Next TV News had the opportunity to chat with David Jorba, President, Vizrt Americas.
Vizrt, a Norway-based company with a worldwide presence, has been one of the leaders in broadcast graphics creation and playout for over 15 years. Through acquisitions and technology enhancements to its core platform, Vizrt is preparing for the next phase of TV and TV production. Many of my questions to David were focused on TV’s future.
NTVN: Most of our audience knows Vizrt as a 3D real-time graphics company, but Vizrt over the last several years the company has branched out in many different directions – including media asset management and automation. Did Vizrt see opportunies in these new areas and how have your graphics customers embraced the new additions?
DJ: We are at a point where it is becoming increasingly difficult to have a graphics workflow without managing, transforming and distributing video assets. In the linear to digital evolution we are witnessing these days, “content is content” and there’s a need to work with your digital content within a single workflow platform. Our customers embrace the Vizrt products like Viz Story or Viz Pilot Edge that allow them to pair, mix, package and deliver 3D real-time graphics and video from anywhere in the production timeline using a browser. Graphics just don’t go without video anymore.
Automation is a natural evolution. When you want to focus on being the first in having the best possible content for your viewers, you want to streamline the process of getting this rich content on-air. Viz Mosart automation allows you to produce more and with better quality. And to top it off, we are seeing a huge acceptance of our Viz Opus automation which allows to produce a complete show playing video, graphics and mixing all your sources from a single box.
NTVN: Viz has been a pioneer in something that most of the world is familiar with now, virtual reality in broadcast. What sort of percentage of your US customers are adding VR to their production workflow?
DJ: In the U.S., we have dozens of customers using Augmented Reality as well as Virtual Sets in their news and sports shows. VR is a newer discipline but is catching up quickly. As we always do, we make sure the content created, managed and distributed by our products allows to maintain a similar workflow and works on the existing tools. We make sure to add value to the existing products. VR production is a good example, the technology we developed allows to use the same tools in order to produce a complete different experience with the same quality graphics and video production.
NTVN: Which do you prefer? An entirely virtual set or augmented reality?
DJ: We tend to prefer what fits our customers better. Today’s tendency is to mix the best of both worlds. Having a hard set with a video wall driven by Vizrt and adding augmented reality elements to bring in the details of the story to the front of the action would be my preference today. This gives you the most possibilities as you can use the video wall as a virtual background, we call it virtual window, and add layers of information using the augmented reality piece in front of it.
NTVN: How is Vizrt enhancing sports through VR/AR?
DJ: You probably saw the amazing AR graphics that were done by Fox Sports during the Superbowl. We have been doing AR for NFL games in different Sports Networks for a while. Virtual graphics in the field, whether they are used to tell the story, better enhancing the visualization of player profiles and stats, or they are used to analyze the game action like we do with Viz Libero, allow the broadcaster to put a better show for the viewers. It just makes a better game for the viewer if all the richness of the sports stats and deep analysis is right there in the TV set. On the other side, the broadcaster needs to stay competitive and find new ways to differentiate their events from the competitors.
With VR, the experience is even deeper. Then you are part of the game and the graphics need to be part of the experience to bring in that extra layer of information blended with the game itself.
NTVN: Broadcasters, and I’m sure Vizrt, can’t escape social media and its impact on TV. Where do you see the concept “Social TV” heading? There has been some great initial work – where the US has had an early lead – with Tweets on screen or social-driven graphics, but where do you think the industry is headed?
DJ: We’ve been very involved with some of the most successful social media initiatives in television. Interactive social media maps, real-time analytics, virtual social media graphics, etc… Now we are seeing a big movement towards live production on social media platforms. The concept of “Digital First” is syncing up amongst broadcasters. This means their streaming/OTT channels need to be at the forefront of the action, but a lot of the action today happens first in social media. So, you need a good way to produce fast, compelling and good looking, social media content and introduce this to your stories being delivered live to the web. Our products are already at that level, a good example of it is Viz Story and our live to web production tools like Viz Opus or our Viz Mosart automation
NTVN: Another changing area on the TV industry, especially in the US, has been the rise of the independent live streamer and OTT services. Do you see Vizrt having a role in supporting this market?
DJ: As I mentioned before, yes, we are already supporting it and adapting our tools to these new workflows. Our Viz Engines are IP ready and our production tools work on different output formats by adapting the content, both graphics and video, to the distribution channel. The fact that our customers can work on a single platform from anywhere and produce and repurpose content for their digital and linear platforms is crucial.
NTVN: A buzzword over the last several years as been “the cloud.” Do you think Vizrt has a future in this area?
DJ: Yes, of course. Most of our production tools already run in the cloud. Our development teams have worked really hard on making sure our content production tools are browser-based to provide anywhere access to the content. We have been virtualizing our backbone databases for a while now and can easily setup centralized or distributed private or public cloud production environments. Still, there’s a lot of work to be done as our customers define their needs and we provide solutions to their needs.
Many thanks, in addition to David, to Chris Black and Andre Torsvik of Vizrt for arranging the interview.