NEP The Netherlands : Cloud Production
With integral post-production, visual effects (VFX) and Augmented Reality (AR) services coupled with low latency live streaming, CDN, VoD, digital media services, playout, media asset management and uplink communications, NEP provides a unique breadth of managed services. NEP The Netherlands, part of NEP’s Global Network, is one of the few broadcast and media services providers to own and operate its own broadcast IT facilities and cloud native IT media infrastructure. With various media hubs and 20 offices spread throughout the globe, NEP is uniquely positioned to serve clients around the world.
The Graphics department of NEP The Netherlands (NEP) embraces the company’s hands-on approach to client productions, and is deeply involved in every aspect of a project from the ground-up – providing development, operator, design and support throughout as a managed service. In the beginning stages of the creative process, the Graphics team discusses project specifications and demands with the clients at length, and then builds tailored systems comprising software and hardware to meet those unique needs; AJA Corvid I/O cards are often a key component of each build.
“We get a feel for what our client wants to do, and then determine the best combination of software and hardware to execute their vision, which often involves writing a lot of custom software,” shared Marlon Etheredge MSc, team lead, graphics development, NEP. “The number and type of inputs and outputs are important considerations in our process, which is why we’ve integrated AJA Corvid boards into a number of our systems. There are so many options with Corvid, so if the client needs four inputs or four outputs, we’ll go with the Corvid 44, and if they need eight inputs or eight outputs or any combination up to eight channels, then we’ll opt for a Corvid 88.”
On-Site Full Range of Managed Broadcast Services and Media Solutions
To service clients, NEP has built a large media hub at the Media Park in the heart of the Netherlands, which includes downlink facilities (teleport), production offices, edit suites, cloud production galleries, LiveCenter, (MCR), playout facilities and ten studios that house IP cameras and a range of LED displays.
Near the facility’s main headquarters, NEP hosts a data center with systems that power studios across the Media Park, including dozens of graphics and display solutions featuring AJA Corvid 88 8-channel I/O cards, Corvid 44 4-channel I/O cards or Corvid 22 2-channel I/O cards; the type of card varies based on the number of inputs and outputs required for each client’s production. The main part of on-air graphics for productions is designed, built and managed through this data center via NEP’s cloud production platform and 10,000M of privately owned Fiber, then output to displays in each studio. NEP separately offers a fleet of OB trucks for remote production that also leverage AJA gear for live production.
“We’ve been using Corvid cards in our systems for quite some time now, especially for clients with sports productions,” Etheredge said. “And we’re continually adding new ones as we expand the number of systems we have here at our Media Hub. One of the greatest Corvid features is that all the inputs and outputs on the board are configurable, so there’s no fixed number of inputs and outputs; the SDK is also quite advanced.”
Each graphics and display system typically includes custom NEP software, an HP workstation and an NVIDIA graphics card. With Corvid cards built into these solutions, NEP is equipped with SDI I/O for inputting SDI channels, which makes it easy to render and output the incoming signal. The cards are also deeply integrated with NEP’s proprietary SQUARE broadcast and live event title and display management software, which powers different screen setups within each studio. Etheredge explained, “Without an I/O board like Corvid, we couldn’t do what we do. It provides a simple cost-effective I/O solution that delivers excellent results.”
Depending on the client’s infrastructure, NEP may also opt to deploy AJA ROI scan converters in its systems for DVI to SDI conversion. Using ROI-DVI as a splitter, the system enables one DVI input, an SDI output and a DVI output.
The ROI converters recently helped NEP complete a client project that required outputting graphics to a display in-studio while also outputting the feed to a video mixer. Using ROI-DVI, they were able to split the signal for SDI for video and a DVI output going to the screen. The same setup has also been deployed in-studio by clients with large touchscreens. ROI-DVI provides the flexibility to display rendered graphics onto a touchscreen, while also providing a way to output full screen images with the rendered images to the video mixer. The rendered image is sent through the touchscreen, with the region selected.
“ROI-DVI is stable and delivers incredible quality, which is what our clients need. It blends seamlessly into an array of setups,” Etheredge expressed.
Servicing (Local) Broadcasters
The Media Park is always abuzz with multiple clients leveraging studio space to produce and deliver on-screen, post and AR graphics for news, entertainment and sports broadcasts. Liberty Global, the parent company of Ziggo Sport, selected NEP to build, operate and maintain the complete playout and technical production for the open Ziggo Sport channel, available exclusively for Ziggo subscribers, and a pay-TV service called Ziggo Sport Total, which consists of six channels and is passed through the TV distributors in the Netherlands. There are also five OTT Internet channels/streams for broadcasting the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Working closely with Ziggo Sport, Etheredge and the NEP graphics team developed a range of solutions that are used for these broadcasts; this includes systems for rendering graphic overlays, displaying video across multiple in-studio screens and delivering augmented reality graphics and virtual sets. The setup also features a number of Corvid cards including the Corvid 88.
NEP also provides managed services to the Dutch Public Broadcaster, including Graphics. Its setup includes nine custom NEP systems that power live graphics production for nine in-studio screens consisting of dozens of display outputs from large projection screens to LED screens and banners. At the center of each system is an AJA Corvid 22 I/O board and SQUARE, which enables quick and easy graphics control and display to those outputs to enrich the imagery in-studio.
Developing and Deploying Augmented Reality (AR) Graphics
Recently, NEP has seen a rise in demand from clients, like Ziggo Sport (Liberty Global), looking to integrate AR graphics into their programming to enrich the viewing experience with an added wow factor. As a result, NEP has equipped its studios with all the tools to facilitate everything from virtual sets to set extensions, props, statistics, analytics and set exchange.
The setups typically include a green screen, cameras and camera tracking. Accompanying systems in the data center run NEP’s proprietary augmented reality platform CUBE, and include an HP workstation, NVIDIA card and an AJA Corvid I/O board, which allow for the output of camera feeds, graphics render, and final composite and distribution of the output. All of the technology, including a specialized camera tracking system and a next generation rendering engine, is integrated into CUBE– making it easy for clients to deliver higher-quality photo-real graphics.
In addition to providing the end-to-end production workflow for AR graphics implementation, NEP also offers up a specialized team of designers, developers and operators that help clients achieve high end results while maximizing impact from their budgets and enabling fast studio set turnaround.
From Augmented Reality graphics to traditional broadcasting, NEP combines creative ingenuity with IT expertise and cutting edge technology to deliver services that transform the way global video entertainment is created, managed and distributed.