Deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, distributed news production and remote collaboration technologies are now an accepted part of the broadcasting industry. For Adde Granberg, chief technology officer of Swedish public broadcaster SVT, however, the switch to remote workflows began years ago—and, in talking to Avid's Making the Media podcast, he revealed how the insights he's gathered over that time are invaluable to the industry now.
How did SVT pioneer distributed news production and remote collaboration before COVID? How are consumer technologies changing the way that broadcasters view themselves? And how is SVT working to stay relevant in the changing world of broadcast technology?
Staying Ahead of the Curve
For Granberg and SVT, the transition to remote workflows began nearly 20 years ago, necessitated by the sheer size of Sweden. At well over 173,000 square miles, Sweden is the fifth-largest country in Europe, which made traveling to broadcast a very expensive project.
Granberg illustrated the problem and his thought process with the logistics of filming a football (soccer for U.S. readers) game. Traditionally, this would involve the initial investment in an OB truck plus all of the insurance and transportation costs. A crew would then need to travel to the stadium and spend a day scouting, rigging, and setting up cameras before the match even started. He realized, though, that the stadiums hadn't changed in decades, and the crews were setting up in the same places each time. "We have done that for 50 years!" he said. "Come on, we know how to do that."
Granberg also saw that much of the work being done in the OB truck had the potential to be done remotely. "And when you go into the OB truck, you cannot go out of the OB truck. So why should you be on site?" he reasoned. Instead, he began to limit the size of the crew and make the technical adjustments that allowed more work to be done remotely rather than at the stadium.
The 2012 London Summer Games gave SVT another push. Granberg found that remote collaboration allowed him to send a smaller tech crew and a larger number of journalists to cover the games. "So that was a big success for SVT. That's how it started."
Advancing Small Players
Although the advancements in consumer technology have led to many benefits, they have also put a significant amount of pressure on broadcasters. Granberg explained that with a phone, "you can start to film in 4K, you can edit, you can put on captions, and you can transmit it on the YouTube platform. Everybody can do it." In contrast to this democratization, Granberg points out "the workflow we're doing right now with [SMPTE] 2110 is the same as we did in 1956 when we started SVT."
Looking at this situation, Granberg has become very aware that SVT and other broadcasters – while very big in the broadcasting world - are simply small players in a big—and growing—world of digital content creation and distribution. While this can be a bit of a stressful thought for Granberg, it also pushes him to innovate and adapt. "That's the challenge in my work as a CTO on SVT: to see that and try to do what I can to support that and do the change we need," he explained.
Future-Proofing the Industry
Faced with the reality of the sector's place in the world, Granberg calls on broadcasters to rethink the industry. "[We] really need to rethink and rebuild, not reconstruct," he adds. And that approach is helping him lead big changes to protect SVT's legacy.
Now, Granberg is primarily interested in remote collaboration and cloud-based workflows. Although he believes that the traditional studio will survive thanks to the value of a controlled filming environment, he is working to use fiber and 5G technologies to streamline processing and distribution. His work also extends to simplifying the production process by creating intuitive software interfaces in place of traditional, more complex hardware setups. "The way we produce doesn't need TV engineers anymore," he explained. "It is a UX that I can build for my children."
Although proposing such sweeping changes has invited some pushback, Granberg has set a powerful example for other broadcasters who are facing these same challenges.