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The convergence between information technology and broadcast


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#1 Daniel Smith

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 09:11 AM

Hi,

I am currently writing my dissertation exploring the convergence between information technology and broadcast. I am looking at the impact information technology has had on our industry, what advantages it has brought, and also any disadvantages.

If you help me out and answer the following questions and share your thoughts that would be fantastic.


Do you think it is a good thing broadcast and information technologies are merging to create hybrid systems? And why?

Has the broadcasting industry become reliant upon information technology? Please explain your answer.

How does the reliability of traditional broadcast equipment weigh up against the extra functionality offered within hybrid broadcast systems?

Broadcast is still relying on BARB statistics to count a programmes viewers, whilst Youtube.com are able to produce instantaneous viewing statistics, with ratings, feedback and far greater levels of interactivity. Why are the broadcasting industry taking so long to adopt and make use of these information technologies to enhance its own experience?


If you can share your thoughts that would be great. I would like to reference what is said, so if you could leave any credentials, such as qualifications/length of time working in the industry, that are not on your cinematography.com profile that would great.

Thanks in advance.
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#2 Freya Black

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 02:08 PM

Has the broadcasting industry become reliant upon information technology? Please explain your answer.


This question doesn't really make sense.

I mean the answer is obviously yes but there is very little in the modern world that is not reliant on information technology in some way or another. Also Information technology in broadcast it not a recent thing. Even analogue TV sets were often microprocessor controlled and how long ago was teletext?

When people talk of convergence in broadcast they are usually talking about connected systems and the rise of the internet. Otherwise you are going back decades. Maybe to the 70's or something... dunno. I doubt there is much in a typical broadcast centre that isn't microprocessor controlled. I struggle to think of anything. Even the air conditioning. Maybe the desk fans?

Just trying to be helpful but I think you need to rephrase your question because I suspect it isn't asking what you want to ask?

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#3 Daniel Smith

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 03:14 PM

This question doesn't really make sense.

I mean the answer is obviously yes but there is very little in the modern world that is not reliant on information technology in some way or another. Also Information technology in broadcast it not a recent thing. Even analogue TV sets were often microprocessor controlled and how long ago was teletext?

When people talk of convergence in broadcast they are usually talking about connected systems and the rise of the internet. Otherwise you are going back decades. Maybe to the 70's or something... dunno. I doubt there is much in a typical broadcast centre that isn't microprocessor controlled. I struggle to think of anything. Even the air conditioning. Maybe the desk fans?

Just trying to be helpful but I think you need to rephrase your question because I suspect it isn't asking what you want to ask?

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Thanks for the feedback Freya, it's surprisingly difficult, at this stage of my dissertation at least, coming up with solid questions. I'll try to define my question a bit further.

I'm glad you mentioned teletext, I overlooked that completely. I really am exploring the past century of converged technology, covering areas such early acquisition methods, looking at the developments in interoperability etc.

Discounting micro-processors as anything IT related, what other areas of broadcast do you feel may have become reliant on information technology, if any? If computers were not invented, what aspects of broadcast do you think would change? Could broadcast survive without it?

I realise these are not short questions, but any thoughts, points or discussion would be really helpful.

Thanks again.

Edited by Daniel Ashley-Smith, 28 January 2012 - 03:17 PM.

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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 04:25 PM

Discounting micro-processors as anything IT related, what other areas of broadcast do you feel may have become reliant on information technology, if any? If computers were not invented, what aspects of broadcast do you think would change? Could broadcast survive without it?


Computers and IT systems are everywhere in the broadcasting system. They're used in newsrooms, storage for HD, in the solid state cameras. You don't need computers as used today for broadcast, it existed before the age of the digital watch, just look at the technology used up to say the mid 1970s. The area which might lose out might be HDTV, because of the volume of data involved and this might be difficult to handle in what would probably be an analogue world.
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#5 Freya Black

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 05:00 PM

Discounting micro-processors as anything IT related,


but how can you do that?!!!
I.T. preety much is all about microprocessors!

what other areas of broadcast do you feel may have become reliant on information technology, if any? If computers were not invented, what aspects of broadcast do you think would change? Could broadcast survive without it?


