Industry Aligns To Embrace IP

As the broadcast industry continues its calculated migration from SDI to Internet Protocol (IP) infrastructures—and all of the targeted file transfers, reduced equipment costs and resolution independence that comes with it—many of the major equipment vendors have begun forming alliances to support each other’s efforts and ensure interoperability in this new world.

To date there are two factions vying for dominance: the ASPEN “coalition” and the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) initiative. Both provide a “framework” for participants to develop compatible technology that provides end users with separated video, audio, and metadata IP workflows,

Evertz Microsystems developed ASPEN, in collaboration with other companies, and is now sharing it with the industry at large. It recently announced a complete IP production deployment for NBC Sports in collaboration with Sony. The IP solution is based on ASPEN and will serve as the “house standard” for NBC Sports’ HD production starting in February 2016.

The development of ASPEN has been a collaborative effort of Evertz and many broadcast industry equipment and service suppliers, including: Abekas, ChryonHego, Discovery Communications, Game Creek Video, Hitachi Kokusai Electric Limited Inc., NEP Group Inc., PacketStorm, Ross Video, Sony, Tektronics, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, and Vizrt.

First introduce in April at the NAB convention this year, ASPEN has been submitted to SMPTE for publication as a Registered Disclosure Document (RDD 37) and Evertz has been pioneering global deployments of its Software Defined Video Networking (SDVN) solutions that are based on the ASPEN protocol.

Developed to meet the real world requirements of an IP-centric facility while leveraging proven MPEG2-TS standards, ASPEN describes a method for encapsulating uncompressed Ultra HD/3G/HD/SD over MPEG-2 transport streams (TS). When combined with existing SMPTE standards such as SMPTE ST 302 (audio over TS), SMPTE ST 2038 (ancillary data over TS) and the SMPTE 2022 family of IP standards, ASPEN provides broadcasters with a flexible method of transporting video, audio, and data over scalable IP networks. Evertz said that ultra low latency with independent video, audio and ancillary data flows makes ASPEN ideal for use in production environments and workflows. 

Alternately, the more recent AIMS has been formed as an independent trade association founded to ensure that all IP solutions brought to market offer complete interoperability and are based on open standards for seamless integration into media workflow environments. AIMS provides specific development guidance in its bylaws to its members and to the broadcast community via the AIMS Roadmap. AIMS is open to all individuals and companies interested in supporting the establishment of open standards and who will commit to the group’s founding principles.

The association said its mission is to promote the adoption, standardization, development and refinement of open protocols for media over IP, with initial focus on the VSF TR-03/-04, SMPTE 2022-6 and AES67 standards. It also wants to facilitate activities that accelerate the development of solutions that support these open standards and nurture the creation of new standards by supporting standardizing bodies with participation and testing in real-world environments.

Among the members of AIMS are Grass Valley, Imagine Communications, Lawo, and Snell Advanced Media (SAM); with more joining all the time

Thanks to the collaborative work already performed in SMPTE, VSF and AES, our industry has built a solid basis for a sustainable transition to IP. AIMS’s support of open standards and technical recommendations such as TR-03, TR-04 and AES67 afford us an opportunity to eliminate the fragmentation of implementations that our industry has endured over the last 20 years.
Andreas Hilmer, Director Marketing & Communications, Lawo

“Our customers need the flexibility to implement the solutions that work best in their environments, with the confidence that all equipment will speak the same language and work together seamlessly,” said Mike Cronk, senior vice president of strategic marketing, Grass Valley. “With the IP transition, thanks to the collaborative work already done in SMPTE and VSF, our industry has the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the past where multiple proprietary approaches were adopted, adding cost and complexity for everyone—such as in the tape and file format wars of a decade ago. AIMS is dedicated to an open standards approach and Grass Valley fully supports its mission.”

“Technology in this industry is changing more quickly than ever, and broadcasters need to know that their investments will protect them over the long run,” Cronk said.

Representatives from SAM said they welcome the formation of AIMS and what it stands for. Tim Thorsteinson, CEO of SAM, said, “AIMS’ mandate dovetails precisely with the issues that we have identified from our R&D work and initial IP deployments on the production and playout side: we need to push forwards with standardization. Without this, we won’t see a true market develop around IP products and therefore the full benefits won’t be realized.”

An example is SAM’s work with Dutch media group DutchView Infostrada, part of the NEP worldwide network. Based on SAM’s SDI-to-IP transition solution, DutchView has successfully broadcast its first live, IP-based multi-camera broadcasts using SAM’s Cloud Production platform. All production operations were centralized on the company’s own data centers at the Media Park in Hilversum, fed by IP-streamed media over its own dedicated dark fiber-optic network links directly from the event, studio and centralized galleries.

“The time is now for this,” Thorsteinson said, “We don’t want to see the industry heading down a proprietary route, which it’s in danger of doing. Open standards work is of course already taking place, with active testing occurring and in which we are participating, but to have an umbrella association working collaboratively is vital.”

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