Vendors are increasingly focused on delivering T&M solutions that allow broadcasters to undertake efficient monitoring across multiple production environments and formats, writes David Davies.
The expectations of test & measurement (T&M) technology have risen significantly in recent years. This is due in no small part to the huge technology transitions occurring throughout the industry – from the introduction of IP-based infrastructures while SDI is still in widespread use, to the need to accommodate more remote or at-home production alongside conventional, broadcast centre-based operations.
In this article, IBC 365 takes the temperature of the T&M sector through convbrettersations with five leading companies providing solutions to – or otherwise engaged with – this sector, who collectively underline the remarkable creativity that now characterises this area of solutions development.
Penny Westlake, director Europe
Thoughts on T&M trends: “There is a lot of activity taking place around the monitoring of IP/2110 workflows. It’s definitely something we have been focusing on with a number of recent product releases and upgrades. And for our first post-Covid show in Europe [at IBC 2022], it really made sense to be banging the drum about those developments.”
Latest T&M innovation: Interra has recently made a number of additions to its ORION-OTT monitoring solution for live and VOD streaming, including ad insertion monitoring, support for Dolby Vision and HDR, visual trend for QoS and QoE metrics, CPIX-based DRM integrations, and new audio/video quality checks. Other solutions highlighted at IBC 2022 include the ORION product for real-time monitoring of linear channels in an IP-based delivery infrastructure, and – also part of the ORION product suite – the new ORION 2110 Probe supporting the SMPTE ST 2110 standard, which provides broadcasters with an end-to-end monitoring solution for ensuring excellent video quality in an IP distribution environment.
T&M market predictions: “All organisations are having to do more with less – not just in terms of finance, but also in terms of qualified expert people available. So if you can assist in automating some aspects and ensuring that people can get accurate information about what is happening to the content, then that is great. I think that helping with the detection of QC issues early in the workflow will continue to be a major focus of development in this area.”
Mathieu Planche, CEO
Thoughts on T&M trends: “The industry has seen some very big changes, including the hugely increased offer in terms of streaming and ways to consume content, so it’s never been so critical as it is now to provide the best quality experience possible. In fact, our observation is that people tend to care a lot more about the quality they deliver to their customers, and want it to be [consistently excellent].”
Latest T&M innovation: Witbe showcased a number of its latest automated testing and proactive monitoring solutions at IBC 2022, including the new version of the REC application, which allows users to access and control their test devices from anywhere in the world using any modern web browser. It also builds on previous versions with improved latency, a stronger search, and native full-screen and picture-in-picture modes. Also highlighted at the show were the Witbox, which houses the company’s automated testing and monitoring technology in a compact and accessible package, and the line-up of Witbe Cloud products.
T&M market predictions: “I think that there will continue to be a great focus on ‘any time’ availability. Experience tells us that it’s not always going to be 9am when the customer has an issue that needs resolving; it’s probably more likely to be in the evening when they are out having dinner, or at 2am! So making sure that technologies are available any time they are required is really important for us, [hence] developments such as the new version of REC that increases its remote accessibility.”
Prinyar Boon, product manager
Thoughts on T&M trends: “There are several main trends that have to be accommodated [with T&M solutions], including the move from SDI to IP systems, and the use of more remote and cloud-based systems. That means a strong requirement for real-time monitoring. To date, we have not seen a great deal of live production occurring in the cloud, but increasingly it’s apparent that is going to change.”
Latest T&M innovation: PHABRIX unveiled a slew of new solutions at IBC 2022, including the QxP rasterizer. Described as a more portable version of the QxL, the 3RU form factor product with integral touch screen and V-Plate option provides monitoring up to 12G-SDI copper or 10/25G ST 2110 IP with NMOS. It is suitable for working in HD, UHD, SDR, HDR, SDI or IP, and conventional or remote production. PHABRIX also introduced other new Qx Series features such as an analyser for a clear view of Dolby E metadata in Dolby E and Dolby ED2 Atmos audio streams, and extensive new Waveform Test and Measurement Monitoring capabilities.
T&M market predictions: PHABRIX remains firmly focused on the linear broadcast market, with Boon noting that “from a linear perspective, I don’t think there has been any change in terms of their expectations of [T&M solutions]. They are always intent on achieving the best quality and also looking at other technologies, such as HDR, that can [enhance programming even further]. They are also very good at documenting best practice and then spreading the word about it.” He also highlights the strong level of interest in T&M in general at this year’s trade shows, attributing this to “people wanting to ensure they have the necessary resilience in their operations, and also because some had put off buying new systems for some time [during the pandemic].”
Poornima Urs, Head of QAE
Thoughts on T&M trends: “The rise in remote working has made it challenging for both Accedo and our customers to test on various devices and platforms. This has been addressed thanks to automation and device farms, helping us to test on various devices in an efficient way, meaning we can continue to ensure the quality of the products we test. The move to remote working has brought about an increase in cloud-based solutions, which has helped us to access our test environments remotely.”
Latest T&M innovation: “We use tools like Runscope, Suitest, Witbe and some open-source frameworks. As these are cloud-based solutions, we can access our test environments remotely and scale as demands change.”
T&M market predictions: “Cross platforms experience, flawless playback experience and reporting would be the main things impacting design. Reporting to developers and QAs is very different compared to reporting to external stakeholders such as product owners or customers. We are continually looking at how we report, ensuring it is as effective as possible and that we are able to provide a good holistic perspective of the quality of the application under test.”
Simon Bergmark, CPO
Thoughts on T&M trends: “QC and QA applications have long been used in on-prem workflows. Despite the current demand for remote flexibility, automation and proactivity have always been key components in successful testing solutions. The difference now, with browser-based solutions, is that it is much simpler and quicker to adapt these applications to specific requirements and integrate them with existing tools.”
Our vision for T&M: “Codemill’s solutions are designed and built in the cloud, so they already deliver maximum flexibility to customers. Our team realised early on that organisations are looking at different vendor solutions to solve similar problems. However, media companies are often expecting to find the perfect fit without considering future changes. [Codemill’s cloud-native product suite] Accurate. Video was designed with integrations in mind; it can sit on top of existing tools and infrastructure, meaning users don’t have to rebuild entire workflows. No matter the choice of platform or technology, it can hook into that ecosystem to enhance media content. Not only does this empower the users by improving accessibility, but it also means QC teams are able to access workflows in the browser from anywhere, at any time.”
Latest T&M innovation: “We recently launched a cloud native Just-in-Time (JiT) playback initiative, which enables the migration of high bandwidth media workflows to the public cloud, without compromising on resolution, format, codec or access time. Going through archives to generate proxy versioning is a timely and costly method. With JIT, the operator can access the content in real-time from anywhere, without needing it to have been previously processed. It provides media organisations with maximum workflow agility and complete control of their editing and QC processes.”
T&M market predictions: “I think we will continue to see a trend of bringing QC applications to the content, rather having to export to an external solution each time. For instance, being able to attach an S3 bucket to Accurate. Video will provide a seamless QC experience and empower end-users to check media assets straight from the cloud storage.”
Read more IBC2022 Technical Papers released