The Importance of Interoperability as We Head to the Cloud - Part One

By Dave Van Hoy, President, Advanced Systems Group, LLC

As with any early phase of technology, manufacturer interoperability is always a big challenge. Companies innovate, engineering products before there are standards that facilitate creating ecosystems of those products. This has been true all the way back to the early days of film and eventually arriving at the very first film sprocket standard, which beget the organization today known as SMPTE. That occurred long before there was such a thing as television. And today we find ourselves facing the same challenge in a similar early development phase – building ecosystems of cloud products that “talk” to one another.

This is particularly challenging because as we have discussed in previous columns, media requires very deterministic communication, meaning exact timing. And when we run applications in public cloud, where everything is about virtualizing hardware and sharing resources, deterministic communication is not a consideration. 

We correct for this by using specialized protocols that carry deterministic timestamps from one part of the process to the other to provide a correct audio and video output. Therein lies our “failure to communicate.” If one product is speaking in one protocol and another doesn’t know that protocol, there is no way for them to communicate. 

An example of this would be with some of the early cloud production infrastructure products. They used their own internal protocols to control the deterministic need for communication, using external standard protocols for ingest and play out. An open-source standard protocol like SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) can bring in your signals from a remote source. But once they come into an environment such as Grass Valley’s AMPP (Agile Media Processing Platform) they are converted to proprietary protocols that were created to allow inter process communication in a deterministic fashion. On output, those signals must be converted back to a transport standard. Protocol conversion is always tricky and can be error prone. 

We like to standardize protocols within a given ecosystem. Today, the most prevalent interface between different vendors products for use in public cloud is Vizrt’s NDI (Network Device Interface). NDI was not designed initially to be an Internet protocol. However, because it was designed to work on point-to-point private networks, it is optimized for use within a hyperscaler’s virtualized environment. 

This is how we have built out standard systems. We work closely with our vendor partners and ask them to either help us or to implement NDI communications. We look to create homogeneous systems with multiple vendors’ products in the same way we use SDI or ST-2110 for on-premise installs today. 

This will be one of the biggest considerations for integrators as they design systems for their clients: What protocols do I use to transport my signals to the cloud? What protocols do I use within my processing system? In the cloud? Is it a simple distribution process or a complex switched production process? 

On the output side, what protocols do I use to transport to my destinations? Am I going to a traditional terrestrial transmitter? Am I going to a CDN or am I going to a specific destination like a private venue? Each of these today requires a different protocol to get the optimal result.

Secondarily, the other challenge is how do we create control systems that work across multiple vendors? Again, this challenge looks just like on premise. As a system integrator part of your responsibility is to recommend products to your client that you know will work with each other. If you need a control system, for instance, you need to make sure that control system speaks whatever common protocol you’ve chosen for that purpose. And you must ensure that protocol is supported in public cloud in these non-deterministic, non-multicast environments. 

I know all of this can sound quite daunting. But in truth, it’s no different than what you have been doing with your vendors, for your clients, all along. You look for ecosystems and products that work together to create the best experience for your client. Sometimes the standards are better developed than others. Who has not experienced an HDMI signal that should have worked from one device to the other that didn’t, and you find yourself troubleshooting until you finally get a handshake?

The best thing you can do is work with products that are proven to work together already. Work with vendors to ensure that they have tested their products with other partner vendors that you’re using in your ecosystem. And if they have not, allow yourself the time and cost to facilitate that testing in your own environment. If you can do that, you are guaranteed a positive outcome for your customer now and in the future.

Selecting the Right Technology Partners with David Van Hoy of ASG

ASG president Dave Van Hoy chats with Molly Presley from Hammerspace in the company’s podcast “Data Unchained”. Their conversation covers a wide range of topics, including what goes into selecting the right tech partner for your business, the challenges he sees his customers face, and how bringing in talent for projects has changed over the years. See more of Hammerspace’s insightful videos at their YouTube channel.

