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Ross Video Team Jul 20, 2020 11:30:00 AM

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Living Live Podcast: Controlling the Chaos of Live Production


On this episode of Living Live with Ross Video, host Tyler Kern was joined by Ross Product Manager, DashBoard Amanda Holtstrom and Technical Product Manager, DashBoard James Peltzer.

DashBoard is Ross’s answer to the chaos of live production – with this free and open platform, users can build unique, tailored CustomPanels that help streamline their operation and provide a simple-to-use way to engage in beneficial facility control and monitoring.

“I think anyone that has to do live productions knows that, in the middle of an event or a moment, it’s important to limit the number of options you have available to you to make sure you don’t do the wrong thing,” Peltzer said. “You want to be able to choose from a reduced set of features and options that allow you to make sure what you’re doing is correct and reproducible.”

This need is only amplified, Holtstrom said, by the complexity of many live production environments.

Some of the key features of a solution like DashBoard are the ability to select the features that are most meaningful and critical to a producer during a production, allowing for the creation of presets that further streamline future workflows, scripting features, easy-to-understand visual logic, and more.

AUTHOR: Tyler Kern
CONTRIBUTORS: Amanda Holtstrom and James Peltzer

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Podcast Transcript

Tyler Kern:

Production for live events can be chaotic at times, they can be fast-paced, and finding ways to improve these productions and limit mistakes as much as possible is a crucial aspect to all of this. And joining me to talk about that and talk about how Ross has provided solutions for doing this is Amanda Holtstrom. She's the product manager for DashBoard at Ross Video. Amanda, thank you so much for joining me.

Amanda Holtstrom:

Thank you, Tyler. I'm happy to be here.

Tyler Kern:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And we also have James Peltzer. He's the technical product manager for DashBoard at Ross Video. James, thank you for being here as well.

James Peltzer:

Thanks for having me, Tyler.

Tyler Kern:

Absolutely. James, let's start off with you and just kind of talk about how DashBoard simplifies functions. So simplifying functions is something that needs to happen during live broadcasts, right? So talk to me about how that can really elevate productions and elevate these live productions that you're creating.

James Peltzer:

Certainly. So I think anyone who has to do live productions knows that in the middle of an event, in the middle of the moment, it's important to limit the number of options you have available to you to make sure that you don't do the wrong thing. You want to be able to choose from a reduced set of features and options that allow you to make sure that what you're doing is correct and reproducible. So it allows you to limit your opportunity for mistakes and then set a better chance of getting the intended result quickly, too. Right? You have to be able to make sure that whatever you do you've got happening in the right moment within the time you have.

Amanda Holtstrom:

I'll also add, James, that many of our customers have very complex ecosystems and trying to limit the number of controls that they have is one way to make productions more consistent and limit those mistakes that you mentioned.

James Peltzer:

Certainly. I mean, you can imagine the horror of trying to dig through a bunch of different menus to get to your audio gain here and your output ProcAmp there, you may just want to be able to recall the preset or be able to just have the one or two things right in front of you that are important in that moment.

Tyler Kern:

So, James, maybe just give me the highlights of a quick summary of what DashBoard is and how it works and how it helps simplify these productions.

James Peltzer:

Sure. So DashBoard is the primary control and monitoring system for the openGear community, and a lot of the hardware and software products that Ross Video makes, we talk to every Ross Video product to one degree or another. And the really cool thing in terms of simplifying your productions that DashBoard brings to the table is a feature called PanelBuilder. And what this is is it allows you to create a customized application around your particular event, your particular workflow. So you can use its interface to drag and drop and assemble and even have access to some really cool scripting features to create the tailored experience for your production.

Tyler Kern:

Amanda, as you interact with customers and as you interact with your clients, what are they finding that the features that DashBoard provides really helps them with? What kind of feedback do you get as far as DashBoard as a product and how it's being used in the market?

Amanda Holtstrom:

So I think when we talk about monitoring and control, DashBoard does what it needs to do there and our customers are satisfied with that experience. Where we're DashBoard is really powerful is in one of the features that James talked about, which is PanelBuilder. So we're seeing within the Ross partner ecosystem, great deal of interest in, and from our service providers in expanding their own service offerings to our customers to allow them to build Custom Panels, but kind of obstruct away much of the complexity in that technology ecosystem to just give to the fingertips of the end users of the people producing the productions, just the buttons and controls that they need to produce those really, really high quality productions.

