ERCIM News No.25 - April 1996 - GMD

Distributed Video Production

by Manfred Kaul and Wolfgang Heiden

Video production is inherently distributed: Broadcasters are physically distributed over several sites and studios, they increasingly outsource video production and post-production to specialized studios or upcoming virtual studios. Thus there is an increasing demand for the enabling technology for distributed video production.

The technological revolution of digital media is rapidly changing the world of broadcasters and the media industry. In the emerging field of media processing we see computer science, communication technology and media technology coming together to explore new applications and define new products and new markets. These concerted technologies will enable media producers to remotely collaborate in digital video and multimedia production, post-production, archiving, indexing, and retrieval.

In the ACTS project (Advanced Communications Technologies and Services) 'Distributed Video Production', leading European broadcasters, computer, communication and media technology providers are joining their efforts to start an innovation initiative in remote contribution, production, post-production and dissemination of digital video and multimedia material. Additionally, an American supercomputer center and a Canadian educational institute will contribute distributed video applications and distributed virtual reality simulations. For these applications a broadband transatlantic link will be used between the involved partners for real-time simulations.

In Distributed Video Production, basic technology for transferring studio-quality digital video over broadband networks (ATM/Asynchronous Transfer Mode), and video coding and compression is the starting point. Problems of transmission and processing delays, synchronization requirements, and quality of service have to be solved. Built upon these basic results, pilot applications are planned for a distributed virtual studio, distributed telepresence, distributed virtual reality, and distributed video archiving.

As an example, the Distributed Virtual Studio will enable Television producers to improve the economic efficiency and the time to market of broadcast program production. Production environments with ATM connectivity can have access to virtual studio techniques as an external service. By this means, ATM allows a 'studio on demand' scenario, this enables Television producers to save equipment and reduce training and manpower costs. On the other hand, a new service industry is expected to develop, where information products like virtual sets are contributed in real time from an outside service provider to the program producer.

Several application scenarios for Distributed Video Production will demonstrate that the technology is ready for commercial exploitation: Distributed Video Production addresses the urgent demands of broadcasting and media industry for distributed video production technology. It incorporates important American and Canadian partners over transatlantic broadband networks and will help push the development of European information and media industry to a world-wide leading level.

Please contact:
Manfred Kaul ­p; GMD
Tel: +49 2241 14 2205
E-mail: or
Wolfgang Heiden ­p; GMD
Tel: +49 2241 14 2358

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