Andrea Thomas Q&A

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Thomas, Client Account Manager with Advanced Systems Group (ASG) – Managed Services group. Her extensive consulting and recruiting experience support the growing staffing and service needs of ASG’s media and entertainment clients. As Client Account Manager, Andrea helps to maintain relationships with existing accounts and assists new clients through the entire onboarding process. Her role closely aligns with the Managed Services group’s mission to facilitate each client’s specific business challenges from building a production studio, planning and executing a live, in-person or remote event, or providing creative support on a project-to-project basis. In this interview, we get to dig a little deeper into Andrea’s position at ASG, her background, and learn a little something most of us do not know about her! Andrea considers herself a partner of ASG’s clients, supporting their own development and requirements while helping drive ASG’s growth in the Managed Services realm.

Q1:  Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background

My career spans both the recruiting and consulting worlds across several industries including Cloud AI, healthcare, clean technology, and media & entertainment, among others. I have always found satisfaction in assisting companies around the globe find the pain points, isolate their challenges, and then helping them build successful teams through recruitment, streamlining and developing solutions, or other tactics.

Q2: Please give us more insight into your role at ASG

I joined ASG three years ago initially in a recruiting role, which quite quickly shifted to something more expansive covering multiple roles within the company. With the rapid growth of ASG’s Managed Services division and the demand for our services, we started wearing multiple hats to meet this demand. We now have more recruitment, finance, account management and resource teams in place to support this growth. Based in the Bay Area in California, my role is now to manage new customer accounts around the world, building and managing core relationships with our existing clients, and bridging gaps with our clients’ staffing, resource and even technology needs. This partnership also includes making sure our clients are aware of all the professional managed services we offer; regardless of whether they’re looking for short or long-term staffing, ad-hoc project based or flexible workforce models. I really like to present myself as a partner to our clients, connecting them to all aspects of the ASG business.

Q3: Can you please offer your thoughts (and predictions if you will) on industry shifts and trends in the coming years?

We are currently seeing an influx of activity as our clients prepare budgets for the coming year and beyond. As our clients ramp up their projects, decide on their staffing and team needs, and work on the various stages of new buildouts of production studios and other facilities, we are simultaneously ramping up our teams in preparation for this demand trend. In some cases, we’re expecting even more activity than pre-pandemic times, partly driven by the fact that clients can now see what else is possible with remote environments and remote production.

Q4: Let’s get a little more personal now if we may; please tell us something most people don’t know about you

I have a great love of dance, which I am incredibly passionate about. I am really fortunate to have enjoyed a variety of dance experiences performing with local artists such as Manuel Romero and Xavier Toscano, or back-up dancing for American rappers, e40 and Snoop Dogg, and dancing in performances for our local Filipino channel. I’ve been dancing for most of my life – and still do – across all styles and have been part of a competitive hip-hop team for over ten years. Dancing is truly my creative outlet.

ASG President Discusses How To Use The Cloud To Deliver SaaS Solutions

Dave Van Hoy explores software as a service as both a technology model and an economic model – and how systems contractors can survive and thrive as more organizations embrace SaaS – in his latest column for Systems Contractor News.


ASG and Avid NEXIS F-Series Storage Engines

For nearly 25 years, Advanced Systems Group has been a leading integrator for Avid audio, video, and storage solutions. From advanced Pro Tools systems for music and audio post to Media Composer workstations and storage networks, ASG has the expertise that helps you choose the perfect Avid system for your needs.

With Avid’s NEXIS, you get storage solutions for video and music/audio media production that go far beyond your previous expectations. Avid NEXIS gives you unmatched media storage performance and scalability for on-premises and cloud workflows. It enables production teams to collaborate and adapt fast to the changing needs and unpredictability of today’s media production. Integrated with the next-generation Avid NEXIS F-series storage engines, or as a cloud or hybrid deployment, Avid NEXIS enables teams of all sizes to work from anywhere, delivering secure access to media and metadata across all tiers of storage.

