Ken Kerschbaumer (00:00):
Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to our first discussion for the At-Home series, three week event, here at SVG that’ll cover various aspects of the whole move towards at-home production. As we know, the last two months to three months have really seen a big uptick in at-home production, some of it planned. Actually, almost none of it planned. But it’s been a great learning experience and we have some experts involved in the industry, to kind of share their thoughts with us. We have Kyle Arrowsmith, who is the MLB Network engineer. One of, I’m assuming, Kyle, correct?
Kyle Arrowsmith (00:30):
Ken Kerschbaumer (00:32):
Curt Bose, who is the MLB Network, NHL Networks senior manager, studio engineering. David Dukes, PGA Tour entertainment, senior director, technical operations. Greg Hopfe, PGA Tour entertainment, VP and executive producer. Greg, did I say that properly?
Greg Hopfe (00:48):
You got it.
Ken Kerschbaumer (00:48):
All right, good. As someone named Kerschbaumer, I get my name mispronounced all the time. So one of my goals is always to mispronounce other people’s names. And Alex Redfern, EVS, SVP, solutions architecture. Thanks, guys, for joining us. Great to see you all. Hope you’re all happy and healthy, most importantly.
Kyle Arrowsmith (01:04):
Happy to be here.
Curt Bose (01:04):
Nice to be here.
Ken Kerschbaumer (01:05):
Great. So let’s get right into it. I want to go back to the middle of march, because obviously that was an interesting timeframe for the industry. MLB Network, you guys were busy getting ready for the season, in the middle of spring training still. I was planning my fantasy baseball draft. The world was good. Dave, you and Greg were obviously in the middle of the TPC Players Championship, a really top notch production. Had the rug pulled out from under you, literally, in the middle of that show. And then, Alex, I know you were busy obviously gearing up for NAB, because EVS has some big plans with respect to NAB. So I wanted to start with the MLB Network. Kyle and Curt, can you walk through sort of those early days, and sort of how you kind of responded to the immediate crisis, which was I guess sort of, “What are we going to do now?” So can you kind of roll through that a little bit?
Curt Bose (01:57):
Sure, absolutely. Thanks for having us. We sort of stopped production, traditionally, in the middle of March. So our goal was to essentially get back on the, what would have been opening day. Which I think, Kyle, was what, the 25th of March, if I remember correctly?
Kyle Arrowsmith (02:12):
Sounds correct, yeah.
Curt Bose (02:13):
So that we sort of had a little bit of a deadline there, but we had a little bit of a window. And one of the things we had going for us was towards the end of last year, Kyle and some colleges started looking at some alternative control room systems, such as vMix, TriCaster and things like that. So we had some experience towards the end of last year, that sort of proved beneficial. So we had a little bit of a window before getting started. One of our lead TDs started vMix. We ended up using vMix for our production, and that’s what we continue to use for some of the at-home productions. And he started spinning up some stuff at home, testing with friends and family. In addition to Kyle and I working with the engineers on site, at the network, the limited staffing that was there, with limited people in the building, to try to get up a system that we could eventually transition over to.
So that’s what sort of led up to it. It was a little bit of figuring out as we go, a lot of abstract emails saying, “Hey, can you look in here and check for this patch and throw some cable this way.” And we haven’t been back in the building since the middle of March, so when we get back I’m sure… The folks in the building have just been a great job, trying to decipher that abstractness and get us on the air. We couldn’t have done it without the team there as well. [crosstalk 00:03:26] So that’s sort of how we started out.
Ken Kerschbaumer (03:29):
Curt Bose (03:29):
Kyle, you have anything else to add to that?
Kyle Arrowsmith (03:32):
Yeah. Those technologies were great to have to fall back to, and so quickly. I mean, one of the things that we did was just try it out and see what happens and see if those would suit our needs in a remote production.
Ken Kerschbaumer (03:51):
Right. Right. So vMix, I know not a lot of people are familiar with it. I mean, obviously a lot of people have become familiar with it. But for those who aren’t familiar with it, what does vMix bring to the table in terms of your operations?
Curt Bose (04:03):
vMix sort of provided us a one stop shop for our control room functionality, basic control room functionality, where it encompasses a switch or an audio console, some clip playback. And one of the benefits of doing vMix at home was it has it’s own proprietary vMix call system, that allows you to take callers in, similar to a Skype or a FaceTime, right into the system. And that allowed for us to have talent at home much more easily. To bring them right in, as opposed bringing in other systems into the vMix system. So that’s worked out well. And, Kyle, you can talk a little bit more about some of the TriCaster stuff we started using, and the ANDI as well, that sort of helped out.
