Level 3 Communications State of Transmission Report, Part 3: The Brave ‘New’ World of Remote Production

The telecast/broadcast/simulcast of live sports or entertainment events has been “remote” since the Olympics in Berlin in 1936. The only thing that has changed significantly – and that would be a massive understatement – is how the images and sound are captured, transported, and delivered from the event to the end-user.

Remote production is not a new concept. How the content is acquired and delivered is where the real conversation should be taking place, not how we find ourselves trying to save money by hoping to decrease on-site resources based on the idea that, “Ethernet data circuits are cheap.” Using Ethernet- and IP-based networks, hardware, and software systems as an alternative to sending people and equipment, is not the panacea we think we need them to be.

These are the top 10 things to consider:

  1. IP does not equal internet

There are a lot of preconceived notions around as to what ‘IP’ means. We talk to a lot of highly-skilled technical folks on-site at events, and even they are not always clear about what is being referred to when IP is mentioned. A large portion of them make assumptions that it is the public internet being used and is at risk to other traffic spikes, security breaches, and uncontrollable bandwidth issues.

  1. Pixel-perfect video content should be held in higher regard than email

Remote production, with machines in the cloud and people removed from the actual event or production location, does not have the same requirements as logging on to a webmail server or your corporate VPN to join a conference call. While both are potentially on the same Ethernet circuit connecting a venue using Internet Protocol as a transport method, there are obvious risk mitigation steps to be taken for a high-value video asset compared to the successful delivery of an email message.

  1. Get the acronyms right
  • Understanding the Ethernet alphabet soup
  • EVPL vs. EPL vs. E-Line vs. E-LAN
  • Key technical characteristics that matter
  • Transparency – Layer II/III
  • Multiplex options (pros and cons)
  • Layer-2 control protocols; timing protocols
  • Multicast frame limitations
  • Network protected services SONET protection vs. MPLS fast-reroute. Pros/cons/benefits
  1. It’s not ALL “Just Data!”

Today’s technology and hardware can turn just about anything into a data stream to be shared across networks. The fact that all the transport streams can be managed over Ethernet and IP networks is a bonus for broadcasters looking for ways to achieve better workflows and efficiencies with limited resources.

  1. What Apps will you deploy?

When engaging a supplier for your IP-based fiber capacity for content aggregation and delivery, a significant consideration is the actual product you ask the supplier to deploy. In today’s marketplace, the acronyms are abundant and, quite unfortunately, often are used incorrectly.

  1. Who is managing the ‘edge?’

In most instances, the network provider is better placed to control certain aspects of the edge – especially specific to high-value assets such as live video. Telemetry, performance, and monitoring of all adaption equipment deployed on the edge of a fiber network is more efficient using a single entity with end-to-end responsibility.

  1. Who is buying what from whom?

It depends on the broadcaster. Production lays out what they want, but it can depend on many factors to determine what is ultimately booked with a telecom vendor. It could go through a network traffic group, a remote broadcast operations group, or even a third-party OB facility provider to arrange connectivity.

  1. Equal measures of cost cutting and network capability

If people are looking to solve the issue based on economic factors, there could be a large disconnect between what is “ordered” based on cost, versus what is required based on actual technical specifications needed to address what the production team is looking to accomplish.

  1. Just because you can, should you? Does it make sense for your business?

There must be balance between driving costs savings in manpower and deployed resources and the quality and cost of transmission and network solution when regarding the value of your production and any subsequent content.

  1. In the end … It is ALL data.

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