State of the Nation


Dick Hobbs - new TV-Bay Magazine
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This morning I was eating my healthy muesli and idly listening to Radio 4 when someone came on who claimed to be from the Oxford University Computational Propaganda Project.

Now regular readers will know that I am fond of a bit of good old-fashioned obfuscation. But talking about computational propaganda when what you mean is fake news on social media seems a bit rich.

But this is a serious bunch, a dedicated research team within the Oxford Internet Institute, which is in turn a part of the (real) University of Oxford. The group’s website (comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk) details its aims and publishes some of its research.

Perhaps surprisingly, given that Collins Dictionary made “fake news” its word of the year for 2017, the project has been running since 2012. It seems academics spotted this trend far before we mortals dis.

“This project enables a new team of social and information scientists to investigate the impact of automated scripts, commonly called bots, on social media,” says the mission statement. “Political actors have used bots to manipulate conversations, demobilize opposition, and generate false support on popular sites like Twitter and Facebook from the US as well as Sina Weibo from China.”

Fake news is a moral concern for us all, of course. But it is also a major worry for our industry. Newsgathering is expensive, and major broadcasters do it because it is central to their status as a trusted brand. Now they are being taxed with twin threats: unprincipled politicians declaring “fake news” every time a news broadcaster says something unpalatable; and anyone with a Twitter account setting themselves up as journalists and spouting any sort of rubbish.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook told the Wall Street community recently that profits are about to take a dip because of the soaring costs of keeping fake news off the site. And that is actually quite a challenge.

Stand by for a staggering number: Facebook has more than two billion active users. To put that into perspective, the population of the world is 7.6 billion, so without allowing for all those under 13s prevented from getting an account by Facebook’s rules (yea, right), something over 27% of everyone in the world logs on at least once a month.

According to a body called The Social Skinny (“a website dedicated to social media and website optimization strategy”) 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated and 136,000 pictures are uploaded every minute. Other researchers have different detail, but this seems to be around the consensus.

So the idea of employing people to sit and read every post on social media is not really a winner, despite the opinions of those same unprincipled politicians. You need some pretty clever big data analytics, with some pretty clever machine learning, if you are going to keep on top of this.

Which finally brings me to my prediction for 2018, which is what you are expecting me to write about. 2018 is going to be the year of machine learning. Or, for old folk like me, artificial intelligence.

Let me make it clear from the start that, for me at least, there is a gulf between “bots” which apply machine learning to data sets, and “robots” in the traditional sense of the world. One of the top talking points at IBC2017 was robotics, and the disconcertingly alluring Sophia in particular.

This seems to me to be very clever technology, but I am far from convinced that I know what it is for. We are comfortable in dealing with the sound of artificial intelligence, through chatting to Siri and Alexa. But the physical manifestation seems – to me, at least – to be an unnecessary step too far.

On a more practical level, the IBC Conference Prize, which goes to the most innovative thinking in the technical papers programme, went to TV Globo in 2017, for a paper called Big data for data journalism, enhanced business analytics and video recommendation. It describes three projects, all of which use machine learning in one way or another.

Video recommendation is an obvious application for machine learning. If you have ever bought anything from Amazon, you will know that forever afterwards it will attempt to predict your next purchase. Recommending content to subscribers is the logical extension.

But TV Globo is also using machine learning algorithms to trawl through publicly available data, such as government papers and economic resources. Using the cloud grunt provided by AWS, it created what it called a data lake, which then allowed journalists to access the data to understand what was going on. In a test exercise, a typical research project took a week to answer a business question using Excel, and seven seconds using the big data environment.

Another pioneer in the field is Amagi, which has demonstrated a system to suggest where commercial breaks should go. This is a real-life and not very stimulating task: content comes in from around the world with different commercial break patterns or none, and someone has to decide where the ads are going when you show it.

My oft-repeated principle is that computers are very good at dull, repetitive tasks; people are good at creative tasks. So I asked KS Srinivasan, co-founder of Amagi, if machine learning is going to change that basic principle. “The biggest question that broadcasters would need to answer is ‘do we really need machine learning, and why’,” he said.

“The most labour intensive jobs in broadcast today depend on human experience,” Srini continued. “As machine learning systems evolve, these jobs could be performed by machines instead.”

