State of the Nation - The chances of anything coming from Mars


Dick Hobbs - new TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
Download PDF
Download PDF

Among the autumn dramas the old-fashioned broadcasters have offered us this year was a new adaptation of the HG Wells classic The War of the Worlds. Writer Peter Harness stayed pretty faithful to the book, retaining its setting of leafy Surrey and focusing on the human stories.

But any mention of The War of the Worlds inevitably brings up the CBS Radio production of Hallowe’en 1938, in which Orson Welles and his company allegedly created panic across the USA. CBS was apparently very unconvinced by the very idea of adapting a cosy English novel for primetime radio, so Welles relocated it to Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, and used the trick of breaking news bulletins to reveal the scale of the invasion.

Orson Welles was a very clever man – much cleverer, one suspects, than the CBS management – and he was meticulous in his planning to create “panic”. In particular, he knew that at the same time rival broadcaster NBC was airing its popular Sunday night variety show, The Chase and Sanborn Hour. He also knew that, at a pretty predictable time in the show, there would be a song from a guest singer, which was the cue for the audience to reach for the tuning dial.

On this particular Sunday night, it was the otherwise blameless Dorothy Lamour who caused some of the audience to switch to CBS, and Welles ensured they would join the drama at the moment of one of the most shocking breaking (fake) news bulletins. In simple terms, he set out to create panic, even though he claimed he had not.

We were much less worldly-wise in 1938, you may say. But the autumn of 2019 in the UK saw an election campaign which was marked – many would argue dominated – by fake news, by carefully placed stories which were not what they seemed to be. Politicians set the agenda, inventing facts where necessary.

Developments in technology over the 80 years since Welles and The War of the Worlds mean we now have the possibility to make those fake stories – enhanced information, the spin doctors would argue – extremely convincing. That technology in turn leads to what is called the “deepfake” – something so convincing that it is only the context that makes you realise that it is indeed fake. There are deepfakes of Trump in Breaking Bad, for instance.

Deepfake software is readily available. FakeApp is a free download, although it is a pretty labour intensive solution. Zao, developed in China, is also free, but contains a nasty little sting in the tail that uploads every clip to a backend cloud, so even if you delete your harmless little joke, it will be on the internet forever.

FaceApp (note the similarity to FakeApp) is the Russian equivalent, also storing your work and quite possibly all the rest of your data, too. Tech website The Register went so far as to translate the Zao software licence (otherwise only available in Mandarin) and it explicitly states that “personal information will be collected without consent if the data is relevant to issues of national security…”.

What all deepfake applications have in common, though, is that they are based on artificial intelligence, or more correctly machine learning. The software learns the facial movements of the target person and recreates those movements as he or she says something they never actually said or did.

That is one of the reasons that artificial intelligence is one of those phrases I hope we will be hearing less of in 2020. Like cloud. And virtualisation. And even IP. Because they are simply enabling technologies, not anything useful in themselves. There is always the risk that such technologies will mean applications have to be created which, like the deepfake, may not be to our benefit.

When I was a lad, learning to write marketing copy for technology, the one fact that was drummed into me day after day was the difference between features and benefits. Features may be great – the latest widget might have a cloud-based, fully virtualised, machine learning core. But nobody cares.

People only care – and more important only spend money – if there is a real benefit. Does the widget help you make better programmes. Or make them quicker. Or cost less.

Take, for example, the first of the IBC Innovation Awards to be presented back in September in Amsterdam. The winning project used IP architectures and clever streaming technology. Masses of content passed through the cloud. Graphics on everything from crew weights to wind direction were supported by artificial intelligence.

But that was not what impressed. The prize went to Sail GP for introducing a brand new sport: one which takes place in locations around the world. Given the difficulty of launching a new sport, the only way to create exciting and engaging content and make it affordable for television and online was to go for remote production on a massive scale. That’s the benefit: you make great television for a sensible budget.

