Five Questions for Stan Moote

Five Questions for Stan Moote

SMoote LargeThis month we went in search of a conscientious observer, someone who could give us the straight answers to some tough questions. We were told that Stan Moote was our guy. So we tracked him down at his consulting office in Toronto and asked him these five questions about virtualization and transitioning the production studio to IP.

WS: Virtualization. How real is that to broadcasters?

SM: It’s real, both in terms of business and technology. A lot of the processes we did in hardware in production we can simply do in software today. You can see where it’s all going by looking at the lower end production places that are Internet based. They are doing just about everything on their PC and through IP because they can. They’re not trying to address the high-end production quality that most broadcasters are after, but they’re getting viewership I bet. And that does affect our industry.

WS: So, does that mean we all rush out today and completely virtualize our production studios with IP only?

SM: I think we’re looking at more of a hybrid approach, where you’re going to be using SDI and AES, and mixing it in with IP streams. What you’re not going to do is try to cram everything into IP for the sake of doing it -- unless you’re going to start taking advantage of all the IP technology, right down to data analysis. For most, it’ll grow organically, for example when they get an IP camera and they now need a way to route that.

WS: I’ve heard you talk about a services-versus-channel mindset. Explain that?

SM: We’re just now starting to make that mental switch between “I need to bring up a channel” -- which to everyone means that channel is on 24/7 – to now I’m bringing up services like Saturday morning cartoons. Or, think of special events like your local state fair. If you can bring up a service for just the two weeks of the state fair, that’s valuable. All of a sudden we’re not talking about channels anymore. We’re talking about services. That gives you flexibility, and the biggest thing that makes people successful in any business is time-to-market. It doesn’t matter if you’re making the latest Android device or you’re bringing up something that was unique on your news channel, it’s all about time-to-market; how quickly can I get there?

WS: What’s the main concern for broadcasters who are thinking about these things?

SM: The biggest question when I talk to broadcasters about moving the plant over to IP is how to bring together different software networking protocols and methodologies. They want to make sure that everything is going to be connected together. But, I remind them that it was a Wild West in radio for quite a while, too, and that radio is probably the best example of how it’s done. AES67 came out, and although it doesn’t make everything 100 percent compatible, it’s a big starting point. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time on audio, I’ve always watched radio very carefully. Ultimately, as you guys at Wheatstone know better than anyone, the transitions all happened in radio ... with computer processing, the switcher box turned into IP; all these things happened in radio first because audio could run at lower speeds. If we were only running standard definition (video), then we’d be in a far better position to switch to IP right away, too. But the fact is, we keep adding resolutions that stretch everything again. It never gets stabilized out. But those greater speeds will ultimately translate over and it will happen in video too as technology grows.

WS: What else should we be thinking about?

SM: I think the main thing is to forward-think and realize that you’re going to grow it organically, like what Guerrero is doing (read last month’s interview with Dave Guerrero at PBS). He’s going to be putting in an IP camera, and for the audio, he’s adding a Wheatstone IP BLADE for his routing. All these technologies are out there, some are very solid – IP on the distribution side is a good solid example – and some are not so solid. It’s not all bulletproof yet, but the point is, if you wait and don’t start to transition, you’re going to lose out. You will lose customers because all these (low-end production houses) that are doing with hardly adequate productions - not very good quality, not very good distribution -they’re getting viewership. And if you wait for the technology to get stable, you’re going to miss out. Get on with the technology that you are comfortable with today. Try new approaches. Forward-think that ultimately you are going to have a hybrid plant, and you’re going to grow organically. People are hesitating over technology. If we hesitated we’d still be on Windows 3.1.

Stan Moote of Moote Points consulting has been in the industry for more than 30 years, both on the engineering and business side. He’s been a plant engineer for a major TV station and a VP for Leitch/Harris. He holds several patents. Stan was involved in the SMPTE CCIR-601 standard, and has helped define many of the new transport services used in New Media today. He is the Advisory CTO for IABM. You can see many of Stan’s articles and contact him directly at ca.linkedin.com/in/stanmoote.

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