The trend towards an increased amount of video content in everyone’s lives was well under way before the current health crisis. However, the restrictions put in place by 2020 resulted in challenges with communicating and conveying information – thus, the need for video was amplified by the demand. Now that organisations have seen that some level of video-based content and communications can be applied remotely, it will become more of a standard tool for all sorts of uses.
For many, this pivot will require some consulting and expertise outside of their firm. Perhaps an organisation consulted an integrator or consultant prior to installation – perhaps they did not. Regardless, now is the time to connect with key markets and work with them on next steps: hybrid solutions and long-term plans for video.
So, what to look for, consider and offer in these plans for the future? Let’s explore.
Live production technology
The heart of these solutions is likely to be anchored by the live production system. This forms the core of video content creation. Live production systems are capable of switching live sources, performing transitions, adding effects, recording and playing out material, mixing audio, and inserting graphics to produce engaging productions for various types of audiences viewing on various types of screens.
Depending on whether an organisation has deployed a system for some time, or they are just getting started – or still, perhaps, in the planning stages – there is a wide variety of use cases that can be supported by a live production system and the production gear that accompanies it. Some organisations may only have one primary use while others endeavour to produce a wide variety of visual content.
A partial list of production uses can include:
- Promotional videos to highlight companies, organisations, products, or services
- Explainer videos that describe a feature, function, product, or service
- Tutorial videos that teach how to use a product or service
- Product/service videos that provide overviews and demonstrations
- Case study videos that provide a testimonial about a product or service
- Live event coverage with recording for archival or video-on-demand purposes
- Internal communications to keep staff and employees informed
- External communications to disseminate messages to members, congregants, students, and customers
- Digital event coverage to host virtual meetings, conferences, sessions, seminars, and introductions
What the integrator is likely to find is that video systems – regardless of sophistication – have been very narrowly used over the past year. The house of worship market has focused largely on live events. The education space has been focused on virtual meetings for courses. But that doesn’t mean that is where it stops! The AV channel has the opportunity to proactively and collaboratively partner with firms of all size and type to increase content output. And this comes with many workflow considerations.
The first of these considerations is infrastructure. Traditionally, systems that worked with video, audio, and motion graphics needed specialised equipment and cabling. It is likely there are more than a few of these traditionally cabled systems out there right now. But they will struggle to scale in a cost-effective manner. Instead, systems using IP for connectivity and for transport of media are key to allowing for increased and improved production capabilities. AV-over-IP allows systems to be deployed across standard 1Gb and 10Gb Ethernet networks. Not only does this simplify media productions, but it makes distributing content as streams inside and outside of facilities dramatically easier. After all, most modern facilities are already wired with the infrastructure.
Secondly, it is time to dive into the hardware. Is a live production system in place? If not, this is the key upgrade to make – and to make sure it uses IP as the transfer protocol for audio and video. There are production systems that are both cost effective and approachable. Further, manufacturers may bundle these systems with converter boxes that take traditional analog signals from cameras and make them network native. Another consideration here is to look at those cameras in use. It may be time to look at PTZ camera options that will enable more professional productions.
Consulting beyond the installation
Another important consideration concerns what human resources are needed to actually produce events and content. Are new hires required? Are there existing personnel that can be trained? Are all production resources required full time? In many cases this could be one person, and thus, the workflow being integrated must allow for single user operation. Intuitive, manufacturer-supported and in some cases, automated, live production systems can all assist in this scenario.
- Intuitive – In many places, production systems end up being used by staff that do not have extensive technical production experience. There can even be volunteers or students in some organisations. Therefore, not only should the simplicity of operation be a key evaluation factor when choosing such a system, but how system operation can be extended and augmented should be looked at as well.
- Supported – Software is at the core of all modern production systems. Some use purpose-built hardware and some run on standard computer platforms. This will continue for some time, but another alternative is beginning to emerge as well. Many organizations are already using back office and front office applications with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). So too are media production applications becoming available in the same manner. Production applications are being virtualized and hosted in public and private cloud environments. Not only does this offer flexibility in where productions are put together, but software plans can be available to provide access for fixed time periods that align to specific projects.
- Automated – Some systems provide a way to create customized operational interfaces tailored to a particular person or production. Rather than present all functions, the software panels can be limited to show just what is needed to get the job done. Automation is another method to assist operators in getting productions completed in a consistent manner and reduce errors. Some systems offer programming of certain multi-step tasks to be performed repeatedly with a single button push or mouse click. Some systems include a way to take the information included with a script to automatically switch a camera, perform a transition, or call up a graphic. All these enhancements help operators with a range of experience to produce good quality content time after time.
A more thoughtful install, a more effective business
All of these considerations can be brought into light by – and provided by – the AV channel. They are capabilities that can be quickly acted upon and made real. They also offer a further level of support that was somewhat unconsidered before the global pandemic: fault tolerance.
The move to a more IT-centric approach means production is no longer constrained by having equipment and personnel in the same physical place. Moving the entire system to the cloud offers a form of redundancy that falls mostly on the service provider. Control computers can be connected from anywhere with a good network connection. Business operations can more swiftly and immediately pivot – regardless of where workers are located.
In summation, the live video offerings we’ve seen develop over the past year will continue to flourish. The channel plays a key role in enabling that growth. The migration of live production systems to software, IP, and IT makes it less costly for all types of organisations. As the software tools have become more intuitive and streamlined, anyone with a story to tell can be a producer – we just need to put the right tools in their hands.