Special Report On-Air Graphics: Interview with 3 Monkeys

Knowledge Partner Interview: Marc Mikulla and Rudi Buchner of Dubai based Three Monkeys say the need for a scalable and flexible solution that represents a lower CAPEX investment should drive the industry towards a more efficient and cost effective solution for broadcast, in-studio and interactive graphics.
Marc Mikulla, CEO, Three Monkeys
Marc Mikulla, CEO, Three Monkeys

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DS: What do broadcasters need to consider when choosing a solution for their on-screen and in-studio real-time graphics?

Rudi Buchner, Chief Information Officer of Three Monkeys: Efficiency in terms of cost of ownership both in terms of CAPEX and OPEX for software and hardware. Secondly a very detailed comparison of features which come as a standard and which are optional.

The industry is not really looking into the possibilities of new products. Because one specific product which is the oldest and the most widespread is dominating the market. There seems to be no interest in exploring things that might have a better feature set and might have better efficiency in terms of cost, where the CAPEX is by far better than the market leader.

People are not looking at how much is included in a software package, and there may not even be a distinction, because there are solutions where all features are present in one package.

Above: Real-time on-air graphics software packages today need to offer a features such as Augmented reality and virtual sets

DS: What are the obstacles to move to a new solution?

Buchner: The major problem is that most design departments are 100% specialized in a single product. The management might look somewhere else but that means the design guys have to learn new software.

So there is a resistance coming out of the operational aspect of having to learn something new. And we know a top-down approach doesn’t usually work because the designers will say “it’s easier to work with what I know.”

So the main problem when you plan to change the infrastructure is, where does the capacity come from to learn a new product, and how do I make that transition happen and deal with the resistance?

DS: What is the main strength of Ventuz, and how much does the quality of the different solutions differentiate the products?

Alexander Vartzbed, Director Creative Services, Three Monkeys: The main strength of Ventuz is that it’s got a very steep learning curve. From the moment you start until the moment you really know what you’re doing, it does not take very long. When you get the basics down, you can really dive in. You also do not need to buy the software to have access to it - there’s a decent learning edition which you can use.
You get the WYSIWYG principle in Ventuz so you can always build things. You don’t have to wait very long for a long output time so it can be done quickly.

Buchner: In terms of quality we can talk about two things – one is the technical quality of the signal which is the same for everyone as long as they use proper components. Then there is the creative quality which comes down to ability and knowledge of operator sitting in front of the software.
There is the hardware segment with processing power and then there is how much detail and realism can the designer put into it.

Three Monkeys installed an interactive video wall at Nasdaq Dubai's MarketSite studio.

Nasdaq Dubai MarketSite is a premiere platform for capital market, economic, and business thought leadership. It hosts market-opening bell-ringing events attracting global visibility from a state of the art arena, where executives and organisations can make key announcements and share their respective news with the world. Business TV giant CNBC is broadcasting out of the MarketSite studio in Dubai International Financial Centre.

DS: How did Three Monkeys come to partner with Ventuz?

Marc Mikulla, CEO of Three Monkeys: I worked in Germany with the guys who invented Ventuz and I saw the benefit happening in front of my eyes. We started when it still wasn’t yet a product – just a platform we used for real-time graphics in broadcast and events.

With Ventuz I saw the potential, knowing what the traditional way is, and what kind of possibilities it opened up being such an open kind of platform. It created an entirely new playground. Even now, Ventuz can do things where I don’t know any alternative product that offers the same easy approach.

Ventuz has its origins in the broadcast world because we did a lot of virtual studio stuff at that time. It was all so tricky to work with because you needed these humongous Silicon Graphics Onyx processers per camera – one of those processors is the size of a fridge!

That’s when we thought there must be an easier way – if computer games can do it why can’t we do it for broadcast and event graphics?

DS: What are the latest trends you see in the world of broadcast graphics?

Buchner: They are transitioning to AR/VR – for sure there’s a trend going on there but I think there is more. The consumer wants more on-demand and immediate demand capabilities. There’s a movement away from linear – away from the traditional distribution platforms into a much more non-linear world.

Secondly, there is a need to streamline production processes, and this comes back to the point of some products being specific only for broadcast, while others are open to the larger entire “A/V universe”. For some systems there is no difference whether you’re talking about a videowall, touchscreen, a curved projection screen, a stream, or a key fill, it is the same design environment, the same programming environment, the same control environment - it is the same production tool.

DS: How do you view the regional market for broadcast, events and interactive video graphics?

Mikulla: For Ventuz, the main use cases are still in Europe and the US. In the European market there is competition between artists, designers and operators which drives innovation. Over here, there’s a tendency for broadcasters to prefer not having that additional feature and just having peace.

In Europe, there is the motivation to find a solution that lets me do something new. Here it is – ‘oh, we need to learn something new’. Creating the awareness that there are tools that would enhance your on-air and in-studio graphics exponentially on a smaller budget is the key. It’s not necessarily wished for by those who have to work with it yet though. You talk about the cost benefits and the possible features and they would be very interested, but the operator would say “oh no – we have to learn something new.” Or “I don’t get more money if the graphics are better.”

In America for example, you can really monetise on the quality of your graphics by selling slots in your graphics. That doesn’t happen here much, so the motivation to do that is low. It seems to me that there is not much focus on quality management. Since we founded Three Monkeys we never had quality complaints. For us there is just a need for it to look good. Quality control is something that is our highest priority.

We are a small company that tailor makes creative solutions. In the end, the technology is primarily the vehicle – the way you use it makes it unique. You can have the fanciest Vizrt or Ventuz setup but if you’re doing bad graphics, it’s a waste of money.
It’s the combination of these things that have to blend together. A lot of clients spend 90% of the budget on having the biggest video wall – and 10% on content which is just a normal PowerPoint. It’s about having content on it that is memorable.

Three Monkeys was founded in UAE in 2008 and is delivering from Dubai to the world. The company was founded here, our HQ and our main resources are here. Unlike most other companies, we started in Dubai and expanded abroad. We are proud of our roots in the UAE, as our team reflects the diversity of our origin. Emiratis, GCC nationals and expats from around the world are in our group of outstandingly skilled people.

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