Kyle Arrowsmith (04:44):
Yeah. I mean, we’re using the TriCaster in conjunction with this to kind of create a multi-viewer and do some audio routing with [Dante 00:04:55] as well. To just kind of make the experience for those others at home, the producers, research, graphics and all that, so that they can see kind of what’s going on in the production like they would in studio.
Ken Kerschbaumer (05:10):
Curt Bose (05:11):
And one of the things… I’m sorry, Ken.
Ken Kerschbaumer (05:12):
It’s okay. No, go ahead.
Curt Bose (05:14):
One of the things that we’re doing is the staff TDs are actually at home, so one of them is actually remoted… Nobody’s in the building running the switch or anything like that once it’s up and operational. So the TDs are running remotely into a PC that we have set up literally on a folding table. And they are able to do all the production from home just like they were there. We sent them X-keys, for quick key recall on certain functionalities. And the way we’ve been running is one TD’s the primary TD, and somebody’s been standing by, helping out if needed.
So if they have a network connection problem at their home, because we’re relying on people’s public internet to get this done, somebody can jump right in. Fortunately, we’ve been really good in that regard. Had a couple little things here and there that would be expected, if somebody’s internet connection blips. But I think early on we had one TD who [inaudible 00:06:03] or put up a triple box or something, got disconnected, got back in right away. You wouldn’t even note it, moved right along without missing a beat. So it’s been quite an excellent experience actually.
Ken Kerschbaumer (06:12):
Great. Great. So, Dave and Greg, I wanted to bring you into this conversation. Because, Dave, you and I spoke, probably on March 10th or 11th, and all was right in the world. I mean, obviously we knew it wasn’t quite fully right, but we were hoping it was going to be right enough until the following Monday. So walk through that for both of you, as far as that weekend. Because you had the golf on Thursday, and it was awesome, I loved it. And you had project we’ll discuss, the Every Shot Live. Which was also amazing, and really an at-home project. So walk us through that Thursday and then going into the Friday, and just that challenge that you had. So let’s start with the good news on the Thursday. Let’s start with this at-home project. So can you discuss that a little bit? Because Every Shot Live was quite amazing, so let’s discuss that project and how that kind of came together.
David Dukes (07:01):
Yeah. Greg, you want to go, or you want me to start?
Greg Hopfe (07:03):
David Dukes (07:04):
Yeah. So we were literally right in the middle of PLAYERS week. We got the round one Thursday, fans on course. NBC was there. All of our international partners obviously were there on site. We were doing the Every Shot Live initiative, which we were really excited about and remain excited about. Unfortunately, it kind of got lost a little bit in the shuffle of everything that happened. But it was a surreal time, I would say for the week. Obviously, everybody experienced similar things. Being right in the middle of a major production was a little disappointing obviously. Things, obviously as everybody knows, were changing literally by the hour. In terms of information coming in, that was the same day, that Thursday, obviously we started seeing all the various cancellations around the industry. The NCAA Tournament and other things started dropping.
So it evolved over the course of, we were going to play maybe second round without fans, to quickly a matter of hours later, that it was not happening at all. It was disappointing. But to shift gears on to the Every Shot Live, to focus on the at-home models that we’re discussing here. Really exciting project, and Greg can talk a little bit more about some of the background of it. We’ve been working for probably 18 to 24 months, getting ready for the project. We covered every single group on the course Thursday. The idea was all four rounds. We certainly got it all done on Thursday, allowing our fans both on our platforms, particularly PGA TOUR LIVE platform, as well as our international audience through various international partners, to really go on and be able to select which player they wanted to watch.
So we had I think up to 30 streams running Thursday, at it’s peak live streams. They were all being done, largely switched through a Hawkeye interface, that the guys at Hawkeye worked with us on, that was really, really well laid out. We had 35 operators, most of which were in London, at the Hawkeye facility, that were technically your guys that were switching each group, each string. So the Hawkeye interface that they were working with essentially gave them access to only the selection of four to six cameras that were covering that hole. And then when they would move, one operator followed one group all the way through one through 18. So as a group moved from hole to hole, that operators interface would essentially change. When he would hit next hole when his group’s moving to the next hole, he’s only going to now see the cameras for that next hole.
