The Sponsors Perspective: Multiviewing For Live Production & Playout Using 100% Software And COTS

Successfully deploying 100% SW 100% COTS with uncompressed IP signals.

This article was first published as part of Essential Guide: Software COTS For Real Time IP Broadcast.

Executive Summary

The preceding article lays down the foundation of how, thanks to IP and advanced software techniques, it is now possible to support uncompressed video signals in 100% software solutions running on Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) computers servers. This key development means that complex live production and playout workflows can be implemented on generic IT equipment leading to the economies and added flexibility of the IT industry’s data center model. 

Here, we take a look at one of the more complex functions in live production and playout applications; Multi-View monitoring and probing and how TAG Video Systems works with uncompressed formats such as SMPTE ST 2110 and SMPTE ST 2022-6 as well as compressed formats such as JPEG 2k, H.264 and H.265 all within the same system to bring the maximum flexibility and scalability to these critical broadcast applications.

Live Production

Of all the applications in a broadcast facility, none are more demanding technically and operationally than live production. Below is an overview of typical live production workflow. On the left we have a combination of local cameras and external feeds arriving by either satellite or fiber. In most cases the feeds are decoded back to baseband (uncompressed) but in some remote production applications some feeds arrive as J2K encoded (compressed) and remain compressed within the production facility. Then there are the core functions of replay, graphics and the production switcher. On the far right we see the various different rooms and operator positions where the cameras, feeds, replay and production elements are monitored. Each operational position is equipped with a monitor wall consisting of multiple displays each showing a mosaic consisting of multiple videos sources, clocks, timers, under monitor displays and tally indicators. Pictured at the center of the figure is the Multi-View processor which receives all of the signals and creates multi-view outputs to feed the monitor wall displays.

Challenges of Multi-View Monitoring in Live Production

Scale:  The sheer number of uncompressed inputs and outputs within a live production requires very high bandwidth to allow the multiviewer to handle, in the example pictured above there are over 256 inputs displayed on 32 independent multi-view screens.

Latency:  The speed in which the data must be processed in the multiviewer in order to offer the sub 2 frames per second latency that is critical in live production.

Quality:  Scale and low latency must be achieved while not scarifying the image quality when scaling HD and UHD images for the multi-view display.

Integration:  Must integrate seamlessly with tally and broadcast control systems to handle dynamic nature of a typical live production.


The TAG Live Production Solution

Until recently, the only option to handle these performance requirements was for the multiviewer to be based on dedicated, broadcast specific hardware. TAG is more commonly recognized for being the first to provide a software based multi-viewing of compressed video signals. In 2017 TAG introduced support for SMPTE ST-2020-6 and then ST-2110 uncompressed video signals and deployed 1000’s of channels combining compressed and uncompressed signals. Then in 2018 TAG added integration with tally management and broadcast control systems.

TAG Video Systems introduced a 100% software, multi-view monitoring solution for live production applications in 2017 that handles native ST 2110 and ST 2022-6 uncompressed signals while running on generic COTS server hardware. Today TAG has deployed 1000’s of channels globally of live production and playout managing both uncompressed and compressed formats all within the same solution. Below is an overview of the TAG solution and how it has overcome the traditional challenges. 

Scale:  Infinitely scalable. Unlimited number of inputs and outputs can be managed. Processing requirements are easily defined to calculate the number of COTS servers required to deploy. Scale the system when and where you want at whatever number of inputs and outputs.

Latency:  Lowest latency of any software multiviewer in the market - sub 2 frames per second.

Quality:  Supports full UHD and HD inputs and performs high quality scaling to produce UHD multi-view mosaic outputs with the image quality demanded by the most discerning TDs and Camera Shaders.

Integration:  Fully supports all major tally and broadcast control systems

Agility:  Runs on the same generic COTS server hardware used by other production and IT systems.


Playout

The playout application has many of the same challenges of live production. The main differences are the need to support more different compressed and uncompressed formats and the need to do probing of the various signals to detect signal faults. Below is an illustration of the workflow of a typical playout facility. 

A playout facility typically includes a combination of compressed and uncompressed signals which need to be monitored by operators managing the channels. In the facility illustrated above the playout area integrates a combination of pre-recorded material and live content originating on remote feeds or from the control room of local studios. The uncompressed is represented by the blue arrows. 

Once encoded for delivery we enter the compressed world represented here by the green arrows and OTT ABR/HLS/Dash feeds represented by purple arrows. The TAG probing, monitoring and multiviewing solution is represented above with typical high-density display layouts and integration with 3rd party network management systems (NMS).


TAG Playout Solution

Below is an illustration of the functionality provided by the TAG solution for probing, and multviewing within the playout application. TAG’s ability to work with both uncompressed and compressed formats provides the greatest flexibility in handling the most complex workflows. In addition, TAG’s solution offers both the probing and multiviewing function within the same solution which provides simplified workflows for the operators. Finally, TAG’s robust and open API structure allows deep integration with third party network management systems and broadcast control systems to be easily configured and provide you with the critical information you need to operate and manage the facility. All within a 100% software, 100% COTS solutions.


TAG Leveraging the Full Potential of IP Workflows

For years broadcasters have recognized the value of moving to an IP workflow. Until recently, this promise has not been fully leveraged due to the massive bandwidth, speed and quality requirements of the primary broadcast applications. Both the live production and playout applications push these requirements to the limit. And within these applications, the technical demands on the multiviewer with the large number of inputs, outputs, speed quality and agility, have required dedicated hardware to process the application.

TAG Video Systems has conquered this limitation and offers 100% software running on 100% standard off the shelf hardware solutions for probing, monitoring and multiviewing, for all broadcast applications (live production, playout, satellite/cable/IPTV and OTT delivery) integrated into one solution.

This now provides broadcasters with far more simplified workflows, with the highest level of scalability and flexibility in the market at the highest quality. The use of COTS server hardware frees broadcasters from having to buy and support custom, application specific hardware or vendor supplied computer appliances.

We believe strongly that in the near future, broadcasters will be able to deploy 100% software on COTS hardware for all functions across the broadcast ecosystem and finally leverage the full potential of IP.

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