The Avid Nexis is available in multiple configurations. Above: Nexis | F5 NL

Avid NEXIS | VFS Intelligent File System

The Avid NEXIS | VFS intelligent file system is the control center of Avid NEXIS. It virtualizes your hardware and/or cloud storage into a single pool of shared resources, providing automation intelligence to meet constantly changing workloads. From dynamically reallocating storage capacity and optimizing bandwidth to delivering protection with automatic drive rebuild, it provides the agile environment and reliability required for 24×7 operation.

Using this system, you and your team can browse, find, and share media and projects whether you’re in the facility, on location, or at home, enabling easy collaboration and fast turnaround—no matter what video, audio, news, sports, or graphics production tool you use. Even if you need to connect hundreds of users to access media simultaneously, Avid’s real-time media delivery keeps production running smoothly. 

Meet fluctuating requirements, changing storage capacity, performance, and drive protection on the fly via the powerful Avid NEXIS | VFS (virtual file system).

Replace Aging Drives with the Next Gen Avid NEXIS F-Series

If it’s time to replace aging drives, Avid NEXIS F-series storage engines let you quickly scale your system to accommodate growing business, new projects, and remote teams, and then transition production to the cloud more easily and cost-effectively.

For music and audio post workflows, Avid NEXIS centralizes session and file storage, enabling producers, engineers, sound designers, and mixers to work together on the biggest, most challenging productions, including Dolby Atmos. Eliminate file duplication and the stress of maxing out local drives.

With Avid NEXIS, you can share, store, and enable secure access to audio clips, session files, video sequences, and other media using Pro Tools, Media Composer, Premiere, and other creative tools. You can provide access to your entire sound library from any room in your facility to enable more creative possibilities. 

Nexis | F2

Create More Compelling Stories with Real-Time 4K Video Storage

For post facilities, corporate marketing, houses of worship, and other video creators, Avid NEXIS delivers the real-time media workflows needed to collaborate and complete projects fast. Share and retrieve assets quickly using your favorite tools.

With its lightning-fast throughput and scalable storage engine options, Avid NEXIS provides the speed you need for dailies, 4K, 8K, HDR, and finishing. Get real-time media delivery to your editing timeline at every frame. And because bandwidth scales linearly as you add more Media Packs, you can enable up to 30+ GB/s of total system bandwidth.

ASG: Your Avid Experts

There’s much more to learn about Avid NEXIS and the new NEXIS F-Series storage engines. Whether you’re looking at a solution for audio, video, post, broadcast, or corporate media, ASG’s team has been hands-on with Avid for decades, and will help you create the perfect Avid system for your needs. Contact us today!

Merging Technologies and Neumann Join Forces

At ASG, we’re always excited to learn about the new possibilities that can happen when leading audio technology creators work together to develop new and exciting solutions. In the case of legendary German transducer manufacturer Neumann and highly respected Swiss digital audio workstation maker Merging Technologies, who announced their new partnership working together under the Sennheiser Group last month, we’re already putting together plans on how ASG customers will benefit from this incredible partnership.

For many years, ASG has been a leading integrator for the acclaimed, award-winning audio technologies from both Merging and Neumann, doing high-profile installations at some of the finest venues and recording facilities. Here’s some background on the storied histories pf both companies.

A Trip Down Audio History
It was in 1928 in Berlin, Germany that Georg Neumann GmbH was founded. Right from the start, Neumann introduced products that ended up changing the world of recording and live sound, beginning with the CMV 3, the world’s first commercially available condenser microphone. The capsule for this mic, the M 7, was repurposed in 1949 into the U 47, a microphone that featured switchable polar patterns, and became the de facto standard for professional recording worldwide. The U 47, with its sharp and present reproduction of sound, was heard in pop music that ranged from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles.