And then Greg and his team built a rundown essentially, for each operator that allowed them to really follow a pretty consistent model of how they were covering the hole. So that we kind of got some consistency across those 25 to 30 streams. So that was built into the interface as well, so basically the operator was able to see, here are my tee shots, okay, after the tee shots, I’m going to go to a hole fly over. And as he kind of would click through that rundown, everybody’s following generally the same model. So that worked really, really well I thought as a whole. We had graphics that were pulling directly from our ShotLink data, that were built into the same platform. So the operator could chose from kind of a preselected number of graphics. Whether it be a hole pop, or a lower third, or a mini leaderboard that showed those three players, various things like that, that he could pull up and pull out.
Obviously all the data was being pulled directly into it from ShotLink. So really exciting project. We got some really, really good feedback from it, for the one round that we got done. Certainly excited about continuing it on, hopefully next year at PLAYERS, and potentially beyond. And, Greg, I’ll let you add anything you may want to add to that.
Greg Hopfe (11:19):
Yeah. I think the format and rundown was important, because the people in London, we just weren’t sure how familiar they were with golf. So we really made it very easy for them to follow along like David said, aerial after the tee shot, after second shots, go to this graphic that was evergreen. It was a massive partnership with NBC Golf Channel, because what we did was, we took the camera plan that NBC had from the year prior, took our camera plan, and then we added wherever there was dark spots, or moving cameras. So I had to actually go over to the NBC compound during their camera meeting, and their director was kind enough to let me speak to everybody about holding shots. And you have to remember, these guys are 25 years of following golf balls, and having someone direct them in their ear. Now, they’re silent and they have to hold their… I was asking for an on-air shot the entire time. So incredible partnership with all the camera men.
And just going back real quick to that day. To David’s point, it was so surreal. I drove in a compound, pitch dark, 5:30 in the morning, and sun up, 7:00, first tee ball, we were so excited. And we literally were talking all week, that we thought we would be the last event we could get it, because we knew a lot of things were shutting down. And around noon that day, Commissioner Monahan announced to everybody that we’d be doing the Friday and the rest of the week without fans. So again, we had excitement. We’re like, “Everyone’s going to want this product even more so.” And I got a call from our chief media officer around 2:00 in the afternoon and he said, “Can you do a head count on what the least amount of people for PGA TOUR LIVE would be?”
And I think there had been some conversation with the governor of Florida and the commissioner, and they knew there was going to be potentially like a cap on how many people could be on the grounds and that sort of thing. And then 10:00 that night, I got a call from the comms team that they were going to cancel the event. So from 5:30 that morning, the excitement of what we were doing, to 10:00 that night, we’re just heartbroken for everyone that had put so much into it.
Ken Kerschbaumer (13:14):
Yeah. Yeah. One more question on the Every Shot Live. I mean, we’re you concerned at all about having things done across the Atlantic, and having to get stuff there and then back, in terms of delays and latency? How did that work out in the end?
David Dukes (13:29):
Actually, it worked out really, really well. So Hawkeye had not the same interface, but Hawkeye had worked obviously with the Masters’ group, when they did their kind of Every Shot scenario for the previous Masters. They were doing it a little differently. They were doing it more of a VOD style, where the clips themselves would get posted after the fact, after the shot was taken. So when we decided to do it live, we kind of had to rejigger that. But the underlying technology that Hawkeye uses for their remote accesses, is kind of built largely from the gaming industry. It’s an extremely low latency. So really latency, it did not present itself as an issue at all. We were really impressed with that aspect of it, that we had studied a little bit from what they had done with Masters.
Mike Raimondo, one of our team, had worked closely with the group up at Augusta when they were going through that. So he had some good knowledge about what they were doing up there. And then James Japhet and his team from Hawkeye, really, really were great to work with, in terms of kind of modifying what we needed really to do this in the live aspect. And then as we did it, it started to grow, in terms of what we thought we wanted to present to the fans and what we could do. And it worked really, really well. All the distribution was another kind of first for us as well, that I didn’t touch on earlier. So we really distributed this through all of our international partners via AWS, using their MediaConnect product, which was really the first kind of [inaudible 00:15:11] that we had done with that. And that worked quite well as well, because depending on the international partner, some took all streams, some took a subset of streams.
Which was quite honestly, one of the original ideas behind this product, was it gives us the opportunity to really have our partners in specific parts of the world be able to focus on players that they may be interested in, that may or may not be covered in a normal international broadcast, depending on where they happen to be in the leaderboard or where they happen to be sitting in the tournament. For instance, our Swedish partner could basically focus on Swedish players, et cetera, et cetera. You get the idea behind that. So yeah, it was a, to echo Greg, major, major effort across everybody involved, us, NBC, obviously the Hawkeye group, all of our teams and our crews. I think we had a 120 total cameras on the course, across NBC and PGA Tour. About 93 of those were being used for the Every Shot Live initiative. So I think we had about 63, 65 total staff just focused on ESL, related to this. So a really exciting product, and we’re looking forward to hopefully continuing it.
