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Evolutions The media cloud by Bob Pank Y ears ago my boss, the sales director, warned me that talk of ‘technical revolutions’ was not good. After all, a revolution ends up where it started. On the other hand ‘evolutions’ were much better. Of course he was right. Over the years the technology of television has continuously evolved via numerous incremental improvements usually affecting only parts of the industry, but now big game-changing events rarely happen. What can we look forward to at IBC? Gone are the heady days of tape format wars. Now the modern equivalent could be, perhaps, the introduction of another file format, but that only adds to the vast volume already in use. The resurgence of 3D has made a significant lasting impact; maybe there will be progress with autostereoscopic screens. But the big thing will, no doubt, be new developments in 4K hopefully including more affordable displays. 48 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 80 AUGUST 2013 Meanwhile the cloud continues its evolution. It has been around for many years but has only recently been more widely applied to television. At IBC2012 more exhibitors were showing cloud-based applications and many others were happy to talk about their cloud strategy. At NAB this year Quantel set people thinking in new ways with their vision of the ‘internet of frames’. You can find a 10-minute description on YouTube. Expect much more cloud at IBC2013, especially for production and post production services. To date, cloud-based applications for television have been evolutionary, with more companies opening up to offer services that fit with the way television people work today... while also, of course, delivering real earthly advantages. If you visit a TV station you typically will still find an MCR with racks of noisy heat-generating technical equipment. Does it still need to be there? And if you visit a Soho post-production house there are, again, racks of kit. Well, that’s how it has been but today could the cloud actually spark an evolution and displace much of that expensive power-hungry equipment from its traditional on-site location? There are two possible motives for doing so: lowering costs and achieving more efficient workflows. The cloud has now been around long enough to show some trends. Perhaps the most popular application has turned out to be the ability to allow collaborative workflows, around the world if needs be. Many TV productions typically pull a team together for a period. Cloud services can offer collaborative applications for the team to develop, plan, edit and review, involving chosen experts from anywhere. This all sounds fine until you look at the reality. Many people do not have super-fast broadband and the cloud does not yet include a time machine to keep people in different time zones online at the same time. In other words, there are pros and cons but, in general, there is a steady increase in the use of cloud facilities for production. Sohonet is well known for providing secure high-speed short and long- range networking for the television and film industries. Recently the company introduced Sohonet Media Storage, claiming a first for private cloud storage as a service platform that is tuned and optimised for the media sector and accessed via its established Sohonet Media Network. This is offered as ‘an extensible, secure and flexible storage solution’, which provides additional storage for existing infrastructures. It aims to provide both short-term and long- term flexible storage to meet its customers’ requirements. As Sohonet has an established client base that already uses its high-speed digital connections, potentially its customers already have the suitably fast connections needed to work fast with the cloud. At Aframe, CEO David Peto, refers to the ‘Media Cloud’, which nicely separates its tasks from the many other cloud applications now in use. He comments on the state of his business. “Year on year we have seen a more accelerated rate of adoption of cloud computing, whether it’s in TV production and broadcast or the larger corporate media organisations. The benefits of the cloud are already well accepted by business, now there’s a viable solution for video it makes sense for them to explore the time and money savings it can provide.”