SVG Sit-Down: Primestream’s Schleifer on VR, 4K, and Sports-Media–Management Boom

Primestream enters the summer coming off an eventful NAB Show, in which the company showcased the latest enhancements to its Dynamic Media Management solution as well as technology integrations for the system and its continued growth within the sports-production community.

New at NAB 2016 were virtual-reality/360 workflows; enhancements to 4K, MXF workflows; and enhanced integration with Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, and Apple Final Cut Pro X. Primestream also showcased FORK v5.5 and Xchange v5.0, and its solutions were featured at the IBM booth (highlighting both an archival workflow and Aspera integration) and the Hitachi booth (a complete Xchange workflow capture to production, management, and delivery of assets on top of a Hitachi’s Unified Compute Platform and Hitachi Content Platform).

Primestream continues to see its sports business grow. The NBA, Encompass Media, Tennis Channel, Werne Production House, and AT&T/DirecTV’s ROOT Sports RSN are among the organizations to have recently adopted its software to capture, produce, manage, and deliver programming.

 COO David Schleifer at the Primestream booth at NAB 2016

COO David Schleifer at the Primestream booth at NAB 2016

During the show, SVG sat down with Primestream COO David Schleifer to discuss the demos at the booth, how the potential rise of 4K and VR impacts the company, and how the sports market is helping drive innovation for video production.

What is Primestream highlighting at NAB 2016?
We’re focused on the four pillars of workflow: capture, production, management, and delivery — and binding everything together. We’re trying to explain to people that we don’t dictate the workflow, the workflow dictates us.

We’re talking a lot about the cloud. We’re talking a lot about 4K, VR, connecting facilities, remote access, and all those things, and we’ve advanced all of those in the rest of the product: improved communication with traffic systems, playout, and so forth.

All of that has contributed to success in sports. We’ve had [sports] customers coming in; we show them the logger, talk about stats integration and how the logger can be set up by the data coming downstream. People are finding data integrity by using the logging tools, because people [aren’t typing] names differently every time. It really cleans up the workflow. You have to be able to trust what’s in the system. That’s what we try to give: that confidence.

In addition, we’re expanding APIs, more connectivity with other products and relationships with third parties, and things like that. But, ultimately, what it comes to is our ability to deliver more complete, more specific, and more robust solutions.

Can you tell me a bit about the VR 360 features Primestream has introduced at the show?
VR 360 is new here, and we’ve been working really closely with Adobe, who has made their own VR announcements here. We are showing our integration of Xchange with their early-version [VR functionality in Adobe Premier Pro NLE software]. Our goal is to be able to deliver something when the creative tools deliver; we’re not looking to rush anything out. Right now, we see people still trying to figure out 360 VR. At some point, it’s going to become a workflow, and we’ve got the answer for them when that time comes.

We don’t want to get ahead of the customers. We’ve been finding customers who want to pull us in as they work through their VR issues. One of the benefits, for example, for us in working with Adobe is this two-way communication, where we both make adjustments. We’ve had far-ranging discussions about how do you tell a story in 360 and how do you direct your user throughout this sphere of data. They don’t have all those answers. Without those answers, they don’t really know what they want in the creative tools, which is why a three-way discussion between the vendors, the clients, and the consumers is important at this point. The companies who push it out the door right away are going to miss what the final workflow will be.

What trends are you seeing in the sports-production market?
We’ve had the good fortune to be successful with a couple of franchises and, as a result, have come up with our modular approach. Things like our logging program or enhancements in our playout and so forth have helped us fit the sports market better.

We’ve been able to go after some fairly unique implementations. NBA is a courtside tool designed for turnaround and review of the calls made on court for the referees. We back up the recordings and manage all of that across the board. At Werne in Europe, it’s about turning around games very quickly and managing playout channels and driving all the programming. ROOT came to us with some issues they were having, and we were able to put a system in there very quickly to give them coherent workflow and helped them manage it. At Tennis Channel, there’s a lot of integration across the board.

We are also seeing the delivery requirements for turnaround time continue to change. We had a customer come to us and say, My problem is [that the time] from the moment the play happens in the arena to the moment I am able to post that on-air is way too long. The way they were doing it involved watch folders, where they wait to make sure there isn’t an error and then flip it and do several things to it. [We] can immediately take six minutes off the top of that right off the bat because of the way our automation works. You can approve it, and, boom, everything kicks off. The ability to add formats or add destinations as relationships and requirements change is something you can manage within the system. Today, format and metadata needs are constantly morphing and changing.

It all goes back to the statement I made earlier: we don’t drive the workflow, the workflow drives us.

How is Primestream preparing for the potential rise of 4K production, and what challenges does that present?
For us, it’s not that hard a problem in the sense that the workflow doesn’t change. For example, the workflow with VR is going to be different at its core. But, with 4K, the workflow will be the same; the payload is just bigger. Critical to 4K, as it was initially with HD, is the bandwidth and the file size.

The real pain will be felt around storage: time to archive and retrieve and your ability to move files to get them on-air. While we are sensitive to those issues, that is not our problem to solve. We’re there in terms of 4K. We have strong proxy workflows, which were developed initially [to make it unnecessary] to move 4K or 8K files around all the time. I don’t think you really need 4K [resolution] to make your editorial decision about whether that goal is important or that score. So we’re ready, and the platform is there.