Ken Kerschbaumer (16:27):
Sure, sure. Well, let’s get to some good news. Recently you both were involved with a production of the Skins’ charity game, that featured Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Michael Wolff and also Rickie Fowler. Not quite 120 cameras. Do you want to kind of briefly walk through that show a little bit? And then what is that an example of, in terms of the future of again, at-home and remote productions?
Greg Hopfe (16:52):
Yeah. So right after the pandemic, again our Chief Media Officer Rick Anderson, called me and said… We kind of assumed that the way sports, at least golf would come back, would be this type of thing. It’d be two or four players. We’re not going to go out with 144 man field. So we worked up a production plan and had it ready. And it kind of dovetailed off of what we’ve done with our bonded cellular technology. We first tried it two years ago when Steph Curry played in a Korn Ferry, at that time Web.com tour event. And it was against the PGA Championship, so PGA TOUR LIVE didn’t have the rights to that. So we’re like, “Hey, we should try it. But yet, we don’t want to put the entire cost into what a normal PGA TOUR LIVE event would be.”
So we went out there two years ago, and it had its challenges. There was some breakup and latency in audio. And we learned quite a bit from it. David and Michael Raimondo learned quite a bit from it. And it got better, and to the point where we had some experience with this before TaylorMade event, because we did six PGA Tour events with it last fall. We did the fall events, where the crowds typically aren’t as big and the fields might not have a Tiger Woods in it or something like that. So we felt like we could do it a bit more cost effectively and those would be the events to really try this technology. And it worked great last fall, so then we did a Korn Ferry event in the Bahamas in January. So we were really embracing the bonded cellular technology.
And then this week, when we went to TaylorMade, I had six cameras, one plane and we had Toptracer on two of the cameras. But from the get-go, the idea for the PGA Tour and NBC Golf Channel, was that we were going to do this project to raise money, and we were going to adhere to all the CDC guidelines. So the goal was the smallest footprint possible. We had 28 people onsite and 23 in our building. So to do a production like that on NBC Sports with 51 people, spread across three locations if you count Mike Tirico in his home in Michigan, is a massive undertaking. And, David, you can probably get into some of the precautions we took in our own building.
David Dukes (19:07):
Yeah. Obviously, we’re all taking the same precautions, whether it be in a broadcast center, or whether it be on site. In this case with REMI productions, you’re really looking at two different scenarios depending on how you’re doing the road piece. In the case of an individual working in their home, probably not so much. But if you’re working from a broadcast center with multiple people, you’ve got the same equations that you’re going through onsite, obviously to make sure that it’s safe for everybody involved. So yeah, to echo Greg, it was really we were hyper, hyper focused on really keeping the footprint as minimal as possible onsite. And that really quite honestly drove the bonded cell discussion as well. And to Greg’s point, we felt that we had developed a good comfort level with it, because we had probably eight or 10 events that we had done between Korn Ferry tour and some of our fall series events, all ready under our belt with it.
We’d used various versions of the technology. We did some of them with LiveU. And then we’ve done some with Haivision, which was what we used in the case of the TaylorMade scenario. Both preformed really well. To echo what Greg was saying, you know where your drawbacks are coming into that, and you try to minimize them obviously. Things like shading cameras can be, obviously, a challenge to say the least, to do remotely. You’re really not actively shading like you normally would in golf, with somebody riding that iris obviously, as you’re doing ball follows and the camera’s going up in the sky and back. So, you obviously lose a little bit on that. It’s really more about camera matching at that point, and more subtle adjustments. But really the comms have gotten much, much better across all of these systems. In terms of it used to be a little bit of a kludge to try to build out comms through your phone while you were doing the bonded cell. Now most of it has become more integrated, which is a big help obviously on it. So yeah, all in all, we were really, really pleased with it.
Ken Kerschbaumer (21:10):
Excellent. Awesome. Alex, thank you for being so patient. And I must say, I’ve noticed this over all the videos we’ve done in the last few weeks. A lot of people say the bookshelf behind you, is [inaudible 00:21:20] where you kind of showoff how smart you are. In our industry, I swear to God, it’s all about the guitars behind you. I’ve seen at least five or six collections of guitars. So those are very lovely behind you.
