Essential Guide: IP for Mobile Production

November 3rd 2016 - 05:00 PM
By David Austerberry

IP networks have been at the heart of many broadcast operations for two decades and more. Editing uses commodity workstations and IP networks, as do playout operations. But live production has, until recently, been the preserve of SDI. The advances in IT, driven by the data centers that power the cloud, and the general move to virtualization, brings benefits that now make live, real-time broadcast operations possible in an all-IP environment. There is gathering momentum to consider IP-connected broadcast equipment instead of the tried and tested SDI, which has served the industry well since the introduction of digital video.

The outside broadcast vehicle is an ideal place to start with IP operations. For one, they are a manageable scale when compared with the rebuild of an entire broadcasting center.

Live UHD broadcasts are already a reality for some OTT providers. Over-the-air broadcast will follow, once all the transmission issues have been resolved. Mobile operators are at the vanguard of UHD coverage, with sports being the driver.

All-IP systems

Moving to all-IP radically changes the landscape. IP switches are a fraction of the size of SDI routers. The number of interconnecting cables is reduced. One 10G Ethernet connection can carry three 3G-SDI circuits, HD or compressed UHD. Multi-channel audio, communications and control can share Ethernet connections, simplifying connections to remote commentary boxes and the like.

Moving from SDI to IP offers an alternative which decouples the intimate connection between coding systems and the electrical interface that we have with SDI standards.

IP connections are duplex (bidirectional). Stage boxes can use a single Ethernet fiber to carry the inputs and outputs. The physical layer carrying the IP data is generally Ethernet. This can be twisted cable pairs, or fiber for higher data rates (10Gb and more) and long cable runs.

Ideally, the move to IP should lower costs, provide same facilities as SDI systems, and offer new possibilities.

Advantages for mobile

An IP infrastructure brings a scalability and flexibility to a truck that is not possible with an SDI system. Scale means IP can be used to build a large 32-camera truck.

Flexibility means a truck can be used for an HD production one day, and UHD the next without the need for time-consuming reconfiguration. For mobile operators, reconfiguration time is down time.

Format and standards upgrades can be made through software changes rather than re-cabling. As standards evolve, the operator can move from embedded audio to elemental streams without major hardware changes.

IP is On-air

IP trucks are on-air now, they are field-proven and being used to cover prestigious sporting events, where gear failure is not an option. IP infrastructure has been demonstrated to be a lighter weight, especially when compared with a quad-link UHD system. The commodity Ethernet switches and routers are designed for the high performance demands of today’s enterprise data centers. The scale of manufacture, and the pace of change means 40Gb and 100Gb equipment is becoming more affordable, with 10Gb being a step on the road.

IP in broadcast is no longer a science experiment. It offers real advantages, without necessitating changes to the operators’ familiar facilities and control surfaces.

You might also like...

Machine Learning For Broadcasters: Part 2 - Applications

In part one of this series, we looked at why machine learning, with particular emphasis on neural networks, is different to traditional methods of statistical based classification and prediction. In this article, we investigate some of the applications specific for…

How To Achieve Broadcast-Grade Latency For Live Video Streaming - Part 1

For a serious discussion about “making streaming broadcast-grade” we must address latency. Our benchmark is 5-seconds from encoder input to device, but we cannot compromise on quality. It’s not easy, and leaders in the field grapple with the trade-offs to en…

Information: Part 5 - Moving Images

Signal transducers such as cameras, displays, microphones and loudspeakers handle information, ideally converting it from one form to another, but practically losing some. Information theory can be used to analyze such devices.

Building An IP Studio - Connecting Cameras - Part 1

Connecting a camera in an SDI infrastructure is easy. Just connect the camera output to the monitor input, and all being well, a picture will appear. The story is very different in the IP domain.

Machine Learning For Broadcasters: Part 1 - Overview

Machine Learning is generating a great deal of interest in the broadcast industry, and in this short series we cut through the marketing hype and discover what ML is, and what it isn’t, with particular emphasis on neural networks (N…