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'How Technology Has Changed the Face of Television' - Kevin Moore, Director, Ion Solutions
14 Feb 2018 :
Ion Solutions was formed in January 2018 with the merger of sister companies Eurotek Ireland and Avtek Solutions, both market leaders in the visual communications sector

In the last twenty years, technology has changed every aspect of our lives – how we work, how we play, how we interact with each other and how we relax. One industry, in particular, which has been completely revolutionised is the broadcast television sector – from news gathering to tv post-production and everything in between, the onset of high end technology has turned the industry on its head.

The provision of broadcast television technology requires a very detailed understanding of both the technical and commercial requirements of the client.

Ion Solutions has established a reputation as Ireland’s foremost partner in the design, supply, and installation of broadcast systems. As a result, we’re well placed to discuss how we feel technology has impacted the TV industry.

Broadcasting has become easier – and more difficult

On one end of the scale, the capability of phones and cameras these days means that amateur film-makers can film their own material without requiring high quality equipment.  And of course, once consumers of these films know they are ‘low budget’, they understandably make allowances for the image quality.

Of course, this works on the other end of broadcast television spectrum too, with viewers expecting high end entertainment ‘shiny floor shows’ to come with all the most up-to-date technology available from the audio-visual effects to the lighting and camerawork – audiences are more sophisticated now than they may have been in the past and they expect to be ‘wowed’. They’re used to high end international programming and they expect that Irish versions will have the same production values as their UK and US counterparts.

The use of high resolution screens and visual effects technology like Pandora’s Box and lighting all help to amplify the talents performance.  Check out this video from our recent Activate showcase.

News programming has also changed with viewers expectations. Rolling news such as Sky News and BBC News 24 has raised the game for broadcasters in Ireland – TV3 recently launched a news studio with a 32 screen Christie Monitor wall, fed with 8 x 4K outputs from a pair of Christie Pandora’s Box servers, which can run up to 8 live HD inputs, in addition to the background canvas. A custom-built lighting set, with LED lights in Perspex “ribs” provides additional creative possibilities, and is controlled via Arcnet from the Pandora’s Box, making the whole control of the look and feel of the studio very easy, and highly automated. 

 

Recording has changed

Even 10 years ago, cards were a relatively rare phenomenon with tape taking precedence as the recording medium of choice. As a result, cameras were larger and heavier and it was rare to meet a member of a production team who didn’t have a box of Sony tapes in the boot of their car.

As technology has evolved, smaller cameras can now deliver better quality pictures and cards are the stock of choice. On the other hand, crews now need to ensure that content is transferred to drives and backed up before cards can be wiped and used again – the media manager, a role which didn’t exist ten years ago, now holds a central role in the crew.  

These changes have had a significant impact on post-production. Where decks once took pride of place, you’ll now find 50TB drives. This has had a knock-on effect on editing and post production schedules and turnaround times for broadcasting programmes. Additionally, data security has become a huge issue, both from the standpoint of content protection, but increasingly, with regulations such as the forthcoming GDPR data privacy legislation, putting an onus on the content creator to protect the integrity of the recordings and content.

At Ion Solutions, we work closely with production companies and post houses to supply them with the most up to date equipment possible, including state-of-the-art graphics systems, format transcoding systems, and increasingly, asset management and archiving systems.

As with many technologies, video editing, transcoding, and processing are increasingly moving to the cloud, either public or private, and many systems now have the ability to become virtualised. At Ion Solutions, we have the skills and knowledge to help our clients to take advantage of this next stage of technological development, and help them to understand where it makes sense, and where it doesn’t.

 

Technology comes as standard

With everyone having a computer (or smartphone as they’re more often called) in their pockets these days, people are more aware of technology. Twenty years ago, homes may have had a TV, a video recorder and possibly, a DVD player. Now however, with tv series being streamed via laptops, tablets and phones, everyone is an expert on certain aspects of technology and many people watch TV on the bus or train, as part of their daily commute. Content is also far more prevalent in public spaces- for instance, high-quality digital signage in shopping malls, railway stations, and other public spaces, so content has to be highly creative to cut through the chatter and make itself stand out from the crowd.

With this in mind, television audiences are significantly more discerning than they were in 1990s or even the 2000s as broadband means that channel surfing is a thing of the past and with a myriad of ‘players’ and international viewing options such as ‘Chromecast’ and ‘Apple TV’ replacing the DVD player.

As television continues to evolve, those involved in the process need to be one step ahead at all times, being flexible and always being open to change. At Ion Solutions, this is something we’re very aware of and to keep ahead of our competitors, we are always on the lookout for the next best thing, attending conferences in Ireland and internationally to ensure we can always provide the best equipment and service for our clients.

We see ourselves as a vital technical resource on which our customers rely and draw support from, assisting them in the delivery of high quality programming. We believe that our many decades of system experience enable us to understand the various diverse elements that contribute to the decision-making process in any project. It’s a real challenge for our team to constantly evolve to meet customer demand. With the multitude of content origination platforms, and the myriad of display platforms, we see the crossover between broadcast and non-broadcast media as disappearing completely, and content designed for one platform can easily be delivered to any other platform - this is a concept we call “Converged Divergence” ie that previously diverged platforms - free-to-air, online, digital signage, mobile - have now converged to become practical delivery end points for any content.

As Eurotek Ireland and AVtek Solutions, over 50 years, we saw it all – and we’re looking forward to the next fifty as Ion Solutions! 




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