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Ross Video Team May 18, 2020 12:00:00 PM

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Living Live Podcast: Diving Into Remote Connectivity


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become the world’s temporary new normal for doing business – and live productions aren’t excluded from that requirement.

With productions needing to go on as scheduled, but often having to be operated over great distance and through remote collaboration only, remote connectivity and workflows are more important than ever.

On this episode of Living Live with Ross Video, host Tyler Kern was joined by Ross Video Senior Solutions Architect Brandon Rhoda, Product Manager – Production Switchers Les O’Reilly and Product Manager – Overdrive Mike Paquin to discuss this shift to remote work and how, until the world’s productions can shift back to “normal” operation, productions can make the most of the situation.

Remote production, Rhoda said, comes down to three key factors.

“The first one is having the infrastructure to support it. You have to be able to access your equipment from home,” he said. “From there, you have to see and hear and communicate with everybody, so that’s really the second thing. And then the third one is understanding how you have to use your tools remotely, because you’re going to use them a little bit differently than you normally would.”

Regarding the infrastructure, itself, Rhoda said communication and coordination with IT departments, special attention to VPN services and their functionality, and more are critical.

While getting familiar with these new best practices and use cases for tools could require some retraining, the most important thing, O’Reilly said, is tackling latency and being unafraid to start small and scale up remote productions as your team becomes more familiar with what’s required.

AUTHOR: Tyler Kern
CONTRIBUTOR: Brandon Rhoda, Les O’Reilly and Mike Paquin

 

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Podcast Transcript

Tyler Kern:

Remote work has become the norm these days under COVID-19 and broadcasts are no different. Joining me today to talk about remote connectivity for live production, our three guests from Ross Video. First, we have Brandon Rhoda, senior solutions architect for Ross Video. Brandon, thank you so much for being here today.

Brandon Rhoda:

Thanks for having me, Tyler.

Tyler Kern:

Absolutely. And we also have Les O'Reilly. He's a product manager for production switchers at Ross Video. Les, thank you for being here.

Les O’Reilly:

Thanks for having me, Tyler.

Tyler Kern:

You got it. And we also have Mike Paquin, the product manager for Overdrive at Ross Video as well. Mike, thank you for being here today.

Mike Paquin:

Thank you.

Tyler Kern:

Absolutely. Full house for this interview. And Brendan, let's start off here. Just when we talk about remote connectivity for live production, what are some of the keys to creating and building a successful remote live production?

Brandon Rhoda:

Yeah, there's really three key factors to remote production, and the first one is having the infrastructure to be able to support people dialing in from home and being able to run all of your equipment. The second thing is really the communication side of being able to see, being able to hear and being able to communicate and talk with everybody else that's working on the production with you. Then the third thing is really understanding that you have to use your tools a little bit differently when you're running remote. You can't just do things the same way that you've been doing them on a day-to-day basis.

Tyler Kern:

Yeah, absolutely. So Brendan, I want to ask the followup then just about the infrastructure and those network requirements that you need to be able to pull off a broadcast like this. What are some best practices and things that people should be aware of as far as that goes?

Brandon Rhoda:

Yeah, so having VPN access into your facility from home is really one of the biggest key things that is required. So VPN access, working with your IT department, knowing that that's how you need to run things because a lot of the production gear is not always accessible on a VPN network. So there's going to have to be some restructuring on the network in order to make some of that stuff happen. Then you got to also know that we're using remote access applications and so coordinating with your IT department on which remote access apps that they're going to actually allow, because some of them are public-facing only or they may have a mode that can be local only, but you need to make sure that you work with your IT department on that as well as with your vendors on what apps that they support and what they've tested with their own equipment on.

Tyler Kern:

Yeah, absolutely. So Les, let's talk about that seeing and hearing aspect because that's obviously going to be extremely vital when it comes to pulling off a remote live broadcast. So talk me through a little bit more of what's required for that, maybe some best practices people should be aware of.

Les O’Reilly:

Yeah. So one of the biggest problems you're going to have is going to be latency. So as we were talking about earlier, you're trying to get the video from your multi-viewers, from your preview of the cameras and things that you're trying to include in your production. You need to get that as quickly to the people working at home or working remotely as you can. So things like web RTC and SRT give us a little bit more leeway in that they're going to have a little bit more compression on them, but they're going to be delivered really, really quickly. So for example, things like a Zoom call or Teams or whatever meeting platform you choose, those things happen really fast in real time. If you're able to get your video into something like one of those platforms, you can quickly share it to all those users at home.

