GUEST COLUMN: Peter Jones, MD, Anna Valley, on why AV and broadcast isn't converging

Anna Valley has always provided AV services to broadcasters. We provide broadcasters with large screens, graphic switchers and other AV tech for shows like Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice, we install sets in broadcast studios, and we provide AV for broadcast conferences and events.

At the moment though, we’re also a broadcast company for corporates. So, we’re building studios (both at our base and in various other locations) and delivering live streams (which are TV shows at heart) for all kinds of businesses.

We are exactly on the verge of the two industries, and I believe that they are intrinsically different. Do I think they’re
using each other’s technology? Absolutely. But I don’t think they’re converging and, no matter how much we’d like them to, I don’t think they ever will.

One of the biggest obstacles to any potential convergence is that broadcast and AV are governed by two different standard’s bodies. SMPTE (The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) governs technical standards for TV formats whereas VESA (The Video Equipment Suppliers Association) develops standards for computer-based video formats. And the two formats are not interchangeable.

What is happening is that, when broadcasters do remote dial-ins, or create massive LED backdrops with graphic inputs, they’re using inherent AV technology. And, when AV companies do big conferences and presentations in studios, they’re using broadcast technology in their AV environment. But either the AV or broadcast outputs have to be converted for final delivery. While there are a few examples of niche kit that can traverse the two environments, it’s the exception rather than the norm.
AV and broadcast technology also have different intrinsic design objectives. AV technology is designed to achieve your objective with the minimum fuss. The intention is for users to operate the system as easily and conveniently as possible, and the technical standards generally come second. Broadcast is generally focused on creating content with the highest possible levels of production values.

Another example of the disparity between the two worlds is how copyrighted content is dealt with. There’s a standard
in the AV world called High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) and anything copyrighted will only play on a display that has got this HDCP feature. It’s a really important part of showing copyrighted content in the AV world, but it’s not compatible with broadcast technology. This is just one example of how the “musts” and the “cannots” between the industries are mutually exclusive.

What both the broadcast and AV worlds are converging with is IT. They are both so dependent on the IT element – it’s become inherently important to the technologies and workflows in both sectors.

Despite these obstacles to convergence, using a combination of AV and broadcast tech has enormous potential for both industries – it’s what has enabled so much of the remote event production and corporate communication we’ve seen over the last year. Being able to set up an easy-to-use studio in one place and having a professional team in another location control the feed from the studio, curate additional content and transmit a final programme to a global audience is a really powerful solution that relies on technology and skills from both sectors.

The issues outlined above may ultimately be resolved, but it’s certainly not a simple process and it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. Until then, it’s up to the talented professionals in both industries to come up with innovative solutions that allow our clients to get the best of both worlds.

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