The transition to IP workflows is allowing public service broadcasters to find efficiencies in delivering better content. In this episode of MediaRoad SkillByes, we meet Hugo Ortiz, who is an IP Broadcast Coach at RTBF in Belgium.
Hugo believes that broadcasters need to relinquish their current “crush” on hardware and embrace a future that they can’t touch. Software-defined workflows and virtualisation have created new roles for IP and IT specialists, but Hugo insists that there is still an important place for engineers that understand the pressures of a live production environment.
Eoghan: You’re listening to MediaRoad SkillBytes with me Eoghan O’Sullivan. The MediaRoad project is supporting the transformation of the European Media sector by building an ecosystem for innovation. SkillsBytes is a podcast series where we’re exploring changing skill sets and career paths in today’s media technology environment. Our guest for this episode Hugo Ortiz who is IP Broadcast Coach with RTBF, the French-speaking public broadcaster in Belgium.
Hugo (preview clip): The tools of tomorrow, you can’t touch them… they are virtual. They are software working in an environment that you don’t really have a low-level control of. And this is probably the biggest mindset transition of this whole thing.
E: Hugo, thanks for joining me.
H: Thanks. No problem.
E: So, at the start of SkillBytes we like to set our guests the challenge which is to summarise your career up to this point in 30 seconds.
H: So, I was a broadcast technician. Then I became a broadcast engineer and IP Broadcast Coach. So, I focus mainly on IP technologies and the development of those technologies.
E: So, in some ways you are the digital transformation of the broadcast industry personified – because you’ve moved from being a broadcast engineer to being an IP engineer. How has that transition happened in terms of the kinds of training or conversions you had to do with your own skill sets?
H: I’m an electronic engineer at first – so really my skills were about components and like hardware things and more and more I saw the new tools and the new possibilities of what can be done in software and what can be done with networks and yeah now it’s my main focus.
E: So, what does a day or a week at work look like for you now?
H: Oh, it’s never twice the same. It’s some research like we have active projects where we try to do things for real in productions. So, we have projects that are actively using these technologies so I’m working on that. But there is also exchanges with Partners and EBU is a big helper. And of course there is also a lot of work and brainstorming in “what is next”. We have a very big challenge which is the creation of a whole new facility for RTBF. It will be in 3 years from now and the questions are big and are open.
E: When you look at that new facility, are there decisions that will be made to create a workplace that is more suitable to the world of an IP broadcast engineer as opposed to a traditional broadcast engineer?
H: Well, the focus is really on our goal as a public broadcaster. So, our content: how we produce it and how we can be more efficient and deliver better content. And IP is one of the tools that we can use to achieve that.
E: This transition to using IP for broadcast production, it’s really one of the very latest developments now and it’s something that’s coming up again and again in this series when we talk about the difference between broadcast engineering and IP and the different kinds of skill sets that are required for those. What sort of team are you working with now? Is it mostly people who are new to the world of broadcasting, or is it also people who like you have converted from being broadcast engineers?
H: There is a bit of both. And I think we need both because the future is probably mainly based on IP and IT but at the same time there is still a lot of need for broadcast people that understand the context of a live production. If there is a problem, you have to be able to react in seconds and this is not something that is commonly spread in this IT and IP world. I think we really have to come up with some kind of a hybrid that will be the foundation of what is broadcast technologies in the future.
E: So, there’s really a job to be done in terms of learning from each other – the people who are coming from these different backgrounds?
H: Yes, there is. To be frank I think that it will mostly be IT persons that come from the IT space that will learn about (how to say it) the broadcast culture. But everything is possible and basically when you are today a traditional broadcast engineer you’ve got to relearn next to anything. It’s scary but it’s happened for post-production: being an expert in VCRs won’t give you really any advantage into video editing software.
E: When you look at your own career development up to now, are there deliberate decisions that you have made yourself to follow a specific path in terms of maybe following a training course or picking up specific skills because you felt that they would be useful for the way you saw the technology going, or has it been more by chance?
H: So as a big self-learner, I really try to keep up with all the news. I try to keep being interested in all possible approaches and all developments. I try not to focus too specifically on an approach or way of doing things because this is really a domain that is still moving and moving very fast and where you see you lot of different things. So yeah, I try to keep open-minded about that.
E: Do you see this technology evolution as bringing mostly benefits or also some drawbacks for people who are already working in the broadcast environment?
H: It depends if you like change and new goals. Really the transition is about moving the tools from traditional hardware systems to software that can even run on virtual environments. So really, you’ve got to let go this hardware crush which most of us have and accept that the tools of tomorrow, you can’t touch them: they are virtual. They are software working in an environment that you don’t really have a low-level control-of. And this is probably the biggest mindset transition of this whole thing.
E: does this make Media less distinct from other Industries? Everybody’s moving to use exactly the same technology – the same components.
H: On a technological level, yes. But this is just part of a big trend. If you look at a lot of fields and lots of technologies, specific niche technologies just basically going away and being replaced by software and computers, you see this everywhere. And post-production, it’s already the case. Live production, maybe a few more years, but this is I think definitely where we are going.
E: So, at the end of that every episode of SkillBytes we ask guest, ‘if you could give one piece of advice to yourself at the beginning of your career from where you are now, what piece of advice would you give yourself’?
H: Focus on software.
E: That’s pretty succinct! Hugo Ortiz, thank you for joining us on SkillBytes.
H: Thank you.
E: You can find more information on the initiative that has inspired this series by heading to mediaroad.eu