Broadcast existed before microprocessors so it could theoretically exist without them but if you are talking about NOW then of course it couldn't because even the power that everything is running off relies on IT. Computers are so fundamental to everything now that broadcast would be the least of your worries.

This may upset you but everything in broadcast is reliant on IT.
Even those old tape decks will have been programmed by someone. Teletext and the data area in analogue TV wasn't just used for user stuff but also to send digital commands to transmitters and other weird internal stuff. God knows how stuff works now. Even the TV signals are digital now! Radio is still around in analogue form of course. The scope of what you are asking is too large. The set top boxes in everyones homes are small computers. The TV's are small computers. The broadcast is done by computers. The satellites contain computers.

I get the impression that you are thinking of something specific when you talk about IT. Just like when people talk about convergance in broadcast they are generally talking about convergance with the internet. I don't know what else to say because the scope of your question is so large as to be kind of meaningless.

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#6 Daniel Smith

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 07:26 PM

Computers and IT systems are everywhere in the broadcasting system. They're used in newsrooms, storage for HD, in the solid state cameras. You don't need computers as used today for broadcast, it existed before the age of the digital watch, just look at the technology used up to say the mid 1970s. The area which might lose out might be HDTV, because of the volume of data involved and this might be difficult to handle in what would probably be an analogue world.

Thanks for the reply Brian.

but how can you do that?!!!
I.T. preety much is all about microprocessors!

Broadcast existed before microprocessors so it could theoretically exist without them but if you are talking about NOW then of course it couldn't because even the power that everything is running off relies on IT. Computers are so fundamental to everything now that broadcast would be the least of your worries.

This may upset you but everything in broadcast is reliant on IT.
Even those old tape decks will have been programmed by someone. Teletext and the data area in analogue TV wasn't just used for user stuff but also to send digital commands to transmitters and other weird internal stuff. God knows how stuff works now. Even the TV signals are digital now! Radio is still around in analogue form of course. The scope of what you are asking is too large. The set top boxes in everyones homes are small computers. The TV's are small computers. The broadcast is done by computers. The satellites contain computers.

I get the impression that you are thinking of something specific when you talk about IT. Just like when people talk about convergance in broadcast they are generally talking about convergance with the internet. I don't know what else to say because the scope of your question is so large as to be kind of meaningless.

I agree it's a huge subject to consider, but really it's just your opinion that I'm looking for, mine is irrelevant for the dissertation.

As you mentioned the convergence between broadcast and the internet, do you believe television is becoming superseded and outdated by web sites such as Youtube.com and Vimeo? Is television adopting technology too slowly to keep up?

Many thanks.
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 09:00 PM

<br style="color: rgb(28, 40, 55); font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px; background-color: rgb(250, 251, 252); ">Do you think it is a good thing broadcast and information technologies are merging to create hybrid systems? And why?<br style="color: rgb(28, 40, 55); font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px; background-color: rgb(250, 251, 252); ">


Yes, because it makes things cheaper and more flexible. This has recently become true mainly because of broadcast tech getting access to mass-market technology intended for computer games. For instance, most modern colour correctors do their work on graphics cards which were originally designed to do the same thing to computer games. Obviously having it be mass market makes it vastly cheaper, which is why Da Vinci ended up being bought by Blackmagic - their custom-hardware approach was simply hopelessly out of date.

The IT approach is more flexible because most of the features are implemented in software, which is easier to change. Commodity hardware simply makes things more, faster, or better, but the feature set is software and that's what makes it flexible.

