How did you get started in the media tech industry?
I suppose I was born into it. My father founded Ross Video when I was nine years old. I still remember him in the basement of our house working at a drafting light table designing circuit boards in the evenings as we all watched TV together as a family. My father is an electrical engineer and I was one of Canada’s first computer engineering graduates. When I graduated, I wanted to work for NASA as a first choice. My mother said, “You’ve hurt your father by not wanting to join the business”. I responded, “But he’s told me dozens of times that I was on my own and had to find my own way in life.” My mom said, “You didn’t believe him, did you?!” And so, I joined a small Ross Video that had about 25 employees and set about doing something with it.
How has it changed since you started your career?
Well, I’ve seen us go from analogue to digital, to HD, to 3G, to 12G, IP and now Cloud. I suppose it’s changed a little bit. The workflows have changed quite a bit as well, rooms full of operators pressing buttons in live news has shifted to one person with a mouse running automation solutions like OverDrive. Servers have replaced tape. Independent TV stations around the world have been replaced with giant groups. It’s been quite the ride.
If you could change one thing about the media tech industry, what would it be?
Not a lot. I like how our industry is as high-tech as other IT industries but smaller and friendlier. It’s easier to know who all the major players are and develop real relationships, but it’s big enough to get some reasonable scale and develop cool products. Okay, maybe we can change one thing. It would be nice if we stopped doing standard definition everywhere in the world. Seriously, that can go away any time now!
How inclusive do you think the industry is, and how can we make it more inclusive?
It’s not inclusive enough - no industry is ever inclusive enough. We can always do better. To make it more inclusive we just need to be ever more understanding and creative - I recently saw some wonderful unisex bathroom labels at Sky in the UK for example that made me smile. We also need to get more women to enter the technical side of things which is a massive challenge for society to support at every level.
How do we encourage young people that media technology is the career for them?
I think they simply need to be more aware of our industry as an option. In the past year we started reaching out to the local universities and with surprisingly little effort became co-op employer of the year for Canada’s capital city of Ottawa. We also started offering tours to students and they’d come in groups of 20 or 30 totally stunned by how cool our industry is behind the scenes. Now with Covid-19, the schools are asking us to continue with virtual tours. Our industry is amazing - that makes getting their attention and appreciation so much easier.
Where do you think the industry will go next?
Next, our industry will go in every direction at once. We’re going to see HD last for a very long time, but UHD and HDR will have a solid place as well. SDI, and 12G SDI will last longer than anyone imagined, and IP will gain broader appeal and get ever easier to use while becoming more cost-effective. On-prem facilities will continue to exist for strategic and economic reasons, and Cloud will pick up steam (pun possibly intended). We will see traditional broadcasters evolve and adapt to changing personalised viewing habits, and we’ll see new and interesting content creators appear, much like esports has.
What’s the biggest topic of discussion in your area of the industry?
A month ago, it would have been the technical merits of different approaches to SDI, IP, virtualisation and Cloud. Today, it’s about the lack of content that’s being created in venues and the lack of sports and live events for the broadcasters to air. We’re all wondering about which customers and suppliers will be here next year and how different the world will be at that time.
What should the industry be talking about that it isn’t at the moment?
We need to figure out how to hold our people and infrastructure together to come out the other side of Covid-19 as intact as possible. The freelancers are going to find other work in other industries, the teams and venues are going to struggle to stay solvent, the broadcasters have paid for rights to air events that don’t exist, the suppliers suddenly have excess capacity that needs to be protected for the future. I hope we continue to innovate as an industry working together to solve these challenges because it’s more apparent than ever before that we all need each other.