Scott Carroll
External Communications Director,
Vizrt Group

How 2020 will change production for years to come

The landscape of broadcast was altered irrevocably in 2020. The global pandemic changed how we create. It changed how we staff productions. It changed how we think about fault tolerance. And the lessons learned from 2020 will change business practices long term.

Our content remains similar in quality – yet changed in production style. Whereas, we once would have balked at the idea of a fully remote production with on-air talent being brought in via video call – now, it is a standardized practice.

Our technical workflows have also transformed. Directors are also working from home. On-air broadcasts for sports are bringing announcers in from time zones away. Virtualization and greenscreen techniques are seeing a rise in importance. Fans have been digitally reintroduced to sporting arenas. New graphics technologies were seen during coverage of the US presidential election.

The year of 2020 demanded new offerings. It demanded software-based solutions. Now that broadcasters are making effective use of these tools, it is unlikely we will return to the previous status quo. Let us explore why.

Flexibility

Consider the near future, when you have just returned to full staff at your physical studio. Now ask: should your production tools only be available on premises? Or should they be available on any screen, anywhere you might need them? Should switchers, graphics engines, and other live production capabilities be hardware-defined and location dependent? Or software-defined and accessible anywhere?

The answer for all of us is almost certainly the latter. Software-defined visual storytelling gives us a new level of flexibility in terms of how and where we create our content. Giving creators access – no matter the studio, building, city or nation they are in – is a true game changer.

Scalability

While we used to think about scalability in terms of adding on-site devices, now we must consider how quickly we can scale up a temporary studio location.

Traditional, hardware-based workflows would have been cost prohibitive to add to a home environment over the past year. Instead, software-defined visual storytelling tools allowed us to quickly scale up our home office, living room or garage. We can continue creating quality content, as long as we have tools that allow us to scale to any size, and to do it at nearly any location.

Fault tolerance

This level of flexibility and scalability results in one huge benefit: a new form of fault tolerance.

If social distancing is ever required in the future, you can quickly pivot with software-based offerings. This guards not just against hardware failure – the previous consideration in fault tolerance – but it guards against external failure as well, such as when our physical studios are unsafe to staff.

Consider live sport again for a moment. With some members of the production teams and on-air talent working out of their homes via remote connections and software-based tools, they can quickly pivot to a new production in case a change is made. In 2020, we saw many last-minute changes and cancellations to the sporting schedule. But because staff are not tied to a particular stadium or arena, they can quickly adapt and be shifted around as needed in other productions.

The future of software

Many of these capabilities will be maintained long term. Remote production capabilities will remain. However, we must also look at additional changes we can make to our workflows. An example? How can we ensure software-based tools are immediately and quickly made available to teams on the fly? With software, this is a possibility! No need for a hardware install – just access to a set of creative tools.

The future is software. It will alter our productions, our creative reflexes, and our business operations. It enables more professional content to be made with a reduction in risk. It means more stories, better told – and that is an exciting future for broadcast.

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