Neumann has always been at at the forefront of transducer technology. In the mid-1960s, they began adapting phantom powering to their mics, allowing tube microphones, solid-state microphones and dynamic microphones all to be connected to the same power supplies. Other Neumann mics over the subsequent decades, like the M 49, the KM 83, the TLM 170, the U 87, and others have been used on many of the world’s best-known and most beloved recordings in history, spanning all music genres and used for non-musical applications such as voiceover and broadcast as well. In 1991, Neumann was acquired by another globally-respected microphone company, Sennheiser. Neumann eventually expanded their offerings into other highly-regarded transducer products including studio monitor loudspeakers and headphones.

Meanwhile in Switzerland…
In 1990, an electronics expert and former Nagra employee named Claude Cellier founded Merging Technologies. Merging was created to take advantage of the rapidly growing world of digital signal processing in the early ‘90s, and their Pyramix Virtual Studio became adopted as the primary high resolution recording workstation by hundreds of recording facilities. Always a step ahead of the game, Merging was one of the earliest players in Audio over IP with their acclaimed RAVENNA interface in 2012. Other interface products, like the Anubis range of AoIP converters, have become essential tools for broadcasters with their ability to manage and control large audio networks.

Now in use for more than 25 years, Pyramix has continued to evolve, now offering Dolby Atmos workflow to its already impressive immersive audio feature set. Merging Technologies is a leader not only in recording and broadcast, but also in applications such as theme parks, museums, and transport hubs. For any situation where networked audio is crucial, Merging has solutions.

Come Together
Working together under the umbrella of the Sennheiser group, Neumann and Merging Technologies will offer a match made in audio heaven. The first joint product of the partnership between Neumann and Merging Technologies will be a Neumann audio interface that enables the perfect integration of Neumann products into a digital infrastructure.

“We plan to strengthen Neumann’s offering, particularly in the area of digital workstreams, in order to provide our customers with holistic audio solutions in studio quality. Merging Technologies’ products and solutions are an excellent complement to the Neumann product portfolio. We are therefore very much looking forward to working together with the Merging team,” says Ralf Oehl, CEO of Georg Neumann GmbH.

ASG, Neumann and Merging Technologies
While we all await the fruits of this partnership, there’s one thing we can tell you right away. With its 25-year background as a leader in broadcast and professional audio, ASG has been one of the most highly-regarded systems integrators in the United States for both Neumann and Merging Technologies. Especially considering our expertise in production, post production, and shared storage systems, ASG should be the top choice for media, broadcast, film, commercial audio recording, and corporate video creators who want to take advantage of the legendary power of both of these leading-edge audio technology brands. Contact us today!

Security in the Cloud: Understanding the Tools, Managing the Risks - EDITORIAL BY DAVE VAN HOY, ASG PRESIDENT

Systems security, whether in the cloud or on-premises, has been a critical issue facing systems integrators for as long as we’ve had buildings, facilities, and networks. On-prem, we’ve traditionally managed security largely by limiting physical access, whether it was a badge required to get into the facility or certificates on devices limiting physical network access to those with authorization. Or we’ve air gapped the system, isolating it from the public internet or other unsecured networks. But when you move some or all of your operation and infrastructure from on-prem to the public cloud – where there are potentially millions of users – the only way to create security is through software tools and methodologies that restrict access and systems to your assets in the cloud.

Tiered Access, also called hierarchical access, is typical for any networked facility. Administrators or engineers may have access to control everything within the environment, while end users like editors or graphic artists will have access and visibility only to the tools and assets required to do their job. In the public cloud, access to tools like virtual editing, virtual video switching, or a storage pool is commonly accomplished through authentication management with profiles defining classes of users, with each user having an individual password.

Passwords, however, are the biggest vulnerability for businesses. Whether bad actors get the password from phishing, stripping emails, or using key loggers, it can take a long time for them to be discovered because they’re using a legitimate password. We add a second layer of security called Two Factor Authentication. Whether you’re accessing a network that is local, in the cloud, or a hybrid of the two, you need a unique, one-time authorization code that could only be issued to the user via text, phone, or physical token. This security tool is familiar to anyone who’s accessed their bank account via the cloud.

