Bottling the Brilliance of Storytelling in Video for the New Content Economy
December 08, 2016 by Claudia Kienzle
Major Japanese Internet broadcaster is using NewTek TriCaster® and TalkShow®—along with NDI networking—to create a fresh, distinctive streaming media experience
With the goal of making Internet TV an integral part of daily life—and one that viewers regularly watch in the course of their day—AbemaTV began delivering over 20 innovative, content-rich IP-centric Internet TV channels custom-tailored to the interests of Japanese viewers.
Officially launched on April 11, 2016, AbemaTV offers 20+ free, ad-supported online streaming channels spanning a wide range of content and genres, including news, entertainment, animation, sports, and games. And some of the content is also provided without commercials via a subscription-based video on demand (SVOD) service.
As of December 2016—only eight months following the launch—AbemaTV reports ten million viewers have downloaded their free app, and the audience continues to grow.
AbemaTV also receives content from TV Asahi—one of Japan’s five top DTV broadcast networks. One reason for this cooperation is that AbemaTV was established through a joint investment by CyberAgent, Inc. (CA) and TV Asahi Corporation.
Eight of AbemaTV’s 20+ channels are related to news, including AbemaNews Channel, which offers news produced by the TV Asahi News Division.
Another channel, AbemaSPECIAL offers live programming, including variety shows, music, and celebrities, while the REALITY SHOW channel features popular reality and entertainment shows. There are also channels devoted to music videos, pets, documentary films, sports, comedy, fishing, and even Mahjong.
AbemaTV is a power user of NewTek gear, with a TriCaster 8000 and Advanced Edition software in virtually every production control room, and many TalkShow systems available to its live studios.
“With its easy-to-use control panel, the TriCaster not only has video switching capability but also all of the features needed for live production, such as exceptional chroma key capability. During a recent greenscreen shoot, we were worried when the on-camera talent showed up with their hair dyed green, but the chroma keyer was capable of distinguishing between their green hair and the background.”
“People ask us about TriCaster’s durability and reliability,” he added. “In the case of our studios, where we are very busy doing live programming, we have not experienced any downtime. At our studios, which are running 24/7, the TriCaster’s reliability has been crucial to our mission-critical broadcasting application and meeting viewer expectations.”
According to Satoshi Fujisaki, Chief Technology Officer of CyberAgent, Inc. (CA), the parent company of AbemaTV,
“We may be one of the biggest installations of TriCasters in the world.”
Key to the production of its voluminous programming lineup is Network Device Interface (NDI), a NewTek networking technology innovation that allows multiple channels of video and audio to be accessed, shared, streamed and distributed very efficiently, between NDI-enabled devices on the same Gigabit Ethernet local area network.
Fujisaki says, “NDI unifies all our studios, control rooms, and Adobe Premiere CC editing booths. Having an IP-ready production platform enables us to deliver live sources between all of our production and post suites.”
“In fact, because of NDI, our two Toyko production facilities, Harajuku AmebaFRESH! Studio and Chateau Ameba Studio, can run interchangeably.”
Prior to founding AbemaTV, CyberAgent used to produce its own web video service, known as AmebaFRESH! from a facility they called AmebaFRESH! Studio, which is located near the Harajuku Train Station in Tokyo. However, this facility is now dedicated to the production of live AbemaTV content, including a main studio on the first floor.
Since this prominent studio space has a large picture window facing a busy street, passers-by often stop and peer into the studio to watch the live production in action. Occasionally, live talk shows actually invite these spectators to use their cell phones to Skype into the studio and become part of the show.
To optimize any Skype call or live shot, AmebaTV uses NewTek’s TalkShow to ensure high-quality audio. According to Satoshi Fujisaki, Chief Technology Officer for CyberAgent, Inc. (CA), the parent company of AbemaTV, “TalkShow has been a big hit here. Instead of having to use live satellite feeds, we’re now using TalkShow to interview remote guests via Skype during our live shows.”
Harajuku AmebaFRESH! Studio also relies on the NewTek TriCaster 8000 with Advanced Edition software to switch live multi-camera shows in all its studios. They also ISO-record the video from each individual studio camera in order to repurpose live shows later for new distribution opportunities that arise.
According to Fujisaki, “TriCaster Advanced Edition allows for a faster, smoother production set-up, streamlined production, and reduced errors, among other operational advantages. It also offers advanced real-time graphics and data delivery. Captions and background graphics can also be created and changed as quickly as necessary.” A TriCaster Mini is also available for remote broadcast production and streaming.
“People who visit or rent our studios are very impressed with the TriCaster’s switching and production quality,” he added. “I hope that it will be used increasingly at broadcast stations.”
The other location, Chateau Ameba Studio, has six state-of-the-art studios that are used to produce live programming for AmebaTV, as well as editing and audio suites. The studios—which were built within the first three months of 2016—are equipped with TriCaster switchers for multi-camera switching of four Sony PXW-X320 cameras with large viewfinders mounted on tripods or a jib crane.
Chateau’s studios and control rooms are ergonomically arranged so that the staff can quickly move from one to the next for more efficient operations. The main studio, which is the largest of the six, is typically used for live talk shows with audiences. However, movable wall panels help to change the layout and look of the studio as required by each production.
Just beyond the main studio is Studio 1, which is set-up specifically for radio. This studio is configured with a DJ booth and a conference table with chairs for group discussions and interviews.
Studio 2 is dedicated to the production of Mahjong, a four-player game that involves strategically and skillfully acquiring and moving colorful tiles on the game board. The studio is configured with a robotic video camera mounted on a ceiling grid directly above a large Mahjong game table.
This aerial camera provides a birds-eye view of the game board, while a remote controlled LED lighting grid casts even light directly onto the board so there are no shadows that would make it harder for viewers to see the tiles. The aerial camera and six other broadcast studio cameras on tripods are remote-controlled so that only the four Mahjong players are in the room during the game shows.
In the adjacent control room, the multi-camera show is switched live using an eight-input TriCaster 8000, as well as ISO-recorded within the system, and then backed up onto Fujifilm LTO Ultrium 7 data cartridges. Next to the TriCaster is a Yamaha TF5 digital audio mixer that is used for background music and sound effects.
The Chateau Ameba Studio also has a Line Center where digital video signals are either transmitted to or received from the TV Asahi broadcast network operations center. For example, soccer and golf telecasts on TV Asahi are received via satellite or IP networks, and AbemaTV commentators often add their own play-by-play commentary when streaming it on AbemaTV’s Internet TV sports channels.
Another transmission technology that Chateau Studios uses to send and receive video signals for AbemaTV is bonded cellular, such as the LiveU system. But since bonded cellular transmission can have a delay of a few seconds or more, NewTek’s TalkShow is used to optimize the feeds, including live Skype calls, video field reports, and other live shots. TalkShow, which is well suited to LAN or SDI networks, is especially helpful for live video reports where someone in the studio is interviewing or conversing with someone else in the field.
“With our many NewTek production systems and scalable NDI IP-ready network platform,” Fujisaki said, “I’m very excited about our potential for expansion going forward.”
AbemaTV has added compatibility with ChromeCast, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV, so viewers can watch AbemaTV streaming content on a TV display. There are also future plans to support other convergence viewing platforms, such as Apple TV, AirPlay. And, AbemaTV’s 20+ channels are all easily accessible via its well-designed, user-friendly interface.
Abema TV is actively enriching its streaming content and service, while continually expanding the number of 24/7 Internet TV channels they can program and deliver. All of these efforts support the goal of making it as enticing and convenient as possible for viewers to watch AmebaTV whenever and wherever they please.
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