The Switch Goes Full Throttle on At-Home Production With New Cumulus Service
The Switch is looking to ramp up its at-home–production efforts with the announcement of Cumulus, a cloud-based, real-time production service that promises to bring the shared-services model to at-home production. Cumulus leverages The Switch’s FiveNines transmission network to deliver live productions from the stadium using production-control services (such as robotic camera control and graphics system) that can be located anywhere in the world.
The Cumulus workflow was demonstrated at NAB 2017 last week, featuring control surfaces at The Switch’s booth and producing a live show from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver. Elements of the production controlled from The Switch’s booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center included remote operation of a SkyCam Wildcat aerial-camera system with integrated virtual graphics (using SMT Camera Tracker technology). Both the SkyCam pilot and operator, as well as the SMT graphics operator, were located at The Switch’s booth on the show floor. In addition, the demo incorporated live sources from The Switch studios in Los Angeles and London.
“The high quality and low latency of The Switch Network enables television to take a dramatic leap forward,” said The Switch CEO Scott Beers. “The Switch Cumulus proves that sophisticated remote productions can be achieved in a centralized and shared-services environment without costly capital investment in production studios or trucks. This method of production dramatically lowers operating expense without compromising the quality of the consumer experience.”
Inside the Demo: SkyCam, SMT Join the At-Home–Production Party
Key to the demo was remote control of the SkyCam system with virtual graphics inserted over the live SkyCam video feed using SMT’s patented Camera Tracker technology. SkyCam had both a camera pilot and a camera operator present in the booth to fly and control the SkyCam aerial camera system in Denver. The live feed was integrated into the technical-production infrastructure, located at The Switch Cumulus in New York City.
“For us, one of the challenges is that, typically, our services are to a network, to a specific show, traveling around,” SkyCam CTO Stephen Wharton said at NAB 2017. “As we look to get bigger and also lower cost, we see an opportunity to leverage the pipes that are already being utilized for the [at-home–production] remote with The Switch. We can take that pipeline and utilize it for the command and control of SkyCam. We’ve created some patent-pending technology that we call Sky Command, which allows us to locate the pilot or the operator [offsite].”
Additionally, virtual graphics, designed by SMT, were inserted into the live SkyCam video feed in real time by an SMT operator, also present at the control surface in the booth.
“The level of continuity with low latency that [Cumulus] opens up a broad spectrum of things you can do, such as dropping virtual graphics into the show with our Camera Tracker system,” SMT President/CEO Gerard Hall said at the booth. “When anybody who understands TV production looks at this, they are going to see that the implications are vast. The idea of [remotely controlling] live real-time virtual graphics on a moving aerial camera is really an acid test. If you can do this, then almost anything else becomes easy. It really just opens the door to a complete remotely produced production.”
Via green screens located at The Switch facilities in London and Los Angeles, personalities were superimposed on the field in Denver for plausible, onsite, live commentary using a Brainstorm 3D rendering engine located at The Switch New York and controlled in real time by an SMT operator in The Switch Booth in Las Vegas.
C360 Technologies provided a camera to SkyCam that, in addition to being part of the SkyCam component of the demonstration, was also VR-capable and simultaneously streamed OTT.
The Switch Sees an At-Home Future Ahead
The Cumulus service builds on The Switch’s already heavy footprint in the burgeoning market for at-home production. The company already provides connectivity for broadcasters producing games remotely at a central control room, including the bulk of Univision’s MLS game coverage.
“I am truly excited for this next phase of linear and OTT virtual television production,” says Beers, “Our NAB demonstrations have proved that the time for truly remote and virtual production is now.”