The emerging new technologies that promise to remake how television is made were in abundance at this year’s tech gathering in Amsterdam. For some, the prominence of IP in everything from production to distribution may have been somewhat of a surprise, but once on the exhibit floor or in the conference rooms there was no mistaking its broad — and still growing — influence.
While the official theme the organizers of IBC 2015 set for the gathering in Amsterdam that wrapped up Sept. 15 was “disruption,” an equally appropriate one may have been “entanglement” because IP — a major presence at the convention — is so entwined with the technologies shaping the future direction of television production, playout and distribution.
Throughout the IBC exhibit floor and in various conference rooms scattered around the RAI Convention Center, it was not hard to find discussion of IP for television — some of which, particularly as relates to live production, became quite intense at times.
For many of the 55,128 people attending the show, the prominence of IP in everything from production to distribution may have been somewhat of a surprise, but once on the exhibit floor or in the conference rooms there was no mistaking its broad influence.
Whether it was next-generation over-the-air television transmission; virtualized master control and playout in the cloud; live remote TV production; or 4K Ultra HD, IP technology was entangled at a fundamental level with all of these advanced technologies.
IP, Live Production And 4K UHD
Perhaps one of the most interesting and controversial segments of the IP-for-broadcast discussion at IBC 2015 was in the arena of live television production.
On the plus side of the ledger, several companies introduced products or announced deals with other vendors to advance the state of live IP television production.
One such deal — an alliance between Imagine Communications, which has focused over the past few years on migrating its products and the television industry away from baseband video and toward IP, and live sports and news technology vendor EVS — calls for the companies to cooperate on advancing the SMPTE 2022 and JPEG2000 standards to move and manage compressed signals and SDI over IP to make live production more agile and cost efficient.
“We love the partnership with EVS because they have created an amazing market in live news and sports, specifically sports and live trucks, and I think like us they are on the bleeding edge of IP and leveraging IP,” said Imagine Communications President-CEO Charlie Vogt.
Partnerships, such as the Imagine-EVS alliance, that bring vendors into closer alignment are going to become “much more relevant than I think this industry has ever seen,” he added.
There were also several other announcements of cooperation on IP for live television production. Evertz Microsystems and Sony showed integration of the Evertz’ Software Defined Video Networking with Sony’s IP live production switching Sony Network Media Interface over Evertz IP circuits. As a result of the collaboration, the two vendors were able to show an end-to-end IP solution from production through playout.
Sony’s NMI makes possible both HD and 4K Ultra HD IP transport by packetizing, transmitting and clean switching video, audio and metadata. It relies on a low-latency video codec, LLVC, for the compression needed to transport 4K Ultra HD at 60p over 10 Gb/s networks.
Evertz also was touting growing industry support for its ASPEN protocol for encapsulating uncompressed Ultra HD, 3G, HD and SD for transport over an MPEG-2 transport stream at IBC. Thirteen companies, including broadcast vendors, OB facility providers and cable TV operators are supporting the protocol, the company said.
Similarly, the newly formed TICO Alliance demonstrated progress on its approach to IP for live production in Amsterdam.
The alliance is working with SMPTE, the Video Services Forum and the Joint Task Force on Network Media to advance adoption of its intoPIX lightweight compression technology for moving HD and 4K UHD via current 3G-SDI and 10 GbE IP infrastructures. The alliance announced it is in the process of making its approach to compression and its mapping over 3G-SDI and SMPTE 2022-5, -6 and -7 a registered disclosure document through SMPTE.
The TICO Alliance was at IBC to spread the word about its solution and to recruit new supporters. So far 15 companies belong to the alliance, with the newest members being Deltacast, EVS, Media Global Links and Tektronix.
A session on where 4K Ultra HD stands today and where it is headed, underscored the challenge of supporting 4K live production with an IP infrastructure.
During the session, Matthew Goldman, SVP technology for Ericsson, laid out the 4K Ultra HD roadmap from a featured point of view. In its preliminary phase, the standard must support three of six features to be considered Ultra HD, including high spatial resolution, high dynamic range, wider color gamut, higher frame rate, 10-bit sampling and immersive audio.
With each new enhancement, the amount of data an IP network must transport only grows bigger, increasing demands on the entire live IP television production infrastructure.
NewTek also came to IBC with its newly announced Network Device Interface (NDI) protocol and NewTek Advanced IP Workflow, technologies that make it possible to derive a 10-fold increase in capacity of video signals in a GigE LAN infrastructure, the company said.
During a NewTek-hosted press dinner, company President-CTO Andrew Cross said the new workflow makes it possible for cameras and other video sources to communicate with video switchers over standard Ethernet networks.
IBC also gave broadcasters an opportunity to hear from their peers who have first-hand experience with IP as the core of live television production infrastructure.
One was Richard Friedel, EVP-general manager of Fox Networks, who discussed a five-year implementation process for 20/20 Vision, a live IP implementation for Fox.
During the “Media Factory of the Future” session, Friedel said his operation is three years into its implementation and already has racked up successes.
