SportsPOST:NY: Industry Execs Encourage Cloud Collaboration To Boost Efficiency

Regardless of whether broadcast facilities are separated by a wall or a continent (or multiple continents, as was NBC Olympics’ experience throughout the Sochi Games), the cloud allows broadcasters to collaborate as if no separation exists.

However, the cloud isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for broadcasters looking to streamline workflows. At SVG’s SportsPOST:NY, industry leaders discussed the capabilities and advantages of working in the cloud, targeting common misperceptions.

Levels Beyond’s Art Raymond (center) speaks as Quantum’s Alex Grossman (left) and Brevity Ventures’ Mike Jackman listen.

Levels Beyond’s Art Raymond (center) speaks as Quantum’s Alex Grossman (left) and Brevity Ventures’ Mike Jackman listen.

“There’s a lot of confusion and interesting thought about what the cloud is and how the cloud can help us,” said Alex Grossman, VP, media and entertainment, Quantum. “What we tend to think of the cloud as is really more of an environment where it’s not just storage and it’s not just compute; it’s really automation. It’s taking the things that you can do in your facility and moving it to another place to be able to share with different people in different facilities.”

He encouraged treating the cloud less as an “outsourced data center,” where data might be stored and retrieved when needed, and more as an environment in which multiple parties can work with data and make all workflows more efficient.

“When I define the cloud, … it really means actions and automation that happen in a disparate area to be able to achieve the goals of making the environment more efficient,” he said. “We’re just trying to make it easy for a lot of people to share a lot of things.”

For broadcasters, including the cloud as part of the overall workflow and storing potentially relevant content there can reduce headaches later on. The cloud becomes a repository for what Levels Beyond CEO Art Raymond termed “virtual inventory” and boosts broadcast teams’ ability to collaborate, wherever they are.

“You’re going into live events, you need related clips or related materials as fast and as real time as possible. You need a lot of it preloaded to the truck, a lot of it that could be available via a cloud service and brought right into production immediately,” said Raymond. “The only way you get to that is, you have to have a different foundation, and that gets to things like XML infrastructures and workflows. It gets to multilayered search engines that can handle billions and billions of transactions and assets at once; it gets to a shared infrastructure on storage that allows you to just move things almost as though you have no need to know where they are.

“For me, that’s the essence of the cloud,” he continued. “It’s taking some of the best of this generation of technology that Google and Facebook and all these guys have driven to levels that can do things that none of us had ever dreamed of and put it to work for this business.”

In addition to easy access to virtual inventories, cloud workflows boost efficiency by reducing the size of the staff needed on-site. Brevity Ventures Chief Business Development Officer Mike Jackman described how his company aided NBC Olympics with transporting graphics, data, video, and more from Sochi to its broadcast facility in Stamford, CT.

“This year, it allowed the graphics department to actually leave more than half of their team back in Stamford,” he explained. “There were a dozen artists that stayed in Stamford instead of having to go to Sochi. This is a huge cost saving, time saving. … Artists would work [on big graphics files] in Stamford; we’d grab them, compress them, move them, [and] land them in the playout format at the broadcast center [in Sochi].”

Of course, as with any discussion of the cloud, security issues factored in. Panelists suggested keeping sensitive content within company firewalls while collaborating outside but insisted that the biggest security concern is not the cloud itself but the people operating it.

“The human element of security is the thing you have to worry about,” said Grossman. “Protecting against people making mistakes is really it. … If it’s handled correctly, it’s all about best practices. As long as you have those best practices in place, I don’t think it’s an issue.”