As the broadcast sector continues to be in a transition phase, and constant upgrades are taking place, it is the systems integrator who ensures that all the systems work seamlessly and the broadcaster is kept on-air.
A large number of television viewers have remained loyal to the traditional panel-on-the-wall display screens. However, we have seen many viewers migrating to other devices. Young generation particularly, now routinely accesses music, short video clips, and even full-length programs on tablets, laptops, and mobile phones. Even their parents are seeing the benefits provided by these platforms and the flexibility of the new services offered.
Television itself supplemented rather than ousted radio, just as radio supplemented rather than ousted the printed media such as books and newspapers. Magnetic tape, for example, is still a popular medium for long-term offline archiving.
The past year has seen continuing fast-paced progress right across the broadcast media business. Increasing attention has centered on higher video definition and wider dynamic range, as well as the relative merits of SDI versus IP. The relative balance of equipment in the apparatus rooms of modern television stations has swung from around 80 percent dedicated broadcast kits and 20 percent IT servers to the exact opposite. Until quite recently, engineers would spend a significant amount of their time locked in the CAR, configuring devices during the course of a system build, all fighting over space. Now the bulk of that activity is performed from their desks by simply remote-accessing into the system. This brings the advantage of reducing the number of installation technicians required on site. It also allows post-installation technical support to be provided much faster. Within minutes of an issue being flagged, an engineer can be diagnosing an issue and providing a fix. 4K UHD has moved from aspiration to must-have in the minds of many content owners and broadcasters and it is the system integrators who have stepped in and implemented such systems. A key element of the role as a systems integrator is to support customers with new delivery options, and to ensure they can operate as efficiently as possible in an industry which demands high productivity as well as creativity.
System design should include service design. The term tech support can conjure up some not-so-flattering images of sun-shy geeks speaking their own kind of binary language…but when a system crashes in the middle of a document you have spent hours on, their support is invaluable, says Roger Henderson, CEO, TSL Systems. Upgrade this to a broadcast system crashing when the latest expensive high-end drama is in full flow broadcasting to millions, and the value of a good support network increases exponentially. This is why any organization involved in creating and distributing content must look at service provision as an integrated part of any infrastructure project. The good news is that outsourcing technical support services can actually save money – on staffing, training, and technology upgrades, but perhaps more importantly, on keeping the organization running smoothly.
In the broadcast sector, there is already a shortage of experienced broadcast engineers, and while of course they are valuable assets, they are expensive to retain. The industry moves ever more quickly and technical staff need to be retrained constantly on the latest equipment and technology, whether it be transitioning from baseband to file-based workflows, SDTV to HDTV, or now 4K/UHD resolution, not to mention weathering a barrage of new compression formats.
Working with a systems integration partner means that fully trained staff, who is kept up to date with the latest skillsets required, is guaranteed. The risk is on the partner, not the end user, to maintain training levels; the end user does not have to cover all the ancillary expenses that come with employing people; and it means that non-traditional broadcast companies do not have to worry about an area that is not core to their business.
A technical partner will also ensure the equipment remains current and interoperable. Evolution of software is the key – application software and operating platforms are continuously updated. A service partner that understands the entire workflow, and that has a database of warranty information, part codes, wiring diagrams, and a host of back-room details, will know when to update each part of the workflow to keep the system working seamlessly, and keep the broadcaster on-air during an upgrade.
As the broadcast sector faces the transition from SDI to IP – certainly one of the industry’s most dramatic transformations – it is more important than ever to have a trusted partner with a broad view of the possibilities. This is going to be a major challenge over the next few years; broadcasters need to protect their existing investments, but they are seeing that IP systems will bring benefits that could make the transition worthwhile. How and when are the key questions. A service partner can help broadcast a client’s plan and execute a suitable migration path from baseband through to IP, whether that be a hybrid solution or a gradual transition, with ongoing support throughout.
But it is not just traditional broadcasters that can benefit from broadcast technology service providers. As costs continue to fall and technology is more ubiquitous, anyone can be a broadcaster. More and more financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and sports clubs and arenas are installing their own production facilities in order to create content for internal communication and to expand their visibility to their customer base on social media, websites, and other outlets.
Once again these organizations can avail themselves of a broadcast expert to ensure they get the most from their system, advising on the most cost-effective production solutions depending on how often it is going to be used, what kind of content will be produced, what level of picture and audio quality is needed, and which platforms it needs to reach.
Engaging the services of a trusted technology partner is not a nice-to-have – it is a pragmatic choice for any kind of broadcaster. By outsourcing these services, customers gain invaluable expertise, cost-effective system integration and support, and the peace of mind that comes from having a smooth-running operation.
The future of broadcast systems integration, like the future of broadcasting itself, continues to look bright!