Part 3 of a 4-Part Series

man jumping through the clouds

This series of blogs aims to cut through some of the preconceptions and misperceptions around media in the cloud. I have already introduced the idea of  disaster recovery in the cloud, and the important questions around what reliability and security you need from the cloud. This time, I want to think about the practicalities of operation in the cloud.

To make an obvious point, a disaster recovery site can only recover from disasters if it has all the schedule information and content already loaded. Playlists are relatively small files, but there is a perception that maintaining a parallel content library in the cloud will be prohibitively expensive in bandwidth and ingress/egress charges.

But we can think about this a different way. You can get content – programs from the production house and commercials – delivered direct to quarantine storage in the cloud. You can run automated checking and QC in the cloud before releasing new material to the playout stack.

Many broadcasters are already looking to store content in the cloud long term. Faced with the imminent obsolescence of video tape libraries, and wary of the eternal cost of maintaining an LTO data tape library, archiving in the cloud is very attractive. Let a specialist handle all the technology migration, security and maintenance.

Other organizations may be empowering collaborative working in post-production by hosting content and decision lists in the cloud.

Playout, archiving and post may be managed as separate departments with separate budgets. But if you combine them, content is only delivered to the cloud once (or content created in the cloud stays there). It is then available for playout without the high egress costs and is securely stored at significant cost savings.

The other big concern broadcasters have is that you cannot run live channels or live content from the cloud. We have real-world experience to show that’s not true.

At Imagine, we have implemented primary playout systems that feature live content. In the U.S., we recently equipped a SMPTE ST 2110 IP media operations center and cloud-hosted disaster recovery channels for Sinclair’s regional sports networks (RSN). For Sinclair’s Tennis Channel, we provided core infrastructure for a large-scale ST 2110 live production center featuring a  cloud-based environment for pop-up live events.

The biggest requirement for sports television is that live should be absolutely live: no one wants to hear their neighbors cheer and wait to find out why. Minimum latency is also critical for the big money business of sports books.

Sinclair spun up live channels around the 2021 Miami Open tennis tournament in March. All the playout, including the unpredictable live interventions associated with fitting commercial breaks into tennis matches, was hosted in the cloud, with operators sitting wherever was convenient and safe for them. And it was all completely transparent to the viewers.

So operations are made easier and you can definitely go live from the cloud.

The possibilities and attractions of playout in the cloud are becoming clear. In the final part of this blog series, I will talk about the practicalities of making it happen.

October 12, 2021 - By Michael Rebel
Director, Solution Architecture
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