Artificial intelligence is a feature. It is a way of doing something. But that something has to be worth doing, it has to deliver a real benefit.

A couple of months back I wrote in this column about how the internet is becoming a major environmental concern: it already has a bigger carbon footprint than air travel, because of all those server farms and their associated air conditioning. Online porn consumes more energy than Belgium. In just a couple of years, video streaming will represent 80% of all internet traffic.

What if you could reduce that figure, by making the data streams smaller. Codecs continue to develop, of course, but standardisation and ratification is a slow process and anyway, the more powerful the codec the more processing grunt it requires to encode it.

I have recently come across a company called iSize Technologies, which is developing a video pre-processor. iSize has reverse engineered human visual perception, to understand what we actually see. It can then use artificial intelligence to minimise the parts of the picture we are never going to look at.

They currently estimate they can reduce the size of the video stream by 20 – 40%, before the video goes to the codec. Once it gets to the consumer device it is decoded as normal, and should look as good as normal. But the data rate is significantly lower.

I have also recently been talking to Dominic Harland of storage specialists GB Lab. He was the one who sowed the seed of this column, of suggesting we stop talking about virtualisation, the cloud and AI. He would rather we talked about flexibility.

We are still in thrall to technology. Small to medium post houses, Dominic suggests, have productivity bottlenecks because, while all the software tools run on standard hardware, to get the best performance each function needs a different combination of speed, scale and security in its server networks. There are also the dull but necessary tasks – like rendering, backing up to LTO and the cloud, and creating multi-format deliverables – that take resources away from making paying clients happy.

Artificial intelligence should be handling all this stuff, including fine-tuning the storage performance on the fly to meet user requirements as they change. You shouldn’t have to support multiple storage networks, just as you shouldn’t have to worry about background tasks – computers should be clever enough to sort that out for you.

That is my wish for 2020: that we let people who care about artificial intelligence, and virtualisation, and all the other buzzwords work quietly away in the background, because we need them to come up with real solutions we can actually use, not tell us the limitations because it doesn’t quite work like that.

IP infrastructure: of course we can. But there are multiple SMPTE papers on IP video timing and we still have no agreed best practice. That makes IP connectivity a feature not a benefit, and we know which one we want.

Artificial intelligence: please stop trotting out the obvious applications, especially since no-one has actually made them work. Facial recognition takes so much processing power it is cheaper to have someone watch the monitor. Tracking action in sports requires a really subtle and dynamic knowledge of where the action is. Hint: it is not always the man with the ball.

Cloud: what is it for? What benefits do we gain from adding to our environmental footprint by streaming vast amounts of data off to some remote site and back again? Is it going to make us more productive? Is it going to save us money? Is it going to make for better content?

In short: why should we care about features? Are they the ultimate saviours of our industry? Or is it all just fake news?


Tags: iss141 | orson welles | cbs | fakeapp | fake news | ai | codec | ibc innovation | gblabs | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Download PDF
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • IPE show the EMU3 12 Output Mains Distribution Unit at BVE 2019

    IPE show the EMU3 12 Output Mains Distribution Unit at BVE 2019

  • ChyronHego update Paint adaptive Keying, improved auto-tracking and more at IBC 2019

    ChyronHego update Paint adaptive Keying, improved auto-tracking and more at IBC 2019