<br style="background-color: rgb(250, 251, 252); ">Has the broadcasting industry become reliant upon information technology? Please explain your answer.<br style="color: rgb(28, 40, 55); font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px; background-color: rgb(250, 251, 252); ">


Other responses have covered the fact that everything is now reliant on IT, sometimes to an alarming degree. Producers are certainly very directly exposed to production IT equipment in the form of things like disk recorders, which started out being very literally a PC in a box marked "Recorder", and they get very nervous about the reliability of these things. Then again, the production office probably also runs lots and lots of mission-critical applications on unprotected single hard disks and cheap computers from bulk suppliers and that isn't afforded nearly the same level of scrutiny. My biggest concern about this situation is not the reliability of IT gear, which either is reasonable or can be made reasonable with uncomplicated techniques, but that the perception of the risk generated by IT is often completely skewed with respect to reality.

<br style="background-color: rgb(250, 251, 252); ">How does the reliability of traditional broadcast equipment weigh up against the extra functionality offered within hybrid broadcast systems?<br style="color: rgb(28, 40, 55); font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px; background-color: rgb(250, 251, 252); ">


Cost for cost, no competition.

Going back to the colour corrector example, you can now have on a GPU costing £250 the sort of computing power that would have cost £250,000 from Da Vinci fifteen years ago. There are downsides in that software is very rarely as snappy and responsive as hardware, at least not unless a lot of care is taken to ensure it is (Baselight does this and it works very well, and is highly responsive).

There is another side to this, in that the advent of HD (and maybe then 3D and 4K) has increased the workload rather a lot. We'd just all got to the point of being able to handle uncompressed SD video trivially, and edit, correct and do DVEs on it all in realtime with no delay, then HD came along and sort of reset the timeline about ten years. Still, things should catch up.

Sometimes I do wish you could just pull on a T-bar and do dissolves in Avid or Premiere though!

Why are the broadcasting industry taking so long to adopt and make use of these information technologies to enhance its own experience?



Because it's run by people who are determinedly nontechnical and largely don't understand what the options are, and if they do, they tend to be conservative to the point of boneheaded stupidity. These are multimillion-pound businesses, which means they're not only run by people who are nontechnical, they're generally run by "management professionals" who know practically nothing about the actual execution of the business they run. Either way you don't want to be the guy who makes a bad call and folds, say, Endemol.

The other part of it is that the advertising-funded model for TV production is either in jeopardy or already beginning to fail because of the internet, and it seems to be literally true that nobody in TV has any idea how to react to this. Previously the situation was simple: make show, sell ads, get money. Now, the internet is so flexible and reacts so fast to the whim of the viewer that it's more difficult than ever to predict which approach will work best.

One thing that does strike me about this is that the "content industry" whines constantly about piracy, but I think what'll really make the difference long term is the way the internet is - entirely legally - affecting the advertising market. That's what will eventually force the biggest changes to take place, not piracy.

P
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#8 Freya Black

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 09:39 PM

know practically nothing about the actual execution of the business they run. Either way you don't want to be the guy who makes a bad call and folds, say, Endemol.


Speak for yourself! Would love to bring down Endemol! In fact I'm hoping the shifts in ownership due to the huge debts will cause changes there but that's one company the world could happily do without.

Probably not a good example!

Edited by Freya Black, 28 January 2012 - 09:39 PM.

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#9 Freya Black

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 09:57 PM

Because it's run by people who are determinedly nontechnical and largely don't understand what the options are, and if they do, they tend to be conservative to the point of boneheaded stupidity. These are multimillion-pound businesses, which means they're not only run by people who are nontechnical, they're generally run by "management professionals" who know practically nothing about the actual execution of the business they run.


This is spot on.
Sometimes I enjoy laughing at the stupidity of these people (or you'd cry) but this just made me very angry. Theres no honor to be had in ignorance! :(

Check out the industry magazine "broadcast". It might be worth your while spending some time looking at it for references. Sadly it went over to a subscription model some years ago but the technology section remains subscription free and they frequently have articles about this kind of thing. (IT in the broadcast industry, not people without 2 brain cells to rub together who have got where they are entirely on account of their class background) I think that would be a more respected place to quote from for a dissertation than an internet forum. If you are lucky your university might have a subscription which you can use to get access to the website. You probably want to ask around in the university library. You should at least be able to access paper copies thru there I would hope!

