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Winning Combination: The Advantages of Integrated Production Systems

Integrated production systems are so-named because they integrate the functionality of a production control room into a single system. They’re designed so that one operator can control the entire video production—including tasks like multicamera switching, graphics, text overlay, audio mixing, robotic camera control, playout and media streaming—from a single user interface.

Deploying an integrated system removes the complexities of managing third-party systems integration, though the user is generally limited to whatever tools have been built into the box. Nevertheless, with their ease of use and affordability, they’ve been widely adopted by the worship, corporate, education and government sectors, as well as for broadcast applications where space, personnel, skill and budgets are limited.

Integrated Storytelling

NewTek NDI allows video systems to identify and communicate with one another over IP.

NDI, NewTek’s Network Device Interface technology, is a royalty-free standard enabling IP video workflows across Ethernet networks. NDI allows video systems to identify and communicate with one another over IP, and to encode, transmit and receive multiple streams of broadcast-quality, low latency, frame-accurate video and audio in real time.

“NDI removes roadblocks to interoperability, especially for integrated production systems,” says Will Waters, director of product marketing for NewTek. To date, hundreds of vendors have made their new and existing products, such as graphics and replay systems, NDI-capable. Products like NewTek Connect Pro and AutoLink for Panasonic PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) tie current cameras to NDI.

NewTek TriCaster 860

“The core software in our TriCaster integrated production system puts all the essential tools for creative video storytelling in one cost-effective system,” Waters says, “but customers may still want to interface their TriCasters with third-party video systems, laptops or other external devices to further expand their production capabilities. NDI gives them the flexibility to do that using the gigabit network they may already have in place.”

Waters adds that with TriCaster and NewTek’s IP Series switcher, customers could even deploy camera crews to shoot a show remotely in the field, but switch the video over IP in real time back at the studio. “Provided that the customer has sufficient dedicated bandwidth between the studio and field locations, the TriCaster can be used for remote NDI-based productions,” Waters says. “This allows more content to be created, while reducing production costs.”

Maximizing Workflow

Grass Valley Ignite allows a single operator to manage control room devices used to produce live newscasts and event programming.

With its Ignite integrated production system and GV Stratus Digital Media Platform (DMP), Grass Valley enables broadcasters to distribute content efficiently across television, web and mobile platforms.

According to Chuck Garfield, senior product manager at Grass Valley, “We overlay additional capabilities onto their existing newsroom production workflow to automate the repurposing, delivery and monetization of newscasts and other broadcast content for web and mobile platforms. This purpose-built, third generation automation strengthens the broadcaster’s web and mobile presence without having to add to the personnel, workload or infrastructure.”

“When delivering broadcast content to the web or mobile, our solution encapsulates closed captioning data into the online stream, which is legally required, as well as preserving rich metadata and channel branding,” Garfield says.

Server-side dynamic ad insertion (SSDAI) lets broadcasters better monetize VOD initiatives by dynamically swapping out old ads with new ones. For live streaming, the solutions automate content replacement in instances where video footage is embargoed because the broadcaster doesn’t have the rights to use it on the web or on mobile.

With its RESTful API and service-oriented architecture (SOA), the company can quickly write new code for this integrated production solution to keep pace with the fast-changing web, mobile and OTT space.

Take Control

Broadcast Pix Commander is built around an automated touchscreen interface.

Broadcast Pix Commander features an intuitive, automated touchscreen interface that makes it easier to control a multicamera video production, especially for non-technical users. Commander may also be used as an option with other Broadcast Pix integrated production systems, such as the Flint and Granite series, which scale up to six and 22 multi-definition SDI inputs, respectively.

“Our switchers are designed to make it easy to produce a broadcast-quality multicamera video production,” says Tony Mastantuono, product manager for Broadcast Pix. By touching pictures on the touchscreen, an operator can select and broadcast a source—such as a camera, input feed, title, graphic or clip—as well as zoom cameras, take a two-shot and other production tasks.

Mastantuono adds that the ability to customize the user interface and control the production from a touchscreen makes Broadcast Pix integrated production systems particularly attractive to PEG channels (public, education and government), the worship, education and corporate markets, and small broadcast studios.

“Everything on our multiviewers can be resized or rearranged, and custom layouts can be saved for future use,” Mastantuono says. “Our user interface can also be made to simulate a production control room with multiple control points so different tasks, like switching, graphics and audio, can be managed by multiple operators.” Broadcast Pix also offers an API that lets users customize their system’s control structure.

Future-Proof

vMix Go is portable live production solution.

