Cloud computing and cloud services present a revolutionary business incentive for broadcasters and live content creators. The ability to translate production and networking resources into a flexible, scalable, remotely accessible cloud environment gives organizations greater freedom to address productions of varying scale, spin-up channels in new markets, and empower remote workers – all while tamping down on capital and operating expenditures. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that cloud technology still has technical challenges to overcome before it becomes the basis for all your live production operations.
That being said, there are still ample opportunities to use the cloud to your advantage. One of our recent blog articles examines the advantages of the PRIME Live Platform in a cloud production environment. The question of what value the cloud stands to offer you isn’t a matter of “if” but “where.” Which elements of your live production operations will benefit from virtualization on the cloud – without being hampered by the current limitations?
In today’s article, we’ll examine the basics, pros, and cons of live production in a cloud environment – to help you determine where and how you can use it to maximize value.
Which Cloud Infrastructure Serves You Best?
Easily-Accessible Public Cloud
Public cloud infrastructure is made available and accessible over the internet through external service providers, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. They own and operate all the hardware, storage, and networking resources to power the cloud infrastructure – and you subscribe to your piece of it.
Subscription to a public cloud is kind of like renting an apartment. You pay rent for your space rather than a massive upfront expenditure, and you don’t have to worry about maintenance. But in turn, you’re not as free to customize the space, and you are sharing the building’s resources with other people.
While public providers offer easy and affordable cloud access, along with expert reliability and virtually-limitless ability to scale – they tend to lack the ability to fine-tune performance and specialize programming in comparison to private clouds.
Optimizable Private Cloud Infrastructure
Comparatively, private cloud infrastructures come at a higher total cost of ownership. You can compose your private cloud from on-premise resources you purchase and maintain or hosted by a third-party provider that dedicates resources to you entirely – no sharing with other organizations. Either way you slice it, you will pay more than a public solution.
Meanwhile, the private advantage is the customizability of performance and programming. With access to your own dedicated data center, you can tweak file transfer speeds, bandwidth, and the overall infrastructure efficiency for live production use cases. Additionally, public clouds can have a rigid IT infrastructure lacking support for legacy or rare applications in your workflow. Private cloud infrastructures are adaptable to address these sorts of IT needs.
To get the best of both worlds, many organizations choose a hybrid cloud deployment. With this approach, you can dedicate private cloud resources to mission-critical processes, while leveraging the public cloud to address fluctuating or scale-up production needs.
Live Video Can Be a Challenge for the Cloud
The world of live video production presents unique challenges for cloud infrastructures that the industry is still working to solve. The transfer of real-time video puts a strain on network bandwidth and CPU processing power. For broadcasters with high standards for video quality and minimal latency in their use case, this can make cloud deployments untenable.
To handle the required number of video inputs and outputs for live production in a cloud environment virtually necessitates the usage of compressed video formats. Additionally, the ingest process of live video signals into the cloud can also result in additional loss and jitter issues. Add this all up, and you’re looking at a loss in video quality that may be too much for traditional OTA broadcasters to ignore.
Latency is another big hurdle for cloud infrastructure, especially if you’re working in news and sports broadcasts or in-venue productions. As data center systems struggle to process video in real-time and video streams transfer across multiple network points (particularly in widely-dispersed public clouds), latency can become too great for air.
Find the Sweet Spot Within Current Cloud Limitations
Ultimately, determining where cloud infrastructure can benefit you in the here and now is to understand what aspects of your live productions can play within the cloud’s current limitations.
For instance, many of the wider processes that help to drive the core of your show – such as graphics order management and creation – can smoothly move to the cloud. Many broadcasters currently leverage our cloud-based AXIS platform to distribute, manage, and customize graphics across their station networks.
Cloud environments are also viable for live production control. Inherent latency in today’s cloud environments doesn’t mean productions have to be out of sync. If it’s not essential to create an absolutely real-time program, you can still deliver a professional-grade final product. With signal timing management technologies, it’s easy to create a synced-up studio in the cloud with live production switching, graphics/clips playout, and audio mixing – all while leveraging remotely-fed sources. With the PRIME Live Platform, you can create an all-in-one PRIME Studio entirely on the cloud.
Finally, an important note on the video-quality side, think critically about what kind of viewing experience your audiences expect. The unstoppable growth of OTT and streaming platforms have shown that viewing audiences are perfectly content with compression-related reductions in video/audio quality in exchange for easy access to compelling content. With that in mind, Cloud infrastructure is a great way to explore and expand your programming into new OTT and streaming markets.
Where Can Live Production in the Cloud Bring You Value?
Cloud infrastructure provides the means for you to rethink how you spend your budget. To move away from making massive expenditures built around the absolute peak of your workload to a more flexible model that’s one-to-one with your day-to-day operations. While cloud technology still has limitations on being an end-to-end foundation for live production, innovation never stops, and these limitations may evaporate sooner than you think. Until then, there are still plenty of areas the cloud can unlock value for you in the here and now – provided you take a critical approach.
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