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How Broadcasters Can Maximize Efficiencies Post-COVID

(Image credit: Blackmagic Design)

After the initial COVID outbreak, broadcasters focused on firefighting—adopting emergency measures to keep teams safe and maintain creative output. In light of the resurgence in cases, media companies are having to plan for continued remote working. Production and post-production workflows, which started out as business continuity measures, will have to become long-term solutions. 

Here are three key areas where cloud workflows can help maximize efficiencies and facilitate this transition.

ASSET STORAGE

Despite multiple ways of working and different business needs, all broadcasters have one thing in common—assets, and lots of them. While dealing with the challenges posed by the pandemic, this content presented both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, when production was halted by the initial outbreak, media companies could make use of their back-catalogue to fill the gap. On the other hand, the success of this approach relied heavily on how easy the content was to access. 

During lockdown, broadcasters whose content was stored on-site quickly realized that this made their archive difficult to leverage. Now media companies are focused on shifting libraries to systems that make content more accessible and searchable. By transitioning assets to the cloud in bulk and making use of innovations such as AI-powered metadata tagging, post-production teams can easily search for content remotely. 

Cloud storage is not just for archived content; recent footage needs to be managed effectively too. Whilst isolated from the office, many post-production teams found themselves needing to access thousands of hours of content to deliver projects imminently. They began working from home with hard-drives, which contained enough assets for the first few weeks. They then had to resort to the time-consuming process of uploading and downloading content, often struggling with broadband speeds that couldn’t support their workflows. 

Putting an end to this inefficient process of shifting files around is one of the most common requests from clients. The solution is utilizing cloud-based technology to create proxy workflows, which provide flexible access without extensive data transfer time for large video files. These proxy workflows are significantly more efficient, leaving editors with more time to spend doing what they do best.

A FLEXIBLE WORKFORCE

There is no doubt that the coming months and years will see huge changes in the way that organizations manage their teams. Remote workflows will need to be at the forefront of any changes to broadcasting infrastructure. Previously, this seemed like an impossible task for organizations weighed down by huge files and complex systems. Now, advances in cloud-based workflows mean that broadcasters can become more responsive to the changing needs of their workforce. 

With virtual editing technology no longer restricted by processing power requirements, the challenge for post-production teams is to choose the right remote tools for your organization’s working methods. First, broadcasters need to identify their business focus and the type of workflows their team implements. 

Browser-based web-edit tools are great for high-volume quick turnaround content. However, the adoption of these tools can be a challenge for large teams because they require editors to learn completely new workflows. It’s important for broadcasters to weigh the impact of retraining staff in these instances. Alternatively, remote access solutions can replicate an editor’s on-site workspace at home. Whether broadcasters opt to send proxy versions of content directly or completely mimic the user-interface will depend on their infrastructure needs. 

Regardless of the technical requirements, the key to implementing any new system is to enable broadcasters to put their team at the heart of infrastructure changes. By giving content creators the same flexibility to work from home as professionals in other sectors, clients have seen an improvement not only in productivity but in creativity as well. 

INFRASTRUCTURE AGILITY

Many broadcasters will scale up their workstation capacity over time, but that often leaves physical infrastructure sitting idle during quieter periods. Teams working at maximum capacity one week don’t always need the same level of infrastructure once an event ends or the news-cycle shifts.

Physical infrastructure represents a significant financial commitment and broadcasters need to be confident the investment is worth it to scale up. Unfortunately, this requires a certain amount of certainty, and that has definitely been in short supply during 2020. Investing in physical workstations that aren’t being utilized is the editing equivalent of keeping a cab outside with the meter running. 

In contrast, cloud-based infrastructure allows users to add and remove workstations in a matter of minutes. By deploying and managing workstations remotely, broadcasters can be truly responsive. Tracking which workstations are in use and which users are connected will completely streamline workflows.

AN ADAPTABLE FUTURE FOR BROADCASTING

Flexibility has been broadcasting’s biggest virtue over the last few months. The traditional annual schedule has been turned upside down and events have been thrown into disarray. With guidelines altering weekly and a shaky return to the sports calendar, the industry has seen the importance of responding quickly as circumstances change.

Broadcasting continues to show huge resilience in the face of difficult circumstances. Over the course of 2020, early responses and emergency business continuity measures have transformed into interim processes. Now, broadcasters need to take the next logical step into long-term cloud-based workflows. 

Any return to normal in the near future seems unlikely. By the time we reach a post-COVID future, the media industry will have completely adapted to the challenges of social distancing. However, the long-term value of cloud-based infrastructure extends far beyond the pandemic. Making changes now will enable broadcasters to leverage their assets more effectively, offer attractive flexible working options for their staff and future proof their infrastructure. The industry will always be subject to change, now is the time to prepare for it.

Tim Burton is managing director for 7fivefive.