Alex Redfern (21:29):
Thank you. Guitars and keyboards is what I’ve seen in the industry as well. [crosstalk 00:21:33]
Ken Kerschbaumer (21:32):
There you go. Exactly, exactly. So I know one of the big things that I’ve heard the last few weeks, as far with NASCAR coming back and with the golf that was one, is one of the first areas where people say, “Well, let’s try to get less people on site.” And one of the first areas they say is, “Let’s see if we can do EVS replay from home base,” if you will. So can you talk about what you’ve heard the last month or two, as far as this move towards sort of remote replay operations? And then what’s next from EVS, to kind of help enable the next generation- [crosstalk 00:22:03]
Alex Redfern (22:02):
Yeah. So EVS kind of makes sense, because I think generally there’s maybe one or two audio ops. There’s a switcher. There’s generally one or two of most things on site. But with EVS ops, there can be 10, 15 and often they’re sat shoulder to shoulder in a very confined space. So in terms of social-distancing, it’s a nightmare to be honest. It’s also something that as a workflow, is relatively easy to remote. You can use pretty much off the shelf technologies to do it. It’s just not many people have done it before, for whatever reason. Often the EVS ops are in the B-unit or the replay unit or something like that, so they’re not in the main truck. And it’s a case of sort of starting to put distance between those two trucks effectively, the main A-unit maybe and the B-unit.
And there were people doing it, but I think we went into these last few months knowing that pretty much the primary remote production method was this kind of at-home, where we bring all the feeds back into the building. We produce in the building, we have a switcher in the building, but we bring the feeds back. What we’ve seen over the last two months is a real switch to wanting to control things remotely, wanting to keep the infrastructure onsite, because then you can maintain bandwidth. Bringing 1080P feeds back, bringing UHD feeds back, is often more of a challenge because you need more bandwidth, you need lower latencies and things like that. So if you can keep the infrastructure onsite, but remove the operators, it really, really benefits you. And certainly, if you can bring back five, 10, 15 operators, depending on the scale of the production.
So I mean the challenges you need to solve really, are you need to bring back multi-viewers so they can see what they’re doing. You need to bring back their hardware remote controls, and it needs to be as reactive as it would be in the truck because they are fast operators, they’re used to working very, very quickly. And they’re used to when they press play, the screen in front of them plays. And if there’s any form of latency in that, that can disrupt their flow basically. It can change how they operate. But we’ve seen a shift to that model, that is really since the middle of March, that’s all anyone has wanted to talk about. And we’ve seen, as you just said, NASCAR coming back. And this idea of, I think it was described as the replay farm. Where there’s a bunch of replay ops in a building, socially-distanced, where they are in pods effectively, but they’re controlling servers on the truck.
And that was something that we put a lot of effort into, as soon as this kind of hit, it was a case of reaching out to our customers and saying, “How can we help? What can we do to help you? What information do you need from us? What feedback can we give you? And so we’ve started testing that. It’s interesting, because when you’re doing it from a broadcast center or from a farm, it’s kind of like you have maybe better quality audio monitoring, maybe better quality video monitoring. You kind of have those facilities available to you. People have obviously wanted to do this from home, and that’s where it gets really interesting, because-
Ken Kerschbaumer (24:48):
You mean home, home?
Alex Redfern (24:50):
I mean home, home. I mean like my spare bedroom or my garage or something like that. And that’s been the challenge. Is, “I have a computer monitor and I have a Mesh wifi network. Well, I need cable. So how do I plug it in? What’s the quality of service on my internet connection? How do I go through security protocols and DTNs, firewalls, that kind of thing, to be able to connect?” So we’ve seen a mass increase in the security side of things, when people actually want to do this from home. That changes everything really, because it’s a case of how do I connect to broadcast centers. So that’s been something that we’ve really seen an increase in. And every major broadcaster, I mean across the world as well, this is not just a US thing necessarily, everyone has wanted to do it. And the people who’ve been successful are the people who kind of just dive straight in. And they’re embracing off the shelf technologies.
Our old remote, I’ll talk about the new one in a minute, but our old remote, of which the market is heavily reliant on an RS-422. You need RS-422 to IP converters. Well, they’re off the shelf. Honestly, you can pick them up off Amazon for a few bucks. They work. They’re easy to work with. And the same for transporting the clip screen that the operator works with. There’s three or four different ways to do and I can’t say what the best solution is. It’s something that’s down to whoever’s providing the infrastructure, whoever the truck owner is, whoever the broadcast center owner is. And the same for encoding the feed. I want that multi-viewer in front of me. I’ve seen people use Zoom. I’ve seen people use Teams. I’ve seen people use very expensive encoder and decoder combinations. It’s really hard to say one is better than the other, but they’re the kind of three problems that you have to solve.
