IP transport for live news has until recently been looked upon by many broadcasters with skepticism because it couldn’t be counted on with certainty to deliver the critical live shot with the same reliability as point-to-point microwave and satellite shots. However, attitudes toward IP newsgathering are rapidly changing. LTE connections have improved markedly over the past 12 to 18 months, which is only adding to the reliability of IP newsgathering, says Dejero’s Bogdan Frusina. “It is like we are living in a new world of connectivity.” This is the second installment of a special series on emerging tech trends that will appear each week leading up to the NAB Show that runs April 11-16 in Las Vegas.
If IP newsgathering were the Rodney Dangerfield of field contribution, it would be time for the technology to get a new schtick –especially if “respect” in newsgathering terms can be equated to reliability.
Dangerfield, who died more than a decade ago, built a memorable comedic persona with one liners and stories underscoring how the comedian plodded through life getting no respect.
IP transport for contribution of live news has until recently, in a sense, shared Dangerfield’s lack of respect because in the eyes of many broadcasters it couldn’t be counted on with certainty to deliver the critical live shot with the same reliability as point-to-point microwave and satellite shots.
Instead, IP newsgathering more often than not was relegated to a secondary, supplemental role to ENG and SNG technology.
However, as of late, IP newsgathering is beginning to get the respect it deserves.
“At NAB, it will be quite apparent that IP newsgathering technology has come of age,” says Ken Zamkow, VP marketing, Americas at LiveU, a Hackensack, N.J., maker of bonded wireless IP newsgathering products. “It has gotten to the point where broadcasters do trust it as the primary means of transmission.”
Paul Shen, CEO of Mountain View, Calif., -based TVU Networks, says he’s seen firsthand how broadcasters have elevated the stature of IP newsgathering simply because they now believe it is reliable.
“Even a year ago, IP-based newsgathering was a supplement to microwave and satellite,” says TVU Networks CEO Paul Shen. “At that time, we saw our customers’ usage being 70% microwave and satellite, and 30% IP newsgathering. Today, it’s the reverse — 70% IP newsgathering, 30% microwave.”
In the past, questions about reliability have centered on the availability of wireless bandwidth for contribution. One way to overcome spotty wireless coverage is to combine satellite and microwave transmission with wireless bandwidth.
At NAB, LiveU will show precisely that with its bonding technology deployed in newsgathering vehicles around the convention floor, Zamkow says. At the Accelerated Media Technologies exhibit, LiveU’s technology will combine Ka-band satellite bandwidth with cellular connectivity.
“Cellular now gives you excellent coverage and excellent quality. However, it still is not perfect coverage,” says LiveU’s Zamkow. “When you combine it with Ka-band, however, you get coverage almost everywhere you go.”
The setup offers several other distinct advantages, he says. First, it allows connectivity even when a vehicle is in motion.
Second, the footprint of a Ka-band antenna and wireless connection is much smaller than a Ku-band antenna and associated transmission equipment, which means a smaller, lighter, more maneuverable vehicle can be used.
Third, the simplicity of setup allows one reporter to operate the entire system, or it can be controlled remotely from the station via IP by an engineer, says Zamkow.
At NAB, LiveU also will begin delivery of its new LU200, a one-pound, two-modem cellular bonding device that is small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, says Zamkow. Introduced in Amsterdam at IBC 2014 in September, the LU200 also provides for external connectivity to additional sources of bandwidth, including USB Ethernet and Wi-Fi cards.
LiveU is offering the LU200 at a price that is lower than its other products to give broadcasters an affordable way to outfit more reporters and shooters with IP newsgathering capability, he adds.
While TVU Networks chose not to make any new product announcements for this story, Shen says the important thing to remember is that IP newsgathering is no longer limited to simply 3G and 4G wireless circuits.
“If you look today at TVU’s MLink [a rack-mount transmitter], it has the flexibility to combine 3G, 4G, microwave and satellite and really deliver the best of all worlds,” Shen says.
TVU also worked with Vislink to launch its next-generation IP newsgathering TVUPack backpack, a fully integrated microwave and cellular IP transmission system at IBC 2014. The hybrid microwave IP technology aggregates bandwidth from both a microwave link and cellular data connection to provide the reliability broadcasters expect, he says.
“We now routinely can deliver 10Mb/s at sub-second latency,” says Shen. “I think that is what is having a significant impact on the television industry. People know they can reliably send the picture back and get a great interview with low latency. You no longer have the deer in the headlight phenomena.”
LTE connections have improved markedly over the past 12 to 18 months, which is only adding to the reliability of IP newsgathering technology, says Dejero founder and CTO Bogdan Frusina. “It is like we are living in a new world of connectivity.”
At the NAB Show, the Waterloo, Ontario, Canada-based company will feature three new products that leverage improved connectivity and reliability for different news applications.
The Dejero Live+ Mobile App for iOS allows reporters to use their iPhone 6 and a wireless connection to stream full 1080p/60fps video from the field. “The mobile app gives a station a way to get good pictures in a rapid response environment,” says Frusina. “The reporter just pushes a button and the app adapts to whatever bandwidth is available.”
The new app provides for iPhone camera zoom, bonding with additional sources of bandwidth and IFB (interruptible foldback).
The company’s new Live+ NewsBook for Mac software turns a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air with a Thunderbolt port into a video contribution workstation for reporters working alone in the field. “The NewsBook can bond external cellular connections and transmit live video from the same platform,” Frusina says. A variety of network connections are supported including 3G, 4G, LTE, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and satellite.
Dejero also will launch a new roaming upgrade for its Live+ GoBox next-generation mobile transmitter. “With our new roaming upgrade, if you go into Mexico it will switch to the Mexican standards, and in the United States it is going to run on the U.S. systems,” he says. The same is the case for traveling between the United States and Canada.
