SVG Sit-Down: Jon Raidel on His Unique Perspective as Vizrt’s New Global Head of Live Production in the Cloud

Coming from NFL Network tech ops, he brings the customer view to the role

Vizrt recently named Jon Raidel global lead of live production in the cloud, a move that, according to Vizrt Global Head of Customer Success Vanessa Walmsley, will solidify the company’s position in the market. Raidel — previously manager, technical operations, NFL Network/NFL Digital, and a technical director for the NBA — brings a unique perspective to his new role, and he discussed his new position and the marketplace with SVG.

Vizrt’s Jon Raidel: “Cloud production drives better scalability, flexibility, reliability, and sustainability. Customers have the choice of when, how, and where they can create productions.”

Do you feel that your years of experience on the customer side will help you out now that you are on the other side of the fence?
Few people are allowed to be both a customer and a solutions provider for a technology they are passionate about. I have worked with Vizrt Group’s technology for nearly two decades, from NDI to the NewTek TriCaster range and many Vizrt solutions, so I was more than familiar with it. My hands-on experience puts me in a spot to help drive innovative changes within Vizrt and communicate with customers in new ways.

Technology can be confusing and cumbersome, especially if it is a previously unseen workflow or someone is new to the industry. One of the benefits of my knowledge and experience is the ability to help translate the benefits of Vizrt solutions to customers and, vice-versa, communicate the challenges and necessities of Vizrt customers to the product-development and Customer Success teams.

Being a technical director during the pandemic radically changed our roles, alongside the world of broadcasting and live production, especially how we use the cloud. When the pandemic began, I built a production studio within my garage and delivered shows watched by millions from my DIY studio there. I understand the struggle that production teams went through over the past few years. We needed to be agile and creative with our workflows, and much of what helped me was Vizrt Group’s solutions whether it was NewTek, NDI, or Vizrt.

Technical directors and their teams are still looking for flexibility and the agility to create live, remote, and better productions in this post-pandemic world. I can leverage my knowledge and skill set for what operators really need, to make the solutions even better and more valuable to our customers.

Live production in the cloud is still in its formative years, but things are ramping up quickly. What do you see as some of the big benefits for customers in making the move to cloud production?
Of course, conversations were happening about what the cloud could provide, but it wasn’t until the last few years that production teams fully adopted cloud-based workflows. Now most production teams, small or large, accept that the cloud is a viable, resourceful option.

As for customer benefits, cloud production drives better scalability, flexibility, reliability, and sustainability. With the cloud, customers have the choice of when, how, and where they can create productions. I do not think the industry will be fully cloud-based in our lifetime, but the opportunity is there for teams if they want or if leveraging the cloud can enhance or benefit a production. For example, a team can spin up a production onsite for a one-time event with fewer people than would be needed to bring an entire truck on-prem to produce a show. This would also help reduce the carbon footprint, which the industry is becoming ever more conscious of.

Furthermore, cloud-based live-production environments can be created virtually instantaneously now. Compare this to the weeks or months it can take for a traditional setup, and the appeal is obvious. Creating new channels for core or peripheral on-demand programming becomes simpler, allowing teams to focus on keeping audiences informed and engaged. Recently, Kevin McCue, director of Group Production Platforms at Sky, explained at an AWS Symposium how they reduced time-to-market from six months for traditional channel deployment to just three to four weeks for the Sky COP26 climate coverage. The programming was solely cloud-based.

What do you see as some of the challenges that still need to be overcome to make live cloud production more robust and reliable? Do you envision a hybrid world for some time, or do you think we will see more and more shows make the leap to full cloud production?
Reliability and robustness of cloud live productions will continue to evolve and get better over time with the natural infrastructure and investment in the technology. The more need and desire for signals to be reliable, the more companies will create the workflows needed to accommodate more-robust cloud production capabilities.

 As for the overall adoption of cloud production, as I touched on before, I think the hybrid model will be the norm for a while. There is still an immense amount of value to be had for on-prem production, and I don’t see that changing soon. However, as production teams continue to grow and change as the world does, the needs of audiences change. I think we will see the adoption rate of the cloud grow steadily. Overhauling an entire on-prem studio doesn’t make sense for every broadcaster, but using cloud solutions to experiment with offsite events or one-off shows will begin the conversation to eventually move to the cloud fully when the time is right.

 Tier-three and tier-two productions can use cloud-based infrastructure and solutions for broadcasts by simply turning it on, producing, and then shutting it off. This workflow saves time, money, and resources while still providing a captivating production for audiences. Cloud production has democratized and decentralized the ability to create stunning broadcasts that engage global audiences without having a tier-one production studio, unlocking the power of storytelling for all.

Can you discuss the Customer Success Team and the opportunity it presents for you to zero in on what is most important?
The Vizrt Customer Success Team is here to see clients reach their goals. While goals vary in shape and size, they are rooted in the desire to create more stories, better told. Being a part of the Customer Success Team means I can build those relationships with customers on a global scale and help them tell their stories the best way they can. Drawing from my own professional experience and considering the clients’ knowledge, I will guide customers through cloud production so they can choose the right options for them. I have already started to consult on best practices and support the creation of comprehensive resources alongside emphasizing the importance of continual learning and training.

In fact, the Customer Success Team and I are focused on several 2022 initiatives, including advancing Vizrt’s capabilities in sports, creating a Viz Technical Director Academy, and establishing a new Vizrt Center of Excellence to expand product offerings, training, and certification options for customers. Further details on these initiatives will be announced soon, so stay tuned!

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