End-to-end IP is finally achievable, making live video delivery easier and more efficient, says Andy Warman.
It is common practice to work with uncompressed video in live production environments as it yields the best possible quality and low latency needed for split second decision making. Furthermore, the more flexibility we have in dealing with the transport and distribution of video, audio, and data, the better and more efficient the workflow will be. An all-IP infrastructure can make it possible.
While the rest of the video-delivery workflow has entered the IP realm, master control, studio and news production are still largely SDI islands unto themselves because it has been too difficult and expensive to upgrade those environments to IP. And since SDI limits physical density and processing capability – one signal on one wire traveling in one direction - master control, studio and news production have been the weak links in the delivery chain in terms of being able to leverage IP technologies.
Thankfully, the industry is standardising on SMPTE ST 2110, which makes it easy to upgrade or build new all-IP systems and make changes to those systems more readily.
That’s largely because, unlike SDI infrastructures that are affectively proprietary technologies, SMPTE ST 2110 IP infrastructures work with common off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies for network switch infrastructure, which in turn enables more signals flowing per cable, significant improvements in rack density and higher data bandwidth. We can also use COTS compute power, which naturally leads to more software systems and, increasingly, more cloud-based systems, whether they’re on premises, in a public cloud, or working with a hybrid of the two.
The result is majorly improved density, better flexibility, and, consequently, better workflows.
“A lot of things still need to happen to get everything running perfectly in pure IP”
One of the great things about moving to an all IP system, especially with on-premises systems, is that you can deliver uncompressed video over IP into systems that are IP based and will deal with compression, multiplexing (if needed), and packaging of all the content into over-the-top and broadcast formats so you can target all screens. It also allows you to tie into other systems. Since everything can exist on a common network infrastructure – though there may, for example, be independent networks to separate control from real time I/O – we now have a common method to connect all systems including automation, production asset management systems, monitoring and management.
That’s not to say it’s a panacea. A lot of things still need to happen to get everything running perfectly in pure IP. For example, using touch screens is not for everyone, and integrating with SDI-based systems may still be needed to create a seamless workflow. But one of the wonderful things about an IP-based workflow is that you don’t lose anything that you had with SDI — things like confidence monitoring, very low latency performance, and pristine video quality are all retained.
What this means for live video delivery is that live video coming into master control from OB trucks, newsgathering, and studios can all be processed in IP from end to end. There is no need to go through conversion of incoming signals to SDI in a facility, dealing with de-embedding video and audio before processing and, and sending the SDI signals to be compressed for delivery. It means your video, audio, and data; your control systems; your monitoring systems; your analytics; your management tools; your control system — everything functions and remains on an IP network.
Now live production and master control can join the other parts of the workflow that have already made the jump to IP. Those SDI islands mentioned earlier are eliminated and replaced by a complete, end-to-end IP system. And with that, live video delivery becomes much more flexible and efficient.
Andy Warman is AIMS marketing working group chair