When Internet Protocol (IP) video workflows began emerging nearly a decade ago, professionals across the media and entertainment (M&E) industry showed a keen interest in them as a replacement to traditional baseband SDI workflows. After all, the list of IP advantages includes flexible audio and video signal routing and switching, streamlined remote production, scalability beyond the largest SDI router, and far more. Still, SDI remained the go-to for its security, reliability, and backward compatibility, all of which industry professionals had come to rely on. Fast forward to 2023, and the IP landscape has matured and is quickly gaining traction across industries, including broadcast.
Barry Goch, Product Marketing Manager, AJA Video Systems.
While IP hasn’t yet eclipsed SDI – which still reigns as the standard across many broadcast facilities, mobile trucks, and live event production environments worldwide – it’s certainly picked up steam. This is especially true as IP standards like SMPTE 2110 and NDI have continued to evolve, and new technologies to support them have surfaced. At the same time, emerging protocols like Dante AV and IPMX have entered the scene. No two IP implementations, however, are the same, and for good reason. Every situation is unique, so each IP infrastructure and workflow must be mapped to an organization’s unique environment and long-term goals.
Facilities with sufficient budget and a dedicated engineering team may go all-in on IP. In contrast, others might elect for a more hybrid approach to save on costs and get more mileage out of existing legacy SDI infrastructure. A studio, for instance, might build a new IP facility or equipment rooms but continue production with SDI cameras and other SDI equipment during construction. Ultimately, they’ll need to merge the existing baseband and new IP environments, which is where gateway technologies that link SDI and IP topologies have become paramount.
With so many IP paths to choose from, determining the best fit for any organization requires proper research and careful examination of the desired outcome, as well as an exploration of technologies that can help the facility move between SDI and IP. It’s also important to consider desired signal quality, bandwidth needs, and scalability demands, as each will affect the IP journey.
Available IP Paths
SMPTE 2110 supports perfectly timed, consistent signals with pristine audio and no frame drops. The growth of SMPTE 2110 for uncompressed video workflows is expanding, with more product offerings now available in the market. While its advantages are clear, it often requires significant investment in engineering expertise. JPEG XS provides a compressed version of SMPTE 2110, delivering a visually lossless and low latency signal. With its adjustable bitrate and light codec requirements, it’s quickly gaining popularity.
NDI is another great available option. It’s an intuitive protocol that allows production teams to transport high-quality video across standard ethernet infrastructure, and it’s widely supported in third-party integrations. There is already quite a large ecosystem of technology built around it from PTZ cameras through to production switchers and display devices. NDI also offers low GPU and CPU requirements for transmitting high-fidelity video and audio signals.
Newer to the scene is Dante AV, which replaces point-to-point analog and digital connections with a standard IP network that delivers multi-channel lossless audio, and incredible signal routing flexibility. With the recent launch of Dante AV Ultra, a solution that lets manufacturers add networked video and audio to the Dante platform, Dante AV is expected to take off in the next few years. Dante AV Ultra is an easy-to-use, plug-and-play IP video solution leveraging a 1 GigE network infrastructure to deliver cinema-quality video and audio distribution over local networking with ultra-low latency.
Yet another recently ratified standard making waves, especially in the proAV community, is IPMX (Internet Protocol Media Experience). An open standard for interoperable AV over IP, it was developed by the Video Services Forum as VSF-TR10. It’s still early days, but will be one to watch in the coming months.
With no shortage of IP options available, it can be difficult to determine the best match for a facility, but here are a few factors to consider to help streamline the process:
Determining the right IP strategy for your organization and facility begins with a close look at signal quality requirements. In certain environments, especially live broadcast, the expectation is that high-quality, high frame rate signals will run seamlessly 24/7 with perfect audio and no video frames lost. In this case, a standard like SMPTE 2110 is well suited. In other settings, visually lossless compression is perfectly acceptable and sometimes preferred. It can make media transport more cost efficient, with a change in quality that is unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Options vary in terms of investment, with the first running the highest due to continuous high bandwidth demands, which is yet another consideration when building an IP-based workflow.
Bandwidth can and should also inform your approach to IP, as it goes hand in hand with signal quality. Higher quality, higher frame rate signals simply require more bandwidth to transport. It’s essential to think about the available budget for bandwidth needed to support the infrastructure. How quickly must the media move from one place to another? Is it live video, requiring immediate transmission, or file based video, which can be scheduled and delivered within a predetermined window? Will media move only within a studio environment, or must it be sent across the world to another facility? The answers to these questions will impact the bandwidth required, which can, in turn, help inform the right IP path.
Consumer appetite for content only continues to grow, which means scalability is essential. IP is a long-term investment and should be approached as a marathon, not a sprint. In the initial IP planning stages, it’s crucial to think about the facility’s future goals and how they can be supported today with the proper technology.
Weighing these needs in advance can reduce some of the complexities involved in adopting an all-IP workflow or, as we’ll see in most cases, transitioning bits and pieces of SDI infrastructure to IP. The reality is that we will likely be living in a hybrid world for the foreseeable future, but whatever the IP path your organization chooses, AJA Video Systems develops a range of powerful gateway and conversion solutions to simplify the transition.
From BRIDGE LIVE and BRIDGE NDI 3G, ST 2110 Mini-Converters, to the new Dante AV Ultra 4K-T and 4K-R converters, AJA technology is designed to help teams transition between various protocols, platforms, and connectivity types, leveraging existing baseband infrastructure while taking advantage of the myriad benefits IP has to offer.
To learn how your next facility or IP workflow can benefit from AJA IP video technology, check out the AJA website.