At-home production and REMI — an acronym that non-tech leaders may not know — have grown in importance over the last several years. It was only accelerated by the pandemic. Thus, having Jim Jachetta, EVP/Chief Technology Officer of VidOvation, as Adam R Jacobson’s guest on the latest InFOCUS Podcast couldn’t be timelier.
Jachetta shares some of the “5 Essential Elements of At-Home Live Remote Production Workflows” and discusses how local news organizations can best take advantage of this.
This is the RBR-TVBR InFocus Podcast. Here’s your host, Radio and Television Business Report Editor-in-Chief, Adam R. Jacobson.
Adam R Jacobson:
Hello, friends. Welcome to the podcast. Joining us today is Jim Jachetta. He is the executive vice president and chief technology officer at Vidovation.
It’s an Anaheim-based AV equipment supplier and tech integrator of video, audio, and data transmission, contribution, and distribution systems serving the broadcast television industry.
Jim is here today to educate our viewers on some innovative ways one can engage in at-home production for live television, sports, and reality TV. Let’s find out what he has to share. Shall we? Jim, welcome to the podcast.
Hi, Adam. Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Adam R Jacobson:
Always great to learn about new and innovative ways to bring production to the home, which is something that is unfortunately a little bit more common than perhaps we thought two years ago at this time.
Let’s start our conversation with the topic of at-home production and REMI. An acronym that non-tech leaders may not really know. Thus, it’s great to have you here, as you’ve put together five essential elements of at-home live remote production workloads.
To begin, I’d like to discuss how local news organizations can best take advantage of this.
At-home production or REMI production. REMI is … We all love an acronym, so REMI is an acronym for remote integration. But at-home production, I think, describes the workflow perfectly. Particularly, over the last two years.
Originally at-home meant at home at your master control, at home at your studio. Your home studio. Your home master control. Now, it’s really your home in some cases. People are working from home, so that description is perfect for the workflow.
As far as local news, local news can use this technology. We do a lot with sports. We do a lot with reality TV. We’re doing a lot of fishing tournaments, believe it or not. We’re doing a lot of work with the PGA. The fundamental definition is … The old-school approach of doing a remote production is to have a big truck on site or multiple trucks and 25, 50, 100 people on site.
You have to put them all in hotels. You have to feed them. You have to fly them to the site. The trucks are not inexpensive. You have to rent the trucks. With at-home production, we just send maybe the camera operators, the cameras, and then all the signals are sent home back to master control.
You cut your crew down to a dozen people from 100 people. Something like that. It saves costs, it saves logistics. In COVID, people weren’t allowed on site. Really, at-home production or REMI was the only workflow that was permissible.
Adam R Jacobson:
Now, there’s a lot that can be looked at in that sense. When it comes to reduction of staff, that’s certainly an important cost-saving factor in all this. But as a viewer, there’s also things like frame-accurate genlock and lip sync.
Having that across multiple cameras is just so important. I’d imagine that it is even more important to the production team. What can you say about that need when it comes to the remote environment?
That’s a great question. The frame-accurate genlock and lip sync. I’m going to assume your listeners are pretty technical. But if the video … This is for multi-camera workflows. If you’re doing sports … Even news, you have multiple cameras.
But certainly in sports, you could have dozens of cameras. We’ve done live reality TV shows where there’s 60 cameras. Not all of them are in the same area, but there could be a dozen cameras in close proximity.
When they switch from camera one to camera two, if they’re out of sync with each other … It’d be like, “Wait a minute. I just saw that basket go in the hoop. Why am I seeing it again?”
Or more annoying is if the audio is out of sync. The human eye can tolerate a little bit of inconsistencies visually, but it’s very … If there were the echo, if the microphones were all out of sync. That’s our number one requirement.
We encourage anyone trying to attempt at-home production workflow, they need to have a system that the video and the audio across all the cameras are in perfect sync. Otherwise, it’s not going to work very well. As you say, Adam, the user experience is not going to be very good.
Adam R Jacobson:
The use of unmanaged networks, Jim, may be viewed as risky by some. With recent stories considering the hacking, if you will, of some major broadcast media companies’ servers.
Having cyber criminals hold these companies for ransom. Is tapping into a public network a smart move when achieving the best live remote production workflow?
Yes. That can be our customer’s concern. We have to put their mind at ease. As human beings, we’re all a little hesitant to change. We know the old workflow works and it’s … The Super Bowl went off the air for 45 minutes a few years ago. Well, it’s probably going on a decade now.
No one ever would’ve imagined that happening. It ended up being a power distribution issue, not a transmission redundancy issue. The problem can creep up anywhere. We do need to address reliability and redundancies. Not only in our transmission, but in our power and our personnel, power distribution, et cetera.