Seattle-based Streambox will come to the NAB Show with what company co-founder and CEO Bob Hilderman calls “a new class of bonding technology.”
The technology, which forms the foundation for the new Streambox Avenir Micro, relies upon the Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, the same central processing unit used in iPhones and Galaxy Android phones, says Hilderman.
“With the Snapdragon CPU, we are able to encode in real time full HD and transmit that video over bonded cellular networks while keeping the power requirement very low — essentially 10 watts,” he says.
Low power consumption means large batteries are unnecessary, which in turn allows Streambox to shrink the physical size of the Avenir Micro. It also means the heat generated by the new bonding technology is minimal.
“The bigger thing is that the Streambox Micro product would start appearing inside of the camera instead of being attached to a camera,” Hilderman says. “You will start to see the bonding device inside of the camera because of the form factor and minimal heat produced.”
Hilderman declined to say whether or not Streambox has made a deal with a camera maker to include the Avenir Micro technology.
(Editor’s note: At the 2015 NAB Show, JVC, Panasonic and Sony have announced they will show cameras with integrated IP connectivity. For more on that development, see: 4K Cameras To Get Growing Exposure At NAB.)
Beyond achieving reliable performance, the next step for IP newsgathering is transforming news production workflow, says Teradek VP of Sales Jon Landman.
While Landman declined to discuss specific Teradek product introductions for the NAB Show, he did say the same technologies making it possible to transport news stories as IP packets from the field will one day enable all of the tasks associated with producing a story to move to the cloud.
“Teradek is going to be very much more cloud-based,” Landman says. “We have created a switcher in the cloud; we have created a storage system in the cloud, and a management system in the cloud.”
The Irvine, Calif., -based company’s first foray into a virtualized workflow is Core, a cloud-based encoder that monitors and controls Teradek encoders, decoders and bonded systems in the field. “Core will have added intelligence,” Landman says.
“One day, the station newsroom will become purely a hub for content creation,” he says. Raw news footage will be transported to, stored and edited in and sent out from the cloud to different decoders, including those for on-air, YouTube and mobile devices.
This approach will create efficiencies that enable a 10-fold increase in workload capacity — something that will be necessary if stations are to remain vibrant, competitive news organizations in the future, he says.
“Newsrooms must become the purveyors of high-quality news for the range of platforms out there,” he explains. “This cloud-based workflow will enable stations to create the stories that are relevant to different demographic groups in their audience and reach them where they consume news, whether it’s on the television, smartphone or tablet or via YouTube and Facebook.”
Deploying this cloud-based approach will allow stations in essence to become news exchanges. “They will become an AP, locally.”
Vislink, a U.K. company with a U.S. headquarters in North Billerica, Mass., has drawn on its technological roots in traditional microwave and satellite contribution to help enable the reliability and quality IP newsgathering has achieved, says Mike Payne, company president and CEO.
While declining to comment on specific new products to be introduced at the NAB Show, Payne says providing technology that delivers resilient IP connectivity has been critical to the acceptance of IP for news transport and helped to rejuvenate business.
“The goal, I think, for broadcasters is to increase the resilience of those connections,” he says. “As they adopt IP workflows and they become just part of the fabric of how they do things, these connections need to be dependable.
“That is what you will see from us at NAB, solutions that maximize their resilience.”
However, Payne says, point-to-point microwave will continue to play an important newsgathering role. “There’s still technically nothing like a microwave channel, regardless of whether it takes a leadership position or not for ENG. Every station group or O&O I visit continues to identify microwave as being key to their workflows,” Payne says.
Integrated Microwave Technologies
At the NAB Show, Integrated Microwave Technologies (IMT) will introduce two new products that take advantage of traditional 2GHz COFDM microwave links while fitting into the IP newsgathering mix.
The company’s new Triple Play Receiver is a three-camera wireless receiver that allows news crews to cut the tether to their ENG vehicles and transmit wirelessly from their cameras via reliable COFDM channels to the truck. “From there, they can transmit back to the station over bonded cellular, satellite or ENG,” says IMT CTO John Payne IV.
“This system allows much more flexibility, and the early feedback we are getting is that cutting the cord to the vehicle improves the speed of deployment and gives stations far more flexibility in the shots they can get.”
The Mount Olive, N.J., -based company, which was acquired by Skyview Capital from Vitec Group in December 2014, also will introduce DR3, a next-generation diversity receive system for ENG. “Much of the BAS receive equipment is getting outdated at this point,” explains Payne. “Stations want to replace that gear with a diversity receiver.”
The DR3 integrates directly into IP networks to backhaul received ENG signals to the newsroom.
According to Payne, there is a desire on the part of broadcasters to reduce the costs of ENG receive sites. With the DR3, stations can share receive sites and their associated antennas systems. “What that saves stations is rent, which can be shared. It also reduces the overall number of sites needed in a market. The DR3 is purpose-built to share the receive infrastructure across multiple TV stations.”
Beyond new product introductions, Payne says there will likely be discussions at the IMT booth and elsewhere at NAB about new approaches to using 2GHz BAS channels that could improve their efficiency and capacity, such as implementing two-way private LTE channels.
If and when that ever happens, IP newsgathering will be so deeply woven into the fabric of news contribution that it will have become the de facto standard for transport of news from the field.
This is the latest installment of a special series on emerging tech trends, NAB Hot Topics, that will appear each week leading up to the NAB Show that runs April 11-16 in Las Vegas. The schedule: March 12: Editing & Workflow; March 19: The IP Transition; and March 26: Audio. Read the earlier installments here.