In a time of social distancing, video professionals have turned to technology that allows them to work remotely yet collaboratively over a secure Internet connection. This remote production strategy has helped production and postproduction companies as well as video streaming, enabling service providers to set up and automatically distribute files to their desired destinations.
The key is implementing workflows that seamlessly and securely move content from uncompressed baseband SDI to a range of streaming and contribution codecs, protocols, and transports in the IP domain. And it has to be easy to implement.
Grass Valley, Calif.-based AJA Video has introduced a new signal processing and file distribution solution that combines the signal conversion, hardware-based expertise of AJA with the software-based live streaming technology of a European company called Comprimato Systems (located in Brno, Czechia). Together they have built an on-premise file orchestration system that features automated (or manual configuration) 12G-SDI video encoding/decoding, stream-based transcoding, flexible I/O, comprehensive metadata support, closed captioning, ad insertion and redundant power supplies. And it’s all pre-configured in a 1RU chassis with redundant power supplies.
Users can launch a live stream in five seconds or less, with a latency of 200-700ms input to output including streaming and encoding protocols SRT, RTMP/S, RTP, UDP, and MPEG-TS.
Applications could include a producer sitting at home reviewing dailies from the set in real time. Or a video service provider could use the multi-input live streaming capability to send content to social media platforms while simultaneously creating multiple advanced bit rate ladder profiles to address the variety of media players and viewing devices in the market. And because it leverages the public internet as its distribution infrastructure, the cost is significantly lower than using a cloud-based service provider—although many will use it in combination with a cloud service like Amazon Web Services for more sophisticated global distribution.
The system leverages Comprimato’s GPU-based software video (and audio) file processing. The base system features MPEG-2 I/O as well as H.264/.265 encoding/decoding. JPEG2000 compression is also available as an option. In order to maintain high-quality color rendition, the system provides 4:2:2, 10-bit/8-bit and 4:2:0, 10-bit/8-bit color component sampling.
For broadcasters producing sports remotely, having this system at the event and another at the home production facility facilitates real-time signal transport from SDI to SDI via compressed IP streaming over the Internet. Built-in 10 Gb/s Ethernet ports on the back of the solution provide the bandwidth to encode and distribute up to four streams of HD (1080p60 over a 3G-SDI pipe) or one stream of 4K UHD up to 60p (12G-SDI).
Synchronization is another important factor for projects like remotely controlled broadcast production. The new file orchestration system gives users input to the production control room either globally (in a separate transport stream), or locally, in each transport stream. On the output side, the system offers secure pass-through or users can offset the presentation timestamp (PTS, a timestamp metadata field) in an MPEG transport stream or MPEG program stream. This ensures the reliable synchronization of separate program streams (e.g., audio, video and subtitles) when presented to the viewer.
There’s also support for metadata to automate the process for adding closed captioning (based on the CEA-608/CEA-708 standards) and ad insertion markers (SCTE-104/SCTE-35), as well as the ability to embed subtitles with H.264 SEI messages. The system also offers metadata pass-through with SMPTE 2038, a commonly used standard that describes carriage of ancillary data packets in an MPEG-2 transport stream.
An intuitive user interface helps users access settings for compression, transport, and protocol selection for transcoding to or from SDI. There are also adjustments for color, frame rates, logo insertion and image resizing.
File encryption is also included. The system lets users configure and monitor overall file delivery performance, using a REST API for integration with third-party security and control systems. Facility-wide monitoring is accomplished using the Simple Network Management Protocol.
Audio over embedded SDI signals are also addressed: using AAC, AC3, MPEG-1 Audio, multichannel uncompressed PCM and SMPTE 302M-2007—with the ability to apply gain, channel remapping and sample rate conversion. The 1RU chassis features 16-channel, 16 and 24-bit SDI embedded audio, 48 kHz sample rate, synchronous per SDI connection on the input and output side. In addition, Channel Remapping, Gain and Sample Rate conversion can all be customized for individual applications.
The back of the chassis also includes four BNC (12G/6G/3G/1.5G-SDI compatible) connectors and two 10GigE connections; a local interface via Display Port and USB; and it can be upgraded via a simple software download.
“The common denominator for everyone is real-time encode, decode, and transform capabilities,” said Andy Bellamy, product manager at AJA Video. “Backhauling content from any production back to a host broadcast facility can be made more accessible using this new file processing system, with the user able to offer a cost effective alternate to more expensive, traditional broadcast pipelines.”
He said that the technology can also be set up to provide ABR ladder profiles or hand-off files for OTT packaging. For example, encoding to H.264 or H.265 for hand-off with ABR ladder profiles, including pointing the ladder profile directly to a local packager or CDN.
In a highly fragmented media landscape filled with numerous incompatible formats and time-sensitive content demands, broadcasters and video professionals find themselves having to support a multitude of signals in an automated way. AJA’s new turnkey solution harnesses the company’s experience in signal processing to allow automated multi-channel encoding, decoding, streaming and transcoding for live video as well as customized delivery of files in a highly secure way. This will facilitate a range of new business models and production workflows.