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Edited by Freya Black, 28 January 2012 - 10:01 PM.

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#10 Freya Black

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 10:06 PM

Heres an example of the deputy editor of broadcast itself talking about convergence:

Broadcast article

Quick quote:

"Part of me still struggles with the word ‘convergence’. For a long time, it felt like the right thing to say, a kind of buzz word that you littered liberally through the conversation to add credibility to whatever point you were making.

But it is becoming easier to see what it means in practical terms when you encounter a format such as Intuition. An interactive Dutch daytime gameshow, it doesn’t sound too sexy at first. And it’s not much too look at, to be honest, with its single host and sparse, low-cost set."
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#11 Freya Black

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 10:16 PM

Another article from broadcast you should definitely read:

Article on file based delivery

You have to read behind the lines a little but theres implication in this article that the industry has been strangling progress in terms of digital production in part by it's specifications for deliverables.

Thankfully the major broadcasters have now come together to solve this problem and have invented their own format for file based delivery!

Phew! So glad they simplified things like that! ;)

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#12 Daniel Smith

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 03:33 PM

Thanks for all the replies, they have really helped out.

Phil, thanks for the feedback, I've already used some of it in my dissertation.

Thanks for the 'Broadcast' magazine suggestion Freya, I'm sure my college have a subscription, I'll check it out next week.
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#13 Keith Walters

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 08:52 PM

Hi,
I am currently writing my dissertation exploring the convergence between information technology and broadcast. I am looking at the impact information technology has had on our industry, what advantages it has brought, and also any disadvantages.

If you help me out and answer the following questions and share your thoughts that would be fantastic.
Do you think it is a good thing broadcast and information technologies are merging to create hybrid systems? And why?
Has the broadcasting industry become reliant upon information technology? Please explain your answer.
How does the reliability of traditional broadcast equipment weigh up against the extra functionality offered within hybrid broadcast systems?
Broadcast is still relying on BARB statistics to count a programmes viewers, whilst Youtube.com are able to produce instantaneous viewing statistics, with ratings, feedback and far greater levels of interactivity. Why are the broadcasting industry taking so long to adopt and make use of these information technologies to enhance its own experience?
If you can share your thoughts that would be great. I would like to reference what is said, so if you could leave any credentials, such as qualifications/length of time working in the industry, that are not on your cinematography.com profile that would great.

Thanks in advance.

Actually, I’ve had to help my niece with assignments for her University Arts degree asking questions very similar to these.

I don’t what institution you are attending, but I get the distinct impression none of her lecturers really have much idea what they are talking about! As with your case, the questions were really vague, and ambiguous to someone actually familiar with the industries involved.

For example it now seems to be the fashion to use the single word “Technology” as though it refers to one specific thing. For example: “How is <<Technology>> being used to … “ etc.
“Technology” originally referred to the “know-how” component of an enterprise, in addition to other expenses such as labour and raw materials. In the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a gradual recognition that Technology was at least as important the as the other two, and it could be marketed and traded on a similar basis.

What the lecturers appear to mean is “modern technology” as opposed to earlier, existing technologies. This is a valid enough question, but I had to waste quite a lot of time determining if that was they were really asking!

To comment on some of the questions:

Broadcast is still relying on BARB statistics to count a programmes viewers, whilst Youtube.com are able to produce instantaneous viewing statistics, with ratings, feedback and far greater levels of interactivity. Why are the broadcasting industry taking so long to adopt and make use of these information technologies to enhance its own experience?