What EVS has done to make that a bit simpler, is an of couple days we announced the release of the LSM-VIA. So LSM-VIA is the new remote control. It’s the one that will work with XT-VIA. Brand new, complete shift for EVS. 25 years, we’ve had the same remote. So it’s a big deal for us. It’s the biggest thing the company’s ever done. But one of the key features of that, was remote production. We need to be ready for remote production. What COVID did, is completely flip the roadmap. Where we had said we want to be ready to replace the existing LSM with remote production coming three, four, five, six months down the road as we sort of roll this out. What we had to do very quickly, like in the space of a week or so, is just say, “We need to flip this. This is going to go on, and as this releases in May, it needs to be ready for remote production from day one.
So things like being based on an IP network, based on ethernet connectivity. Things like having your clients serve an architecture, where the client can generate the multi-viewer, the client can generate the clip screen. I can install a VPN client on that client, and then you don’t need hardware firewalls, I don’t need connective, I don’t need converters. So, that’s really where we’ve changed. We’ve put a lot of emphasis over the last, well five, six, seven weeks, however long it’s been now. I’ve lost track. But the other thing we’ve had to do as a company, as I said, is completely flip roadmaps, completely flip development cycles. Really, in some respects, teach our development teams why this is important, what remote production means and what these forms of remote production mean.
So it’s been a really fascinating time. And obviously, I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to a whole range of broadcasters, a whole range of production companies, of everything, about how this is going to affect them. And I think they’ll just be more at-home productions in the future. It’s just something that we will see more of a distributive approach. Because that’s the other key thing, is when we talk about at-home or remote, but actually people who’ve told us they want to move into this model are talking about having an operator on the truck, maybe the lead EVP op, and a couple of operators in the broadcast center and a couple of operators at home. And they’re all acting in the same environment. And it’s this distributed model, as opposed to a true remote, or a true at-home or… And that’s been a major change. That’s been something that has really impacted us in a big way.
Ken Kerschbaumer (28:53):
Yeah, sure. So for Curt and Kyle, how has this impacted your roadmaps, as far as your technology deployments? And I guess the one question that Alex kind of hinted at, was you have everybody working from home, so how did you kind of get everybody on the same page, as far as their technical capabilities? I talked with [Tab 00:29:10] a few weeks back, he said VPNs was an issue early on. Talk about those challenges of getting everybody on the same page when they’re all working in different environments, literally.
Curt Bose (29:18):
I think when Alex said, when he was talking it made me think of one of the points I had, was getting people access to broadcast equipment that are not sitting out there in the public. So whether it be an EVS in generally, or it could be intercom soft panels, or a large Riedel installation, they have their own software panel, but that was sitting behind our broadcast network. That’s one of the challenges. We’ve sort of worked through everyone as it comes, working very closely with the IT department. It’s been a really good collaborative effort. We generally work as a tight knit group anyway, but now it’s been even tighter because we have to collaborate that much more. And whether Kyle and myself have access to certain things, but somebody like our A1, who’s not exactly is related to the vMix conversation, but they wanted to do some work at home as well, to manage the music on our ENCO music player.
So we got him access to his desktop PC, then hopped from there to an ENCO machine. And then gave him a listen in our Unity intercom, to allow him to do what he needed to do. He doesn’t need full stereo or anything like that, just a mono mix, just to listen to what he’s doing. So things like that have sort of come to the forefront. And getting people in to access the gear they need to access, that they don’t normally have access to. Things like Unity intercom has been a big one, because that hangs in the public internet. So we can rely on the end user, because they’re flexible with as far as what it can get installed on, to just install. And our tech managers put a really quick SOP together on, “Here’s what you need to do and here’s how you need to get connected.” And it’s been great. And they go to a Zoom room sometimes and show people what to do, and we get on that way. And people have been allowed to manage whatever gear they have to get online with comms in that particular case.
Ken Kerschbaumer (31:00):
Sure, sure. What I find fascinating, is the last two to three years we’ve all heard the move to IP, right? So SVI is dead, that was the big one originally. Then it was IPs good enough, but you know what? We really have to wait for 2110. And now the thing I’ve heard more than ever, the last six weeks is, “Thank God for NDI.” It’s been like so… I’m kind of confused, because I thought 2110 was supposed to do everything. So, Kyle, from your perspective, why has NDI… I don’t want to say it’s had a resurge, but explain why it’s been so important- [crosstalk 00:31:29]
Kyle Arrowsmith (31:29):
I think the ease of use here has been the key. It’s super simple to set up. You plug it in. You turn it on, and then you can discover it from another device. That’s really helped us use it in the cases that we have with vMix and just relying on that technology too. Yes, it’s compressed, so we can fit more down a smaller pipe as well. So those are the two main keys that have helped us out with this show.