In a high traffic network environment like a real-time production infrastructure, we add a third layer of security with a Virtual Private Network. The VPN is typically encrypted and extends the private network across the public internet, emulating the concept of an on-prem closed network where you must have authorization to access anything on it. Still, you’ll want to limit the targets for bad actors. For instance, you might have a laptop allowing you to set up a lighting console from home. But if that laptop happens to be sitting on the VPN that also contains the organization’s entire accounting system, is the risk of having your bank account hacked worth the benefit of being able to work remotely? Every benefit brings with it an inherent risk that you need to consider carefully.

The security layers of Tiered Access, Two Factor Authentication, and a VPN also give you the option to create Single Sign On (SSO) which is all about not making users type their passwords over and over to access the correct IP address, internet traffic routing, assets they’re entitled to use – while still making it harder for anyone to hack into the system.

Another strategy that’s rapidly being implemented in cloud networks is the concept of Zero Trust, which focuses less on your password and more on biometrics or the device you’re using to access the cloud – not unlike Face ID on your smartphone. As time goes on, other forms of Zero Trust like Trust Certificates – explicitly installed on your web browser and required to log onto certain assets – will become more prevalent in enterprise applications. Mobile phones are actually a great place to use Trust Certificates because they’re hardware-based and come with numerous ways of communicating. Whether you use them on your laptop or your phone, apps are much safer than browsers for accessing content because they’re inherently designed with Zero Trust already built in.

The organizations who are most vulnerable to security breaches generally aren’t the hyperscalers who provide your cloud, networking, and internet services via IaaS models – like AWS, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, or Alibaba. They have large, sophisticated security teams working on these challenges every day, can easily implement Zero Trust and one-time passwords, and can even use AI to detect a breach very quickly. The greater challenges are for the creative production houses, corporate facilities, houses of worship and other mid-size organizations who don’t have the skills or the resources to implement that level of security. That’s why the hyperscalers are increasingly offering these tools as a service, providing users with a system where the security is already baked in.

Just as they must be able to evaluate the audio and video technologies they recommend to their clients, it has become the job of systems integrators to evaluate all available security technologies and recommend the solutions that address their clients’ immediate and future needs. For a mid-size organization, using Trust Certificates and a VPN is the foundation of security that’s going to make them roughly 90% safe from the casual hacker. But, this is just the beginning of an overall security strategy.

When we created our Virtual Production Control Room designed with best-in-class components from multiple vendors, we considered security so important that we hired DoD level experts to help us architect the security environment, ensuring that it’s secure in every way possible. The result is a single system inside a secure VPN to control routing of the audio, video, and metadata traffic over IP. Tiered Access lets us restrict users to only the parts of the system required to do their jobs, delivering secure control of the devices. Single Sign On streamlines the process for users. Two Factor Authentication provides additional security. And it’s created as a Zero Trust environment, with the ability to bind into the client’s existing security environment so users don’t have to go through double authentication. Combined, these many layers of security tools have resulted in a Virtual Production Control Room that is consistent, portable, and implementable in the environments of many different types of organizations – without the need to re-engineer the system from scratch for each client.

In summary, if you’re working in the public cloud, it’s already implied that you’re taking some risks. So, educate yourself on security tools, solutions, best practices, and tradeoffs. You’ll take a big step toward minimizing those risks while delivering the incredible flexibility and ease of use that working in the cloud offers.

Cloud Power: Evaluating Technology and Needs in 2022

By Dave Van Hoy, President, Advanced Systems Group, LCC

As we enter 2022, public cloud is now a reality for the AV industry. Whether you’re comfortable with it or not, it’s here. Our job as the system integrator, remains the same as it has always been: to evaluate technologies and workflows with clients to identify their immediate and future needs to find the right solutions. That could be in the cloud or on premises. Cloud-based systems are the shiny, new object that everyone is talking about. Every year there’s another new, shiny object. However, some are more fraught with risk than others. When we look at the uses of public cloud, we really want to start with what is your customer looking to gain? Flexibility, cost, agility? What are they willing to give up for those gains? As with every new technology, there are tradeoffs. 