No mystery there. Unlike systems like YouTube which: “are able to produce instantaneous viewing statistics “ there simply is no reliable means of determining who is watching what on broadcast TV (or most cable systems for that matter). I once applied for a job with the people who do the Nielsen Ratings for Australia, and they showed what is actually involved. They select people at random out of the phone book and ask them if they want to participate in the survey process. If they agree, a small box is fitted to their TV/AV system; this is hooked up to their TV antenna system and phone line. The box has its own TV tuner, and by comparing certain characteristics of the short-range electromagnetic interference emitted by the TV with that obtained by sequentially sampling the off-air TV signals with the box’s own tuner, it is able to keep a record what particular channels are being received and when.
More recently they have developed systems than can recognize the audio “signature” of transmitted programs, so that the box can recognize if a particular program is being played back from a video recorder at a later date.

It’s interesting that such systems gave disturbingly different results from what was formerly obtained by having people fill in diaries. It seems people were reluctant to admit their preference for racier types of shows, which is one factor that explains the sudden proliferation of shows with names like “Sex and the City” over the last decade or so!

The biggest problem though, is that, while the “People Meter” can tell you that the TV was on at a particular time and tuned to a particular channel, it has no way of determining how many people (if any) were actually watching, and whether they were even paying attention!
With YouTube, or any other “On Demand” system, the user has to actively select the program downloaded, so it is much more plausible that will be actually watching what they have selected.

You could also note the dramatic change in Commercial FM playlists after iTunes started to become a major operator, particularly ones that catered to the more “vintage rock” audience. For the first time in history, they had access to hard evidence of what “back catalogue” music people actually wanted to hear, (via iTunes statistics) which gave rise to so called “Jack Programming”, that is making the playlists more like would come out of the target audience’s MP3 player.

In both cases, it disturbing to consider how many millions (or billions) of dollars were paid to programming executives over the years, when they clearly had no clue as to what audience preferences really were!

How does the reliability of traditional broadcast equipment weigh up against the extra functionality offered within hybrid broadcast systems?


(Edit) I originally misunderstood the question.
Actually, I don't know that traditional broadcast equipment is any more reliable than modern PC-based systems. True, the PCs are built to a price, and don't necessarily have a long lifespan, but the "equipment" is largely in the software, which does not deteriorate.

Reliability is not necessarily an issue anyway. The simple reality is that older equipment was mostly only designed for analog PAL or NTSC. Although it is possible to use converters to modify the analog signals to work in the digital domain, the quality is never as good. Such systems can never be more than a stopgap toward a full digital system. Computer control of analog studio equipment is far from new; systems date from the 1970s.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, it all comes down to cost; a cheap consumer PC can do the same job as something that once cost thousands of times its price in real terms.
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#14 Keith Walters

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 09:08 PM

Because it's run by people who are determinedly nontechnical and largely don't understand what the options are, and if they do, they tend to be conservative to the point of boneheaded stupidity. These are multimillion-pound businesses, which means they're not only run by people who are nontechnical, they're generally run by "management professionals" who know practically nothing about the actual execution of the business they run. Either way you don't want to be the guy who makes a bad call and folds, say, Endemol.

On that subject, you should see the building I'm in as we speak.
A major "reorganization" is taking place, by exactly the same sort of people you describe above. They seemed to have no idea what actually happens (/ed) in the engineering/service departments, or the consequences of closing them down.

If you've seen "Downfall" (The source of the footage for all the Hitler parodies), you'll have some idea of what it currently looks like in here :-)
(Fortunately, on Friday I move out of here to a new location much closer to home, with enough free hand tools, test equipment and spare parts to last me several lifetimes....)
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#15 Chris Millar

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 09:38 PM

Keith, what is the setting on the torque wrench when you're fastening your neck bolts?
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#16 Daniel Smith

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 03:08 PM

Thanks for the reply Keith, some really interesting points.

With regards to back channels, whilst cable receivers do have and use back channels, why is it they are not using them to record statistics? If current methods would 'in theory' produce the same results, I can't understand why the issues surrounding data integrity would affect it, or are there other, legal or political reasons?

I agree the questions are broad particularly when asking people who work in either the film of television industry, but these are the first set of questions I've asked so far as part of my primary research, and I have to start somewhere. Hopefully any more questions will be slightly more narrowed down.
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