The EBU Technology & Innovation Award recognizes outstanding technical solutions developed by EBU Members. As nominations open for 2023, previous winners tell us what the award meant for them. See issue 53 of tech-i for a report on last year’s winning project, RTVE’s trials with 5G for production and distribution.
2021 • Sveriges Radio
‘News Values’ public service algorithm
Olle Zachrison, Head of Digital News Strategy, SR
For Swedish Radio, winning the T&I Award was a rare bright spot during the dark pandemic years. The surprise of winning ahead of giants like BBC and Rai was so great we had not even dared to prepare a proper thank you speech. However, one impression stayed with us and has kept on growing ever since: we must let PSM values guide us in the development of technological solutions, like recommender systems and editorial algorithms. “A perfect example of technical ingenuity being combined with public service values, helping Sveriges Radio to better fulfil its mission”, as Judy Parnall, then Chair of the EBU Technical Committee, eloquently put it.
The award has since then opened new doors, both externally and within SR. We have engaged in fruitful dialogue with partners like Yle, BBC and BR who are also designing systems to promote the uniqueness of public service journalism, ideas that inspire us in our own iterations. One particularly interesting project is the EBU-led A European Perspective, where a pan-European public service algorithm is currently being explored and tested. Defining public service value for the digital age is a central challenge for all PSMs. Promoting and exchanging ideas in cross-border forums is a great starting point.
2020 (joint winners)
France TV • AI tool for political reporting
Matthieu Parmentier, Head of AI Factory, France TV
Thanks to speech-to-text, face recognition and natural language processing to extract topics and several other metadata, our 2020 prototype was able to analyse several political debates in parallel, to offer insights to our data journalists. This successful proof of concept helped our then new-born AI department to deploy its AI platform for real and start adding value. Two business units, the Media Factory – our supply chain department in charge of programme reception, processing and distribution both on linear channels and non-linear platforms – and the News department, asked for the integration of AI tools within their workflows.
Media-Cloud.ai is our open-source microservices platform dedicated to AI processes for media. It is now two years old and has processed 300,000 AI-based automatic workflows such as:
- Identifying opening and end credits to facilitate the ‘skip credits’ function on the web player
- Resyncing live subtitles to offer a perfectly accessible replay experience
- Transcribing and/or subtitling files or streams, with or without automatic translation
- Identifying chapters and optimal ad-break positions within various kinds of programmes
- Selecting, extracting and reshaping frames of a programme to deliver a representative thumbnail that follows editorial rules
RTBF • Control Room 42
Hugo Ortiz, Innovation Officer, RTBF
Winning the T&I Award was a major milestone for RTBF’s Control Room 42 project, contributing to the project’s concepts being selected as a basis for designing our new Media Square building’s live production systems. Extensive production experiments with end users allowed us to see a path towards redefining the way live production is done. This led to the development of the Flexible Control Room (FCR) project in partnership with EVS, aiming to turn the concept into a commercial product.
RTBF is now designing the implementation of FCR for all television, radio and digital control rooms and studios in Media Square. It will provide a more efficient and flexible way of producing live content, by creating a common unified control and automation layer. I’ll leave the final word to my colleague Frédéric Joskin, project manager for Media Square: “We are excited to see the impact that FCR will have on our operations and look forward to continuing to push the boundaries of innovation in the media industry.”
2019 • tpc (SRG SSR)
“UHD1” all-IP UHD Outside Broadcast vehicle
Sandro Furter, Project Manager & Adrian Hilber, Broadcast IT Expert, SRF
For five years now, SRF’s UHD-1 outside broadcast truck has been an indispensable production tool. Thanks to its IP-based technology and the associated flexibility, it is mainly used for large and complex productions like the Beijing Olympics (Alpine ski races), produced on behalf of Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), or the Diamond League athletics meetings in Zurich. It is also used for opera productions (e.g. Bregenzer Festspiele), where it can show its strengths in UHD/ HDR and immersive audio.