If your client has an existing, on-prem infrastructure, cloud may or may not be the best choice. If your client has no infrastructure and is starting from scratch, a cloud workflow may be worth evaluating to determine if it’s the best choice. 

Moving to the cloud is all about converting costs from capital to operational expenses as well as ability to iterate more quickly without expense equipment replacements. The first thing you want to ascertain for your client is, is there a financial motivation to move costs from CAPEX to OPEX in their organization? If there is, then you can begin to look at the possible benefits. But if the motivation is purely cost savings in the long term, then public cloud on an annualized basis may not save you a great deal of money. 

On the new risks side of the equation you will have:  Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) of Public Cloud vendors that are outside of your control. Connectivity that may be outside of your control, as well as greater security concerns. The security concerns are generally not within the hyperscaler itself as you would expect, but instead are more related to the network used to get the content to the cloud and back. That will be your concern as the System Integrator and not the hyperscaler’s. 

Also, when looking at the costs, one has to remember that some of the greatest costs in cloud today are egress charges – traffic that exits a network in transit to an external location. Egress charges represent the cost of bringing a signal or data back from the cloud to your client’s premises. The formulation for looking at total cost of ownership with the Cloud is immensely more complex. Because you’re moving from predictable fixed costs of hardware and software, even if the software is as a subscription, to a world of subscription, consumption and egress. This is not to be taken lightly. We learned this the first time one of our clients did a proof of concept (POC) believing that they wanted to be all in cloud. They just did not want another server in their rack. Their budget was $10,000 for a 90-day POC with the hyperscaler. After 90 days, they got a bill for $30,000.

That is not to say that cloud is always right or always wrong. It’s always about finding the best answer. Sometimes that’s about the technology. Sometimes it’s about the economics. and sometimes it’s both. So how do you go about this? By taking the same steps that you always take with your client: 1) discovery 2) an evaluation of needs 3) look at potential solutions 4) price them out for your client. One note is that as you go through this process, you’ll find the amount of work to do it in the software-defined and hyperscaler world is more than you are used to. It likely will require skills you may not have directly in your organization today. 

Early on there will be a great deal trial and error since this is not mature standards-based technology. It’s a very iterative process, something you may not know how to do today. Projects will likely require sub consultants if you don’t have the in-house experience. However, once you go down this path, you’ll find the system design criteria are very much the same as every other system you’ve done in your career. You’re looking to solve for functionality and quality. Some of the leading vendors today may have parts of solutions or may claim to have the entire solution. But we all know how that really works out. At the end of the day, you are hired by the client to be the one, truly responsible party. 

Because this technology is so new, you’ll find yourself doing a great number of POC projects. It’s important to understand how to characterize the project, what parts of the needs are real-time, and which are offline (recording or archival). All of this points to how much risk is inherent in the project. And of course, the risk has to tie back to the gain or why bother? 

Our recommendation is that as you enter the world of cloud-based, audio visual systems as follows: 

  1. Select some of your staff and get them training at the appropriate levels within the hyperscalers you’re going to work with, they differ highly. 
  2. Make your business deal with the hyper scalers and decide if you’re going to resell their services or merely integrate them.
  3. Do your technology evaluations with existing vendors for what they’re doing in cloud, and look at your competitors to ensure that you understand a balanced offering of products. 
  4. As with all new technologies, make sure you have adequate time to design and test iteratively. Always include all of the signal paths, including ingress and egress to the cloud. This may point out challenges that you may not have expected.

And lastly, enjoy the ride. It’s always fun to learn new stuff.

2021 Recap: What We Learned and What’s Ahead – Editorial by Dave Van Hoy, ASG President

As we head into an uncertain 2022, I want to reflect on the positive aspects of the past year (yes, there were some) for our company and some of the more uplifting aspects that emerged within the media and entertainment technology industry as a whole. 

