A Coax-Free NAB?

There will be kilometers of coaxial cables all over NAB 2016. But in the predictable future, perhaps a decade or so out, coax in broadcasting may become limited to RF and legacy gear interfacing. It’s not that broadcasters don’t like coax. It’s that there’s a great deal more to like about IP interfaces.

The scope of the broadcast industry may be wider than a 4mm lens, but its about as deep as a puddle. The latest FCC statistics count 1784 commercial and educational TV stations in the US. Add 2802 UHF translators, 853 VHF translators and 1919 LPTV stations for a total of 7358 transmitters and antenna systems.

Broadcasters have embraced IP for playback and content delivery. Most stations have converted to video servers for a source of pre-recorded content. An estimated 1000 stations actually buy and use broadcast TV production gear. A similar and growing number of facilities post streaming video and other fresh content on the Internet.

There is an increasing trend towards increased local news and sports production in smaller markets because it is more affordable. The four-digit vertical market for dedicated broadcast gear is what most MBAs would consider rather small. Streaming is dominated by new sources of production, not necessarily broadcasters. The new sources are the kind of people who will be more comfortable using IP than the traditional broadcasters.

The basic rules of economics and market size have been what have historically driven the products and their costs for traditional broadcast production equipment. The transition to technologies that have been developed for vast consumer markets like digital video and cameras, faster computing and widely available IP infrastructure are destined to dramatically impact the price and capabilities in the broadcast markets. This is one of the key differences between this shift and many of those that we have already seen. “As the broadcast industry moves to IP,” says NewTek President and CTO Dr. Andrew Cross, “it is sitting on the shoulders of giants that have paved the way in massive consumer markets.”

However, broadcast production technology lags trillion-dollar video technologies, such as DSLRs, smart phones, computers and IT. It also lags behind security video and teleconferencing, which have nearly fully implemented IP. Broadcast industry manufacturers are working on catching up by completing toolsets to make the newest gear work together. Nowhere will this trend be more obvious than at NAB 16.

Growing IP production

While the current focus has been almost exclusively on the fact that one is transferring video over an Ethernet cable instead of coax, the truly groundbreaking difference is that IP technologies are inherently bi-directional and allow devices, anywhere in the world to talk to each other. The true revolution of IP is not going to be the cable, but the change in the entire workflows that this allows. While NAB 16 will most likely highlight basic connectivity between existing devices, the real revolution will be in the next years where this changes what the devices and workflows entirely.

Baseband and SDI production gear is generally defined by its connectors. Multiple channels require multiple connectors. IP feeds accept multiple inputs and outputs on one connector. IP is essentially a video router with infinite inputs and outputs. The number of RJ connectors on IP gear is more often defined by its bandwidth.

New IP production gear generally follows two design ideas, one focused on high-bandwidth video, the other modeled after the Internet of Things (IoT). High-bandwidth video provides the best quality and restricts the number of channels per IP connection. The IoT design makes it possible for anyone on the network to view video. Bandwidth is not only a function of resolution, it is multiplied by the frame rate and color depth.

Dr. Cross believes that beyond 4K, the need for higher resolutions is probably going to be less important than other aspects of video delivery. Indeed, viewing distances will limit the effective resolution necessary of most displays even today. Since the advent of “retina” displays, advances in consumer viewing technology has been about viewing angles, color clarity and not primarily resolution, the same will happen with video resolutions. He thinks there are better uses for increased bandwidth. “Higher frame rates are more impressive. 120 Hz displays are common, but yet there’s no 120 Hz content,” he said. Other technologies such as HDR, augmented and virtual reality will in many ways be better uses of bandwidth for consumers’ engagement than will be increased resolution.

Lining up

Manufacturers are lining up behind several proposed standards, and not necessarily only one. It’s not a political decision. The survivors will be the ones that make the most sense. More than one single standard is likely to coexist due to the needs of different markets and many manufacturers support more than one. Few manufacturers want to wall themselves into a vertical market.

ASPEN is an acronym for Adaptive Sample Picture Encapsulation. It takes uncompressed SD, HD, 3G and Ultra HD signals and packetizes them into an MPEG-2 Transport Stream. This encapsulation method is documented in SMPTE RDD-37. ASPEN completes the transport of video by defining uncompressed SD, HD, 3G and Ultra HD formats transported over 10GbE.

SMPTE standards already exist for audio and ancillary data over MPEG-2 Transport Streams. The resultant Transport Streams are formatted into RTP/UDP/IP packets according to SMPTE ST 2022-2 for IP network transport.

Its development has been a collaborative effort of Evertz Microsystems and many other broadcast industry leaders.

“Evertz did much of the groundwork with its customers. It’s still an ongoing discussion all about the end user and alleviating interoperability issues.”
Mo Goyal, Evertz Product Marketing Director

ASPEN Community membership includes Abekas, AJA Video Systems, ChryonHego, Coherent Video Systems LLC, Deltacast, Diversified Systems, Discovery Communications, EditShare, Evertz Microsystems, FOR-A, Game Creek Video, Hitachi Kokusai Electric Limited Inc., I-MOVIX, LEADER Electronics Corp., Macnica America Inc., Matrox, NEP Group Inc., Neutrik, PacketStorm, Providius Corp, Ross Video, Sony, Tektronix, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, and Vizrt.

AIMS (Alliance for IP Media Solutions) is focused on promoting the adoption, standardization, development and refinement of open protocols for media over IP, with an initial emphasis on VSF TR-03 and TR-04, SMPTE 2022-6 and AES67.

According to Imagine Communications CEO Charlie Vogt, "AIMS will promote existing and future industry standards and solutions based on those standards. It will work closely with the Video Services Forum (VSF) and other standards organizations to provide the broadcast industry with a seamless transition from SDI to IP."

AIMS members include Grass Valley, Imagine Communications, Sony, Lawo, Nevion, and  Snell Advanced Media (SAM). Several AIMS members introduced SMPTE 2022-6 gear at IBC 2015, including EVS, Grass Valley, Harmonic, and Imagine Communications.

NewTek’s NDI is a royalty free software developer kit (SDK) for anyone wanting to enable IP workflows in their facilities, or in production devices and systems they manufacture. It allows multiple video systems to identify and communicate with each other over IP, and to encode, transmit and receive many streams of high quality, low latency, frame-accurate video and audio in real-time.

NDI supporters include AJA, Brainstorm Media, CharacterWorks, ChyronHego, ClassX, Deltacast, Gnural Net, JVC Professional Video, LiveXpert, LiveU, Matrox Video, Media 5, NewsMaker, PESA, Teradek, Vizrt and Wowza.

Video Services Forum (VSF) received a 2014 Emmy “for Technology and Engineering for Standardization and Productization of JPEG2000 (J2K) Interoperability.”

VSF’s work includes a Joint Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM) which recently released its Networked Media Reference Architecture V1.0. JT-NM is co-sponsored by the EBU, SMPTE, and VSF.

The Video Services Forum has 74 high-profile members including 30 manufacturers. VSF has a variety of Activity Groups such as the WAN Video IP Activity Group.

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