Media’s evolution from baseband to IP has been progressing for years. But recent months have accelerated IP adoption as video operations have adapted, practically overnight, to remote production workflows and technologies.

Clearly, remote IP-based production is here to stay as media companies continue to embrace IP’s efficiency, cost effectiveness, and flexibility to meet rapidly changing requirements. In this article, we’ll explore how next-generation network operation centers are enabling the IP future of video workflows.

A massive paradigm shift

If there’s a silver lining to Covid-19 for our industry, it’s that broadcasters of all sizes have found out just how much they’re capable of doing remotely, and how easy and cost-effective it is to adapt operations to remote workflows using technologies such as the cloud and IP-based networks. Broadcasters who had already taken the plunge will continue to refine and expand their remote capabilities, and those who were in the exploration stages – and then had their hand forced by the pandemic – will continue to build on the successes they have experienced over the past few months.

The days of covering live events using a microwave link or sending a portable uplink will never return. As video producers shift to IP production, they are moving away from bulky, expensive hardware to more flexible software, cloud-based solutions, and more lightweight field gear like bonded cellular backpacks. It’s critical that this equipment be able to ingest non-baseband sources and leverage the entire gamut of IP-based protocols, and sometimes several of them during the same production. Likewise, producers need fast, frictionless ways to transcode feeds and files into multiple house formats for asset management and distribution.

The IP difference

Unlike legacy broadcast systems using SDI, IP-based systems are able to acquire signals from a virtually unlimited number of inputs using a wide range of protocols such as SRT, WebRTC, or HLS and then output via an ethernet switch for live multicamera monitoring, real-time transcoding to house formats, live editing, and finally publication, distribution, and/or re-transmission. Receivers and tuners have been replaced by web browsers, and instead of tuning to an antenna, users simply point the browser to a URL or IP port. Also, hardware recorders have been replaced by software that allows users not only to record video, but also to view and begin converting it in real time to an editable format.

In past eras, even a simple broadcast like a remote news interview required outside broadcast trucks, large antennas, and expert technical knowledge to get the signal back to the broadcast operation center. Today, bonded cellular transmission radically simplifies remote production and live contribution, replacing unwieldy antennas and expensive uplink trucks with devices small enough to carry in a backpack. Camera operators and producers can bond together 10 1Mbps upstream SIM cards to achieve 10Mbps of throughput, which is more than enough to deliver an HD stream and replace the need for a satellite uplink.

Taking broadcast operations to the cloud

With portable technologies, IP-based signal acquisition, and cloud-based tools, broadcast and streaming production teams are now able to work entirely remotely. What’s more, they have access to more capabilities than ever before. Advanced bonded cellular transmission solutions and cloud-based media asset management (MAM) systems offer a powerful combination for creating an IP-based network operation centre in either centralised or distributed locations.

Xchange Media Cloud

Xchange Media Cloud

To fill the bonded cellular role, an advanced video production and distribution solution enables users to capture video content from practically any source and then transcode it live for integration into a production, management, and delivery workflow.

Such a software solution captures content from any IP stream, camera, or broadcast source including SRT, NDI, HLS, RTSP, DASH, and even SDI, taking incoming feeds from both baseband and non-baseband sources and transcoding them into ProRes, XDCAM, AVC-Intra, DVCPRO, H.264, and H.265/HEVC all in real time. Ideally, the application is capable of working with both HD and 4K UHD signals. This solution also enables real-time editing in Apple Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro, and editors can preview and edit live streams in those NLEs while the video feed is still being captured.

The MAM component brings powerful asset management functionality to the cloud. This makes it easier than ever for geographically dispersed teams to store, access, produce, and manage all of their media assets as well as collaborate on projects from anywhere in the world. Through integrations with Adobe Creative Cloud, Apple Final Cut Pro X, and DaVinci Resolve, the MAM gives video, sound, graphics, and effects teams the ability to work on any streams or files. Production teams can work with both baseband and SDI sources as well as IP files and streams. Best of all, the solution can be up and running quickly as either a temporary replacement for or supplement to an on-prem MAM installation or as a long-term hybrid solution for the future.

In summary

The traditional broadcast operations center will always have its place, but the new IP normal is providing an attractive alternative in the form of IP-based network operations centers together with smaller and more nimble transmission gear, cameras, and capture devices. This migration was well underway before 2020, but the unprecedented events of the year have pushed many production teams to make the leap now.

With advanced IP-based video acquisition and cloud-based MAM solutions, broadcasters and streaming organizations can respond to the immediate demands of today while positioning themselves perfectly for the challenges of the future.

Claudio Lisman is the president and chief executive of Primestream.