Broadcast Switchers Continue to Evolve

Broadcast Switchers Continue to Evolve

The broadcast switchers market is forecast to develop significantly, albeit major changes in the product are being made to accommodate the rise of live streaming and surge of multiscreen platforms.

An explosion of innovation has hit the broadcasting technology in the form of broadcast switchers. They continue to pack on new features and promise more value than ever before. At the heart of any production switcher is the promise of convenience and control. One of the most inconvenient aspects of broadcast systems, however, has traditionally been the expensive and proprietary means of connection between cameras, switchers, and projectors, with connection limited to the reach of that cable.

The switchers market along with the routers and master controls is gradually upgrading from software-defined infrastructure (SDI) to internet protocol (IP)-enabled products to provide cloud-based virtualized services to consumers. The transition is expected to gather momentum by 2019-20, as customers acknowledge IP-fication’s role in facilitating reconfiguration of new network topologies and supporting capacity expansion. As the cost of conversion from SDI gateways to IP reduces, IP-based solutions will experience a surge in adoption, in spite of their disruptiveness.

Market dynamics

The global broadcast switchers market size is poised to reach USD 2.5 billion by the end of 2025 from USD 1.6 billion in 2018, growing at a CAGR of 6.4 percent. With the help of switchers, broadcasters disseminate the video and audio feed to different channels, and it makes the broadcasting process more efficient and convenient. Shifting from analog to digital broadcast, the rise in demand for HD and UHD, increasing population of viewers and rise in the number of digital channels are some of the key drivers. Consumer demand for the broadcasting of live programs in HD formats, such as sports events or music concerts, is also providing impetus.

Furthermore, production switchers are projected to witness strong growth over the period 2019 to 2026 owing to increasing demand for special-effects broadcasting. Production switchers will be increasingly used across emergent-application segments such as educational institutions, places of worship, and corporate conferences.

Broadcast industry requires high initial investments in hardware, which can represent a noteworthy deterrent to the entire market development. Costly nature of making a sound framework with light cables of equipment, camera control units, convertors, encoders, and on-field sound recorders will perhaps make a noticeable hindrance in the advancement of broadcast switchers market. This rising cost on hardware will also affect medium and small organizations. Additionally, cross-stage availability of TV is likewise representing a risk in far-reaching reception of broadcast switchers over the world.

North America is expected to share significant growth in global broadcast switchers market. This growth may be attributed to the huge adoption of routing switchers and enlarged usage of production trucks, which helps to minimize power consumption and produce lower heat and noise. Asia-Pacific is set to emerge as the fastest-growing market for broadcast switchers. Due to rapidly ongoing digital television transition, the demand for advanced broadcasting equipment is estimated to remain strong across Asia-Pacific. Additionally, continued growth across the sports broadcasting sector is another prominent factor fueling the broadcast switchers market.

Emerging markets as China and India, and advanced technologies such as 4k and further digitization to 3D, are big opportunities for this segment. The end users look for software-based solutions that are high on speed, Internet-protocol connected, and use open architecture so that upgrades require minimal hardware replacement.

Trends

The global production switchers market is recovering from a recent downturn as the desire for low-cost web streaming solutions encourages demand. The move to IP presents a new opportunity for the broadcast market to grow; yet adoption is held back as decision makers plan their roadmaps for either hybridized system architecture or to complete transition to IP.

Being able to move into the IT world with cheaper cabling means signal around a facility may be distributed in ways that have not been adopted before. Traditionally, lighting, sound, and video have needed their own systems that have had very rigid requirements. Another area of transformative growth in video switching has been in the way operators can take control more easily, and with more freedom, than ever before. Control integration has been growing. How can one control the switcher or automation from a third-party touch panel? Or, conversely, how can the switcher control the cameras remotely? Automating the operations, allowing a single-button push by a volunteer to control a bunch of different screens, is a big part of where things are going.

With the rise of live streaming, simulcasting, and digital signage the demands on tech directors have never been higher. Switcher manufacturers are working hard to bring new products to market that help address these demands. Being able to pre-build macros allows addressing different outputs and coordinating their switching. On a volunteer-based production, one can keep things simple and streamlined, and customers really appreciate that. An area of demand where technology is expanding is in a switcher’s ability to address the issue of signal latency, while still adapting to different input sources and signal types. For example, one of the brands has spent years trying to overcome any lag that might occur in the output. There are certain elements where latency does not matter that much, such as graphic context – 5 to 10 frames of latency will not even be noticed by the congregation – as opposed to video feed of the pastor speaking. Things like camera feed through the switcher to the screen should have the lowest latency possible.

