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Survey Says: SDI-IP Transition More Disruptive than Most

The people have spoken — loudly.

By an overwhelming majority, respondents to our Instant Opinion Poll from back in January view the ongoing migration of all media operations to an IT-based environment as anything but business as usual. In fact, 78% of you said that the SDI-to-IP technology changeover was a once-in-a-generation transition, scoring much higher on the degree-of-difficultly (and disruption) meter than, say, the evolution from SD to HD or from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4.

We also know, based on a not-so-instant survey from last year, that media industry professionals are just as concerned about the cultural disturbances of a shift of operations to a new technology foundation as they are the technological ones. Nearly half of you told us you were worried about weathering the potential job-related fallout associated with applying your skills and expertise to a new technology environment.

Concerns range from the need for additional training to overall job security. Some of the questions broadcast engineers may be asking include:

  • Do I possess the skills to architect, support and troubleshoot IP-based facilities?
  • Will I require extensive retraining, including new certifications?
  • Will I be reporting to the CIO?
  • Will my job be devalued given the size of the IT workforce?
  • Is my career in jeopardy and will I be displaced by a new breed of IT-savvy engineers?

The unvarnished reality for today’s broadcast engineers and other media professionals is that the transition to a more agile and flexible technology platform, mandated by the need to meet evolving and increasingly personalized consumption habits, will bring changes to your day-to-day job descriptions. There’s no sugarcoating the fact that media professionals will need to understand how IP networks work and acquire some degree of proficiency in IP network design principles and terminology. How much expertise is still up in the air and will likely vary from company to company and depend heavily on the manner in which media companies integrate — or keep segregated — the media production and IT portions of their organizations.

Degree of Difficulty

Degree of Difficulty Spectrum

The number and degree of difficulty of the new skills broadcast engineers will need to acquire will vary among organizations.

At a minimum, broadcast engineers will need to learn a new lexicon. Overcoming the jargon of a new specialty is often the first – and sometimes the biggest – hurdle to gaining proficiency in a new discipline. Broadcast engineers and IT specialists sometimes use different terms for the same concept or, even more confounding, alike terms for dissimilar concepts. The terms router and routing, as obvious examples, mean different things to broadcasters and IT professionals.

Transitioning skill sets to a new technology environment, though, will likely require more than simply breaking through language barriers. Additional education and certification from established enterprise and cloud IT specialists, such as Cisco or Microsoft, is a strong possibility. Chances are that you’ll need to join the ranks of those who have been certified to work with equipment from one or more of a dozen makers of IP-based routing and switching gear. Familiarity with popular IT configuration and troubleshooting software, such as Chef, Puppet and Wireshark, is probably in your future, too.

In larger media companies, broadcast professionals may be able to leave much of the heavy lifting to IT specialists, functioning more as consultants and network architects to ensure that the resulting network delivers acceptable latency and is capable of the split-second synchronization that complex and multi-camera live broadcasts require. Other scenarios may require broadcast engineers to possess the skills to assemble broadcast-quality IP facilities, meaning they will need familiarity with and proficiency in IP network architectures, like leaf and spine, and Software Defined Networking (SDN), as well as troubleshooting skills, such as Ethernet debugging.

At the extreme end of the broadcast engineer IP transition spectrum is the need for a new job description and title. Some industry experts suspect that the assimilation of broadcast engineers into the IT realm will be significant enough to result in an entirely new job description, one that is essentially equal parts broadcast and IT. Already popping up on some job boards are titles like IP Broadcast Engineer or Broadcast IT Engineer.

Continued Reading

The changing role of media industry technologists in the hybrid SDI-IP or all-IP production facility and related topics are expanded upon in the recently released eBook The Future of Broadcast Engineering: Dealing with the Cultural Impact of the Fusion of Broadcast and IT.

The new eBook includes an objective assessment of how the ongoing commingling of the broadcast and IT realms may impact the day-to-day activities of broadcast engineers, as well as potentially alter the trajectory of their career paths. It provides a preview of the potential training and education broadcast engineers may need to acquire in the future and offers guidelines on how media companies and broadcast professionals can manage this generational transition with the least amount of disruption and greatest probability of success.

Polls and surveys can be helpful, mostly by giving credence to what we already know. The job description of the broadcast engineer is destined to evolve. That reality is undisputable. But for those of you who are willing to embrace change and seize the opportunities it presents, your futures in the IP-enabled era of the media & entertainment industry could be brighter than ever.


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