Advances in the technology have made video transport over IP a robust, reliable and financially attractive proposition for local broadcasters. Applications include use as STLs, remote links from the field to the studio, PSIP insertion and program sharing.
Roughly a decade ago, IP was not considered a viable transmission technology for the 24/7 world of live broadcast, particularly for high-definition requirements. But due to its lower connection costs, now-proven reliability and easy-to-use operation, IP is increasingly being deployed by television stations for many applications. Those applications include use as STLs, remote links from the field to the studio, PSIP insertion and sharing programming. Constant advances in Quality of Service (QoS) related technologies have made video transport over IP a robust, reliable and financially attractive proposition for local broadcasters.
However, there still remains a bit of education that needs to be done. In the current economic climate, local broadcasters are looking for ways to save costs and streamline their operations, and IP-based solutions from innovative, emerging vendors might just be the answer for their critical live transmission challenges.
Part of the process of demystifying IP is showing broadcasters how simple the deployment of video-centric IP networks can be. There have been many real-life cases recently that demonstrate not only the ease of deployment, but also saving and operative gains from within the broadcast community.
In terms of reliability, today’s IP video transport solutions are robust with a built-in QoS, including advance error handling techniques such as FEC. The availability, reliability and uptime of IP networks has improved dramatically in the last decade, and they have now reached the quality level required for video transport.
As an example, an interesting option for those currently using microwave links is to introduce IP in the microwave network. This opens the door for a scenario where the microwave links can be gradually phased out as fiber-based IP networks become locally available.
Flexibility of IP
IP is an extremely flexible domain. Signals can be routed to many different locations. Microwave transmission operates on a point-to-point, line-of-sight basis. IP-based video networks are ideal for sending the same signal to multiple locations, perhaps over a statewide network.
As a potential future application, centralcasting or the sharing of programming, equipment and management of equipment from a central location among multiple stations is a solution that’s ideal for an IP-based infrastructure.
As operators need to reach multiple device types as well as merging broadcast services with broadband content distribution, the flexibility of IP contribution networks becomes increasingly relevant.
Video Quality and IP
The customer expects a high-quality visual experience, regardless of the viewing device. The broadcaster has to deliver content compatible with the highest video quality device — the large TV set in the living room. This means the broadcaster has to design, at least the first part of his content delivery network, the contribution network, to deliver the highest video quality possible.
There’s a clear trend now among broadcasters of designing contribution infrastructures to support 10 bit/1080p, even though most of their current contribution is in HD at 1080i or 720p or even SD. The transcoding to prepare the content for different viewing devices happens in the studio, allowing the quality and format to be tailored for the various device screens and resolutions and simultaneously archiving the content for future re-purposing. The use of IP networks makes it economically viable to keep the content at high-quality for as long as possible throughout the video chain, which makes transcoding more effective and efficient when handled centrally.
Sports Pushes the IP Envelope
When considering the transmission needs for OB production, IP connectivity has a lower cost than satellite or legacy telco networks. IP also means that video can be distributed over generic ethernet networks, rather than the whole distribution network being video or broadcast-centric. This saves cost and makes it easier to contribute content from wherever it’s generated. This is particularly true for news footage or for sports and events at smaller venues that may not have dedicated links already installed.
Just as sports producers pushed the envelope with regard to HD production, they have taken the lead in real-time contribution of live events. A mere four years ago, all sports arenas used ASI links for contribution and distribution. Now many more of them are deploying high-speed IP links. For example, ESPN has a link between Los Angeles and New York. All Major League Baseball stadiums are now using IP links to encode video feeds sent from the stadiums to the MLBAM (Major League Baseball Advanced Media) headquarters in New York. The increasing use of IP for real-time, live events in HD is a clear testimony of the quality and the technical advances of IP video transport.
Non-sports-specific programmers have recently turned to video transport over IP for a myriad of applications, including real-time HD ENG backhaul from mobile trucks back to the studio; transmission from the local station to the NOC, and live transmission of feature film and television program dailies for remote color correction and editing. Among them are WNET New York, WSB Atlanta, WFTV Orlando, WGBH Boston as well as several high-end, Hollywood post production facilities.
As more broadcasters begin to embrace the speed, flexibility and reduced costs involved with IP-based transmission, the education process will soon disappear. Broadcasters’ concrete results will clearly speak for themselves.
Steve Sloane is director of sales for T-VIPS America, a supplier of IP transport solutions.