In choosing an IP-based approach, SRF showed courage, opting for ST 2110 technology, which was still new at the time. Several production hours later, we can look back on many lessons that enabled SRF to optimize the technology as well as the ST 2110 architecture in other projects. Especially for orchestration and operational processes, the experiences operating the UHD-1 truck generated valuable inputs.
One challenge that became apparent in collaborating with external production resources is that the availability of IP-based (ST 2110) equipment is still low, which makes the integration of such systems or the networking of several OB trucks with each other difficult. For example, IP gateways are still used to connect SDI signals. Here we hope for higher market penetration of the technology in the future and that more broadcasters will decide in favour of ST 2110 technology.
2018 • BBC, France TV, IRT and b<>com
EBU ADM Renderer (EAR)
Tom Nixon, Project R&D Engineer, BBC
We won the EBU T&I Award for building the EBU ADM Renderer (EAR), a specification for taking object-based audio and ADM (audio definition model) metadata, and turning it into loudspeaker signals that can be listened to. This was a collaborative project in the EBU, with contributions from BBC, IRT, France TV, and others.
Since then, we’ve continued working in this area, aiming to encourage adoption of the ADM by building open tools to work with it. First, the EAR was used as the basis for the ITU standard for ADM rendering, BS.2127, incorporating technologies and improvements from other organizations.
Working again with IRT, we developed libear, a C++ implementation of the EAR rendering algorithms that can be built into other applications. Its main use is the EAR Production Suite, which enables authoring of ADM content in the REAPER audio workstation, using the EAR for monitoring. This was extended last year with binaural monitoring and development continues.
Finally, we have just released the EBU ADM Toolbox, a set of tools for processing ADM files in various ways – things like validation, profile conversion and, of course, rendering.
2017 • Sveriges Radio
Johan Sjödahl, Product Manager for Internal Radio Production Systems, SR
The NXG innovation project explored new production workflows and IP-based technology for local radio production. The outcome was highly successful from production and technology perspectives, winning the T&I Award and attracting a lot of attention within the media industry. The combination of audio-over-IP technology and simplified ways of working for self-operators was a key enabler for achieving the project goals. Lessons learned provided us with the prerequisites for future development. The major challenge, besides the obvious need for big investments, is equipping staff with cross-functional skillsets from broadcast engineering and IT.
Currently we are replacing all radio broadcasting systems, not just for local, self-operated radio production. End-user control and mobility are central to the vision for the new system. The user interfaces will be intuitive and self-explanatory, allowing the end user to manage and control both the audio flows and where the broadcast is to be distributed. Software developed in-house, combined with commercial hardware/software offerings, provides new opportunities in our technical infrastructure: robustness and stability where needed, and the flexibility, mobility and scalability that IP-based solutions can provide. Put simply: Audio ♥ IT
2016 • VRT Sandbox
Willem Vermost, Head of Media Production Facilities, VRT
What happened after winning the EBU T&I Award? VRT was certainly well prepared to start designing the technological base of its new facilities in Brussels based on Live-IP. Time was taken to look at all the other challenges, including new workflows, to name one. Meanwhile, SMPTE ST 2110 was standardized and the first generation of IP-based studios and OB trucks became operational.
When it turned out that the realization of our building had to be postponed, we changed tack again. Delaying the new broadcast building highlighted an impending problem, that the current infrastructure was wearing out. The issue of how to bridge the next five years was turned into a learning opportunity for both the technology and the operations departments. To achieve a new level of operational efficiency, software-based production seems to be the direction to take to create a production environment that is flexible, scalable, and shareable for both recurring and one-off productions at VRT.
T&I Awards 2023 – nominations are open!
Has your organization created an innovative technology solution that could have a lasting impact on PSM? Do you know recent graduates in your organization or students who have been working on novel technology solutions relevant to PSM? Submit your nominations for the Technology & Innovation Award and the Young Technology Talent of the Year Award by 28 April.
This article was first published in issue 55 of tech-i magazine.