Sponsored by AJA Video Systems

As demand for streaming media and entertainment rose steadily pre-pandemic, the industry began preparing for an unprecedented content boom. Its trajectory was only accelerated by the pandemic as consumers turned to at-home entertainment for lockdown respite, which sent video streaming service subscriptions skyrocketing. Adjusting to fill consumer demand, the creative community rapidly embraced remote workflows and virtual production techniques to safely accelerate the development and release of more content. Even as pandemic era restrictions relax, the Media and Entertainment industry, however, is in search of smarter ways of working with less resources, which means a convergence of production and post unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Whether on-set, in a studio, or at an edit bay, the ability to remotely collaborate, review, and iterate content efficiently is no longer an advantage, but a necessity, and one that’s connecting teams across the chain earlier on in the production process. Many technology vendors released tools during the pandemic to address these needs, and as the advantages of these approaches have become readily apparent, they continue to build on that work.

With an eye on alleviating production pain points, AJA Video Systems developed the recently launched HELO Plus, a H.264 streaming and recording device. Paired with an AJA BRIDGE LIVE multi-channel UltraHD and HD live video solution for remote production, contribution, collaboration, streaming and delivery, the device allows production and post teams to access a near real-time view of the action on-set, regardless of their location.

Under the hood 

A standalone device that supports two sources of SDI, HDMI, or a combination of both, HELO Plus can act as a transmitter. This allows the team on-set to easily capture live camera sources and securely transmit them over the public internet to a studio, control room, or creative shop. When BRIDGE LIVE receives the signal, it effectively acts as a streaming and conversion platform that enables studio execs, production crews, and/or post teams to monitor the shoot via a range of platforms and protocols. In the case that a broadcast network is involved in the production, a H.264 signal from the HELO Plus can be received by BRIDGE LIVE and converted to SDI, so that multiple recordings can be captured to devices and displays in and around a facility. This means converted SDI signals can easily be recorded in real-time to recorders like AJA Ki Pro Ultra 12G to get Avid DNx or HD files for the editing process. With two built-in encoders and support for HLS, HELO Plus enables productions to send two simultaneous camera feeds out to the same platforms, or a combination of platforms.

Accelerating the feedback loop 

The combination of HELO Plus and BRIDGE LIVE allows the director to easily watch a live stream of the shoot on an iPad on-set, while remote producers get a real-time impression of how the production process is progressing without stepping away from their offices. Post crews can use the feed to get early insight into the footage they’ll be working with, so they can strategically consider the work ahead for post and VFX. It can be an especially useful setup for virtual production, giving the post team real-time insight into what in-camera visuals are being captured alongside the graphics, so that they can adjust the visuals and return changes to the crew quickly to make real-time tweaks. It’s a simple way for multiple parties involved in the process to confirm the production is on the right track and address any concerns early on.

Since HELO Plus supports simultaneous streaming and recording, the director or any other team member who might need access to the day’s shoot can also opt to record to a USB drive for daily reviews on their home or office computers. This recording can be used as a visual guide for the following day’s shoot. Having access to the footage on these drives means that the team can be more engaged in the production as it’s happening. For instance, even if a LUT compression setting is being used, the recorded files will provide an image the editorial team can use to make basic assembly and edit decisions that can inform the director’s next day of shooting. This way of working has become more common in Hollywood in the last few years because it allows the director to go into the next day’s shoot with the details that they need to make more informed decisions.

Keeping content secure 

With traditional production, teams may implement a simple setup with a camera and router on set that is then transmitted to BRIDGE LIVE. Virtual production setups may include HELO Plus streams that are sent directly from a camera output or the camera output could be routed on set for delivery elsewhere on-site, like the director’s tent. This approach gives virtual productions more flexibility to stream HLS locally, so that crew members can monitor the shoot from mobile devices while, at the same time, remote members can tune in as well. Streaming valuable footage over the public internet may raise questions about security, but HELO Plus includes support for SRT (Secure Reliable Transport). This guarantees productions can transmit an encrypted low-latency signal over the public internet versus leasing a private line, without any fears of being hacked.

The cost advantage 

Coming soon for $1699 US MSRP, HELO Plus is one of the most cost-efficient devices per channel for traditional and virtual production monitoring applications. It delivers efficient bandwidth, provides high quality imagery to inform practical production decisions, and supports a wide range of streaming platforms, as well as streaming over a private CDN for added privacy and security. Regardless of the production approach, HELO Plus and BRIDGE LIVE are an ideal workflow complement, providing cost-efficient real-time monitoring that can inform more rapid creative decisions across the chain and reduce turnaround time.

With virtual production’s continued maturation, and remote workflows becoming an industry standard, production and post have only grown more complex, but these trends have also inspired technology specialists and vendors to envision solutions that can streamline processes on and off-set. Pairing HELO Plus with an AJA BRIDGE LIVE device can prove a huge boon to the production and post process, interlinking the two more closely than ever before. For more details about HELO Plus or BRIDGE LIVE, visit www.aja.com.




Jon Creamer

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