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The Silver Lining Of The Cloud

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The fast pace of change that characterises the IT industry has always offered up solutions that, with some consideration, have given the broadcast industry the opportunity to realise innovations and achieve efficiencies.

As the broadcast industry continues to accept wider developments into the broadcast ecosystem, these innovations can be turned into advantages allowing more agile operations spanning a wider range of channel deployments.

Not only does this open up a myriad of alternatives for the existing channel portfolio but creates the opportunity to launch previously un-economic channels that can address niche markets or areas of interest.

In addition, broadcasters have the possibility to launch "pop-up" channels or test marginal segments with very short times to market and without having to commit to large capital expenditure and permanent infrastructure.

The three most popular approaches are:

1. Conventional in the cloud
All the processes (decompression, graphics, effects) exist in the cloud and an uncompressed signal is delivered to an encoder that creates the final stream to be broadcasted.

2. Virtual
As above, but with the compression – typically H.264 – carried out within the instance and packetized (either directly in RTP or more often first in TS and then in RTP).

3. Pre-processed
The "heavy lifting" is done on-site using existing infrastructure and uploading to the cloud files with the graphics & effects done and already compressed, so ready for direct playout. This is a much leaner cloud operation and significantly reduces the cost for resources and storage that need to be contracted to operate the channel. Even inside each of these options, not all the cloud based video servers are the same.

Areas to be considered are the quality of the output, the complexity of the channel (graphics, effects, live info streams, etc.) and the amount of cloud storage required.

Financial considerations of carrying out processes on-line or off-line combined with commercial commitment of contracting resources for an extended period of time, for an established channel, or a short-term agreement for a "pop-up" channel need to be considered.

As with all the innovations that have come from the IT world to the broadcast industry, the possibility of installing video servers in the cloud does not need to be used automatically but deserves careful consideration.

Not only is this an option for existing infrastructure replacement but gives operators the flexibility and agility to consider hitherto "uneconomic" programming that can be empirically market tested without onerous financial burdens.

As we have shown, there is not one single model available to us today, but a variety of technical approaches that can be considered depending on the demands of the business.

Vector 3 has pioneered the implementation of IT technology for broadcast applications for over 30 years and already has a range of offerings for our customers to consider as they plan their next steps into the silver lining of cloud based playout.

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