Vendor update

Blackmagic Design has recently launched ATEM Constellation 8K, a high-end live-production switcher with 8K capability that lets customers create content for the next generation of the television industry. The ATEM Constellation 8K is an ultra-HD live production switcher with many features, 4 M/Es, 40×12G-SDI inputs, 24×12G-SDI aux outputs, 4 DVEs, 16 keyers, 4 media players, 4 multi viewers, 2 SuperSource, and standards conversion on every SDI input. Then when switched to 8K, all these features combine to make a powerful 8K switcher. Also the company’s DeckLink capture cards launched a revolution in quality and affordability in post-production. In 2018, it launched the ATEM 4 M/E Broadcast Studio 4K, an advanced high-frame rate ultra-HD 2160p60 switcher with 20 inputs, 4 M/Es and 16 next-generation advanced Chroma keyers. Same year, it also launched ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K, advanced broadcast switcher technology available in a compact, elegant design that can be taken anywhere. The exciting thing about the switcher is that it has all of the same professional features as larger and more expensive switchers, but it fits into a standard equipment rack or flyaway kit. Customers get the speed of a full size 1 M/E hardware control panel so they can work on complex, fast-paced live events.

Ross Video has introduced Carbonite Ultra V2.0, the software version release of Carbonite Ultra production switcher that delivers above-and-beyond the promised 12G/UHD feature set, initially unveiled in 2018. There is no other production switcher in the mid-size arena that comes close to Carbonite Ultra’s UHD capability. This is huge for the market, which is witnessing growing adoption of UHD formats for live production. Aside from a complete 12G/UHD toolkit, V2.0 also improves upon the already-impressive core feature set of Carbonite Ultra. The previous year, in April 2018, the company launched Carbonite Black Solo 13, a self-contained production switcher and hardware panel combination with 13 inputs and 6 outputs. Solo13 gives customers more I/O to work with in their productions, while retaining the successful and highly compact Carbonite Black Solo form factor.

Grass Valley’s Kula production switcher family offers powerful compact production with a revolutionary design for the live production market. As an entry-level production switcher, Kula packs into a 2 RU chassis the features of a much larger switcher, while maintaining a price tag that is accessible for in-house production, sports, house of worship, entertainment, and conference/live events. Available as 1 M/E, 2 M/E, or 3 M/E SD/HD/3G, 1 M/E 4K UHD and dedicated 1 M/E 12G-SDI or IP versions, Kula offers market-leading features and functions. The 2 M/E version and 3 M/E version can be switched to 1 M/E 4K UHD mode, offering a simple path forward to higher production values. Because it is both highly featured and cost-effective, Kula opens up a new range of professional quality-content-creation options for customers who are required to work with small spaces and small budgets.

FOR-A production switchers that support both 12G-SDI/4K and 3G-SDI/HD resolutions are the highlights for FOR-A in 2019. Offering 12G-SDI capability on all inputs and outputs, the 3 M/E HANABI HVS-6000 uses a single cable link. In addition to single-link 12G-SDI, FOR-A products support 4K, IP, and HDR. 4K-supporting switchers include HANABI HVS-2000, which offers the performance of a 7 M/E switcher; the compact, affordable HVS-490; and the HVS-100, which offers performance in a portable unit. The 4K-capable HVS-490 HANABI video offers features, including MELite technology, which extends the switcher’s 2 M/Es to offer 6 M/E performance. The switcher provides users with event memory and macro functions, as well as integrated frame synchronizers and multi viewers.

Panasonic System Solutions recently announced the development of a new live-broadcast switcher platform concept. This modular system has been dubbed live production suite, and offers the flexibility and scalability to construct a system according to users’ evolving needs. LPS offers 4K and even 8K resolution and high bit-rate data transmission capabilities in MoIP. On the other hand, while SDI transport remains the dominant HD broadcasting system, LPS presents an operation that can migrate to IP transmission gradually, while using SDI equipment as required. In April 2018, Panasonic had introduced AV-HLC100 Live Production Center, which combines a 1 ME switcher, remote camera controller (up to eight cameras), graphics overlays, streaming/recording and audio mixer functions to enable easy live streaming with one-person operation.

EVS’ software-defined Dyvi switcher, unlike traditional video switchers, combines GPU-based technology with an intuitive interface and stackable processing modules, giving exceptional processing power, creative freedom, and an easy-to-operate, scalable platform. It provides high-quality programming of multiple sports from a centralized media production hub.

