IP-based KVM — delivering benefits across the broadcast workflow

The continued adoption of IP is largely due to the convergence of technologies and services. For broadcasters and production professionals, the shift to IP has been a gradual one, driven by the need to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. The pace of change is about to get much faster.

Why IP?

One factor driving the move to IP is the need to adjust to changing viewer demands. They want more content, played out on their schedules and on their devices—both home bound and portable. This is forcing content producers and broadcasters to re-examine how content is moved and stored--from live contribution and the studio, to post production and delivery.

Simply put, IP is a common standard that enables organisations to move away from the reliance on proprietary technology and rather use the existing network infrastructure to transport data, video and audio across the broadcast workflow. In this way, organisations are able to leverage their current IT investment and use best-of-breed equipment from multiple vendors in their infrastructure. In the telecoms space, for example, large networking companies have continuously invested billions in research enabling them to bring products and knowledge to market that ultimately all organisations can take advantage of.

Broadcasters are also benefiting from the well-established nature of IP networks, and in broadcast, for broadcasters and broadcast manufacturers there’s a burgeoning push on integration — integrating it into the wider workflow with IP converters becoming quite common, particularly those that convert SDI feeds to IP.

ADDERLink Infinity 1002 is a high performance KVM (Keyboard, Video and Mouse) extender that forms part of the AdderLink Infinity matrix solution.

ADDERLink Infinity 1002 is a high performance KVM (Keyboard, Video and Mouse) extender that forms part of the AdderLink Infinity matrix solution.

Making a case for IP — KVM technology

One of the best proof points of IP within broadcast is high performance KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) technology. KVM is not a new technology by any means, but over the last few years its use of IP has really driven home benefits for broadcast. Used across the workflow, from outside broadcast trucks and studio control, to the post production suite, IP-based KVM allows broadcasters to switch and extend HD video signals in real time with no loss of quality and no latency. It brings added efficiency, reliability and comfort to operations, allowing the physical computers to be removed from the operating environment and stored securely in a server room, be it a few doors away or in a different building completely. More than that, IP-based KVM transforms a single screen into a portal into a number of computers, quickly and effectively.

Building an IP infrastructure

The main consideration for any organisation looking at making the transition to IP across its entire workflow is bandwidth. The transportation of lossless HD video at the required frame rate requires high bandwidth, which more often than not means using a fibre network.

Typically, the amount of bandwidth required for transporting a single stream of HD content at 60 frames per second is 4Gbps. Most networks only have 1Gbps capacities, which means trying to get those 4Gbps down a 1Gbps pipe or laying down four pipes. Fibre networks, however, have a 10Gbps capacity, which makes them ideal over compression options, or even lossless compression options, such as run-length encoding that only sends pixels in the video that have changed from one frame to the next.

However, due to the cost of fibre and fibre optic switches, it’s not always possible or necessary to use it throughout the infrastructure. In fact, modern buildings are being constructed with this in mind — fibre is used vertically within the building, running from basement to the top floor, connecting switches together, with less expensive copper cabling used horizontally on every floor. This provides the high bandwidth backbone which carries data from multiple floors compared to the shorter copper hops which carry data from a floor and then connect to the fibre backbone.

A typical MCR connected to a machine room using high performance KVM. Click to enlarge.

A typical MCR connected to a machine room using high performance KVM. Click to enlarge.

Scalability also bears some thought. The use of standard networking equipment means that broadcasters can start small and expand steadily as the need arises by adding switches into the mix and connecting them via fibre. If a broadcaster uses proprietary technology, that is a piece of hardware that features a finite number of ports that end user devices can be connected to, it is both expensive and inflexible. If one or two additional ports are needed, an entirely new piece of hardware is needed, which increases costs dramatically. With IP, ports can be added quickly, easily and cost-effectively by adding in a standard network switch.

In addition, some IP-based KVM manufacturers offer the ability to operate across networks, like connecting two buildings, again using IP and standard networking switches.

The infrastructure must also be fit for purpose. For example, a gallery control room uses less bandwidth than a post production house that is responsible for editing raw footage. As a result, post suites demand pixel perfect video with no loss of clarity, quality or colour. Frame by frame the content needs to be seen in exactly the same way as it was captured, which means more bandwidth is required.

Conclusion

The adoption of IP and IP-based technologies in broadcast has been gathering momentum over the past few years, strengthened by viewer demand, technology changes and the industry itself. The move to total adoption across the workflow is now more a question of when, rather than if. Moving forward, IP-based KVM provides a powerful proof point for broadcast organisations and has a definite role to play in driving the continued use of standard networking technology within the overall ecosystem.

Ben Brand-Cotti, professional services manager, Adder Technology

Ben Brand-Cotti, professional services manager, Adder Technology

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