James Peltzer:

Yeah. I mean, the nice thing is there's so many of the devices that DashBoard controls natively already describe themselves to DashBoard so you can just hook up to the device and they present all the different options that you might need. And then, building your Custom Panel can be as simple as plucking the pieces off that you actually won't have access to.

Amanda Holtstrom:

And when James says plucking, he means dragging and dropping between panels.

James Peltzer:

Yes.

Tyler Kern:

So what I'm hearing is that it sounds like if you invest some time on the front end, that you'll be able to make your life easier in the long run. But how difficult is it to set up these scenes or these presets that you're describing, and how much time will that take on the front side if I'm trying to budget out the amount of time it's going to end up saving me in the long run?

Amanda Holtstrom:

Before we dig into how DashBoard actually saves you time, I want to expand on the complexity of the ecosystems that we're dealing with. So if you take a look at one of our customers who has a large venue, so think of a stadium that holds tens of thousands of people and all the different types of equipment, electronic equipment they would have running in there. James, could you name a few examples?

James Peltzer:

Sure. I mean, you might have your stadium ribbon boards, your scoreboard, your fascia, there's a number of different visual elements around your stadium that you might want to control.

Amanda Holtstrom:

So if you think about all this gear, there's Ross gear in there that's driving some video out to these panel boards, the panel boards themselves, these aren't Ross gear, these are third party. You might have different video or audio converters. You're driving a lot of different devices that all speak different languages, but one of the things they all have in common is they all speak DashBoard. So when we pull them all together, sometimes we have to build custom integrations to the third party devices, but they can all speak DashBoard. So when we pull them all together, you're left with something, a very complex ecosystem where you could be trying to control 20, 50 different devices. And if you think of a stadium, when an event occurs like a goal or a touchdown, you need to send out a simultaneous experience to the people who are participating in that event.

Amanda Holtstrom:

And DashBoard allows you to put just in front of the person who's producing that experience, single buttons that allow you to just trigger by the touch of one button, it commands multiple devices to respond in a certain way. To answer your question about how simple it is to actually create these Custom Panels and their simplicity, it isn't actually that simple. The user experience is simple, but if we're talking about simultaneously triggering on a single event that the producer is observing, triggering to 10 or 20 different devices of command, this is where we call in service providers or Ross Video's Rocket Surgery team to actually build these Custom Panels that make it simple to run these high quality productions, that single button that's triggering commands to maybe 10 or 20 devices. This would take a DashBoard Custom Panel developer, they would be actually working through all the devices, all the languages that those devices speak and pulling together commands so that when that button is pressed, the correct thing happens in the stadium or venue.

James Peltzer:

I do want to touch on the range of levels there are to Custom Panel creation. So like Amanda was talking about with very complex and tightly managed stadium events where you're controlling a whole lot of third party devices and you want everything triggered, it is a common scenario where you would have Ross creative services or sports and live events come in and create a very tailored application for you. But there's a huge range in the types of Custom Panels that someone would create. So one of the more simplified options you might see being done by a customer would be one where you can literally just open up the user interface that you want to pull from, click on the control that you want to pull into your Custom Panel, drag it into the panel, and it becomes active.

James Peltzer:

The other really common, easy usage scenario is what we call shot boxing. And that's where you would create a grid inside of your Custom Panel, fill it with buttons, and then all you have to do is attach little tasks to the buttons to trigger the events that you want to have happen. And you can actually trigger a number of different tasks in a single button relatively quickly inside of the PanelBuilder user interface.

Amanda Holtstrom:

So, yes. I think what James just spoke to there is the breadth of kind of services that DashBoard provides, or rather the breadth of functionality the DashBoard provides. So on one end, we have the very simple need where we just need a single panel with a couple of controls on it. And at the other end, we're looking at very, very coordinated or orchestrated experiences with simple interfaces overlay.

Tyler Kern:

That's a really good point because you mentioned the stadium example, which seems like as far as large scale events goes, say it's a football stadium filled with 60,000 people, that's pretty big and that's going to require a lot of coordination. But what are some of the other use cases that might require not quite as much work on the back end, but this is still just a massive time saver and a very big convenience booster when it comes to these live productions? What are some other use cases?

