Broadcast Explores the Cloud

HAMILTON, N.J.—By outsourcing asset management, transcoding, storage, or other mission-critical tasks to a third-party cloud-based production service, broadcasters convert a capital expense to an operating expense.

Instead of upfront capital costs to buy complex, expensive equipment, cloud services let broadcasters jump right in and pay as they go. They can scale usage levels as business demands, have anywhere access to media contents, and get relief from constant equipment maintenance.

But there are trade-offs. By building out their traditional on-premises facilities, broadcasters securely control their assets and equipment, eliminate ongoing cloud bills, and preserve a unified workflow. So vendors recommend a hybrid approach—where cloud services supplement existing facilities—for the best of both worlds.


Another important consideration is public cloud versus private cloud. Public cloud services are usually offered by third parties and based on infrastructure provided by companies like Amazon and Microsoft. However, with private clouds, broadcasters control their own private cloud-hosting platform and servers on their premises or at third-party data centers.

“Maintaining complete control over hardware, software, and media security is not easily obtainable when opting for a public cloud solution, but they do allow quick, easy deployments,” said Robert Lisman, director of marketing for Miami-based Primestream. “For our customers, we believe that extending ground operations using a private cloud promotes collaborative workflows that enable greater creativity and productivity. Our approach is to add layers of workflow automation in the cloud.” Customers using Primestream’s FORK media asset management (MAM) platform include NFL Network, CNN, NASCAR, and CBS Sports. Primestream recently introduced the Xchange Suite, a cloud-based MAM and automation gateway into FORK, now in use at Yahoo! Studios and Discovery Latin America.

Media customers need to be aware of both the power and bandwidth requirements to guarantee quality of service in a private cloud platform according to Alan Dabul, Primestream’s product development manager. “If an on-premises buildout is not viable, another option is to host their private [cloud] within a top tier data center, giving them ease of mind and allowing them to focus on the workflows that monetize their content,” he said.


Harmonic’s Carbon MP cloud-based transcoding solution lets users supplement on-premises sustained transcoding efforts with cloud-based capabilities to handle bursts in workload demands. Harmonic’s cloud-based product line includes private on-premises cloud configurations as well as Carbon MP, a public cloud service based on Amazon Marketplace.

Brian Campanotti, Front Porch Digital “There’s lots of confusion surrounding cloud-based services, especially ones in the public cloud, and that’s understandable considering the stake of companies in this industry,” said Yoav Derazon, director, product management for Cloud Services & Transcoding for Harmonic in San Jose, Calif. “But it’s the responsibility of providers like Harmonic, who are building services on top of that public cloud infrastructure, to ensure their solution is secure enough. There are many cost-efficient benefits to this approach and media professionals will likely grow more comfortable with it over time.”

As part of Harmonic’s comprehensive cloud strategy, the company offers flexibility in pricing, such as pay-per-use by the hour or minute, as well as new value-added capabilities. “We’re now launching a cloud-based monitoring service geared to monitoring the status of transcoding farms—even across multiple facilities— where hundreds, even thousands, of transcoders all report their status to a cloud-based service. That service aggregates the data and gives the user a single portal to log into to check the status of those machines,” said Kevin Crayton, Harmonic’s vice president, Software & Cloud. “While the transcoders may all be operating on a private on-premises cloud, they report their status to a different aggregation point in the cloud.”


Front Porch Digital asks: What are your media assets worth to your operation? If your premises were destroyed in a storm, how long would it take you to recover those assets and restore operations? What would that downtime cost you?

“Broadcasters need to have a disaster recovery plan to ensure business continuity and our cloud-based service can offer that,” said Brian Campanotti, CTO of Louisville, Colo.-based Front Porch Digital, which offers DIVArchive content storage management (CSM) and DIVAdirector media asset management (MAM) as a traditional on-premises or cloud-based solution named Lynx. “We can provide customers with an in-depth analysis of the financial and operational ramifications they can expect if they choose our cloud, on-premises, or hybrid approach,” Campanotti added.

“With Lynx, we provide secure access to your cloud-based archive anywhere it’s needed, preservation of high-res media assets, disaster recovery, as well as business continuance,” he said. “When we launched Lynx, the first customers we contacted were existing DIVArchive users. While they typically shipped physical LTO data tapes to offsite and offline locations for backup, we showed them that using Lynx for cloud-based access and disaster recovery gets them up and running faster than replacing their hardware and reloading assets from tapes.” Lynx can also automatically duplicate cloud-based assets onto data tapes and ship them back to the customer on-demand.

Aframe 2.0 includes integration with Panasonic’s AVC codec as well as a newly designed user interface and API Library. Lynx gives users scalable cloud storage designed and priced for large media assets, and lets them quickly search, access, manage, and retrieve assets—even full HD, 2K, and UHD-4K res—via a Web browser. Lynx includes another hybrid configuration: an edge appliance for local caching of cloud assets needed for their productions for users who don’t already rely on DIVArchive for their on-premises CSM needs.


Aframe, a U.K.-based private cloud video production and asset management service that recently expanded to the United States, lets users upload and store a mix of full resolution, native video and file formats, but provides that media as H.264 proxies to facilitate search, log, rough cut, and playback over the Internet. “For station groups where affiliates share media resources, and for media professionals collaborating with others from different locations, Aframe lets them pick and choose the media they want from the cloud, and download it when they’re ready, and this makes the process much more efficient for everyone involved,” said Mark Overington, president of Aframe North America in Boston.

Aframe 2.0’s Edit Flow exports metadata into top NLE’s, and supports MXF. “Adding transcoding services is definitely on our roadmap,” Overington added.

When global health and wellness network Veria Living needed a MAM system for their New York, London, and Asian locations in 2011, they chose Aframe’s cost-effective cloud-based MAM rather than an expensive on-premises solution. Today, Veria Living has uploaded more than 1,200 hours of broadcast-ready video, accessible for promotions, marketing, and other purposes by internal staff and external partners and distributors worldwide. For security, Aframe replicates cloud assets across its three data centers in New York, London, and Los Angeles.


Avid’s Interplay Sphere is a secure, private cloud-based production solution that gives editors a real-time editing experience when using NewsCutter or Media Composer for remote production and collaboration.

Field editors can use Sphere to access media from the Avid Interplay Production system at the station. They can mix archival assets with fresh material acquired in the field, and start uploading a video package even while they’re still editing it. Sphere automatically uploads editable proxies so station personnel get them quickly and then the full-res video can follow.

“Sphere extends the Interplay workflow we’ve created beyond the facility so reporters and editors can work in the field as easily as they do in the newsroom,” said James Frantzreb, senior market segment director for broadcast at Avid Technology in Burlington, Mass. “It’s designed to fit seamlessly with the newsroom infrastructures broadcasters have been investing in for years.”

While Sphere can be used in a public cloud model, broadcasters generally configure Sphere as a private cloud, according to Frank Capria, Avid’s director of product management, “because they require an uncompromised quality of service, reliability, and security they don’t feel is possible yet in the public cloud.” Capria also added that since Sphere is a capital expense rather than an operating expense, the cost only has to be approved once by station management rather than year after year as with a cloud service.

Claudia Kienzle