The vMix live production and streaming system is 4K- and IP-capable. It’s also NDI-capable, which enables networking with third-party devices, including those that support 4K and IP-based production.

According to Eric Pratt, chief technology officer of U.S. Broadcast (the U.S. distributor of vMix), this system interfaces with native 4K/UHD cameras and provides 4K/UHD internal processing of integrated features like graphics, virtual sets, clip playback, streaming, recording and mixing.

“Even if 4K content will not be broadcast in UHD, producing it in 4K means it will have superior image quality and can potentially generate revenue for years to come,” Pratt says. “Opting for 4K/IP today future-proofs the purchase.”

Besides vMix software that users load onto their computers, there are two turnkey versions: the vMix Go four- or eight-input SDI portable switcher, and vMix U four-input, 1 RU switcher. And since U.S. Broadcast also distributes PTZ Optics camera products, the company offers a vMix Go PTZ bundle with integrated PTZ control via Ethernet.

Advanced Camera Control

RUSHWORKS LOCKED ON is an object tracking solution that controls one or more PTZ cameras.

New from RUSHWORKS is LOCKED ON, a robotic camera tracking solution that integrates with the company’s VDESK integrated production system. Via trackable RFID tags and anchors, LOCKED ON enables multiple PTZ robotic cameras to automatically follow one or more moving subjects within a production space. Naturally the system may also be used with RUSHWORKS’ PTX Universal PanTilt heads.

“With its advanced algorithms and programming, this tracking system anticipates the way a director would call the shots and emulates how a good camera operator would follow the subject,” says Rush Beesley, president of RUSHWORKS.

During live production, the camera can track along preset paths or devise a motion path on the fly by following the signal from an RFID tag placed on a person or object on the stage. Robotic PTZ cameras interpret positional data to track the subject’s movements and can distinguish between different subjects while maintaining proper shot composition and focus.

“This solves one of our market’s biggest integrated production challenges by eliminating the need for one or more skilled camera operators, while enabling more dramatic, professional camera motion that elevates the production value of a show,” Beesley says. LOCKED ON will be demonstrated with VDESK at the 2017 NAB Show.

Studio to Go

Mobile Studios PortaCast at Sam Houston State University

PortaCast integrated consoles from Mobile Studios include all the equipment producers need for remote production. According to Rich Rubin, president of Mobile Studios, “The consoles can be easily loaded and unloaded from a van using our telescoping aluminum PortaRamps and set up in minutes on location. This gives producers the option of producing their shows from inside or outside of the van.”

The PortaCast 50 is a suitcase-sized Pelican case with a built-in Panasonic AW-HS50 five-input HD/SD switcher, 22-inch LED HD monitor, patch panel and optional PTZ camera controller, intercom, audio mixer and recording capabilities.

Mobile Studios’ mid-range integrated offering, PortaCast Classic Flypacks can include switchers from Panasonic, Ross, FOR-A or NewTek, along with a 27-inch HD LCD monitor built into the case’s flip-top lid. Packs are available for switching, audio engineering, camera shading/control and recording, with all components fully integrated for turnkey operation.

PortaCast Deluxe, which is a production studio on wheels, features two 27-inch HD LED monitors installed in the hinged lid, a pull-out drawer that serves as a switching control surface, a bench that doubles as storage for cables, and space for 24 RU of components. PortaCast Deluxe has been used to produce complex live events for ESPN3 and Discovery Communications.

PortaCast flypack consoles may also be purchased without any components save for the case’s built-in monitors if the customer already has components or wishes to custom configure a solution.

Virtualized Solution

Pixel Power StreamMaster takes the functionality of the existing Pixel Power master control and integrated playout systems and implements them in software to run on commodity hardware. 

The essence of Pixel Power’s graphics systems, its software engine, can be embedded in third-party integrated production systems, allowing broadcasters to choose best-of-breed solutions to preserve the distinctive channel branding they’ve already created with Pixel Power products. Pixel Power CEO James Gilbert says the company’s roadmap also includes the development of its own integrated production system.

“Broadcasters are already using our IP-based StreamMaster to perform complex master control playout tasks from the Amazon cloud, remote data centers and on-premise-based installations,” Gilbert says.

With this virtualized software approach for master control, users are “delivering live programming without compromising production standards, such as live switching, channel branding, sophisticated 3D DVE, graphics and keying,” Gilbert says. “Based on that accomplishment, it’s not that big a leap to apply that underlying technology to a virtualized integrated production system for live applications.”

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