“We just finished the Women’s World Cup in Canada. It’s a big broadcast for us. We did all of that with remote editing using the Adobe Cloud.
“We are editing at our base in Vancouver, Canada, as well as our plant in Los Angeles. We were able to just seamlessly have people edit and share content as if they were next door,” he said, adding that the IP-based deployment has produced “huge advantages for us operationally.”
On the other side of the IP-for-live-TV-production ledger at IBC was a degree of confusion and misunderstanding about where the technology makes sense as well as the cost of deployment, said David Ross, CEO of Ross Video.
While Ross does not wish to be branded as anti-IP — indeed, at IBC his company announced a collaboration with Evertz to add a 10 GE IP interface module for its Acuity production switcher in support of ASPEN — he questioned the extent to which IP will be implemented by all but the biggest broadcasters and OB providers for live television production.
“Whenever anybody asks: ‘What do you think about IP?’ I answer: ‘It’s not what we should all be buying today for every single application,’” he said during an interview at the Ross booth.
People are most confused about the difference between in-house production and live, remote production when it comes to IP, he said. There’s a lack of appreciation for the difference in the cost of laying fiber between one room and the next versus the cost of transporting IP over a fiber network between remote points.
He added that they also don’t have an appreciation for the cost of something as simple as IP inputs and outputs for a production switcher compared to SDI I/Os. “An input card in IP compared to an input card in SDI in the Ross system is six times more expensive per input,” he added.
Leveraging The Cloud And Virtualization
IP technology also is an enabler for virtualized broadcast functions in both private and public clouds, many of which were on display at IBC on the exhibit floor and in sessions.
During the “MAM is Dead, Let’s Talk Supply Chain” session, Jon Folland, CEO of Nativ, a U.K. cloud-based MAM provider, presented his view of where MAM development should head, namely into the cloud.
Folland observed that functions associated with monolithic media asset management systems today should be broken into micro-services that reside in the cloud so that media organizations can deploy only the functions they require when they need them.
During a meeting on the second floor of the Vizrt booth with company CEO and co-founder Petter Ole Jakobsen, the concept of moving the Viz Engine into public clouds, such as Microsoft Windows Azure, came up.
NVidia is providing the GPU needed in the cloud to support Vizrt, and one Vizrt customer has already begun to tap into that cloud capability to access the company’s engine and graphics software, he said.
Harmonic, which has been advancing virtualized workflow in the cloud for at least 18 months, was talking at IBC about virtualizing everything from contribution to playout at IBC.
“What we are showing is a complete ecosystem for compressed and uncompressed in the same ecosystem, all connected by switches,” said Keith Lissak, Harmonic’s product marketing manager.
While not available today, Lissak said the company believes it is well positioned to meet the needs of the industry as it moves in that direction.
When Harmonic introduced its first virtualization products for use in the cloud at the 2014 NAB Show, the move was met with many raised eyebrows, he said. However, Harmonic customers today are using its Electra XVM virtualized media processor, he added.
IBC can’t be considered anything but an international broadcasting show, yet there were some important ATSC 3.0 discussions at the convention, perhaps in part due to the fact that so many researchers, engineers and academicians from around the world have had a hand in the development of the new standard.
Rich Chernock, Triveni Digital chief science officer, and chairman of the Advanced Television Systems Committee technical group responsible for the overall development of the standard, pointed out during a session recapping ATSC 3.0 progress that the intent of the new standard is to make broadcasting more like the Internet.
Explaining to an audience in the Emerald Room at the RAI that the first-generation DTV standard ATSC 1.0 [A/53] was created when broadcasting “was really sort of an independent silo,” Chernock said the next-gen standard is being designed with “file delivery” in mind.
“For this, we have chosen to use IP, Internet protocol, instead of the MPEG-2 transport stream [as was done with ATSC 1.0],” he said.
The new standard will provide for “operating points that match the business needs of broadcasters, and these needs may change over time … with the ability to reach all devices in different network topologies,” he said.
On stage during that session and again during a one-on-one interview, Chernock made the point that ATSC 3.0 is really “a suite of standards” that taken together will enable next-generation digital television.
In May, ATSC members approved ATSC 3.0’s discovery and signaling component — the most robust and fundamental layer of data to be delivered — that tells a receiver what to expect as a candidate standard. Voting on three more parts of the standard, which together account for the physical layer of the transmission system, will be completed by the end of the month.
With those four pieces in place, the industry will have what it needs in terms of transmission standard components to begin moving forward with the FCC seeking a rule change to allow broadcasters to transmit in ATSC 3.0, he said.
Fade To Black
Television broadcasters are embarking on a path to their future with IP enabling new workflows, greater potential efficiencies and even new business models.
IBC 2015 offered broadcasters a chance to get a firsthand look at where the technology stands and gave them much to contemplate as they think over how it may fit into their technology planning.
With IP entwined so fundamentally with so much of what they do, broadcasters can ill-afford to pass up opportunities like IBC and other industry forums to take the pulse of this disruptive technology.