James Peltzer:

Sure. So I can speak to that a little bit. One of the more common scenarios you might see a Custom Panel in use would be in a newsroom where they might already be using overdrive to run their production automation, where you might have a Custom Panel set up beside your operator as an auxiliary control surface. So if they can have during a breaking news scenario different pieces like custom controls from their switcher or different adjustable pieces of equipment in their studio that they might want to have access to available right at the fingertips of their operator at any point in time. And these little shot box and little auxiliary control services are very easy and quick to build and very common and very handy to have access to on a live news show.

Amanda Holtstrom:

I'll also expand on one of the use cases that's somewhat near and dear to my heart. So in the news production industry where we're seeing live television being produced, these are professionals with years and years of experience and a great deal of training producing very high quality live productions. When we start to go down market and start looking at productions that still want to be high quality but maybe they don't have the time or the resources to hire these very, very well trained people, we need to provide simplified views into this very complex technical ecosystem. We need to provide views into it and ways of interacting with it that make people feel that it's approachable. So an example is a house of worship where their broadcast is being done over a cable news channel and we want to reach people at home who maybe can't come to the church that day and who are going to be sad to miss what their minister or pastor is saying.

Amanda Holtstrom:

So with DashBoard, we put the kind of the high quality aspects of the production workflow that you see from places like professional places like the news industry into the hands of people who may be volunteers, maybe have limited training, and we get very high quality experiences. Another example is we're seeing more and more of the larger companies in the world, large corporations wanting to network and provide experiences, live experiences to people in remote locations. So hosting a speech from Los Angeles that simultaneously broadcast to the UK and Singapore and having those people feel they're being delivered a real broadcast as opposed to just something more lightweight coming through teleconferencing. We're seeing a lot of our corporate clients interested in this.

Amanda Holtstrom:

And in that case as well, some of those operators, they didn't have technical training in how to do the same quality of production as some of our news teams. And we want to make it accessible to them, the high quality production with simple kind of interfaces so that they can control the equipment and produce amazing live experiences for consumption all around the world, but in a much more simple way.

James Peltzer:

And you can imagine, in that kind of corporate scenario, the advantages of having a control surface where you might be able to turn your stage lights off and on, or if you have a few robotic cameras and your set up being able to recall specific presets inside of there, and even do some light tweaking with a joystick to drive the camera around and make sure everything's set up properly. And being able to do that from a single operator station at the back of your event space can be a huge advantage.

Amanda Holtstrom:

With very little training, right?

James Peltzer:

Exactly, yeah.

Amanda Holtstrom:

Showing someone, "This is how you select which camera of the four cameras that we have. And once that camera's selected, you drive it with this commercial off-the-shelf joystick," makes it really accessible.

Tyler Kern:

So, Amanda, how does Ross prioritize making sure that the productions are flexible and giving customers the flexibility to use various products and to bring in other elements? How does Ross really provide for that when it comes to DashBoard?

Amanda Holtstrom:

So one of Ross's core values is to cooperate with other vendors in our ecosystem. And I don't think you could find a better example of that than the openGear platform. With openGear, we've defined a protocol and a platform that allows vendors to create different technologies that customers can pick and choose from. So although these customers may be really loyal Ross Video customers, they may need some technology that we just don't create. And openGear allows them to have a broader selection of that. All of the openGear partners use DashBoards to monitor and configure their devices, so DashBoard is really the glue holding the whole ecosystem together from a configuration, monitoring and control perspective.

James Peltzer:

Yeah, it's actually a really amazing platform in that there's two levels to it, right? So one level in a single openGear frame, you can combine products from any number of openGear vendors. So you've got a bunch of different options that you're not wasting Rackspace on, and that you're able to provide the best device for the various pieces of your production. And we took that a step further when we did DashBoard and made sure that not only can you connect to all the different devices that you might have inside of a single openGear frame, but using DashBoard Connect, you can also connect a number of different vendors that also implement the openGear protocol. And all their devices are controllable and monitorable directly inside of DashBoard.

Amanda Holtstrom:

Right. So that kind of ethos of cooperation really becomes really clear as customers are starting to specify their technology environments. openGear makes it extensible and gives them the flexibility of choice.

Tyler Kern:

What I've loved about learning about DashBoard just from this conversation is the wide amount of use cases, the various applications that this can be used for, and the flexibility of it to make sure that no matter what kind of production you're trying to pull off, that DashBoard really can help elevate that. And so this has been a fun conversation. I've really enjoyed getting to learn a little bit more. So, Amanda and James, thank you guys so much.

Amanda Holtstrom:

Thanks, Tyler. We've had a great time.

James Peltzer:

Thanks, Tyler. It's been fun.

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