Les O’Reilly:

It's not the most ideal solution obviously, but for people to quickly deploy and get going by taking your multi-viewer, even we've seen some of our customers just because they couldn't get their hands on the conversion utilities in time, they've stuck a webcam up just shooting their actual screen in their facility and allowing it to join into that conversation. So now all of a sudden they're using kind of that Zoom meeting as their multi-viewer. They're bringing the audio monitoring back from program audio, and they're able to leverage this as kind of their intercom system. Now, as they deploy this and they're working through the kinks, they're able to deploy network-based intercom and bring those utilities to the homes as well. But this was a real fast way for them to get online.

Tyler Kern:

Right, right. Now Mike, when we talk about this, there's a human aspect of this as well, just making sure people are trained and are able to deploy this kind of technology and these kinds of solutions. How can you work with people to best deploy the solution that works best for them?

Mike Paquin:

Yeah. So one of the biggest things, and Les kind of mentioned it too, is you have to kind of adapt to what you've done, what you're doing today and adapt to what you're going to do. So if you have more time, you can do more. But if you have to do this tomorrow and you're throwing a webcam up there, you have to practice. You have to just kind of walk before you can run. Don't try to do your big primetime show like you would do it normally. Reduce the amount of graphics you're doing. Maybe reduce the amount of remotes on the first day, and then start slowly, build that up, get your practices. And because you won't have necessarily the same amount of screen real estate at home, as you do in a control room, your multi-viewers may have less things on them on the first day.

Mike Paquin:

You might find ways to rearrange stuff. So it's just making sure that you adapt and practice and train yourself. Some people have more technical skills than others. Some people are really good content creators, but the tools that we build and how they've got it laid out in the control room makes it so they can focus on that. Now that they're having to adapt to new technology, their focus may not necessarily be on the content and on the technology. So it's getting used to that and adapting what you do to what you're capable of doing with the technology that you have in that IT infrastructure or what you can see through your multi-viewer and then building up over time. Don't try to do everything you're doing yesterday today. Work into it as you need to.

Tyler Kern:

Mike, how does Ross Video provide support in these types of cases for your customers, for your clients that might have questions about how to pull off remote broadcasts and might need some support? How does Ross Video come alongside and really help support its clients during this time?

Mike Paquin:

So when we deploy systems today or in the past, before everybody was off the road, this is what we'd do. We go in, we help people, we train people. We help them rehearse. We help them practice. We do disaster drills. A camera dies, a microphone dies. What do you do? How do you adapt to those things? Now because all of our staff is working from home as well, they're logging in and helping people retrain, helping them simplify their shows, helping add a few things that may not have been needed in doing the shows all in a studio. So all of our staff is home. All of our staff is still, they're not on the road so they have the time to help out with these.

Mike Paquin:

So even if it's a one hour call or booking a week worth of support, so to retrain new staff, help them through rehearsals. And because all of the tools are now being accessed remotely from home, our trainers can login and help them walk through things, help them lay out the screen, join them in rehearsals, join that Zoom call that Les was talking about and join in in that rehearsal. So we can help in all in that as well during this right now.

Tyler Kern:

Right. Right. Now Les, we know that there are shows that are produced remotely just on a regular basis, not during COVID-19, that that's something that is done and has frequently been done in the past. Do you think that it's something that we will see more of after this is over, just that people will realize, okay, we have certain capabilities. Maybe we utilize these capabilities from a studio setting and really make remote live production more of a regular occurrence. Do you think that that's something that might happen in the future?

Les O’Reilly:

So remote production has been going on for quite some time. There's no question about that. We have certain customers who based on the type of content that they deal with and their customer base, they house, for example, all that content in say Illinois. So it's a company and, and that's part of their security offering. The content is protected even though they may have people working remotely. So you've got panels and user interfaces in Prague, but the actual processing engines are in the United States. They also have deployments in Delhi and in Tokyo. Now, that's still a little bit different in that not many have done that. What we've seen more popular in recent years has been the case where you still have camera people at say a sporting event and audio people, and they're bringing that content back to a facility where it's being processed in the same facility that the operators are in.

