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Patrick's blog

NAB Show Report

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 19:32 -- Patrick

The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) holds the largest annual trade show and expo for the media & entertainment industries. It happens in Las Vegas every April. I attended this year, in part to connect with Ann Marie Cumming, who is the V.P. of Communications for NAB, and who happens to be from the area (she grew up in Bellows Falls- her mother, Jean Morrill, was on our Board of Directors for several years). I was also at the NAB Show to do some research on developing technologies and the latest equipment. There was A LOT to see and to digest. As part of my work on behalf of the Vermont Access Network, a collection of community TV stations throughout the State, I did some research on two really hot media technologies: OTT (over-the-top) and live streaming. 

Here's a video I made of my NAB Show experience:

Check out my blogs on each:

NAB Report: OTT (over-the-top) 

NAB Report: Live Streaming

Oh, and not only did I get to catch up with Ann Marie at the show, but I also connected with Phil Newman (in photo below), who was there working as a freelance cameraman for Adobe! Phil grew up in Ludlow, graduated from Black River, attended Okemo Mountain School, and did some work for us, too! He was one of our first and most active volunteers, and also sat on our Board of Directors. He is now a cinematographer and camera operator based in LA.  

NAB 2018 Report: OTT

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 13:13 -- Patrick

If you're going to attend the massive spectacle that is the NAB Show, you have to focus your attention. It's best to have a clear purpose. I went to the show with a few different angles in mind. One of these was to glean what I could about "OTT" (over-the-top) and bring some (hopefully) useful information back to my colleagues in the Vermont Access Network (VAN), the collection of the 25 community access TV stations that operate in the State. And, boy, was there a lot about OTT at NAB. OTT happens to be one of the big rages in the world of media right now. In short, OTT is video service that a streaming provider sells to consumers - think Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, etc. Why might we in community TV care about OTT? .... Because, in the ever-evolving world of media, we need to hop on board, remain relevant, or else get left behind. Also, when we start talking about our funding structure and the different possible economic models that could fuel our future, we can either view them as threats...or we can start looking at them as opportunities. As an optimist, I like to think about things like this as opportunities; there is a great big (and growing) media landscape out there - and it is vital that public, independent, and community-driven media be a part of it all. We need to start integrating this technology, OTT, into our operations. Exactly how we do that is TBD, but this information can hopefully help get the conversation started. Below are some notes from a seminar I attended on "The 6 Pillars of Successful OTT" with some guys (yes, all men) who are in charge of operations at some of the major players right now.

Seminar:  “The 6 Pillars of Successful OTT”
Panelists: Joseph Ambeault, SVP of Product & Tech at Discovery, Dwayne Benefield, head of PlayStation Vue at Sony, Steve Hellmuth, EVP of Media Ops. & Tech for the NBA, and Scott Levine, SVP of Product & Tech at Univision.  

1. Content Strategy
- need choice & flexibility (a la carte)
- PlayStation Vue offers a la carte. Keep the consumer engaged - social media is used as a “funnel” to NBA League Pass

2. Video Delivery
- quality will drive success; retention & engagement goes up & down w/ qlty. Need to adjust to platform w/ resolutions, aspect ratios, etc.(TV vs mobile, etc.)

3.Marketplace Approach
- Must monetize; it’s not cheap to customize content but must do it to maintain quality & retain viewers.
- Allow for downloads on mobile & computer but also need connection thru cable TV. NBA has different tiers which has proven to be successful model (can subscribe to League Pass, Team Pass, Game Pass (buy single game), Game of Week, Micro Pass (last 5 mins of game), or Audio only.
- Must be able to handle purchasing, payment methods, different currencies, etc.

4.Device Coverage
- Be on all devices- esp. Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, PlayStation Vue, Smart TVs, mobile (iOS & Android), and desktop

5. Viewer Experience
- Get them to watch something within :60-:90 or you will lose them; can’t make it complicated.
- Customize the app to extent possible (and remember viewer prefs within app).
- Tailor production elements to popular platforms (NBA League Pass offers special camera angle for mobile, with enhanced graphics & stats - this works well bc. the prefs are saved and viewer can customize his/her own experience).

6. Watch Data
- Univision: “Automate insights into actions”. Ex: data show that usage inc. every month. Actions = added “What’s Next?” to end of each show. Talk to viewers frequently - connect with them , get insights, put into actions.

