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Building a sustainable live production future

Posted on Dec 10, 2023 by FEED Staff

Global head of marketing for Tata Communications’ media division, Kevin O’Meara, explains how going remote and adopting sustainable practices is a business-savvy decision

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Let’s rewind the clock to 2018, when remote (or REMI) video production was yet to become widespread. In those halcyon pre-pandemic days, live sports and entertainment productions were characterised by a flurry of outside broadcast (OB) trucks, colossal control rooms and a multitude of crew members being dispatched across both countries and continents.

The concept of conducting live productions from remote locations with minimal crew or limited staff seemed like a distant dream. While the tech that underpins integrated workflows for capturing live content from remote locations and managing it from a central control room had already existed long before Covid-19 entered the picture, there had been many doubters in the live sports broadcast world.

But the needs created by successive lockdowns forced their hand, and the ability of remote and distributed set-ups to provide top-quality coverage proved itself. And without a doubt, the pandemic hastened its wider adoption, but is the momentum now fading?

Taking aim at sustainability 

Media companies have long spoken about the industry’s environmental impact, and sustainability is a frequent agenda item on the event circuit. A recent Royal Television Society event revealed that each hour of television produces a carbon footprint of 9.2 tonnes – the equivalent of two households’ annual consumption.

This year’s NAB Show and IBC also saw the launch of inaugural awards and speaker tracks focused on media industry initiatives that address and reduce the environmental impact of TV and film production. Yet fewer remote productions are taking place today than two or three years ago.

I’m often asked for my insights into how companies engaged in live production could ‘do better’ regarding sustainability. It’s a fair question, but it does raise a difficult point. Having proved that remote production works and is more cost and environmentally efficient, many organisations are now moving back to rolling OBs on-site to produce games and other live events. 

The next question is: as sustainability continues to emerge as a critical consideration for media companies, can they look back to successes during the pandemic and apply those lessons moving forward?

Taking action that pays off

The answer is yes because it also makes business sense. As broadcasters increasingly look to produce more content more efficiently and sustainably, remote and cloud-based production workflows can empower them to optimise resources and deliver the high production values  that consumers demand – only more cost-effectively.

Dispatching smaller crews, shipping less equipment and deploying fewer – as well as smaller – vehicles worldwide undoubtedly positively impacts the environment, offering a compelling alternative to complex OB set-ups. But an equally vital selling point is that centralised remote productions enable greater efficiency and flexibility. The organisation leading the way in this is Formula 1. Having previously shipped a vast amount of equipment globally all the time to produce races, it has moved its remote production to Biggin Hill in the UK where it uses its own REMI facilities to bring races to life, considerably reducing its overheads and environmental impact. 

Not only does a remote approach drive down travel and shipping costs – the remote model offers cost savings of up to 30% or more – but it allows a single team to oversee multiple live events in a day, enabling live event producers to tap into the expertise of top operators, editors and on-screen talent across a wider spectrum of productions.

Raising sustainability through the cloud 

When contemplating the technology solutions crucial for broadcasters’ efforts to go green, the cloud remains at the forefront. By embracing cutting-edge cloud technologies, broadcasters and service providers can play a pivotal role in reducing the industry’s environmental footprint – without compromising quality.

Cloud-based productions facilitate more efficient content creation, editing and storage via digital platforms, diminishing the reliance on physical resources. They also broaden media companies’ abilities to cater to the evolving preferences of modern viewers through rapid clipping and editing capabilities – particularly younger audiences who favour social media highlights and behind-the-scenes content.

Adoption where it makes sense is the way forward

The transformation to remote and distributed production has been gaining traction for several years, but wholesale adoption won’t happen overnight. Still, growth in REMI deployments will continue at pace where it not only aids the environment but also brings more comprehensive benefits to the business. 

Live content producers have a vested interest in fostering remote production, reducing the need for extensive travel to cover live events. By enabling production teams to handle multiple live events in a day through cloud and remote workflows, media companies improve resourcing and boost work-life balance. More remote productions can mean not just lower emissions but more sustainable careers and, in turn, happier and more productive team members.

Originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of FEED.

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