IBC 2014

Reports Of SDI’s Death May Be Premature

So big is that investment in SDI-based production equipment  that for the time being, IP-based solutions will nibble at the edges of the overall production pie. An overnight switch to IP is not going to happen. Rather a hybrid environment in which IP-based solutions supplement existing SDI infrastructure will be the reality for many broadcasters. Going forward, however, there is little reason to continue adding new SDI components.

The sun may set on SDI-based video production, but not for a good long while.

That’s the takeaway from the Sept. 12 IBC 2014 session, “The Death of SDI? The Promise of Complete IP-based Production.”

The experts assembled for the panel, representing the vanguard of the IP-based camp, generally agreed that IP-based production can generate a series of important benefits for broadcasters, ranging from greater flexibility to reduced time to market for new channels.

However, they also had a practical view of where things stand today in the television industry. SDI reliably moves signals from point A to point B; broadcast engineers can be certain that when they connect SDI cables to SDI inputs or outputs that they know what to expect; and, perhaps most importantly, the investment in SDI-based production equipment, cables, routing and other related gear is huge.

So big is that investment that for the time being — with the exception of green-field sites — IP-based solutions will nibble at the edges of the overall production pie. As Clyde Smith, senior VP new technologies, Fox Network Engineering and Operations, one of the panel members, said: “Look for the low-hanging fruit” for the first places to deploy IP-based solutions. In his instance, that meant an IP-based monitoring environment.

The panel included Paul Shen, CEO, TVU Networks; Claus Pfeifer, strategic marketing manager live production, Sony Professional Services; John Footen, AVP, broadcast and advertising, Cognizant; Lawrence Kaplan, president and CEO, SDVI; Michael Tomkins, CTO, FOX Sports, Australia; Phil Tudor, principal research and development engineer, BBC R&D;  and Smith.

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“An overnight switch [to IP] is not going to happen,” said TVU Network’s Shen. Rather a hybrid environment in which IP-based solutions supplement existing SDI infrastructure will be the reality for many broadcasters.

Going forward, however, there is little reason to continue adding new SDI components, Footen said. “There is no need to buy heavy iron [SDI]. Anything that is new or substantive is going to be IP.”

Fox Sports Australia’s Tomkins has taken that message to heart with the broadcaster’s new IP-based facility in a suburb of Sydney.  During the panel he said the shift to IP has brought about a fundamental change in the way he plans for how much technical capacity will be needed.

“In SDI, you had to build for the peak. In an IP setup you scale,” he explained. “You are reducing people and cost and getting more value out of your equipment.”

For instance, with SDI a router had to have sufficient inputs and outputs to accommodate the highest use case. With IP, Tomkins is able to collect metrics on usage and forecast growth, he said.

During the Q&A portion of the session, there appeared to be a healthy degree of skepticism among many in attendance over IP as a replacement for SDI. Concerns ranged from whether a deterministic IP switch was appropriate for the real-time switching requirements of television to where the engineering talent with appropriate IP skills will come from.

However, the BBC’s Tudor advised those in attendance to take the longer view. “If you zoom out and look at the rise of the Internet, as processing speeds and capability increases, various industries have been disrupted,” he said. “That is what is happening to our industry.”

Tudor, who was responsible for BBC’s deployment of three IP-based live broadcast centers around the U.K. , used to produce the Commonwealth Games in Ultra-HD, observed: “We are next in line.”

IP-based production will move into the mainstream when broadcasters fully appreciate how it can help their businesses, Kaplan said. “If you are looking to dramatically reduce time to market and time to revenue, that [IP] is compelling,” he said. “That will cause people to say, ‘I am really motivated to move to IP.’ ”

For more on IBC 2014, click here.


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