Remote Live Production Checklist: Solutions for Remote Video Broadcasts
Remote Live production is a staple of television. Whether it’s live sports, an awards show, a local parade or even extended news coverage, remote video production fills hour upon hour of air time, and as CTV devices and over-the-top (OTT) distribution have emerged video streams as well.
What is remote live production?
Remote live production is a workflow when live video of an event is captured and sent over an internet protocol to a production facility or remote studio where the content is produced in real-time and distributed to different platforms across the network.
The concept is simple to grasp. A happening like a game occurring far from a TV studio is shot live, produced on-site and backhauled into a larger transmission infrastructure that ultimately distributes the production to the public.
Until rather recently, this happened via a massive TV production studio or multiple studios on wheels—or in the case of smaller, lower-budget events, smaller vehicles with less technology. These OB, or Outside Broadcast, vehicles required dozens or even hundreds of production personnel—some inside the mobile studio and others around the venue operating cameras, holding parabolic mics on the sidelines and attending to other production demands.
However, what’s needed to produce a remote production has dramatically changed over the past few years. While some events continue to be produced in the traditional way as described, a growing number are taking advantage of the public internet to transport video and audio signals gathered at a venue to the virtual equivalent of mobile, on-site studio technology in the cloud.
The checklist presented here describes what’s needed to implement this virtualized, cloud-based strategy for remote video production, including capture, transmission, cloud production, distribution and content management.
Live Stream Encoding & Transmission
Whether a production requires a single or multiple cameras, the first consideration of the remote production checklist is video (and audio) encoding and transmission—often referred to as transport.
Unlike traditional remote production workflows that may have moved camera signals to a production switcher via SDI, HD-SDI or SMPTE Fiber cables, a virtual cloud-based production workflow depends on delivery of IP (or internet protocol) packets from each camera and audio source.
In the case of higher-end productions, an encoding/transmission device like TVU Networks’ TVU One IP transmitter or TVU RPS (Remote Production System) transmitter, is used to transport camera signals as IP packets into the cloud. If the production has a limited budget, smartphones and media tablets running the free TVU Anywhere app can transport video and audio streams of IP packets directly to the cloud.
Live Broadcasting App for Remote Broadcasts
The TVU Anywhere app is especially well-suited for live multi-camera productions of church services, civic meetings, high school sports and similar events because the app is so simple to use that people who are not trained in video production can be recruited as camera operators.
The app also makes it easy to assign a device running TVU Anywhere as a video input for an instance of TVU Network’s TVU Producer multi-camera, cloud-based video production solution, simply by scanning a QR code.
However, television station newsrooms and other organizations increasingly are relying on the app to enable viewers and even their own journalists to capture and submit content.
Live Video Transmitters & Receivers
Regardless of whether a dedicated transmitter like TVU One or TVU RPS is used, or the TVU Anywhere app is deployed, these remote production solutions must encode video and audio signals into IP packets that are streamed via the internet (or perhaps other connection alternatives for higher-budget productions) to the cloud.
In the case of each of these transmission solutions from TVU Networks, the company’s patented Inverse Statmux+ (IS+) protocol is used, leveraging technologies like variable bit rate encoding\compression, Forward Error Correction (FEC) and intelligent assignment of IP packets to available streaming channels to ensure reliable, robust, low latency contribution of video and audio streams into the cloud from cameras and audio sources.
If the cloud is not the destination for these audio and video signals, but rather a brick-and-mortar production control room, these IP-transported packets must be re-assembled into a baseband video signal (like an SDI signal) so they can feed the traditional production workflow where hardware switchers, audio mixers, video servers and replay systems are used. In this case, a device like a TVU Receiver is used to collect incoming IP packets and make the video and audio data usable.
Cloud-based Live Video Production
TVU Producer virtualizes the hardware technology found in mobile production studios—i.e. OB trucks—in the public cloud, bringing a number of new benefits and possibilities to remote live production.
Remote Live Production in the Cloud
Here’s how. Rather than requiring the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars devoted to the capital expense of acquiring a 53-foot trailer, custom HVAC, video production switcher, audio mixing console, graphics and text generators, playout servers and replay, TVU Producer performs these common production tasks in the public cloud, thereby radically transforming the underlying business model of remote productions from a capital-intensive endeavor to a business model based on an OpEx, or operational expense, approach.
Once a media organization exceeds TVU Producer’s free 30-hour trial, it is charged $35 per hour for a production. There’s far more to this pay-as-you-go model when it comes to improving on traditional remote live production than cost, however.
To use TVU Producer, a single operator or an entire production team log into the same instance of the tool running in the cloud using their laptop or desktop computers and an internet connection. This workflow structure enables the technical director, audio engineer, graphics specialist and the rest of the crew to work from anywhere there is an internet connection—not only down the hall in an OB truck.
As a result, travel and lodging costs fall dramatically (camera operators will still be sent to the venue), managing personnel becomes far easier and scheduling flexibility is unmatched. In fact, virtualizing the hardware in the public cloud and giving production crew access via the internet means a producer has more flexibility in selecting individual crew members because many previously insurmountable travel conflicts simply disappear.