  • Robotic bulk ingest of DigiBeta media explained with Spot and Spin at NAB 2019

    Robotic bulk ingest of DigiBeta media explained with Spot and Spin at NAB 2019

  • IMT Vislink Air Pro 75Ka and NewSwift 240HD Antenna at IBC 2018

    IMT Vislink Air Pro 75Ka and NewSwift 240HD Antenna at IBC 2018

  • Veritone AI Technology shown at IBC 2018

    Veritone AI Technology shown at IBC 2018

  • ChyronHego Paint 7.5 new features shown at IBC 2018

    ChyronHego Paint 7.5 new features shown at IBC 2018

  • Mixer Bags and New Airo Range from K-Tek at NAB 2018

    Mixer Bags and New Airo Range from K-Tek at NAB 2018

  • Paint from ChyronHego at NAB 2018

    Paint from ChyronHego at NAB 2018

  • Playbox Production Air Box shown at IBC 2017

    Playbox Production Air Box shown at IBC 2017

  • Playbox Cloud Air at IBC 2107

    Playbox Cloud Air at IBC 2107

  • Glyph External Storage including the Studio and Atom raid at IBC 2017

    Glyph External Storage including the Studio and Atom raid at IBC 2017

  • Davinci Resolve 14 with Fairlight from Blackmagic Design at NAB 2017

    Davinci Resolve 14 with Fairlight from Blackmagic Design at NAB 2017

  • Brainstorm Multimedia at NAB 2016

    Brainstorm Multimedia at NAB 2016

  • G-Technologys G Speed Shuttle XL Raid at BVE 2016

    G-Technologys G Speed Shuttle XL Raid at BVE 2016

  • Training and education within the broadcast industry

    Training and education within the broadcast industry

  • Brainstorm Multimedia at IBC 2015

    Brainstorm Multimedia at IBC 2015

  • CHYRONHEGO PAINT at NAB 2015

    CHYRONHEGO PAINT at NAB 2015

  • BRAINSTORM VIRTUAL SETS at NAB 2015

    BRAINSTORM VIRTUAL SETS at NAB 2015

  • Brainstorm Multimedia at BVE 2015

    Brainstorm Multimedia at BVE 2015

  • Air Alloy Tripod System from Miller Fluid Heads at IBC 2014

    Air Alloy Tripod System from Miller Fluid Heads at IBC 2014

  • Haivision at NAB 2014

    Haivision at NAB 2014

  • Brainstorm Multimedia at NAB 2014

    Brainstorm Multimedia at NAB 2014

  • Atomos Samurai Blade at BVE 2014

    Atomos Samurai Blade at BVE 2014

  • Haivision on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Haivision on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Atomos with the Samurai Blade on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Atomos with the Samurai Blade on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Brainstorm on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Brainstorm on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Gearhouse Broadcast HD OB trailer at IBC 2013

