Is IP ready for primetime? Vidigo has a view

Video over IP for live production is set to be the most pressing issue at IBC and beyond. At stake, a new methodology for transporting data from site to plant, around a studio and live to air. It promises cost savings in a move to COTS, a scalable path to 4K, HFR, HDR, object-oriented audio, 8K and practically anything else.

There's no doubt that broadcaster's understand many of the issues surrounding IP technology and its intrusion on SDI. Even so, few engineers are ready to rip out a working SDI infrastructure and replace it with something called IP. Such drastic action is not for the faint-hearted. 

Who wants to move from a proven technology where everyone knows what a signal is doing – or where it is in the chain – to an environment that is not yet proven and for which new skills are required.

There is also a key issue of standards, which have not settled down and are either not common enough or are proliferating, neither of which is suitable for the cross-vendor interoperability with which IP should match SDI.

To help The Broadcast Bridge readers, we've assembled a panel of experts who will share their viewpoints on the adoption of IP. With a breath of perspectives leading up to IBC, we hope to add some clarity to a subject that's confusing many managers and engineers.

First up, Peter IJkhout, CTOVidiGo whose company is showcasing a live multi-camera cloud-based production set up in Amsterdam.

BroadcastBridge: To what extent is cloud and IP production technology truly matching the exacting demands of current baseband video and SDI protocols so that broadcasters can be confident of investing?

PI: It is wise to make a clear distinction between cloud and IP as far as their purpose and possibilities are concerned. IP as a viable successor to base-band SDI will certainly develop further over the next few years. For a real successful implementation, however, it is very important that one standard is accepted and adopted to allow interoperability between systems just as SDI currently provides. At present, several organizations and/or companies are developing competing protocols and we have to wait and see how this will progress.

True cloud-based production will not follow the uncompressed signal path as we know from SDI and will require some form of compression to be applied to video signals in particular. Early initiatives are based on techniques like JPG2000 to reduce the amount of bandwidth required. Cloud production itself is still a buzz word everybody talks about, but no one has a real clear picture of what it will be. Does it mean the power sits in data-centers and camera's etc. stream into the cloud or does the power move around and only operation is handled in the cloud? Or will it be a mix of those? Also important is the type of production and the desired output platform.

BroadcastBridge: How will long will SDI remain part of the chain for most broadcasters?

PI: My guess is that SDI will still be around for many years to come. It's a proven technology, lots of existing environments have invested in fixed (and quality wise good) cabling. SDI will (as it already does) scale easily with 4K needs in the short term and as it's still found on every piece of equipment prevents incompatibility issues.

BroadcastBridge: To what extent is the move to 4K live production bound up in the migration to IP? Will 4K accelerate the move towards IP in this space?

PI: I think 4K production will actually slow down developments for IP (replacing SDI) as the bandwidth requirements for 4K (assuming we still hold on to uncompressed feeds) is such that building a reliable IP infrastructure will be very costly and there will be reluctance to invest as there is no global standard yet. In the compressed domain there could well be a speed-up of developments. Adaptation, however, will depend on acceptance of compression in the production chain as well as unavoidable longer latency compared to traditional SDI.

BroadcastBridge: Are broadcasters and content producers ready for the change in work-flow which IP will bring? Perhaps the reluctance to part with SDI in live environments is as much a cultural change as a technological one?

PI: Workflow wise things are already changing rapidly. Content producers demand and get more and more IP based tools (apps/interfaces) to focus on their creative work and these tools push the core technology side of things, such as SDI to the background. Where it should be in my opinion. For broadcasters in general, IP-based tools like production automation also help reduce costs as smaller crews can produce more and faster.

BroadcastBridge: What are the current barriers to the IP live production work-flow – particularly for 4K?

PI: The lack of a unified standard. Without a well-designed protocol that can be shared seamlessly between vendors and equipment there will be reluctance to invest in IP as SDI replacement. At the same time, and certainly for 4K, the required network systems are complex and expensive. Traditional engineers at broadcasters are very video oriented and it will take time, and being honest often different people, to make the transition into IP engineering.

BroadcastBridge: What innovations will you be showing at IBC which address these issues?

PI: Our focus this IBC will be on using IP for workflow tools like production automation and scalable 'task-oriented' crews. The latter means flexible off-loading of some workflow elements onto browser-based interfaces. This allows for a scalable production control-room suitable for single person operation as well as larger productions involving large crews.

Also from our labs we will highlight technology for very low latency streaming of video and we will show several use-cases for it in the field of remote production and (our ideas of) cloud-based production.

See Vidigo at IBC stand: 7.H30

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