Why you should be live streaming in the cloud

Whether it’s production of a game, a red-carpet soiree, entertainment or news, if your plan is to live stream the event, cloud-based production is fast becoming the go-to solution.
A man working in a cloud-based live streaming
Cloud-based live streaming means professional, multi-camera programs can be created on just a laptop

With virtual equivalents of all of the production tools associated with traditional workflows now available in the cloud, it’s never been easier nor more advantageous to make the switch. Here are the top five reasons video producers –whether they’re producing sports, entertainment or a corporate event—are transitioning their production workflows to the cloud.

 

Reason 1: Health & Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic left many producers scrambling for ways to minimize the chance that production personal would be exposed to the virus.

The confines of a production trailer, even if it’s an expando that’s 53 feet long, make compliance with the social distancing recommendations of health authorities difficult, if not impossible, to observe.

However, adopting a cloud streaming workflow not only virtualizes all of the hardware involved in live production, it also virtualizes the trailer, enabling the director, technical director, slow-motion operators, audio engineer, graphics operators and other production personnel who would be nearly on top of each other in the trailer to be safely tucked away at home or in an office where maintaining proper distance is far easier.

 

Reason 2: Economics

Transitioning production to the cloud brings a new financial model into the television production arena. Rather than being a capital equipment-intensive undertaking, virtualizing production in the cloud shifts the financials at play to an OpEx model.

However, this is more than a simple accounting exercise. Not only are the significant prices associated with video production switchers, audio consoles, slow-motion/instant replay servers, transcoders, encoders, satellite uplinks and downlinks and many other pieces of hardware removed from the equation, but so are all of the costs associated with maintenance, transportation and insurance.

Further, using a virtualized production environment rather a traditional remote production setup means there’s no more need to make an educated guess about what and how many pieces of specific technology are required. Nor is there the financial burden of building for or renting for the peak of production needs.

 

Reason 3: Staffing & Collaboration

Video production takes people—lots of people. Many travel from venue to venue to direct, produce, switch, mix, paint, create, engineer and perform all the other production functions necessary to get a show on-air and live streamed.

Cloud-based video production drastically reduces the number of production personnel needed at a venue. Sure, there will always some production people on site, such as camera operators, but many of the rest of production functions customarily done on location can be performed in the cloud, removing 75% or more of the people from the typical production caravan and allowing them to work remotely from home or an office.

The benefits are manifold. Travel expenses are slashed. Talented production staff can spend more time producing content and less time traveling, and there’s even the opportunity for tighter collaboration among production staff working on the same content in the cloud.

 

Reason 4: Extensibility

Cloud production resources are extensible. What would a blog about the cloud be without a little geeky computer jargon?

Said more normally, cloud-based production resources are essentially unlimited. More CPUs, GPUs and storage can be added as required to meet the demands of the largest productions and released when the production is complete. That means a producer or mobile facilities company doesn’t have to rent or buy to meet the demands of the largest shows only to have some of that expensive equipment sitting idle during long stretches of more workaday productions.

It also means that expensive dedicated production hardware isn’t in the way of the next big wave in television production. Said in a TV jargony way, cloud-based production futureproofs production companies, enabling them to sidestep the amortization headaches of owning one level of production hardware when the next level –4K, 8K, HDR, WCG or 3-D—comes along.

 

Reason 5: Gateway to AI

Transitioning to cloud-based video production opens up the workflow to assistance from artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.

For example, an AI speech-to-text algorithm makes simple work of closed captioning. AI-assisted pre-processing algorithms can improve encoding efficiency to support live video streaming. AI algorithms that recognize facial characteristics and objects, changes in the audio level of announcers and crowd noise and perform other functions not available in traditional production workflows make content easier to find, manage and use.

And that’s just for starters. As time goes by, new algorithms that enhance the quality and efficiency of cloud-based video productions are sure to come along—none of which would be available in a hardware-based production workflow.

 

Bonus Reason: Productivity

At the heart of many of these reasons to adopt cloud-based production for live streaming is an increase in productivity—whether that’s related to production workflow, economics, best use of resources or even protecting the health of staff.

All of that is true, but it ignores how taking on cloud-based production will impact productivity in the future. Specifically, with ISO recordings of all camera feeds stored in the cloud, a cloud recording of a completed live show and AI-generated rich metadata identifying each frame of video, it will be far easier and less labor intensive to execute common post-show tasks.

Those include creating highlight reels and new versions of recorded shows for different markets. It even means that replacing shots and correcting errors in recorded live shows will be far simpler, faster and require fewer personnel.

Of course, transitioning to cloud-based production will be gradual, given existing investment in traditional production technology and workflows. But increasingly, show producers will recognize the value of transforming how they approach live production, especially for live streaming distribution that makes niche productions serving the well-defined interests of specific audiences possible, such as those of fans who are interested in a specific NCAA Division II or III football program.

Cloud streaming makes it economically feasible to live stream content to these vertical markets as well as offers many other real benefits to broadcast rights holders who produce live content for TV.

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