Exhibitor Insight: Imagine Communications—Steve Reynolds, President

Steve Reynolds
Steve Reynolds (Image credit: Imagine Communications)

TV TECH: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trends at the NAB Show?

STEVE REYNOLDS: I can tell you what many of the visitors to the exhibition will want to talk about, and that is remote production and playout operations, as well as how to enable cross-platform delivery. They will want to know how to create great content with a minimum of staff on set or on location and how they can run those operations with remote staff and virtualized systems. They will also want to know how to package and deliver it to the widest possible audience across very many platforms.

That puts front and center the things we have been talking about for a long while: IP connectivity, in and through the cloud; high levels of automation, backed up by increasing use of machine learning; software-centric systems, allowing access for management and control over the internet;  distributed operations of virtualized systems that seamlessly combine on-premise and cloud with streamlined workflows and user interfaces.

Of course, broadcasters and production companies have been forced to find solutions for an incredible range of challenges over the last 18 months. I see the NAB Show as being the time to share knowledge and experience, and to refine workflows and architectures to create stable, secure systems that are cost-effective across the lifetime of the technology.

TVT: What will be your most important product news?

REYNOLDS: It will be the first chance for many to see Nexio NewsCraft, our new all-in-one news production solution. Remote production and management are core values of the system, but the overwhelming need―our customers tell us―is to be first with an accurate telling of the story. We have designed NewsCraft with mission-critical resilience, but with the performance to capture the story, package it, repackage it for multiple platforms and get it out fast.

Imagine has a wealth of experience in news production, so we built a solution around proven, best-of-breed components, in a highly integrated, virtualized software architecture that can be fine-tuned to the specific needs of any broadcaster or publisher.

The virtualized architecture means it can be implemented on premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment. Remote working is an absolute fundamental, not an add-on, reflecting the need not just for editorial access from anywhere but to recognize that if you are going to be first with the story, you need to put all the content creation tools wherever the journalist is.

We will also highlight the latest advancements across Imagine’s playout and networking portfolio. Our Versio Master Control product will be attractive for broadcasters and stations looking for a cost-effective, software-based alternative to traditional hardware-only master control. This offers better upgradability and maintenance in a solution that more natively adapts to modern infrastructure. Also highlighted are new features in our Versio modular playout and Nexio platforms and our ADC and D-Series automation platforms, to support the latest UHD and OTT technologies. We will also spotlight the latest updates to our Selenio Network Processor (SNP), which continues to outperform any other offering on the market in terms of flexibility and power. We will be extending the SNP’s capabilities for contribution, processing and advanced multiviewer monitoring.

TVT: How is your new product different from what’s available on the market?

REYNOLDS: Nexio NewsCraft is a new generation of newsroom production, so it incorporates the latest capabilities in the service of great storytelling. Our open architecture enables the addition of new features like artificial intelligence, where it can add value. Intelligent speech-to-text transcription means that every word of every story will become searchable metadata, and richer metadata means more engaging, more informative, more challenging stories.

AI will also allow video analysis, again to enrich the metadata. Not only will it identify people and places, but it will also suggest moods, using things like facial expressions. Because a news broadcaster’s archive is its greatest asset, batch processing tools—ideal for the cloud—will analyze all the content already stored to add more detailed metadata.

This is not a technological sideshow. Journalists want to focus on the story, and editors want them out there gathering the facts. AI can take the repetitive functions like preparing material for the archive, or even creating keywords for the website, away from the journalist, saving time and effort as well as improving results.

TVT: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your company’s business?

REYNOLDS: The need for social distancing and restraints on travel has affected us on two levels. Our product development teams were organized around a collaborative working environment and agile processes. However, they quickly adapted new disciplines in remote working. Our slate of new products and enhancements has been delivered, and our development priorities have shifted in response to the rapid shift in market demands.

We have also delivered large-scale, paradigm-shifting solutions for our customers worldwide, with a minimum of face-to-face contact from the Imagine team. Imagine’s transition to software-based and virtualized platforms was a key technical enabler for this.  Look at the cloud-based channel launches that we did with Sinclair Broadcast group using our Versio platform. That included high-profile networks like Bally Sports, as well as pop-up channels in the cloud for major events like the Miami Open for The Tennis Channel.

Another example is the migration of Discovery Sweden and Finland to our Landmark Sales platform, hosted by Imagine’s Managed Service. That boosted their financial performance, unified airtime sales across multiple platforms, and gave them the inherent ability to have remote working and processing.  Because Discovery opted for a cloud-based platform hosted by Imagine and AWS, we were able to quickly deploy using our global team of technical resources in an entirely remote posture.