Looking ahead as we begin 2018, several technologies will have a significant impact on the broadcast industry, changing the way professionals approach production requirements and workflows. While this shift has been happening over time, it seems that this year will mark a turning point in three critical areas.
The first area is IP technology, which is quickly gaining traction across the broadcast television ecosystem as broadcasters look to make their operations more efficient at every level. The need to manage a growing volume of data-rich content (i.e., multiple formats, VOD, OTT, etc.) is increasing as the market seeks to identify the best way to accommodate viewer tastes.
IP technology is well-established and is already delivering benefits in a number of other vertical industry applications, including IT data centers. The broadcast industry can benefit from a model like this, one that relies on the same scalability, load balancing, use of commodity hardware, and redundancy that make IT data centers so ubiquitous and successful. The Broadcast Data Center approach from Grass Valley, a Belden Brand, brings all of those benefits to the broadcast space.
High data rates, wide bandwidth, and a system that is both format agnostic and scalable for the future makes IP so appealing. Grass Valley’s Broadcast Data Center enables a broadcast-centric IP plant designed with the efficiency of today’s IP networks and COTS switches, while leveraging the reliability, extensibility, functionality, and familiarity of the SDI broadcast world.
The second area is HDR, which along with 4K UHD, is poised to fundamentally change the viewing experience. Initially, HDR is the easier one to implement because the existing infrastructure is able to handle most of the demands. More importantly, viewers can more readily see the visual improvement that HDR offers, so broadcasters and content producers are drawn to that technology as a way to quickly and affordably deliver a better viewing experience.
Specifically, HDR delivers visibly brighter whites and darker blacks as well as more realistic color and detail. Thanks to its contrast ratio, which is much closer to the conditions found in real life, HDR allows image reproduction that is much closer to reality. Furthermore, HDR also allows more dependable results under difficult shooting conditions – such as irregular lighting or partial shade – found at many outside broadcast productions. An additional advantage of HDR is that it is fully format independent, and does not need any specific viewing condition to highlight its visually superior images.
Embracing an HDR workflow process raises the need for a parallel SDR/HDR production workflow, one where the signal can be adapted with up/down mapping as required to mix and match incoming content formats and output signals without sacrificing any quality. Additionally, these solutions provide native support for worldwide HLG and PQ standards.
The third area is virtualization, which enables broadcast operators to reduce capital equipment investments by moving software-based processes to a private or public cloud that takes advantage of shared computing power. More functions in broadcasting are shifting to a virtual environment, and Grass Valley is among the suppliers optimizing solutions for this change.
The coming year promises to be one of significant technology advancement in these three main areas, but there is no doubt that the market will continue to change in ways that reflect the need for more efficiency, higher quality content, and new delivery business models.