    Gearhouse Broadcast HD OB trailer at IBC 2013

  • Atomos new Samurai Blade at IBC 2013

    Atomos new Samurai Blade at IBC 2013

  • Brainstorm with Aston demonstration at IBC 2013

    Brainstorm with Aston demonstration at IBC 2013

  • Brainstorm at IBC 2013

    Brainstorm at IBC 2013

  • Haivision live encoding HEVC at IBC 2013

    Haivision live encoding HEVC at IBC 2013

  • ChyronHego Paint at IBC 2013

    ChyronHego Paint at IBC 2013

  • Atomos Samurai Blade demonstration at NAB 2013

    Atomos Samurai Blade demonstration at NAB 2013

  • Brainstorm Multimedia: Aston3D at NAB 2013

    Brainstorm Multimedia: Aston3D at NAB 2013

  • Haivision: Video Cloud at NAB 2013

    Haivision: Video Cloud at NAB 2013

  • AC Entertainment Technologies at BVE 2013

    AC Entertainment Technologies at BVE 2013

  • Haivision at IBC 2012

    Haivision at IBC 2012

  • Brainstorm at IBC 2012

    Brainstorm at IBC 2012

  • Haivision at NAB 2012

    Haivision at NAB 2012

  • Brainstorm at NAB 2012

    Brainstorm at NAB 2012

  • Atomos Samurai at NAB 2012

    Atomos Samurai at NAB 2012

  • Brainstorm at IBC2011

    Brainstorm at IBC2011

  • Haivision at IBC2011

    Haivision at IBC2011

  • ATOMOS at BVE North 2012

    ATOMOS at BVE North 2012

  • Object Matrix Hybrid Workflow and Artifical Intelligence at NAB 2018

    Object Matrix Hybrid Workflow and Artifical Intelligence at NAB 2018

  • NewsTicker 5 from ChyronHego at NAB 2017

    NewsTicker 5 from ChyronHego at NAB 2017

  • Uncompressed Video over IP from Matrox at NAB 2017

    Uncompressed Video over IP from Matrox at NAB 2017

  • HEVC 4k Encoding from Aviwest at NAB 2017

    HEVC 4k Encoding from Aviwest at NAB 2017

  • Blackmagic Design at IBC 2016

    Blackmagic Design at IBC 2016

  • Prime Focus Technologies at IBC 2016

    Prime Focus Technologies at IBC 2016

  • Videosys at NAB 2016

    Videosys at NAB 2016

  • 3D Storm at IBC 2015

    3D Storm at IBC 2015

  • Playbox at IBC 2015

    Playbox at IBC 2015

  • PlayBox at BVE 2015

    PlayBox at BVE 2015

  • KITPLUS rig setup at IBC 2014

    KITPLUS rig setup at IBC 2014

  • PAG talk about flying with batteries at IBC 2014

    PAG talk about flying with batteries at IBC 2014

  • Clear-Com FreeSpeak II at IBC 2014

    Clear-Com FreeSpeak II at IBC 2014

  • Fibrenetix with StorageDNA at IBC 2014

    Fibrenetix with StorageDNA at IBC 2014

  • Fibrenetix with Quadrus at IBC 2014

    Fibrenetix with Quadrus at IBC 2014

  • Libec ALLEX slider system at NAB 2014

    Libec ALLEX slider system at NAB 2014

  • Atomos Shogun and Ninja Star at NAB 2014

    Atomos Shogun and Ninja Star at NAB 2014

  • Atomos Operating System at NAB 2014

    Atomos Operating System at NAB 2014

  • Atomos at NAB 2014

    Atomos at NAB 2014

  • Atomos Ronin at BVE 2014

    Atomos Ronin at BVE 2014

  • Atomos Ninja Blade at BVE 2014

    Atomos Ninja Blade at BVE 2014

  • Camdec at BVE 2014

    Camdec at BVE 2014

  • Digital Vision on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Digital Vision on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Atomos Ninja2 Recorder at IBC 2013

