Flying out of a sun-bathed Bergen, following a few days of very pleasant company and interesting technical discussion at the VizRT days. The weather has been largely dry but it was a bonus to see the sun as we left. Very picturesque.
The conference followed the trend of NAB last month; lots of video streaming over IP with a movement of the data to be file based from camera to transmission. Content management systems are needed to cope with the amount of video and stills being produced and the output needs to be sent to a myriad of devices. Mostly HD content but the viewers devices range from TVs down to mobiles, with the growth at the smaller end of the range. The graphics are becoming more flexible, with the ability to insert metadata information and timing at source and for the metadata to be interpreted at the output stage when the final video player format has been decided.
The conference highlight was, of course, the Sky team led by Martin Stanford who led the effort to wake everyone up after the late social session the previous night. Sky are active in so many ways and lead the way with their mobile and streaming applications. The News workflow and anchor support with iPad and mobile was very slick.
The first day led into the general theme of Viz products becoming closer together. More common ways of working with similar video editors in each, Adobe Premiere integration, Escenic web editors, using proxies for speed in many cases. Adobe are making big moves in the graphics market; first with their move to subscription based software, but now with their Adobe Anywhere entry in the rights managed streaming solution. Viz seem to be lining up with Adobe and keeping their tools as close as they can to an integrated workflow. They have plugins for Premiere Next that will bring metadata and editing to fit in with their flexible production mentality.
Ardome is being phased out and the Video Media Engine that replaces it is much more in line with their other products; multi channel, multi layer, multi output with many APIs to connect to it.
Fox was represented by their West coast team this year; they showed a multitude of sport graphics, from their cut away car, robots in the studio, augmented graphics and touch screens, all with the energy of the US channel’s style. Models coming in from Maya and animations in VizRT, all built around a flexible presenter driven graphics flow. They have presenters that are passionate about the system and bring the best out of it.
Everyone is looking at data feeds. The FeedBrowser from Viz will bring in not only the social feeds, but any data feed that is in one of the accepted formats. Data feeds are arriving from all angles; the collection of social stats; Astuce showed plugins to bring in finance and sports data; all these types of product are bringing any format of data into a server and pushing them into Viz. At the other end of the spectrum, the cXense software is an example of collecting viewer data and web page stats, building valuable profiles of their users.
The final part of the day brought the experienced Jeff Han in to show us the benefits of their Perceptive Pixel touch screens. He has led the way for many years and now has the backing of Microsoft and their R&D budgets; they are likely to continue to lead. What next? Pen and touch is the answer; move with your fingers and write with a pen. It’s the natural way. Felt right when using their screen. The good news is that, if you have bought one of their screens, the addition of their new pens will add to its functionality straight away.
Second day was more of a UK broadcaster day with Sky, ITN and the BBC. ITN were showing some historical clips through to their modern virtual set and the BBC showing their Salford set with augmented graphics; augmented is a little easier to deal with when using non broadcast sporting guests. Al Arabiya also showed how they can keep up as a larger broadcaster; they have a number of channels and plenty of Viz engines to drive the quality of their brand.
Before lunch brought another highlight of the year, the Red Bull Stratos project. Jochen Sterrer from their Media House doesn’t talk often, so it was great to see some of the behind the scenes footage and the event again. Not sure that I saw many Viz graphics; too distracted by the pictures of the stratosphere!
The road maps were presented for each of the product areas; they overlap in many ways to try and bring common working methods and to allow those methods to be customised. The workflow can be carried out in similar ways in the Media Engine, Premiere plugins, Escenic video widgets etc. There is a feel of trying to encompass the whole workflow, but with the ability to control or be controlled by other systems through the APIs, even to the extent of suggesting that competitive software might use the same interfaces.
Corus TV, from Canada, spoke about their experience with the new SocialFeeds engine and the response from their viewers sounds impressive. The Viz software is flexible enough to take feeds from a number of different feeds, but Corus took just Facebook and Twitter. This was enough to bring much more customer involvement; as much as seven times! Other channels in their group are moving quickly in the same direction.
In summary, Viz and their partners are producing tools that will enable their users to integrate their production tools into existing systems. They have a formidable breadth of development. There were many channel-in-a-box solutions at NAB but many were stand alone solutions. VizRT are providing a workflow for the end to end solution, but also the APIs to connect to other suppliers where their customers have special requirements. They allow for content to be gathered in a variety of situations and to be stored, searched, edited and transmitted to any format. Metadata is being embraced, whether from the production team or from the growing social media platforms. It brings the benefits of flexibility, without losing the quality of the graphics and with the real time speed suitable to a live workflow.