With the first standards within SMPTE ST 2110 now approved, will this development encourage more broadcasters to work in IP, and what must be done to ensure that future-proof media facilities can be built?

Professional media over IP: Building a future-proof media facility

NEW YORK – The ongoing transition to broadcast IP has been given a shot in the arm, after the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) announced the approval of the first standards within SMPTE ST 2110, Professional Media Over Managed IP Networks.

The new standards suite specifies the carriage, synchronisation and description of separate elementary essence streams over professional IP networks in real time, for the purposes of live production, playout and other professional media applications.

Matthew Goldman, president of SMPTE and SVP of technology, TV and Media, Ericsson, said: “Radically altering the way professional media streams can be handled, processed and transmitted, SMPTE ST 2110 standards go beyond the replacement of SDI with IP to support the creation of an entirely new set of applications that leverage information technology (IT) protocols and infrastructure.”

The use of IP enables the transition to 100% software-based, virtualised and software-defined functions, which in turn allows for the dynamic re-assignment of resources to maximise utilisation, Michel Proulx, former CTO of Miranda Technologies, told APB.

An industry veteran with 35 years of experience working in the broadcast TV industry, Proulx has been consulting for a number of broadcasters and broadcast industry vendors since his retirement as CTO of Miranda Technologies in 2012. His current focus is helping broadcasters understand and navigate the rapidly evolving OTT distribution landscape and transitioning to IT and IP-based infrastructures.

Welcoming SMPTE ST 2110, Proulx stressed: “Converting to IP is not just about replacing SDI, because there is a bigger transition at play. Inside a TV facility, for instance, there are two key transitions taking place — replacing SDI infrastructure with IP, and replacing dedicated hardware devices with software and virtualisation.”

As to why broadcast TV facilities should transition to IP, he cited the following reasons: the ability to leverage IT innovation and scale; “dramatically reduced” cabling and infrastructure; putting in place a future-ready, format-agnostic facility; and to enable the transition to software and virtualisation.
And virtualisation, Proulx believes, is what IP is truly about. While IP brings benefits such as reduced wiring, scale and flexibility, he argued that virtualisation and software-defined networks bring even more flexibility, agility and serviceability.

“I visited NBC Universal in Nov 2016 to talk about playout and virtualisation,” Proulx recalled. “They are aggressively pursuing virtualisation not only in playout, but across its entire media operation, and recently moved a virtualisation expert from IT to the TV Engineering Group.”

He also cited a presentation at NAB Show 2017, where Thomas Edwards, VP of Engineering and Development, Fox Networks Engineer­ing and Operations, USA, said that in Fox’s network centre, the real interest in IP stems from the virtualisation of Fox’s media processing. “IP is the on-ramp to virtualised media processing,” Edwards explained.

To enable virtualisation, however, broadcasters need to start replacing SDI infrastructures with IP, Proulx stressed, and suggested that IP today, might be most appropriate for a facility of “significant size”, for facilities already operating in 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) or planning to in the near future, as well as a greenfield installation.

In Singapore, terrestrial broadcaster Mediacorp has completed its move to Mediacorp Campus, a new 79,500sqm production and digital facility located within the [email protected] digital media hub.

The broadcast systems in Media­corp Campus are sitting on a multi-layer network architecture, where IP is playing a key role in the broadcast environment, from production to playout, revealed Wang Yin, assistant vice-president, broadcast engineering, Mediacorp.

For example, Mediacorp “relies heavily” on IP to automate daily operations, as Wang explained: “With studio automation and broadcast control systems that adopts IP infrastructure, we effectively unite technical devices and operators under one roof to greatly reduce human errors and improve production efficiency.

“It is also crucial to have network/server monitoring embedded in the broadcast ecosystem to prevent unplanned happenings, and to mitigate the risks before they develop into crisis or a full-blown disaster.

“By leveraging IT-based platforms and IP networks, we are able to monitor mission-critical components in our network for abnormalities. Information such as server health status, application logs and service availability are retrieved via IP, and closely monitored and analysed with IT service intelligence.”

Overall, IP has enabled Media­corp’s operations to be flexible and cost-effective while offering a future-proof broadcast infrastructure, Wang reviewed. Because systems are designed on common standards, Mediacorp is able to rapidly deploy software-based equipment using standard network connectivity, at a fraction of the cost of traditional baseband ones, he added.

The current infrastructure in Mediacorp Campus is still deploying SDI for live video distribution because live IP video distribution was not matured at the point when Mediacorp was designing its system for the new facility, Wang said, adding: “Moving forward, we will progressively implement IP distribution as and when the need arises.

“All-IP is definitely the way to go in our future, but it will be driven by business instead of technology.

“In live production, where SDI baseband still dominates, an all-IP transition will probably only take place after we move into 4K/UHD.”

To delve deeper into how broadcasters, particularly those in Asia-Pacific, can more effectively plan their transition to IP, APB, in collaboration with systems integrator Ideal Systems, will be holding two seminars — one in Hong Kong on November 3 and the other in Singapore on November 6.

Titled Professional media over IP: Building a future-proof media facility, the seminars will be headlined by Proulx, who will discuss issues such as how IP is now being considered as a replacement for SDI for the transport of real-time video and audio inside TV facilities, and the benefits of using IP for real-time video and audio.

For the Singapore seminar, Wang will also share more details and insights into the role IP is playing in Mediacorp Campus. For more information, login to www.apb-news.com/event/ip-seminar

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