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SMPTE Presents Met.Expo.2024


October 15, 2021

The combination of Cloud and COVID-19 continues to have a massive impact on workflows and working practices around the world. Back in 2018, Cloud was becoming popular for distribution, file centralization, offline processes, and limited realtime collaboration. The impacts of lockdown have been vast. We see many live workflows where “backhauling feeds” are no longer to a local, on-premise data center, but to a cloud location where instances of user’s favorite tools are running in virtual machines and creating results that are quality-controlled via proxies and ready to distribute globally at speeds that were previously difficult to achieve.

Many of these new cloud workflows that were rapidly put together because traditional methods were not available have demonstrated commercial and creative benefits that were previously hidden.

“What do you mean hidden?” you ask. Well, I believe that there has been resistance to many of the technologies that remove traditional switcher panels, do away with physical knobs to control devices, and replace multiple copies of files with single collaborative workflows. That resistance is often due to a significant shift in working practices and the feeling that unless we do things in the tried and tested ways, it will not work, or we will lose control of some unspecified aspect of the show.

Getting the show out during the pandemic has demonstrated the incredible technical creativity of thousands of engineers and technicians around the world to get the job done despite not having access to local tools and content. Many of these new practices, I believe, will stay, grow, and develop into a thriving virtualized media ecosystem.

My column is supposed to focus on standards; so, what does that mean for the SMPTE standards community. Fundamentally, the nature of the standards we develop will change. For the past 100 years, SMPTE standards have focused on defying the laws of physics to put seemingly impossible amounts of data onto cables that were only just on the limits of being able to cope.

Today, we carry around devices in our pockets with resolutions greater than the 4K content being shot around the world. They can transcode content in realtime without catching fire and they can also make phone calls, although let us face it, how often do you actually do that?

The standards that the industry will need are all about allowing content interchange. This entails versatile, dynamic registers of metadata and data. This means protocols for interchanging abstract concepts like context as well as all the concrete metadata created on set by smart lighting, smart lenses, robotic assistants, and then preserving that metadata so that an AI engine does not have to guess what was happening at a later stage of the media’s lifecycle.

SMPTE’s Media in the Cloud initiative along with the On Set Virtual Production Rapid Industry Solution initiative are our first steps toward developing a broad variety of documents to foster a true multivendor, global media cloud ecosystem. If we get it right, we will see a flood of start-ups producing technology to help us on that journey. We need your help to get it right. Contact us if you would like to be part of these initiatives or help with our current standards work. Who knows what kind of magic your first outreach might bring.


Bruce Devlin

Bruce Devlin has been working in the media industry for 30 years and is the chief media scientist at Dalet Digital Media Systems as well as the founder of Mr MXF Ltd. and co-founder of the Media Bay LLC. He is well known in the industry for his technology presentations, especially his educational YouTube series—Bruce’s Shorts. Devlin has designed everything from ASICs to algorithms. He tweets as @MrMXF chaired the SMPTE working groups and literally wrote the book on the MXF format. Devlin is an alumnus of Queens’ College Cambridge England. He is a member of the International Association of Broadcast Manufacturers (IABM) and Digital Production Partnership, a fellow and U.K. Governor of SMPTE, a recipient of SMPTE’s David Sarnoff Medal, a recipient of BKSTS’ Achievement award, keen to educate the world about media and a rider of bicycles (occasionally quickly). Devlin is also a recipient of the SMPTE Excellence in Standards award.

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