Which might have sounded a little far-fetched, were it not for a recent interview in Broadcast with Matthew Postgate, BBC CTO. He revealed that, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival back in August, BBC experimented with using AI in place of a director on a comedy panel show. In what he admitted was a sledgehammer technique, the computer analysed thousands of shows to learn how to direct the relatively formulaic genre.

“We aren’t trying to replace TV directors,” he is reported as saying. “But because we don’t have infinite resource, this could open up the number of events we can cover.”

If even directors can be replaced – admittedly only for the simple stuff (today) – then should we all be retraining as machine learning designers? Gartner, one of the heavyweights in technology research, has said not to panic: artificial intelligence may actually create more jobs that it is expected to eliminate.

By 2020, it forecasts, artificial intelligence will generate 2.3 million jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million that it will wipe out. In the next five years, to 2025, the net increase in jobs attributable to machine learning will reach two million, according to the report.

So, it would seem, we have nothing to fear from TV Globo’s analysts, the BBC’s machine directors and even Sophia and her chums. According to Garnter’s research director, Manjunath Bhat, “robots are not here to take away our jobs. They are here to give us a promotion – I think that is the way we should start looking at artificial intelligence.”


Tags: iss129 | fake news | facebook | tv globo | amagi | robot | ai | artificial intelligence | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new

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What is Serial Communication
Mike Colyer

Don’t get me wrong - the advent of IP technology has done wonders for the broadcasting universe, especially here in Special Cams land where changing a setting could have involved a rather long walk and climb to a remote camera location! Nevertheless, this said, I still feel that serial communication is a huge contender - not only just in the realm of odd robotics systems, but also across broadcast in general.

In this article, I will walk through the very basics - introducing a few different types of serial and how they work.