Ken Kerschbaumer (31:59):
Curt Bose (32:00):
I think the one thing we found too, is the [QNQC 00:32:03] is a little challenging remotely. We rely a lot on Zoom for that same ease of use. We’ll put a multi-viewer, that Kyle mentioned earlier, that’s generated by the TriCaster up on a Zoom call. So the nice thing about Zoom is, just like we’re doing here, everybody can see it real easy, it’s a link, here you go, put a password on it. You get in, everybody can be a part of the show. Same thing with the Unity stuff. But when it comes down to, “Did you hear a click in that audio? Is there a popping?” Or, “Did you hear that?” And then Kyle and I have gone back and fourth a couple of times and said, “Hey, can you listen to this, because I’m hearing a pop?” And we’re using some technical, mathematic encoders to look at a higher quality return feed at home. But the return feed, it’s also based on the quality of my internet. So if I have a hiccup or a burp, I may hear something that Kyle doesn’t. So it’s a lot of back and fourth.
And we’ve gone so far, in the early days of getting things set up, to say to the engineer in the shop, “Hey, can you route up this source and listen to it on an actual QC station and see what it sounds like?” And also relying on the editors on the end result to say, “Hey, was this okay?” “Yes, it was. Hey, we heard this.” So it’s those types of things we’ve had to figure out along the way. And we’ve got into a pretty good grove on knowing what’s correct and where to actually check to be most correct, I guess would be the best way to say it.
Ken Kerschbaumer (33:16):
Sure, sure. Well, Alex, can you kind of touch on that a little bit? Because obviously, the last two to three years, EVS has sort of transformed into a company that does a lot more than simply just the replay devices. And there is a lot of emphasis on quality control and network quality, so can you talk about some of those tools that have been kind of coming out? And also the Axon acquisition, and where that kind of fits in? Because I know a lot of people in the US are not quite as familiar as people are in the UK, and in Asia. [crosstalk 00:33:41]
Alex Redfern (33:41):
Yeah. So just to start with Axon, EVS acquired Axon about a month or so ago. Axon are an infrastructure company, immediate infrastructure basically. So it’s routing, it’s glue, it’s multi-viewers and router control. And that’s really interesting for us, because we’ve always had a product that is the SDN layer, that sits above the switch fabric. So when we talk about routing 2110, that’s where that sits, above the switch fabric. But without having the control layer above it, the actual hardware panels, the actual sort of interface to press buttons, it was always a struggle to bring that to market. So that was quite a tactical acquisition, let’s say. It was very complementary. There’s no crossover between any of the products, and it sits really nicely around that 2110, that IP routing layer.
Now what’s interesting is, you touched on it earlier, the idea of the compressed flows. That’s something that we have had to change our ideas on pretty quickly. We still value 2110. It’s still seems to be the way. It scales well. It’s what everyone seems to be going for in a fixed facility. But when we start talking about remotes, the idea of supporting compressed flows, both to be able to route them like you would route SDI, like you would route 2110. As well as to be able to process them, to run them through glue, to run them through inter servers and things like that, is something that we’ve had to do a complete about turn on. Because NDI, SRT, they were always thought of, I think, as sort of a bit more pro AV or a bit more sort of lower level, a bit below the broadcast industry. And suddenly, they are here, they are here to stay. And everyone is saying, “Yeah, we’ll probably keep using them. They’re quite interesting to us. Maybe we won’t use them in the same scale as we will SDI to 2110.”
And I’m unsure if I’m seeing people, at the moment, want to transition from an 1024×1024 SDI router to something that does that scale of NDI. But we’re certainly seeing that with 2110. But to be able to support those compressed flows is really, really important to us. At all bandwidths as well. Because we can be talking about [inaudible 00:35:42] all the way up to sort of JPEG XS, J2K, NDI, potentially much higher bandwidths, but still much lower than 2110.
Ken Kerschbaumer (35:51):
Right, right. Great. So Dave and Greg, I mean obviously at TPC, at the PLAYERS, you showed sort of these new at-home workflows. One of the shows that has always been said you can’t really do at home. You always heard this also, “If the show is too big, you really got to be on site. You can’t really do it from remote locations.” But I don’t know what you can talk about, as far as next month with hopefully getting the return of golf. But it sound like you are believing in this new era of decentralized operations, distributed backups, all kinds of things. Anything you can talk about those workflows at this point at all?