Les O’Reilly:

That's the remote or remi-production that we've been seeing a lot in the last couple of years. This is a little bit different in that now people are separated from the equipment and the processing location, right? So we've seen a little bit of that done, but this is really taking it to that next kind of tier. Now, one of our customers who's been doing this really well is NEP in Australia. They deployed a solution system where for them it was traveling people. So their people were still in facilities, but now they were collaborating across the country. So you might have a TD in Melbourne, but they had their audio person in Sydney. Then they had a graphics person in Perth, but they have a complete network that facilitates them through high dark fiber and bandwidth. They're able to do a full 2110 IP-based solution.

Les O’Reilly:

So that's a whole other different tier, but again, it's all about where their focus is on leveraging that remote production. For them, not having to fly somebody from Melbourne to Perth to work an event, to then fly them all the way back was a huge benefit. It allowed people to be at home, still go in, still produce the event, still feel like they're completely part of it. But that's definitely at a whole other tier. Some of the stuff we're talking about now can even involve with remote production a lot of more simplistic designs. And what we've got is the ability to access from workstations into our products. So here you're trying to make it so somebody has that same kind of interface, but they're not next to the equipment. This is where I think coming out of this, some of our customers will look to adopt this type of a technology permanently, not just momentarily, because there are productions and shows, there's events where you're almost giving your people, your employees, a little bit different kind of standard of living.

Les O’Reilly:

It's a different lifestyle where they don't necessarily have to get on a train, take the hour commute into downtown Manhattan just so they can sit in and produce a show. Maybe it is possible to produce that remotely. Considering the number of people that we remote into these productions already, a lot of times we're picking up either a live view hit, a Dejero hit, LTN, all these different providers, satellite back halls. They're doing it anywhere where they bring contributors in from the west coast. Well, why can't that person be working from home and achieving this same result now?

Tyler Kern:

Yeah, that's a great point and that's something I'll be watching with a lot of interest as we continue to walk through the COVID-19 pandemic and what happens afterwards, especially in these broadcasts circumstances. Mike, we talked about communication earlier and I think that there's probably a learning process, a learning curve when it comes to how exactly do you make sure that everybody's on the same page when you're used to being able to just kind of look around and talk to everybody that's near you. Now that might be different. So kind of talk me through a little bit more about that learning curve and maybe just understanding the different steps that are going to have to be taken to make sure that everybody's on the same page when it comes to a broadcast.

Mike Paquin:

Yeah. So the big thing like you said is making sure everybody's on the same page. Everybody has to be in agreement as to what is the expectation of the show today. What's the expectation tomorrow, what's the expectation in a month so that you're all, your graphic designers are working towards the same goal as your producers. So the producers are always trying to push the envelope and trying to push what the content is going to be, but if your directors and your technical staff don't understand that that is what the same requirement is, that's going to cause some problems in communication with what's going to happen on the air. That's something that you need to think about today and also six months from now, a year from now. What are we going to do? How are we going to plan for this next time?

Mike Paquin:

It could not be this kind of disaster, it could be an earthquake. It could be a fire in the building. There's other disasters that you need to plan for and all the stuff that we're talking about now, you can use to help build those facilities in the future. So when you're rebuilding, do you rebuild it the way you've done it today or do you rebuild it with all of the stuff that we learned during this and build a remote-ready facility? And what's the plan when you go to use it? What's the plan on hour one, hour 12, 24, 72 hours? Is there a progression? What's the understanding of what you're going to do? We don't necessarily have the answers for those. That's something that everybody has to kind of decide on their own, but that's something that everybody needs to kind of play with.

Tyler Kern:

Absolutely. Well guys, thank you so much for joining me today to talk a little bit more about this idea of remote connectivity for live broadcast. So Brandon Rhoda, thank you so much for joining me today.

Brandon Rhoda:

Absolutely, happy to be here. Thanks.

Tyler Kern:

And Les O'Reilly, thank you for being here as well, sir.

Les O’Reilly:

It was a good time. Thanks, Tyler.

Tyler Kern:

Absolutely. And Mike Paquin, thank you for being here and sharing your insights today, Mike.

Mike Paquin:

Not a problem anytime.

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