    Atomos Ninja2 Recorder at IBC 2013

  • Atomos Ronin at IBC 2013

    Atomos Ronin at IBC 2013

  • Softron Media at IBC 2013

    Softron Media at IBC 2013

  • Photon Beard: Cyc Hood at NAB 2013

    Photon Beard: Cyc Hood at NAB 2013

  • File Catalyst at NAB 2013

    File Catalyst at NAB 2013

  • Thear Technology at BVE 2013

    Thear Technology at BVE 2013

  • True Lens at BVE 2013

    True Lens at BVE 2013

  • Atomos at BVE 2013

    Atomos at BVE 2013

  • Thear Technology Limited at BVE North 2012

    Thear Technology Limited at BVE North 2012

  • Scayl at IBC 2012

    Scayl at IBC 2012

  • Studer at BVE 2012

    Studer at BVE 2012

  • Global Distribution at BVE 2012

    Global Distribution at BVE 2012

  • Thear Technology Limited at BVE 2012

    Thear Technology Limited at BVE 2012

  • Real Life Kit at ProVideo2011

    Real Life Kit at ProVideo2011

  • Atomos at ProVideo2011

    Atomos at ProVideo2011

  • Thear Technology Limited at ProVideo2011

    Thear Technology Limited at ProVideo2011

  • Jonathan Harrison at BVE North 2011

    Jonathan Harrison at BVE North 2011

  • The Vision Charity at BVE North 2011

    The Vision Charity at BVE North 2011

  • Hireacamera at BVE North 2011

    Hireacamera at BVE North 2011

  • G-Technology at IBC2011

    G-Technology at IBC2011

  • Sonnet Technology at IBC2011

    Sonnet Technology at IBC2011

  • Prime Focus at IBC2011

    Prime Focus at IBC2011

  • PlayBox Technology at IBC2011

    PlayBox Technology at IBC2011

  • Bristol VFX at IBC2011

    Bristol VFX at IBC2011

  • Cinegy Daniel 2 Codec shown at IBC 2018

    Cinegy Daniel 2 Codec shown at IBC 2018

  • Cinegy 8k daniel2 workflow from glass to glass at IBC 2019

    Cinegy 8k daniel2 workflow from glass to glass at IBC 2019

  • Glensound Dante at IBC 2014

    Glensound Dante at IBC 2014

  • JVC GY-HM650 upgrade at NAB 2013

    JVC GY-HM650 upgrade at NAB 2013

  • Telestream at NAB 2012

    Telestream at NAB 2012

  • Prodys at IBC2011

    Prodys at IBC2011


Related Shows
  • Samantha Baines at BVE 2015

    Samantha Baines at BVE 2015


Articles
State of the Nation - The chances of anything coming from Mars
Dick Hobbs - new We were much less worldly-wise in 1938, you may say. But the autumn of 2019 in the UK saw an election campaign which was marked – many would argue dominated – by fake news, by carefully placed stories which were not what they seemed to be. Politicians set the agenda, inventing facts where necessary.
Tags: iss141 | orson welles | cbs | fakeapp | fake news | ai | codec | ibc innovation | gblabs | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
Gearing up for The Americas with Simon Reeve
Jonathan Joung For several years, it has been my honour to collaborate as director of photography with Simon Reeve, the well-known British author, adventurer, and TV presenter. Our latest partnership, the popular BBC Two program “The Americas With Simon Reeve,” is our most ambitious project yet, tracing Simon’s journey from the top to the toe of two continents. Series 1 of “The Americas,” covering North and Central America, has just finished airing on BBC Two. Currently in production, Series 2 will continue the story down through South America and will air in 2020.
Tags: iss141 | litepanels | vitec | pxw x500 | a7s dslr | dionic xt | flowtech | smallhd 702 | Jonathan Joung
Contributing Author Jonathan Joung Click to read or download PDF
A Focus on the Feels
Simon Jones

Founded in London in the early 70s, Densitron was – as many companies are in the beginning - a small, specialist provider of an emerging range of thoughtfully assembled display technology products.

But that was 45 years ago. Although still London-based, it is no longer accurate to refer to Densitron as ‘small’. Consistent growth through the decades - coupled with recently becoming part of Quixant, the global gaming and broadcast technology group - has seen Densitron expand as part of a much larger, publicly traded company with offices in Europe, Asia, and America comprised of more than 200 employees generating annual turnover in excess of $100m.

Tags: iss141 | denistron | quixant | ids | human-machine | Simon Jones
Contributing Author Simon Jones Click to read or download PDF
The Value of Trade Shows
KitPlus

When you think of trade shows some might consider the relevance in today's digital world where, with the click of a button, you can research the latest technology and, with another click, someone will deliver said item to your door later that day.

So on that note let's dispel the naysayers!

Tags: iss141 | ibc | kitplusshow | mpts | nab | cabsat | bsc | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
Creating Diverse Show Content For Diversity
Clive Silver Diversity has been a household name in the UK for many years now. Can you tell us about your involvement with them? After winning Britain’s Got Talent (BGT), the group’s entire existence got turned on its head. One of the first things Diversity’s leader, Ashley Banjo, did was to make a list of all the things he thought made a show great.
Tags: iss141 | diversity | bgt | cs media | braw | ursa minipro | blackmagic raw | braw | Clive Silver
Contributing Author Clive Silver Click to read or download PDF