloud and the benefits of shared media services. Jim Helman of MovieLabs said that new technologies in cloud processing and storage, and the use of real-time engines, are going to transform content production over the next decade. Loic Barbou provided solid evidence of what can already be achieved: over the past 18 months, Bloomberg has processed over half a million video assets using cloud-based microservices, with the environment costing just USD 2 per day!
The EBU's Hans Hoffman nevertheless sounded a note of caution, saying that European broadcasters should be mindful of putting everything on clouds that are outside Europe. In-house and private clouds will be essential, and more discussion is required around the notion of a European media cloud.
On AI, speakers from Al Jazeera, RTS, SRF and Rai all presented examples of real-world applications that are delivering value for their respective organizations. A key success factor is implementing the tools as stand-alone applications, rather than trying to build them into legacy MAM systems. Automated extraction of metadata from video and audio content is proving to be a particularly fertile area.
Other areas where there was more confidence about the way forward included Live IP production (albeit with challenges in terms of the knowledge that broadcasters need to acquire), production on and for mobiles, and workflows for UHD and Next Generation Audio. NHK's Kohji Mitani provided an overview of the broadcasters plans to cover the Tokyo Olympics in 4K and 8K, while also delivering automated live subtitles, signing and synthesized commentary. Nuno Duarte of Olympic Broadcasting Services explained how the Games will be, for the first time, produced in 5.1.4 immersive audio.
Work to be done
There was no shortage of discussion on topics where uncertainty remains. These included the growing threat of deepfake videos, the workflow challenges that still need to be resolved around live HDR production, and the need to connect with younger audiences on their terms, leveraging mobile and social platforms. NRK's Heidrun Reisæter highlighted the fact that the most relevant social platforms are controlled from the USA and China. NRK, she said, is carefully reconsidering its future use of such third party platforms.
PTS 2020 was one of the biggest EBU Technology & Innovation events ever, with 185 participants from 27 different countries. It remains an essential annual appointment for the production technology community. Next year's event will be on 26–28 January.