To facilitate communications among remote production crew members, IFB between director and on-screen talent and even to enable guests to join programs and interact—all while contributing from separate remote locations, TVU Networks developed TVU Partyline. Like TVU Producer, TVU Partyline runs in the public cloud and allows production crew, field and studio talent and remote guests to communicate and contribute audio or audio and video with virtually no latency via the internet and a smartphone.
One TVU Partyline feature that’s particularly important is its support for mix-minus audio, which insulates Partyline contributors from hearing themselves. Doing so, ensures they do not hear themselves as part of the mix, thereby eliminating a source of possible confusion that left unaddressed might degrade the conversational feel of the give-and-take among guests and host.
With TVU Partyline, producers have total control over queueing up and taking remote guests to air as well as dropping them from segments when their contribution is no longer needed. For intercom applications with remote production crew members, coms can be directed to everyone on the team or individual members depending on what’s required. In an IFB application, TVU Partyline enables ultra-low-latency coms with remote camera operators, MMJs and talent in the field.
TVU Partyline, which integrates smartly into TVU Producer or can be used separately, also costs $35 per hour after the initial free trial period. When used together, TVU Partyline and TVU Producer are priced at $50 per hour—a dram
Distribution & Live Streaming
TVU Networks also offers cloud-based alternatives to traditional baseband video distribution of content. A TVU Producer session can be set up to live stream to multiple social media sites, such as Facebook Live and YouTube, as well as to a content delivery network (CDN) for over-the-top and direct-to-consumer (DTC) distribution.
Existing social media channel information, such as account user name, password and desired settings for bit rate, video resolution, audio and other settings, are simply set up in TVU Producer prior to live streaming coverage. Immediately before going live, producers select which of these pre-set channels they wish to use and take their show live. No third-party service or software is required to stream to multiple social media sites at the same time.
Of course, it’s also possible to integrate baseband video distribution into a TVU Producer workflow by using a TVU Receiver, which receives the IP feed of the show from the cloud-based production solution as it’s being produced, decodes the IP stream and converts it to SDI for use with a traditional satellite, microwave or fiber distribution infrastructure.
For simpler productions right from a smartphone, TVU Anywhere allows similar live streaming to multiple social media sites. As with TVU Producer, streaming directly with TVU Anywhere requires inputting social media destination account information. When ready to begin streaming, selecting which social media destinations for a live stream is as simple as choosing desired sites from the list of those already set up.
Live Video Search, Storage and Management
Beyond the processes typically associated with remote live production, a number of never-before-contemplated workflows become possible in the cloud that are impossible, or nearly so, when using single-purpose switchers, servers and mixers. By exposing video and audio elements to a media supply chain management system in the cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning-based algorithms can leverage a theoretically unlimited number of GPUs and CPUs to enhance production and enable new possibilities.
For example, TVU Networks’ TVU MediaMind –the company’s umbrella term for a number of AI-based tools—can be used to identify faces, recognize objects and text and convert speech to text—all of which it can use to generate on-the-fly metadata associated with each video frame that far exceeds the detail of metadata available in a traditional workflow.
This enhanced metadata makes video and audio highly searchable, enabling producers of a sports telecast to remove the drudgery associated with producing highlight reels or a news organization to do away with the hours spent combing through press conference footage for the exact clip needed for a news story. TVU MediaMind can also monitor live video contributions to alert newsrooms, for instance, when something relevant and of interest happens.
Beyond enabling easier, more powerful searches, TVU MediaMind also makes it easier to tap new ways to monetize content and make content accessible to more people. For example, TVU MediaMind speech-to-text can enable automatic closed captioning, or be used to localize content for non-domestic audiences. Identifying spots in live productions that need to be updated or corrected in post are easily found as well. With TVU MediaMind-enhanced metadata as the basis for powerful searches, these sorts of corrections can be done far faster, with less effort and ultimately in a way that makes content more quickly available for post-event viewing.
The Final Analysis
The technology behind remote live production has a long history of change. Over the years, the two biggest drivers of this transition have been a desire to capture and distribute live events in the highest quality practices and the quest for workflow improvements that can make the former driver achievable.
Thus, viewers have been treated to successive generations of higher quality video and audio, beginning in the digital age with SD, moving through 720p and 1080i HD to 1080p HD, 4K, 4K high dynamic range (HDR) and now on the way to 8K with HDR. Ditto for audio, where a successive line of innovations has seen mono give way to stereo, which in turn was replaced with 5.1 Surround Sound, which is slowly beginning to be replaced with immersive and personalized audio.
The technology changes deployed to enable this long line of improvements while at the same time making production workflows more efficient have been remarkable in their own way. However, the next big evolutionary step in remote video production technology promises to make the tech changes that have come before pale in comparison.
Powered by the cloud, where virtualized equivalents of video production technology can access limitless processing and storage, new AI and ML tools can be deployed, and reliable audio and video transport accomplished with IP packets via the internet, the latest advancements in remote video production is propelling a much broader corps of video producers into the future—not simply those who produce news, sports and entertainment but also those who wish to bring broadcast quality to live video productions for everything from high school sporting events to Sunday church services.