Greg Hopfe (36:26):
Go ahead, David.
David Dukes (36:28):
Yeah. Well I was going to say, in terms of the specifics, with obviously the tours been working very closely with CBS, as far as when we return on June 11th and then obviously for the events following that. I don’t know that I can get into a ton of specifics. Greg may have a little bit more information on that aspect of it. But generally speaking, Ken, from my perspective, and then I’ll let Greg pick up, you’re absolutely correct. I think you’re going to have to start looking at these. And as unfortunate as an incident like this that’s facing the world is right now, it is providing a little bit of a… It may be an overstatement to call it an evolutionary leap. But it’s certainly advancing what was already in motion, with regard to researching at-home work flows, doing at-home shows, smaller shows. Obviously, it’s gotten into larger shows by necessity. So it think that ultimately is going to be the legacy of this, is it’s going to advance all of that. And then I’ll let Greg kind of chime in more specifically on the planning for Colonial, when we return in June.
Ken Kerschbaumer (37:36):
Yeah, I know. Obviously, you probably can’t speak specifics. But necessity is the mother of invention, so I guess that’s what we’re dealing with here.
Greg Hopfe (37:44):
Right. We’re on calls with CBC, because as you know, before the pandemic, PGA Tour Entertainment shares a compound and infrastructure with the host network. So we’re sharing signals, we get their camera signals. We share power. We share tracing. So we’re in conversations with them about what is CBS’s testing and screening going to be? What is the 58 something people that do PGA TOUR LIVE, how are we going to screen? And more importantly, how are we going to share signals? So we’re talking to Mike Francis and Patty Power about how do our teams coexist in that compound, in a safe and efficient manner? That’s really our main concentration right now. And then back at PGA Tour Entertainment, we were spread out across several rooms for the TaylorMade event.
It’s probably not practical, as we start to roll back into the building a little bit with [inaudible 00:38:35] people in there. So how do we stay safe in the building, glass partitions and things like that. And then as far as what we’ve learned, and what David touched on, is that I think we proven not only in the fall, but with Sunday, that there is a place for this type of production. Especially, if you look at a Korn Ferry or our Champions tours. I think those are perfect models. I’m sure the baseball guys use the minor leagues as their testing ground for things. And I think this is something that we can definitely carry into, and possibly get more Korn Ferry events on television because of it.
Ken Kerschbaumer (39:07):
Right, right, right. Well, Curt and Kyle, let’s just to close out. So how many people right now are on your “remote network” are working remotely from home? How many people are sharing editing systems and servers?
Curt Bose (39:21):
So I did a quick count on what we were using this morning, in a traditional show. As far as people doing the actual show through vMix, we’re looking at low 20s, not including the editors. I’m not quite sure how many editors they have deployed for it. And that’s not including, I know there’s an acquisition operator who’s at home, setting up records and things like that, and like master control. But just the people that are actually doing the actual recording of the show, was in the low 20s. Including Kyle and myself, and there’s like I mentioned before, two TDs. So we’re usual around in case there’s an issue or anything like that, to help out with.
Ken Kerschbaumer (39:55):
Right. Great. Excellent.
Curt Bose (39:56):
Sort of like just supporting like we are in the building actually. It’s been very similar. We’re just not there. We’re just in a Zoom room, sort of hanging out, and the TDs are there, and other people can jump in and out. And a tech manager would say, “Hey, this is coming up.” Or, “We got this.” Or we can catch up, just like… The Zoom room is jokingly, one of the tech managers said it’s sort of like our virtual desk. Everybody comes around the cube, so to speak, our virtual cube, and just have a conversation just like they normally would. We’re just scattered across everybody’s homes.
Ken Kerschbaumer (40:23):
Sure. Sure. I want to thank all of you for joining us today. Obviously, cannot wait for baseball. Even if it comes back September 1st, I’ll take it. Give me a month. And obviously, golf, high on my list, so hopefully it all comes back. I know Alex is in the same boat. We’re all routing for [inaudible 00:40:39] to get back to normal. Alex, get back to celebrating your anniversary. Thank you for joining us. Because it is evening time where you are right now, so appreciate that.
Alex Redfern (40:47):
Ken Kerschbaumer (40:48):
And everybody stay safe please. Thanks. [crosstalk 00:40:51]
Alex Redfern (40:52):
David Dukes (40:52):