Constant complaints about the slowness of standards being developed hurting the industry seems to be the norm.
This doesn’t mean standards don’t happen, nevertheless it is important to understand the standards process, benefits and risks.
Early in my career, I was involved in developing the CCIR- 601 standard, which became the basis for all digital video used today.
This was driven both by technical and political agendas, however the effort was one of the industry’s first takes on working together towards a worldwide standard.
Fast forward to today, and the new challenges are less about video and audio formats, more about transport; IP specifically.
IP transport for video, particularly for in-facility full bandwidth, non-file-based applications, has been the big challenge.
What’s needed is a great big co-operative boot to break the impasse, and at IBC2016 we saw just that: a massive step forward for the industry at the IP Interoperability Zone.
A common force
AIMS was the first organisation to win the IABM endorsement certification for being a true collaborative group; it is laser-focused on IP interoperability, with removing barriers for end-users always in its cross-hairs; AIMS’ membership encompasses vendors and end users across the industry. Its objective is stated thus:
“To foster the adoption of one set of common, ubiquitous, standards-based protocols for interoperability over IP in the media and entertainment industry.”
So how is AIMS doing this? Every AIMS member must agree to support a common roadmap (Figure 1), which IABM fully endorses, and is actively committed to encouraging the industry to focus on this common goal.
This doesn’t preclude the members from following their own path, however they must agree that their products and systems must also support the AIMS roadmap.
How do standards get established?
Standards bodies exist to enable co-operation, interoperability, improve business fluidity and it’s no different in the media industry. The primary standards bodies that AIMS takes its lead from are SMPTE, EBU and AES.
However, it also takes input and guidance from other types of organisations that have managed very significant works for technical recommendations, including VSF and AMWA.
Furthermore, collaborations between these bodies, in the form of the Joint Task Force for Networked Media, JT-NM, a joint effort between the EBU, SMPTE, VSF and AMWA, has provided reference IP architectures that assist in standards development and recommendations.
Adoption and interoperability
Creating standards is pointless unless there is wide adoption. Encouraging manufacturers to adopt a published standard is not always straightforward and often needs a push based on a purchase order from end users (or at a minimum, a commitment from several end users to assure that manufacturers are not wasting development resources).
AIMS members, many of whom are IABM members, are drawn from both the manufacturing and end-user communities, and have agreed to support the roadmap outlined in Figure 1. This solves the adoption dilemma by providing a single voice, hence increased confidence in every member’s technology investment.
Standards documents are never bulletproof and can have different interpretations for a single word, phrase or diagram that consequently lead to issues with interoperability. No matter how well-written a specification is, there are often areas open to discrepancy.
AIMS has a technical working group to identify such discrepancies and works with the relevant standards body such that the discrepancy can be addressed in the standard itself. Interoperability testing assures end users can buy both functioning and best of breed products hence creating a healthy developing and growing industry.
Over the past 18 months AES, AMWA, SMPTE and VSF have all conducted interoperability testing of the standards on this roadmap that both ensure interoperability and can identify any remaining interoperability issues.
In this manner, these organisations have been working together to improve and ultimately perfect these standards for interoperability over IP. The real-world organised ‘grubby hands’ testing between manufacturers and customers is precisely intended to accelerate understanding and adoption of those standards by finding and feeding back to the relevant organisations any issues uncovered.
Beyond this, AIMS also inputs to the standards bodies at early stages where no standard currently exists. For example, on the little understood use of Mezzanine compression within IP systems, AIMS is assembling a set of considered and peer group tested recommendations for the standards bodies.
AIMS has also adopted the AMWA NMOS registration and discovery scheme IS-04. This means sources of media can be included in media workflows without needing deep level configuration: surely a blessing for users.
Stan Moote has worked worldwide in the industry for over three decades and is the chief technology officer for IABM - the international trade association for suppliers of broadcast and media technology.
Moote has a clear understanding of technology combined with a solid business twist. You can see many of his articles and contact him directly at ca.linkedin.com/ in/stanmoote.
This article was first published at IBC2016.