I also tried to learn about what services are out there that might help us all get our collective feet in the door of OTT:

OTT Services / Products
- Vimeo / Livestream. OTT is a brand new service for them, and I got the feeling it is becoming a major new focus for their business. They are now on several of the big platforms- Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, iOS, Android TV, & XBOX (no PlayStation yet). Basic service is offered at $1 / mo. per subscriber (plus 2.5% +30cent per transaction fee). Branded apps are offered starting at$500 per month (plus 2.5% +30cent per transaction fee). I think the $500 / mo. price point would rule a small station such as ours out, in terms of doing in on our own…but I am intrigued by the notion of a VAN channel / app!  
- Tightrope has an OTT service through their VOD server that is in development and soon to be released, which might be an attractive option to community TV stations.  They were doing a demo in a hotel suite next to the NAB Show but unfortunately I did not make it over there in time, before they folded up shop. From a personal experience, our small station uses Tightrope's server equipment, including their SX master control / playout server, a digital signage server ("Carousel"), as well as their VOD server, which integrates with our website. It took a lot of customization to get their VOD service integrated with our website how we wanted it, and it’s still not perfect, so I would be interested to see the OTT platform in person and gauge how well it might meet our station's needs.

IP & Live Streaming

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 19:17 -- Patrick

A major focus of the 2018 NAB Show was on IP-based broadcasting, and, in particular, streaming video. A whole (huge) room was dedicated to IP video.  In the workshops, much attention was given to new and developing technolgies for IP solutions and streaming. There was even a day-long "Streaming Summit". SInce there were so many options, and there was so much to navigate (both in terms of stuff and real estate), I had to hyper-focus and pare my scope way down. And so, I chose to focus on products that might be attractive to those of us interested in streaming basic remote / on-location productions (as opposed to large multi-camera broadcast-level productions).  Below are some of the products that stood out in this area. Some of the products I checked out are using the older H.264 codec, some using the newer H.265 codec, and others are using IP codecs, such as, most notably, NDI.  While H.265, aka HEVC (High Efficiency Video Compression), is approx. 50% more efficient than H.264, NDI (Network Device Interface) is worth exploring. Developed by NewTek as an "ultra efficient" encoding protocal, it is available as a royalty-free platform for others to use and incorporate (for more on that, see Bird Dog below). Note that this list is just a very small tip of a very large iceberg, and is in no particular order.


- makes a line of portable encoders, using H.265  - The Zao can transmit via cellular (3G/4G), wi-fi, or ethernet
- Zao S (shows in photo) uses 3G/4G & attaches to camera
- Both models come w/ 1 ch. decoders (& option to add 4 ch. decoder)
- A web mgmt. tool is coming out soon
- Total cost of Zao S "kit" is approx. $8K; Zao kit = approx. $15K
- streams at 5-7 Mbps



- LiveU Solo encoder- no decoder needed, "direct to cloud", max bit rate 7Mbps (approx. $1000). H.264
- LU200 encoder- use decoder or "direct to cloud" for approx. $6900 w/ decoder ($3500 without). H.264
- Decoders can be sold separately for LU200= $3500 - 6K
- Also need data plan (25GB / mo. for $250)
- There's also the LU600- H.265 (HEVC), capable of 1080/4K live streaming, 3G/4G capable. $$$
- Bulk discounts and rental / lease options
- Another option is "LU Smart", a free mobile app that enables HD live broadcast directly from cell phone to a server (data plan needed)

Vimeo / Livestream

- Mevo camera (launched on 2016), billed as a "live event camera" for streaming up to 1080 (4K sensor so it can record to 4K) w/ cropping so can be used as multi-cam option in lieu of switcher)
-  Mevo streams to  Vimeo, Livestream, Facebook, YouTube, Periscope & Twitter over wi-fi  or LTE.
- Newly launched Mevo Plus, which offers manual or auto cropping of 4K as an alternative to multi-cam switching
- Mevo = $300; Mevo Plus = $500
- Mevo Plus Pro Bundle = $800 (includes bag, stand, audio accessories, battery boost
- Livestream Studio - switcher series w/ graphics, encoding & streaming 
- Hardware: from the entry level (HD 31) to the robust (HD 51) to the portable (HD550)
- HD31 = approx. $3800; HD51 = $6600 (1080) - $8500 (for 4K); HD551 = $8K (1080) - $10K (for 4K)
- Taking pre-orders on the brand new "Studio One", high powered 4K encoder / switcher for $4500 - 4 inputs (HDMI or SDI)
- Software: Studio 5 now in beta, will come pre-installed on all Studio switchers & endcoders or can be downloaded separately