In an overall economic sense, we saw the industry recover well last year from the initial shock and doldrums of 2020. Within our company, all our business units have expanded beyond pre-pandemic levels, some of it driven by projects that were delayed or changed from the previous year. The pleasant surprise from 2021 was the continued growth of our managed services business. We believe that will be an even bigger driver of growth this year. 

The effect of the ongoing pandemic can be felt across all areas of media and entertainment technology. Remote work and virtual operations have come at an accelerated clip, impacting everything we do. We’ve been heavily involved in developing the cloud infrastructure for live production. It’s becoming the platform within which all of our manufacturer’s products need to co-exist. We have a team of cloud, audio and video technology experts that created our cloud-based Virtual Production Control Room for real-time production of live events to meet this increasing need. 

Today’s systems integration is about usability, resource management, collaboration, cloud computing for real time video, audio and storage. SI’s must maintain solid relationships with vendors as well as with Hyperscalers in order to satisfy customer needs. This represents a significant shift. It’s a big disruption to business as usual, but one that just requires additional knowledge and experience to navigate. 

One example of the difference when working “in the cloud” is that there are no industry defined standards for systems integration, there may never be. The lack of a standard like SDI creates challenges and opportunities. Hyperscalers are the new masters of communication protocol. And yet how the virtual machines interact is very different in Azure versus Google versus AWS. When you’re running an Oracle database, that’s not as much of a concern. Everything just works. But, if you’re looking to move 60fps 4K video in real time, precision timing absolutely matters. 

As systems integrators working in the cloud, we’re not inventing the technology. We’re inventing how to make it all work together. We evolve as the world around us does, but our job remains the same: to evaluate technologies and work with clients to identify their needs and find the right solution. That could be in the cloud, on premise, or will often be a hybrid of the two. As always, our work is dynamic. We love learning new technologies and using them to help our clients solve their challenges. Bring it on 2022!

ASG Responds to Pandemic Restrictions with Remote Production Solutions for Clientele

By Dave Van Hoy, President, Advanced Systems Group

While the past year saw endless obstacles to traditional video production and presented just as many business challenges, at Advanced Systems Group we created a mutually beneficial approach by developing remote production solutions. Our new Virtual Production Control Room (VPCR), a cloud-based production service, and our customized remote production kits enabled our clients to create content despite social distancing requirements and limited resources.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite daunting social distancing restrictions, content creators still needed to produce programming. At ASG, we observed that for many operations, making content was more important than producing content at a given production value. 

With traditional productions limited during the pandemic, we realized most clients would not have the budgets to procure new systems. Instead, ASG focused on maintaining existing systems and helping content producers adjust to at-home production, which became the norm for several months, by developing remote production kits. 

Different clients had different priorities, which is why we ended up with so many variations. Some only cared about webcam-level production, while some wanted to produce content that was as high quality as possible. So, our production kits had to be tailored to those client requests. We shipped more than 500 remote production kits between March 2020 and March 2021. Now, demand has shifted to our cloud-based remote production solution, which we refined during the lockdowns.

ASG’s VPCR supports real-time, broadcast-quality coverage of live events and other programming, complete with switching, audio, graphics, and more. Powered by Google Cloud, the cost-effective remote production service features cloud-based production tools from established industry vendors that communicate on a standard, unified signal. 

Remote production did not start with COVID-19. Producers were already exploring how to use the cloud to reduce costs. The pandemic just accelerated the process. Cloud-based virtual production is here to stay, and our investment in the VPCR will literally pay off for our clients for years.

ASG has managed to survive and even thrive through three recessions and the pandemic, because we’ve been able to adapt to new market conditions. Whenever you’re dealing with adverse economics, it’s really about being able to pivot – quickly. Another secret to our success during the pandemic was that we’ve earned the role of a trusted advisor to our clients. Some companies just sell products – but at ASG, we help our clients develop solutions.