Tags: iss131 | rs422 | rs232 | parity | rs485 | Mike Colyer
Contributing Author Mike Colyer Click to read or download PDF
Security, Identity and Privacy
Bruce Devlin - new Put your hand up if you have more than one online-identity. Keep your hand up if the adverts for your latest online purchase follow you between identities as you surf the web. You can now let your hand fall into your lap because adverts that follow you indicate algorithms that have merged your multiple identities into the one and only you.
Tags: iss131 | class | Security | Identity | Privacy | gdpr | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read or download PDF
Moving to an IP Platform Considerations
Stephen Brownsill Audio transport methods have remained virtually unchanged in the broadcast industry for more than half a century. Common approaches to routing audio around large broadcast facilities have closely followed methodology employed in telco central offices, with the use of X-Y crossbar or crosspoint switching.
Tags: iss131 | ip | smpte | st2110 | Stephen Brownsill
Contributing Author Stephen Brownsill Click to read or download PDF
The Pitfalls of Online File Sharing and Sending Services
Mike Nash Easy-to-use, readily-accessible, and consumer-oriented, online file sharing platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive are, to end users, a pleasant replacement to older file transfer methods such as FTP. FTP is complex to use and requires IT intervention to make almost any change. The pain associated with FTP, which was developed in the 1970s, is one of the factors that opened the door for the rise of online file sharing services in the workplace.
Tags: iss131 | ftp | signiant | efss | dropbox | google drive | ftp | ofss | media shuttle | Mike Nash
Contributing Author Mike Nash Click to read or download PDF
Delivering on the 4k Promise
Lorna Garrett It’s happened. Consumers are demanding 4K UHD content. They have the TVs, smartphones, tablets and other devices they need, and with much of Netflix and Amazon original content in 4K, as well as sports coverage from BT and Sky, consumers have tasted the future of content quality and are hungry for more. But broadcasters need not worry if their customers have enough bandwidth to receive 4K content - the solutions are ready to make 4K distribution a reality. New viewers are waiting if you’re ready to get to them first.
Tags: iss131 | garland | 4k | uhd | hevc | hc11000 | media excel | Lorna Garrett
Contributing Author Lorna Garrett Click to read or download PDF
Listening to the needs of audio engineers
Alan Wheable Monitoring SDI video content within an installation is and has always been straight forwards. If you have a monitor, and you can see the image correctly, all is well. This is not necessarily the case for metadata and especially not for audio.
Tags: iss131 | omnitek | audio monitoring | aes | ebu | smpte 2110 | st2110 | smpte 352 | dolby | Alan Wheable
Contributing Author Alan Wheable Click to read or download PDF
Slow Motion Video Techniques
Phil Vinter Well, those kinds of higher frame rates still pretty much belong to the big guns. The Phantom Flex will give you 2,000 frames a second at ultra HD or 1,000 fps at 4K. It produces truly stunning images, but at a price that is beyond the reach of all but those with the biggest budgets. The camera retails at a cool £100,000 (I’ll have three please) with a daily hire out charge of around £3,000 (including lighting and a technician). IDT’s OS series cameras produce equally high quality images at a cheaper price, but you’re still talking tens of thousands.
Tags: iss131 | slo-mo | phantom | idt | fs7 | fs5 | rx10 mk111 | hfr | Phil Vinter
Contributing Author Phil Vinter Click to read or download PDF
Broadcasting Indoor Sky Diving
Daniel Harker Barnes When you say you’re broadcasting skydiving, there are two types of reactions. One is the creative, who’ll say something along the lines of “Wow. Those shots must look great” and other is the engineer who’ll say “That must be a real hassle to get all the infrastructure in and secure.”
Tags: iss131 | sky diving | ally adams | roaming camera | Daniel Harker Barnes
Contributing Author Daniel Harker Barnes Click to read or download PDF
Transforming asset management and monetization
Chad Hamilton FremantleMedia is one of the largest global television-production companies in the world — with one of the biggest and most valuable catalogs. We operate in 36 markets, creating, producing, and distributing content across traditional TV and digital platforms at a rate of more than 10,000 hours of programming per year.
Tags: iss130 | freemantlemedia | core | wazee | Chad Hamilton
Contributing Author Chad Hamilton Click to read or download PDF
TV Futures, Tales on Location
Georgia Thirtle If I think back to last May, I was just finishing my second year at the University of Portsmouth, studying Television and Broadcasting, and winding down for the summer. Then out of the blue I got a message from my course leader, saying I might be getting a call from someone who was a location manager working for Raider productions, you know, the production company behind the upcoming Tomb Raider film, I mean, what!?
Tags: iss130 | portsmouth university | tomb raider | cci tv | ccitv | Georgia Thirtle
Contributing Author Georgia Thirtle Click to read or download PDF
VR and the importance of tracking
KitPlus I would like to begin this article by clarifying what we at Shotoku mean when we talk about VR in live production. It’s not the production of immersive, 360 content where you need to wear a headset; we are talking about virtual studio (VS) and augmented reality (AR) work, such as placing graphics into a green screen environment or physical set. The technology used for this work is entirely different, though equally specialist – therefore it is important to understand the challenges of this kind of production in order to make informed kit choices.
Tags: iss130 | shotoku | vr | live production | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
Tried and tested: DPA d:vice
KitPlus KitPlus recently took delivery of an interesting piece of equipment for review. We like our iPhone gadgets here. For us, useful iPhone gadgets started when the Olloclip lens gave us a wide angle adaptor. This was a good start, finally evolving into a proper tool when Ziess produced the Exolens system for the 5,6 & 7 series iPhones. Around the same time as the Olloclip came out we were testing the Fostex AR4i which was a very exciting development at the time. You have a portable device, that you carry everywhere with you, connected to the world but with very limited audio capabilities. A stereo interface with decent microphones was a real boon!
Tags: iss130 | dpa | dvice | iphone | journalist mic | filmic | ios | microdot | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
Grand slam IPTV and digital signage platform
Joe Walsh Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, is home to major league baseball’s Kansas City Royals. Built in 1973, “The K” has a proud baseball legacy, and goes down in history for winning two World Series championship titles; one in 1985 and another in 2015 — exactly 20 years apart. The most recent win brought a resurgence of baseball fever to the stadium, hosting more than 2.7 million fans during its 2015 winning season.
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Contributing Author Joe Walsh Click to read or download PDF
The shining star of Dancing On Ice
Rod Aaron Gammons Lighting is an incredibly important part of any TV production, and it can make a huge difference to what is seen on-screen. If the right lights are used in the right way, it can create a mood, set a tone and convey a certain atmosphere.
Tags: iss130 | rotolight | led lighting | anova pro 2 | chris yacoubian | Rod Aaron Gammons
Contributing Author Rod Aaron Gammons Click to read or download PDF
Six steps for award winning sound design with Jungle Studios
Chris Turner Few can argue that great sound design is one of the most important elements to any moving picture. Mute most horrors, and the difference in fear factor will be enormous. Visualize Jaws or Star Wars, and John Williams’s iconic score will instantly come to mind.
Tags: iss130 | jungle studios | fairlight | blackmagic design | davinci | Chris Turner
Contributing Author Chris Turner Click to read or download PDF
Reliable back-up at the Music City Bowl
Sam Gordon WLEX – LEX18 – is the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky, and part of the Cordillera Communications Group. As a very popular local station with a broadcast area that covers 40 counties across central Kentucky we have a big commitment to news, broadcasting more than seven hours of live programming on a typical day.
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Contributing Author Sam Gordon Click to read or download PDF
Interview with Peter Rowsell, Polar Graphics
Polar If you don’t recognise the name Peter Rowsell instantly you no doubt would recognise him in person, from the famous ‘Pink Coconut’ parties during IBC (Brighton) in the 80s or the name ‘Polar Video or Polar Graphics’ both companies which he’s built up over the years.
Tags: iss130 | polar graphics | apantac | bluefish | cinedeck | focalpoint | mediaproxy | stardom | storagedna | Polar
Contributing Author Polar Click to read or download PDF
Technological advances in the broadcast industry
Alan Wheable Since it is Omnitek’s 20th anniversary this year, I thought it would be interesting to look back over the technological advances in the broadcast industry over the last few decades and look at the similarities between then and now.
Tags: iss130 | omnitek | test and measurement | smpte 2110 | untra tq | 2022 | sdi 2022-6 | Alan Wheable
Contributing Author Alan Wheable Click to read or download PDF
Out of the box: Sennheiser Ambeo VR microphone
Jon Pratchett 2 The use of 360 video, especially on platforms like Facebook and YouTube is really starting to take off. Gone are the days when you needed to buy multiple GoPros and rigs in order to get something decent looking. Now players like Insta360 and even GoPro with their fusion 360 camera are providing single camera, high quality solutions, enabling the masses to put out reasonable quality, certainly watchable, 360 video.
Tags: iss130 | vr | virtual reality | audio | ambiosonic | Jon Pratchett 2
Contributing Author Jon Pratchett 2 Click to read or download PDF
NAB is all about people
John Smith -new The relative success of NAB is down to people. The individuals we meet, the relationships we make and renew with customers and the desire to work together to develop a technology solution to any given challenge.
Tags: iss130 | media links | nab | mdp 3020 | md8000 | John Smith -new
Contributing Author John Smith -new Click to read or download PDF
State of the Nation
Dick Hobbs - new

