By Marc Risby, Group CTO, Boxer Systems
The industry is currently going through an enormous amount of disruption, and while many are charging in to embrace the changes, others are wringing their hands with indecision.
In 1990 during a time of disruption, Boxer was founded to help companies make sense of the changes and provide independent counsel that would steer its clients through the decisions they needed to make in the upcoming transition from analogue to digital. We achieved this – and still do – by always seeking out innovation, i.e., to find suppliers and manufacturers that were developing and launching clever new ways to do new things, or finding new ways to do existing things better. Disruption almost qualifies as “normal” for us and is predominantly how we earn our crust to this day.
However, disruption, major disruption, doesn’t happen all that often. But sometimes, you wait ages for a disruption, and three come along at once. The delivery of video over IP; the increasing growing volume of 4K and HDR content that needs to be processed; and transition from SDI to IP have the potential to render legacy systems, services, and existing technologies obsolete. We make sure we’re ahead of the curve because the curves tend to break far more sharply these days and can require a keen eye and attention to detail.
So we are constantly scanning the horizon, looking for the obvious and not-so-obvious candidates for innovation, because that’s what you have to do to remain relevant to your customers and their requirements. That said, there is a great deal of life left in existing technologies. Despite protestations to the contrary, the likes of SDI and even SD will be around for some time, and if you wish you can carry on just as you have been with people like us who understand what you’re talking about. However, you will eventually have to make a change whether you want to or not, and although the near-term disruption may still be economically or practically challenging, what we know about extending the life of legacy systems, or staging a migration to newer technologies and working practices in digestible servings, has proven invaluable in making the transition as painless as possible. The beauty is, we understand what’s going to work best for your future, too.
For those who are ready, willing, and able to make a change immediately, we are constantly augmenting our product portfolio with demonstrably useful innovations that will enable customers to transition, for example, to IP.
Now, I would argue that IP, in isolation, is not disruptive. It’s how you use IP that can be. That’s a fine distinction, I grant you, but we’ve found over the years that the success or failure of a technology is often tied to how it’s used rather than the technology itself.
HDR is another innovative emergence that affords a slightly better way of doing what we’re already doing but, again, I wouldn’t necessarily call it disruptive. It’s more of a logical evolution that is steadily gaining traction.
I can now hear you asking, “OK. What is going to be disruptive, then?”
Easy. Artificial intelligence (AI). AI, is a deeply complex science and can be difficult to explain, but essentially clever algorithms and machine learning capabilities, harnessing the power of huge cloud ecosystems and vast quantities of data input, are now starting to offer us real world solutions.
Early applications are showing impressive results in automatically harvesting metadata from content such as speech to text or realtime language translation or even generating edited highlight packages from live sports events without human interaction.
NAB will no doubt bring further developments in this exciting field and new applications will start impacting many areas of media production moving forward.
We’ve come a very long way since Boxer was founded. Our advantage then, as now, is that more traditional companies weren’t very good at helping people make the move to digital, whereas we had lots of innovative ideas and new technologies that we’d kept our eye on and knew how to implement, and still do today. That forward awareness carried us right through subsequent disruptions such as linking computers to software, mobile phones (and their platforms), the emergence of file-based workflows and, now, the advent of IP video and artificial intelligence. Whether taken together or in isolation, the common denominator is that the demand for more efficient workflows will continue to rise.
The single biggest perceived problem in dealing with disruptive technologies is the technology itself, but notice that I said “perceived”. I know I’m quasi-repeating myself here, but the disruption is not necessarily in the technology, it’s in the potential cost of making what is often a wholesale change to that new technology, or altered working practices. Without experienced assistance and a soupçon of educated crystal ball gazing it can be an expensive gamble. We’ve all been burned in one way or another over the last couple of decades. (Can I interest anyone in a spare pair of 3D glasses?)
In our generation we’re, perhaps arguably, building up to our fourth disruptive wave, which compared to other industries isn’t that many. It’s therefore important for people to keep their heads while it plays out. The sky isn’t falling, folks. What’s changing is the ways things fly. The “Queen of the Skies” Boeing 747 has been a familiar sight for nearly 50 years, but they are steadily being retired. That said, Boxer and others are still happily flying 30-year-old standards converters. Why? Because it’s appropriate technology, they work, there’s still a need for them, and there probably will be for another 20 years.
We have a long track record of helping our clients deal with change, disruptive or not, which we’ve carried on to the present day. It’s what we’re good at, very good at in fact, from both manufacturer and end-user points of view.
And because we’re independent, we can change who, what, when, where, and why we deal with manufacturers to ensure that, together, we stay ahead of changes in order to get the best results for our customers by giving them an honest opinion on their best options for the future.
It may not fully smooth the disruptive nature of your particular change, but you’ll be able to sleep at night.