NAB 2024 Q&A

Apr 23, 2024  |  by Todd Mason

An interview with Todd Mason, Chief Executive Officer, and founder of Broadcast Management Group.

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An interview with Todd Mason, Chief Executive Officer, and founder of Broadcast Management Group.

As someone who has been attending the National Association of Broadcasters Convention for more than 20 years, how do you think NAB has changed?

The convention has evolved but stays true to its core intent. This annual event provides the best central gathering place for buyers and sellers of broadcast technology, broadcast services providers, and consultants to meet in person and discuss where technology is going and make deals. Manufacturers make major product announcements and gather information from a wide range of feedback on what customers are looking for. It’s also a great place to close sales. Providers can promote their services, and consultants can effectively meet with and learn from everyone in one place. It is also full of great panel discussions and keynotes from industry leaders.

For BMG, what is the most significant benefit of attending NAB?

We are different than most who attend NAB. We are a managed service provider, systems integrator, consultant, and power user of live broadcasting technology. We have developed partnerships with many major manufacturers, so we are mostly aware of what will be announced. In most cases, we have worked with the manufacturers for months on these new developments and have already applied the advancements. However, there are always some great surprises. I like finding smaller and newer manufacturers that we don’t know. They often have small booths in the back of the halls. I always try to seek them out. I remember finding Unity Intercom in 2015 in a small booth in the back of one of the halls. I thought the product was fantastic and was thinking of a way we could integrate it into our workflow. It was a lifesaver when Covid hit. You would be hard-pressed not to find a major network or production company that is not using it currently.

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Did you sense any overall theme of this year’s NAB?

Cloud production is here, ready for prime time, and exploding with organizations globally adopting it.

Are people utilizing different types of clouds?

When cloud production first came out, one of the many advantages people thought was that it saved money. However, because of their pricing model, many companies have found public clouds too expensive. Some companies are leaving the public cloud and doing a hybrid setup—on-prem and in the cloud.

BMG offers a private cloud (BMG Cloud Control Center™), a complete production ecosystem explicitly designed for broadcast production. Our pricing model is far more cost-effective than the non-dedicated public cloud but provides all the same benefits plus. So, at NAB, providers showed both public and private cloud services. I think you will see a lot of organizations moving to a private cloud like BMG’s Cloud Control Center™.

What are the benefits of the cloud?

  1. The cloud can provide services on demand, allowing the client to spin up and spin down technology as needed. Many clients have a base level of production needs, but when they have many needs, the cloud provides them with the added capacity without paying for the technology long term. In addition to the cost benefits of BMG’s private cloud, BMG is a complete production ecosystem, and it can provide both technology and staffing on demand.
  2. Generally, the cloud moves cost from a CapEX to an operating expense. The client spends less on CapEx, uses less real-estate space, requires less extraordinary construction build-out, and does not need to keep up with the ever-changing hardware, maintenance, and operations of the equipment and software. With the BMG private cloud, the staffing levels are also lower than dedicated on-prem.
  3. In the past, many enterprise video clients would have built an entire production facility to include studios, control rooms, tech centers, and edit rooms. Now, they can build a studio on-site and leverage a private cloud like BMG’s, spinning up hardware and software control rooms and edit rooms and staffing as needed. This lowers CapEx, real estate, headcount, and ongoing CapEX.
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What other use cases does BMG provide that utilize the cloud?

  1. Media asset management (MAM) service, allowing clients to manage their media in the cloud.
  2. Master Control Services is another excellent application for the cloud.
  3. Disaster recovery is a perfect cloud service.
  4. Virtual set production: Why have a dedicated system when you can leverage it in the cloud on demand?
  5. On-demand decentralized production teams leveraging top talent regardless of where they live or work.
  6. Post-production: Editors can access edit systems remotely. These systems are connected to edit machines in the cloud that are also linked to your cloud MAM system.
  7. Transmissions: Clients connected to the BMG Cloud Control Center™ can leverage our global connectivity without paying full-time for all that connectivity.

We regularly add services that clients can leverage from the cloud, and you will see that from other cloud providers.

What other trends did you see at NAB?

Many manufacturers are transitioning out of the hardware business and moving more into being a software company. This is significant to buyers as this becomes an ongoing SAS model rather than a CapEx cost. This is also best suited for a private cloud setup. Example: Suppose the manufacturer is only selling the software. In that case, the cloud is a more straightforward setup, as the cloud provider would supply the hardware and be responsible for installing the hardware and software, configuration, ongoing maintenance, operations, and updates. A private cloud dedicated to production is a better solution than a generic public cloud because it would have expertise in broadcast production.

What about REMI production? Have you seen technological advancements that support REMi?

During the last four years, significant global broadcasters have adopted REMI production in news, sports, entertainment, and large-scale event broadcasts. This is an unprecedented technological advance.

We at BMG have seen it move from tier 4 and 3 shows to tier 1 broadcasts. One of the initial holdbacks was the problem with latency. Broadcast Management Group, working with manufacturers, has led that effort, and BMG is down to 7 frames latency from the truck to the BMG Cloud and will soon be down to 3 frames. At NAB this year, more manufacturers support super-low latency, providing users with more options. Several manufacturers offer a 1 Rack Unit (RU) box that can encode up to 16 feeds or more. We see more manufacturers providing bi-directional boxes, which offer more flexibility. BMG produces content at 1080P, but we are moving to HDR, which only a few encoding/decoding manufacturers currently support. The ones who do not currently offer HDR are aggressively planning to support HDR in the near future. For BMG, we are producing more complex broadcasts, so more transmission paths between our trucks and our cloud are essential, as is HDR. I am happy with the progress in this area. Our trucks currently support up to 16 cameras, but we are upgrading to support more cameras due to client demand for larger REMI shows.

The reality is that education is the main holdback for more tier 1 REMI events and more high-quality production providers. There is also a fair amount of misinformation from organizations not vested in seeing REMI succeed and users who have yet to work with qualified REMI production companies. We have trained many people on REMI during the last 3 years, and the feedback is excellent. Not everyone who offers REMI is at the same level, so we need more people working with advanced organizations in this area to experience REMI. The technology is there, and the benefits of quality, creativity, access to the best talent, and positive environmental impact are clear and proven.

Who were some of the manufacturers you were most impressed with regarding innovations in cloud production and REMI workflow:

The great news is that many manufacturers are embracing Cloud and REMI-providing products. The more manufacturers develop products, the better it is for our industry.

  1. We believe ipv Curator’s MAM software is the most advanced MAM software available, and it was on full display at NAB. We are a pound partner of ipv. It is the software that drives our Cloud MAM system.
  2. I was impressed with what I saw from Grass Valley’s AMP system, which was built for the cloud and provides a complete production ecosystem.
  3. For. A had an excellent encoder that supports more than 16 paths of bidirectional HDR streams.
  4. LiveU has always had significant developments with its encoders and decoders and advancements in metadata capture.
  5. Haivision also supports HDR and has had some remarkable developments.
  6. Zero Density’s virtual set, AR, and VR technology were terrific. They introduced a new graphic system built on the Unreal engine that we are excited about.
  7. NDI 6, we are very excited about NDI 6 and all of the advancements.
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Are there any other takeaways from NAB?

Yes, more customers are concerned about our environment and the benefits of cloud production and REMI workflow. I am very proud of our company’s nomination for an NAB Environmental award.

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