On the most recent occasion I was trimmed, my hairdresser had just returned from a holiday in Hawaii.

Where she thought she was going to die. She thought this because the state’s emergency alert system was triggered, sending messages across all available platforms, for 38 minutes, that a ballistic missile was about to strike. That, I suspect, is the sort of thing that casts a pall across your holiday.

Why did it happen? Essentially it happened because an operator selected the wrong menu item. “I feel very badly from what’s happened,” he is quoted as saying, in a somewhat mangled version of English which may at least in part explain his difficulties with menu items.

Tags: iss130 | alertsense | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
Why OTT needs multicast ABR
Damien Lucas Last year, Netflix’s global revenue reached $11 billion, with 24 million new names added to its subscribers’ list. Viewers are certainly making their preferences heard – and voting with their remote controls to show that over-the-top (OTT) content is here to stay.
Tags: iss130 | ott | abr | adaptive bit rate | cdn | dsl | lte | Damien Lucas
Contributing Author Damien Lucas Click to read or download PDF
How IP-based KVM can improve workflow in broadcast control rooms
John Halksworth One of the most significant shifts the broadcast industry has seen over recent years is the adoption of IP technology as a standard infrastructure across the entire broadcast workflow. IP provides a network suitable for routing audio, video and control around a broadcast facility and is providing the answers to many industry challenges.
Tags: iss130 | kvm | adder | adderlink | alif100t | John Halksworth
Contributing Author John Halksworth Click to read or download PDF
Capturing the spirit of Mexico
Leonardo Dalessandri Filmmaker, director and editor, Leonardo Dalessandri first came to fame with his stunning video ‘Watchtower of Turkey,’ which with more than 200 million views, garnered the accolade of Best Vimeo Video in 2014. His vibrant images are combined with a unique editing style, incorporating slow motion, hyper lapses and invisible match cuts to produce genuinely breathtaking final results.
Tags: iss129 | watchtower of turkey | davinci resolve | blackmagic. corona | Leonardo Dalessandri
Contributing Author Leonardo Dalessandri Click to read