Whenever I’m asked about my opinion on the transition to IP, I always state that the impact can’t be appreciated until its history is understood. This brings into context the need for broadcasters to educate and surround themselves with those who have in depth knowledge and understanding of the subject.
I remember when SDI was first introduced in the 1990’s. It was sufficient to allow broadcasters to achieve what they needed. At the time, IP systems could only pass 1 to 10 Mbit/s and couldn’t yet support the industry’s requirements, so we developed our own standards and chipsets.
Moving forward to the present, 10 Gbit/s, 25 Gbit/s, and even 100 Gbit/s can be supported in standard IP switches which can now be bought economically. In the light of new formats such as 4K and HDR, switching requirements have changed dramatically and commercially available SDI routers just become too large for broadcasters, especially OBs, to use. Just take an OB 4K truck that requires 1152 sources and 1152 destinations, it would require 72RU of SDI router space. Compare this to 10RU for a COTS solution and it’s all too clear to see why the space and weight savings in a truck means the logical decision is to adopt COTS packet-based switching for this size system.
Meanwhile, a business that relies on attracting and retaining subscribers as well as advertising revenue in order to be competitive must continually provide content in the highest quality available. This means being able to provide the best services to their subscriber base, which in turn may mean being able to provide content in new formats such as UHD, HDR, WCG and Virtual Reality. An IP infrastructure supporting ST-2022-6 and/or ST-2110 can provide this technical agility without requiring ‘fork-lift’ infrastructure changes. Once the video is in the IP packets, it does not matter if the format is 4K or 8K, the fundamental architecture remains unchanged.
TSL is currently working with several major greenfield sites and POCs based on ST-2110 and it seems that are as many questions being raised as there are being answered. ST-2110 deployments require Precision Timing Protocol (PTP) as their reference and this is a new way of working for the broadcast industry. Security is also gaining in importance and from a control perspective, the continuing pressure on production budgets is accelerating the deployment of remote production solutions. The move to IP is also driving the need to be able to control devices differently, moving to edge device control, which requires a whole new set of standards such as the AMWA NMOS suite.
We have grown used to ‘plug and play’ behaviour in the broadcast world when using SDI, AES, MADI and Analogue infrastructures to transport content. If IP networks are to provide the same level of flexibility, then a clear policy on discovery and registration is required and having a deep understanding of third-party device control means TSL is well-positioned to provide complete solutions with our own products but also through interoperability with third party kit.
Another key challenge customers are seeking is to protect investment. The great thing about a COTS infrastructure is that the broadcast industry now has the ability to embrace virtualisation, so customers can invest in the resources they need as and when, with COTS hardware, ST-2110 and AMWA/NMOS meaning that it is now feasible for the cloud to host the kind of services that are becoming increasingly more relevant to broadcasters and TSL customers. As production requirements become ever more challenging, with new and more complex shows and events customers’ requirements are dynamic, where in a years’ time they may need to be able to quickly spin up their services for a small period, e.g. for the 2020 Olympics. COTS and services in the cloud provides a more agile infrastructure to provide services as and when they need.
The rapid adoption of IP and remote production also means that it is essential for systems to be able to hide underlying complexities so that operators can remain focused on making great content. By providing a unified platform layer with agile feature sets, ownership can be put back into the hands of the user, while maintaining high quality production values.
In addition, as TSL recognises that customers are seeking more flexibility with how they purchase services, this approach will feed into our next generation development, keeping rapidly maturing technologies such as immersive and object-based audio, improved surround sound or higher sample rates front of mind. The drive to address our customers’ need for agility and flexibility also feeds into our control and power solutions, and we will continue to explore the opportunities provided by advancing technologies such as the cloud and virtualisation to maintain the momentum.
In summary, at TSL’s core remains the desire to maintain technical excellence and to keep pace with the latest technologies and industry standards. Any new platform from TSL comes complete with a roadmap designed in response to today’s rapid changing environments. Of course, maintaining a user-friendly experience, regardless of the advances in underlying technology is paramount to customer satisfaction and remains our key focus.
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