Sony Electronics’ new live production switcher, the XVS-9000, designed to address the demands of advanced 4K and HD productions in the rise of high-dynamic range (HDR) content was announced in August 2018. It offers up to 80 inputs and 40 outputs in 4K and up to 160 inputs and 80 outputs in HD, adopting the latest interfaces for both IP (SMPTE ST 2110) and 12G-SDI in 4K as well as hybrid system of both, for large sporting and entertainment events. Its launch of a cloud-based production switcher in the same year – part of its virtual production system – is a step toward replacing complex and typically expensive outside broadcast (OB) hardware with software apps. Since cameras are the only physical kit required, it alters the business model for OBs too, as a producer need only pay per use. The service was designed with two key objectives in mind, to remove the need for dedicated on-site production infrastructure; and to enable use anywhere, anytime.

tvONE launched the MX-65xx Matrix switcher series in December, 2018. The series includes MX-6588 (4K60 8×8 HDMI 2.0 Matrix), MX-6584 (4K60 8×4 HDMI 2.0 Matrix) and MX-6544 (4K60 4×4 HDMI 2.0 Matrix). It is designed to allow the distribution of HDMI 2.0 (with HDCP) sources to multiple display devices independently or all at the same time, using an intuitive front panel, infrared remote control or our control software, MX-tools. It is HDCP 2.2 compliant and provides full support for 4K2K@60 4:4:4 8bit and 10bit processing for superior deep color rendition. 3D signals are also supported. Audio includes 7.1 audio capability including DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD.

Broadcast Pix introduced the BPswitch integrated production switcher product family, BPswitch IX in April 2019. Designed for production that relies on IP-based workflows and remote cameras, it features six network inputs that support NDI and RTSP sources. It is designed for auditoriums, stadiums, conference rooms, and other facilities equipped with remote cameras that are switched from a central control room. Along with two SDI/HDMI inputs (including one analog input for legacy sources), it can receive up to six IP camera feeds. The native 1080p/60 system seamlessly integrates MPEG-2, H.264, and other streaming formats in the same production, and provides SDI, HDMI, analog, and streaming outputs.

Datavideo promoted KMU-100 in 2018, offering an interesting alternative for small- and mid-sized churches looking to take their production quality to the next level. The switcher allows video directors to frame up to four different HD shots from a single 4K-camera signal, and then create a live switch from these four shots. By adding a second 4K camera, the KMU-100 can implement an additional four shots, providing users the option to live switch up to eight different angles.

Outlook

The entire industry is focused on finding opportunity in a landscape where revenue streams, distribution channels, and technology are all changing rapidly. Broadcasters need to manage this change with simple and efficient workflow that can grow with them as their needs alter. Technology advancements will stimulate the switchers market growth. The focus will be to select switcher models with advanced features. The consumers’ appetite for exceptional content and the shift toward multi-screen and multi-platform watching, has led to media companies being challenged with finding new ways to get content to audiences faster. Multi-functional and multi-format switchers will be the trend of the future. Another important aspect for 2019 is the market acceptance and quick implementation of upgraded equipment based on the new SMPTE ST 2110 suite of standards for professional media over IP networks.

Production switchers with high-end digital video effects are growing in popularity. It is observed that changing needs of the broadcast industry have brought cloud-based video switchers into the spotlight. Virtual production bridges the gap between the traditional heavy live-production solutions of professionals and the consumers’ live-streaming applications. With its unique flexibility, the service enables to cover more events, as the core production is hosted in the cloud, yet offering professional program outputs. Virtual production proposition is a simple one: users pay only for what they need, when they need it. The homegrown service has been designed to take the cost out of live production, whilst empowering content creators to grow their reach and revenues. Requiring only a camera acquisition kit, production teams log into their personalized virtual production portal, synchronize their cameras, and stream content on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Automation of TV broadcasting too provides for a strong business case for switchers. The growing appetite for live breaking news and stories will drive deployment of television production trucks and spur demand for portable broadcast switchers as well. For the media and broadcasting industries, e-sports, and more broadly gaming and game streaming, will be a key component of their future media strategies, spurring the demand for production switchers. Vendors keen to cash in include those whose camera channels, switchers, replay machines, and graphics gear has been staple to the outside broadcast industry for the last 30 years.

Somu Patil
Vice President-Sales, Asia,
Grass Valley

In the dynamic media scape we inhabit, there are a huge variety of production genres, each with their own requirements. These range from small two-camera operations to complex multi-camera sports events.

For live events, OB trucks are one of the more flexible applications for switchers as they serve different program types, in different environments, and at different scales. Fixed, multiple-studio environments, with numerous networked control rooms all sharing a central switcher mainframe, push the complexity barrier of a production switcher. At the same time, they also require that the switcher remains totally transparent to the directors and technical directors.

We are seeing more demand from customers for enhanced capability with features like pre-sets – such as effects or macros. This feature has become increasingly important for esports productions. Esports moves at such a fast rate that the ability to have pre-sets ready ahead of time is crucial to deliver a seamless experience to fans and viewers. Pre-sets enable a technical director or operator to easily program into a production switcher and recall during a show, rather than try to make effects on-the-fly.

Our smart and cost-efficient Kula Production Switcher with IP I/O is on display at our BroadcastAsia stand (4R2-01). This compact switcher packs the functionality of a larger switcher into a 2RU space, making it ideal for a wide range of applications.

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