By Sebastian Schaffrath
This year’s IBC convention in Amsterdam has sent a clear message to broadcast engineers and infrastructure designers: SMPTE 2110 is ready to go and functionally operating. Overall, the broadcast industry agrees on the benefits of IP and broadcast facilities are getting ready for the migration from baseband to IP-based infrastructures. Migrating to new technologies in general only makes sense if it adds sustainable value such as cost savings, flexible allocation of resources and reduction of operators’ preparation time. Neglecting to focus on the true benefits coming with IP might lead to improperly designed IP infrastructures and thus radically higher costs than with conventional SDI baseband systems. This article describes the current and future applications of app-based signal processing in IP and SDI infrastructures.
One of the most frequently mentioned benefits of IP-based infrastructures is flexibility. Flexibility can be defined in many ways. It can refer to the ability to make last-minute changes in formats arriving in the master control room, a director deciding to run a production in 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) instead of 3G, or the ability to react to equipment failure quickly.
In conventionally designed infrastructures, flexibility is often achieved by an abundance of glueware/interface cards leading to higher equipment overhead, higher Capex and Opex, all in combination with practical considerations such as rack space or cooling. Research by Lynx Technik engineers has found that signal processing equipment in TV studio systems run at an average usage of 15%-20%.
Scalability in IP-based facilities means the ability to handle a growing number of video and audio formats. With the consumer display industry and sports productions driving new standards, IP technology is ideally suited as it is format-agnostic. However, operators will be tasked to handle the adoption of current and new signal formats in combination with signal processing. For example: A SMPTE 2110-compliant signal may still require adjustments of black level or format conversion to 720p.
With broadcast TV stations planning to work with uncompressed video and audio signals per the SMPTE 2110 standard, bandwidth consumption certainly is still an issue. Live video signals using gigabits of space on the network need to be considered and thus unnecessary switching and re-routing for processing purposes should be minimised. Each switch fabric and each port in the network adds to the costs of transporting the signal to the relevant processing device.
App-based signal processing and conversion is a key factor to solving the challenges mentioned. For live uncompressed signals, the concept of software-defined processing yields many advantages: Instead of using fixed processing cards that are fed by a fixed wired router (applies for SDI as well as IP) and having to re-route/re-switch the signal to bring it to the card with the right functionality, activating the relevant app on a generic hardware platform drives down the amount of bandwidth used and speeds up operations.
Furthermore, switching/routing complexity introduced by processing loops and operators stress is reduced, increasing operational safety and efficiency.
In terms of scalability, app-based processing platforms offer a future-proof investment for broadcasters to grow with evolving video and audio standards. New standards and compatible devices no longer require a new piece of hardware, but simply an exchange or adding an updated or new app.
Bandwidth for additional signal transport to dedicated processing cards is reduced to a minimum with a software-based approach. Signals remain on their respective IN and OUT positions while loading a different app adds the functionality in between. Therefore, no additional switching/routing is necessary.
With the arrival of IP-based broadcast infrastructures, app-based signal processing is a decisive factor for economic design of these systems. Moving away from dedicated hardware signal processing boards provides several advantages. These advantages not only apply in IP infrastructures but also in SDI systems and applications.
For several years, Lynx Technik has been pioneering the field of app-based signal processing. greenMachine is the result of this expansive research and development with a clear focus on the challenges discussed in this article. The approach of having a software-defined platform that grows with the demands of broadcast production ensures a future-proof investment.
App-based signal processing will continue to expand as benefits of this concept are obvious, especially in IP-based infrastructures. Lynx Technik is committed to a software-based approach for processing and leading the way for efficient and future-ready solutions.