Mobile Viewpoint

- Agile Airlink - 2 SDI inputs, 2 ethernet outs, 40Mbps H.265 encoding. trasnmits via 3G/4G with 8 combined connections
- Can also add wi-fi & ethernet connections
- Small & portable, billed as "the thinnest encoder w/ 2 camera inputs & databonding". $$$

Bird Dog

- Uses NDI to offer encoding, tallies, & comms using a single ethernet cable- take a source and make it available anywhere on network for IP workflow
- They now have decoders built into the units, making them all 2-way devices.
- This is  good solution for working within a network but it's unclear how it might be used on a remote production for b'cast (i.e. encode-stream-decode-transmit)
- Studio (HDMI/SDI to NDI) and Mini (HDMI to NDI) encoders - both can be camera-mounted
- Mini was announced at NAB this year
- Studio = $895 ; Mini = $595; Comms  = $495 (there's an offer for free comms until 9/30/18)
- NDI = low-latency - more efficient (lower bit rates)
- Streaming Media magazine awarded Bird Dog a "Best of NAB" award for their innovative products


- Streaming Media magazine- free subscriptions are available: (print and online versions)
- If anyone has any technical-based topic  that you would like to have covered, contact Nadine Krefetz, author at Streaming Media

Underwriting for Local Businesses

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 15:42 -- Patrick

Attention local business owners- do you want to show your support for independent, local, non profit media while gaining exposure for your business? Underwriting on Okemo Valley TV may be for you. 

Through underwriting, your business makes an annual contribution (there are 3 tiers of giving - see the chart on the Underwriting page for more info.) we will acknowledge your annual level of support by creating videos thanking your business, which are televised on our TV channels every day. The videos are also distributed in other ways, such as here on our website, and on our Vimeo You Tube channels, as well as on our Facebook page.  In addition, your business's name & logo appears on our website (see the right sidebar) and on our TV Bulletin Board / Community Calendar all year long.  Let us know you are interested in calling the station or sending an email. Or, you can simply get started by signing up here to become an Okemo Valley TV underwriter in 2018, and start taking advantage of this low-cost alternative to traditional advertising (that also makes you feel good). 


Town Meeting Coverage 2018

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 17:42 -- Patrick

On Saturday, we covered Andover's Town Meeting. On Monday night, we will have crews out in Ludlow, Plymouth, Cavendish, & Mt. Holly. The tentative playback schedule on our gov't / educational channel is posted here (there will be additional times on our community access channel as well, which will be posted soon):

New Programming Updates

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 17:19 -- Patrick

We have re-vamped our monthly program grids on our TV Schedules page, which show you, in general, what shows are on when. We aim to update these grids monthly, to reflect changes in our programming.

Check it out - we have some new shows this month, including: the weekly Innkeepers' ski races, John Specker's Traditional American music, The Wellness Series (from Springfield Medical Care Systems / Ludlow Health Clinic), the Osher Lifelong Learning Series, & more. Have a look at the grids and then check to see the daily listings for specific scheduling information on each of our channels, which are always kept updated on our TV Schedules page.


You Tube Videos are Now on TV

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 16:43 -- Patrick

Comcast has announced that its Xfinity "X1" cable TV service has added a You Tube app. Xfinity X1 subscribers (with the new-style boxes) can access the You Tube app through "Xfinity on Demand". This means that you have access to the full library of You Tube videos. And THAT means our You Tube videos can be viewed on TV anywhere (not just in the immediate local viewing area), on Comcast. So, if you are an X1 subscriber, please check out the Okemo Valley TV You Tube channel on Xfinity on Demand, and let us know what you think! 


In addition to televising programming on our community access channels in the local area and hosting thousands of local shows for viewing here on our website, we also use video-sharing sites such as You Tube and Vimeo (mostly for shorter videos). We have tended to use Vimeo more regularly, but now with this new feature on Comcast, we are making it a point to increase the use of You Tube. Here is a link to our You Tube channel - we'll be adding lots more in the coming weeks.


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