But customers can be concerned about that. Yes, you save a lot of money if you have a dedicated fiber or a Metro Ethernet fiber, an MPLS network … Something with a service-level agreement behind it. Even those don’t guarantee 100% uptime. They can go down, so you want redundancy.
What we typically do or recommend to our customers is to use a diversity of unmanaged networks. What do we mean by unmanaged networks? The public internet is one. Another medium that we like to use is cellular.
We will bond the public internet cellular wifi altogether. We will use multiple cellular carriers. We can get very close to the reliability of a fiber connection, and maintain very good if not excellent video quality over that unmanaged connection.
Adam R Jacobson:
Before I conclude … I wanted to see if you could perhaps explain some of the differences between this technology and bringing a live workflow into a broadcast environment compared to streaming.
Because I still think that in the C-Suite, there’s some misunderstanding or lack of full comprehension of what it takes to do this work for a broadcast environment in the cloud. An at-home environment versus what it would take to get streaming technology up.
Or if it’s all rolled into the same thing … What can you share? Again, that person that’s really financially based in the C-Suite. That needs to sign off on a purchase order for something involving this technology?
Well, I think that the C-Suite on occasion will think there’s something wrong with the proposal. They’ll be like, “There’s two or three zeros missing on the cost to do at-home production. Can we really achieve that amount of savings?”
We’ve been concentrating on cost today, or I’ve been going down the cost road. But today, it’s more about content, I think. Cost is always in the forefront, but I think there’s so many streaming platforms. Many of them want live content.
What we’re talking about is a live workflow. This is not so much for scripted. But the technology can be used for scripted, produced shows. Letting executives see what’s happening on the production … But that’s a separate conversation.
Why does at-home production technology give us the ability to create more content? Right now, all production companies, broadcasters, sports leagues … They’re struggling finding people that are willing to work.
A lot of the older personnel are deciding to retire. They’re retiring may be a little bit early, or they’re just retiring at the normal time. We’re not seeing backfill of younger people coming into the workforce.
Particularly, in media, broadcast, and production. Your skilled workers. Your skilled laborers. For example, in sports, instant replay operators. That’s a very unique and challenging skill. There’s not enough operators to go around.
With the old workflow, an operator would go on the road and maybe do one football game on a Sunday or one basketball game on a Saturday. And then, have to fly back home. Back to master control. Back to headquarters. A skilled operator could do maybe two or three events a week.
If the skilled operator is working from their house or working from their central location, their master control … They could do one, two, or three games a day. They could do a game … Say the operator is in LA. They could do a midday game on the East Coast from home. And then, an afternoon game on the West Coast.
Three games in one day, maybe that’s not practical. But they certainly can do one or two a day, instead of one or two productions a week. That maximizes … A lot of these people are freelance. If they’re in a plane, they’re not being paid.
If they’re traveling, they’re not usually getting paid for their travel time. They can fill up their work week with multiple events, dozens of events, instead of one or two. The silver lining for all of that, to the C-Suite, is the ability to generate far more content. Get more coverage. I think that’s a big benefit.
Adam R Jacobson:
The partial list of the companies that Vidovation has worked with include ABC and the Walt Disney Company, Bell Canada, CBS, CNN, Fox, News 12 Long Island, which is part of Altice USA, and MSG networks. There’s some heavy duty clients here.
And if you’d like to learn a little bit more about the company, that is our focal point of conversation today. Visit vidovation.com. That is V-I-D-O-V-A-T-I-O-N dot com.
It is a pleasure to be speaking with Jim Jachetta from Vidovation on this podcast. He is the executive vice president and chief technology officer at the company. Do you have any closing thoughts before we go ahead and say goodbye on this podcast?
Well, Adam, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here with you. I’m honored to be speaking to your audience, speaking with you. I’ll come back anytime. If you invite me back, I’ll be here.
Our team and I, we think of ourselves as problem solvers. A lot of these shows we do, these productions that we help with … Never imagined we would do them. We were brought into this crazy live reality TV show called Live PD. The customer had no idea how to do the show even if it was possible.
We had some ideas how to do the show and we collaborated and problem-solved with the customer. We were able to help our customer create one of cable TV’s number one TV shows. It hasn’t been canceled. We were hoping it comes back.
But we would love to help any of your listeners with their broadcast media at-home production workflows, whatever it might be. We’d love to help your listeners.
Adam R Jacobson:
Awesome to hear. Thank you again, Jim. Calling in from Orange County, California today. Thank you for listening to this Radio and Television Business Report InFocus Podcast.
Remember. You can follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio or wherever you prefer to consume your podcasts. From beautiful Boca Raton, Florida. This is Adam R. Jacobson for the InFocus Podcast.
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