IBC was one huge media factory, structured on multiple technology collaboration efforts, writes IBC Daily reporter George Jarrett. 

These partnerships varied in scope between the massive power play that is the AV1 codec down to the protocol behind the EBU-ADM renderer for object based sound production; and from the Agile Media Blueprint (AMB) envisaged by the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) across to DVB-I (for Internet), and the 5G-XCast project fronted by the EBU.

AMWA’s blueprint is something akin to the first sighting of the Joint Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM) in the way it begs for wide industry development support.

AMWA Executive Director Brad Gilmer told everyone he spoke to that it is aimed at next generation IT-platform media facilities.

“The AMB is a strategic longer-term activity, and this sort of blueprint scales massively to things like Twitter and Facebook,” said Gilmer.

“Pieces of the JT-NM architecture foreshadowed this project, but this takes a completely new approach to professional media.”

Brad Gilmer

Brad Gilmer

Down the line, the JTNM might require additions or supplemented documents. Whetting the appetite for the sheer scope of the AMB are the first identified features of grain-based APIs and unique ID miniature software functionality.

“The notion is that every piece of content is divided up into some arbitrary unit or grain, and that grain has a unique ID.

“You can refer to it any time, anywhere and there is a time stamp that identifies when a sensor acquired that essence,” said Gilmer.

“You could move grains around in time, in an HTTP format with security (HTTPS); you could store them, or manipulate them into other things using microservices.”

A function is a small piece of software that does a specific task, the thinking being that you move the function to the data, and perform that task where the date resides. Better still, functions can be chained together into workflows.

Keeping point to multipoint alive
The 18 partners behind 5G-XCast include the BBC, BT, Nokia, Samsung, IRT, Surrey University, Telecom Italia, and LiveU. It is not so much a technology, until it resides in vendor chip sets, as the road to technical enablers in the big 5G window.

Everything we have learnt about 5G so far involves Unicast (point-to-point), so this is where 5G-Cast has its main attraction.

Senior EBU project manager Darko Ratkaj said: “We are looking to develop a technical solution for point to multipoint. 5G will not allow point to multipoint, which could be 5G broadcast or 5G Multicast.”

Darko Ratkaj

Darko Ratkaj

Either would deliver the same content to multiple people, and serve mass audiences. The bonus would be not consuming network capacity as point-to-point does.

“We are looking to develop a technical solution for point to multipoint, and when the project closes next June we will have a technical solution for demonstration, prototype and proof of concept stages, before 5G-XCast goes to 3GPP for ratification,” said Ratkaj.

Once vendors implement 5G-XCast in chip sets and devices network operators would deploy those devices, but that could be four or five years hence.

Meanwhile, Ratkaj said: “Actually 5G is a broader, bigger issue for broadcasters than just 5G multicast. It will play a role in content production and in the distribution of content and services.”

Low latency
The DVB Project, like SMPTE, is operating under a new ethos. And DVB-I is like 5G-XCast in the sense that is enabling the one to many culture of broadcasting move on and stay viable.

DVB chairman Peter MacAvock said: “The ease with which you connect current generation DVB-T aerials or DVB-S dishes into DVB TV sets is what we’d like to be able to replicate for the Internet.

Peter MacAvock

Peter MacAvock

“This is the key next stomping ground for the DVB. We are trying to modify the way the DVB works, to meet the demands of this new media space. It is less based on silicon, and more based on software, and the interoperability challenges are substantially higher,” he added.

The first draft of the DVB-I spec will appear at NAB time. IBC saw some of the building blocks - targeted advertising, and delivering low latency services being two.

“We are developing a low latency adaptive bit rate which facilitates faster channel change and faster exchange between different bit rates,” said MacAvock. “Then comes the whole element of service discovery and selection.”

The EAR project manifested as the EBU-ADM (Audio Definition Model) was created by the BBC, IRT, France TV and b<>com, and it is a wonderful set of object based audio production tools. The core standard behind it is ITUR BS-2076.

Michael Weitnauer, IRT’s production system audio spokesman, said: “This was created for interchange and everything related to next generation audio in this context.

“It is the first open renderer for ADM, and it comes with an open source implementation. We hope this will be a thing that is used in all the tools used for production in the broadcast chain, as a common renderer to make sure that you have a reliable interchange interoperability, independently from the tools we are using,” he added.

“This was one of the key motivations for the work. You basically get one set of audio elements (an audio scene), and this can contain a lot of different things like a channel bridge plus some additional objects.”

These would include an object for a commentary, audio description or music, and depending on the metadata generated by the content producer, the end user can adapt the experience, basically the mix, within certain limitations. You could amplify the level of the dialogue, or switch language for the voice over, or create pre-sets.

“We are talking to vendors to motivate them to integrate this technology. It is not really optimised, and is currently for file-based processing, but the spec is out and it can be implemented,” said Weitnauer.

Specs: a new process for SMPTE
IMF for broadcast and online, officially the first spec ratified by SMPTE and a huge collaboration project involving the DPP and many other parties including the EBU and the BBC, suddenly became the trusty versioning tool everyone has waited for during IBC. All doubts seem to vanish as vendor implementations multiplied.

Barbara Lange

Barbara Lange

And SMPTE Executive Director Barbara Lange revealed that key parts of a new three-year strategic plan are a focus on standards in the areas of software and its relationship to IP. IMF has also opened up a new lane.

“Specs are a very new process for SMPTE, but we are looking at other areas,” said Lange. “Hopefully that will trigger a next round of specs. As far as our future is concerned, and remaining relevant, then maybe that’s something we ought to be doing more of.”

The IABM gave the industry a simple new blueprint with its Broadcast Media Content Chain (Bam), which in a small way franks the purpose behind the AMWA Agile Media Blueprint.

Collaboration through research enabled the IABM to pick a content chain built on terminology as used by the market, and then it promptly added a products and services retail site – the single portal BaM Shop Window modelled partly on Amazon.

Read more SMPTE surges forward