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Blackbird: Cutting Carbon Emissions One Video Clip At A Time

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As entertainment outlets shift further toward entirely internet-based platforms, the need for quality content production is ever prevalent. But how do you navigate the energy consumption problems posed by live broadcasting, bandwidth use, and quick-time content clipping? 

More sports leagues and news channels are moving away from on-premise production and using cloud-native editing software to keep costs and their carbon footprint low. Blackbird is one company changing the game for editing live video content with its highly sustainable, browser-based version.

The firm is a leader in eco-friendly broadcasting and video editing. It was founded in 1998 as Forbidden Technologies and rebranded Blackbird in 2019. The company has earned multiple recognitions for its sustainable cloud-based editing software that allows video editors to clip and post content in seconds. 

Working alongside Green Element, a U.K.-based environmental consultancy firm, Blackbird has produced various case studies and impact reports about energy consumption regarding live broadcasting. Some of the statistics they’ve found during research might surprise you. 

Photo Courtesy Blackbird

According to albert, a sustainable TV production organization, one hour of traditional TV broadcasting generates 9.2 tons of carbon emissions. That’s equivalent to 27.6 square meters of sea ice melting in the Arctic. With live broadcasts running for hours, that’s a monumental climate impact. 

Blackbird’s cloud-native content editing product tackles this problem. It eliminates the need for bespoke editing equipment, so production teams no longer need to lug around heavy bags of gear.

Editors don’t need to travel to event locations since the browser-based software only needs an internet connection. Less travel trims emissions greatly. 

Blackbird emits 91% fewer emissions than on-premise and cloud-based video editing operations. The National Hockey League, the Deltatre, and news outlets like Cheddar News, Sky News Arabia, and Eleven Sports use the cloud-native technology. 

Consensus sat down with CEO Ian McDonough to learn how Blackbird emerged as an eco-friendly alternative. Coming from an extensive background in television networks, McDonough has propelled the business into the next era of digital content production. 

“In 2016, 2017, I decided I wanted to get ahead of the industry rather than manage the decline of a platform traditional broadcast and editing,” McDonough said. “I was looking for technology that was really game-changing.” 

Photo Courtesy Blackbird via Caroline Steiner

By using cloud-native platforms, media outlets can reduce their emission output immensely. For example, a two-week sporting event emits around 174 tons of CO2 over 4,000 hours of TV air time, especially when factoring in the production truck and bandwidth needed for video editing. By comparison, Blackbird’s platform emits up to 91% less CO2 than traditional broadcasting.

“We’re 80% more carbon efficient than other cloud-based systems because moving high-resolution content through Blackbird uses less than two megabits of bandwidth,” he explained. 

According to McDonough, the major shift to almost-entirely digital content was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With lockdowns in 2020 and a heavy transition to remote work, media outlets had to adapt to distribute content to viewers. Where Blackbird stands out is in its efficiency and sustainability. 

“One thing we’re very proud of is we’ve cracked the question of cost, cracked that speed, we’ve cracked that carbon efficiency, and usability where I think other parts of the digital supply chain are still struggling,” McDonough said. 

Introducing Blackbird, Video Courtesy Blackbird

Around 90% of video editors have integrated cloud systems into their workflow. Because of this, carbon emissions from broadcasting dropped from 9.2 to 4.4 tons per hour from 2020 to 2021. With internet-based platforms expected to expand further, the need for speedy, eco-friendly software is critical. 

McDonough believes it would be catastrophic not to transition to more carbon-efficient broadcast editing. “Blackbird is differentiated because it’s so carbon-efficient,” he said. “But it shouldn’t be a differentiator. It should be everyone is as carbon efficient as us. I just think it’s got to become a standard.”  

The good news is that more media and entertainment platforms are starting to recognize the need for more sustainable video production. Even just looking over some of the case studies Blackbird has published, it’s clear more firms are receptive to adapting to fight the climate crisis. 

“We can be incredibly sustainable and incredibly good as a product,” McDonough affirmed. “Better, faster, lighter, cheaper, all these things can be true if we put our minds to it.”   


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