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AIMS at IBC2017: the IP Showcase

As part of the continuing promotion of IP solutions for broadcasters and media companies, the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) is presenting the IP Showcase at this year’s IBC. The Broadcast Bridge talked to chairman of the AIMS board, Mike Cronk, to learn more about AIMS presence at IBC 2017.

The media industry is about to take a step change in the way systems are interconnected, moving from SDI to IP-based technologies. The goal of AIMS is to foster hardware and software interoperability through a comprehensive, ubiquitous set of IP broadcast standards. Interoperability is a big deal. As the example of MXF showed, the implementation of standards can take a long time with many pitfalls on the way. MXF was all about file exchange, the issue now is live streams over IP to replace the ubiquitous SDI.

At the show visitor can learn about the business and creative benefits of IP and how they can apply those benefits to their own operations. There are many systems deployed and live on air that are using IP, so it is no longer a pending technology.

In addition to an area for illustrating general SMPTE ST 2110 interoperability as in the past, there will also be three new areas:

  • A live production area showcasing a working live production system based on SMPTE ST 2110 
  • A playout area featuring a working playout and contribution system based on SMPTE ST 2110
  • An AMWA Connection Management area to demonstrate progress toward a new connection-management specification, IS-05, which will be complementary to the IS-04 registration and discovery specification 

Alongside the IP Showcase, AIMS members will also be hosting interoperability demonstrations on their own stands. These demos will show how different vendors can work together to exchange media streams over IP transport.

The mission statement of AIMS is to foster the adoption of a set of protocols for interoperability over IP in the entertainment industry. "Within that, the transport layer is critical. ST 2110 is moving through SMPTE at a fast pace, and is close to finalization. However, it is not the only thing, the IP Showcase is also promoting AMWA IS-04 for registration and discovery. For the first time we are showing AMWA IS-05, which is about connection management." said Cronk.

This will allow equipment to interconnect with other equipment that supports the protocols. IS-04 and IS-05 should enable ‘Plug and play’ between devices, but moving forwards the Joint Task Force on Networked Media (JT-MN) Roadmap details steps on from the transport layer towards automated resource management for a more flexible infrastructure. The JT-MN is sponsored by the EBU, AMWA, SMPTE and the VSF. Further steps embrace virtualization and cloud solutions.

Compression

The interoperation of streams where compression is used depends on support for the layers and profiles used, much like MXF file interchange. The initial focus of ST2110 focuses on uncompressed streams (just as SDI). AIMS has seen that there is a need for compressed video. Cronk sees future extensions to 2110 that support compression, “there is a lot of work going on with HEVC and JPEG-XS (the upcoming JPEG XS standard will offer a low-latency lightweight image coding system that is able to support increasing resolution (such as 8K) and frame rate in a cost effective manner

This standards-based approach allows for a truck to pull up at a remote production and simply plug into other mobile units, like graphics or record trucks, with a fiber connection and without the issues around proprietary codecs.

Unlike previous IP Showcases, which just showed equipment, this year there will be real live production. As to actual broadcast applications, examples like Premier League football coverage in the UK with IP mobile units has shown that IP is more scalable, more flexible and more easily adaptable to new formats.

It Doesn’t Stop at the Transport Layer

These early systems have been large 32-camera units, but it has been said that SDI retains advantages, especially for small systems. The big trucks have complex control systems to manage hot switching, QoS and bandwidth through the COTS switches. For smaller systems such controller would be an overkill. Cronk explained that the goal of AIMS is to see the implementation of IP systems as simple as current SDI. “That why it is so important to go beyond the transport layer, if you just stop at the transport the system becomes more complex”.

Taking the example of PCs, it used to be complex to install even printers and mice, downloading and installing drivers. Connecting to a mdem needed IP addresses and more. Now the software around the system makes it much simpler.

Cronk continued that “The goal is to be able to install IP systems faster than SDI, with less error. To do that we need things like registration, discovery, and connection management, and that is why the work of AMWA is so critical to the industry and is fully supported by AIMS.”

“Today SDI is a viable choice, but there are advantages with 2110 today, and those advantages increase the larger the system becomes. As an example, the Arena IP mobile units could not have been built using SDI.”

Playout

At the IP Showcase, AIMS will also show IP playout. Many manufacturers outside of just live production are adopting IP, especially for playout. IP interconnections in playout enable a more software-based approach using blade processors and IP switching. It makes it much easier to scale up channel counts. The separate essence of 2110 is a boon when it comes to playout centers operating in multiple languages with multiple captions.

Cronk sees 2110 becoming the mainstream interoperable format. The first step was to carry SDI streams over IP, and this is standardized by the SMPTE as ST 2022-6. However, the carriage of audio embedded in the ancillary data space is an obstacle to more efficient workflows. The next step is to move to elementary streams; this gives much more flexibility, removing the overhead of embedding and de-embedding audio and ancillary data. The soon to be ratified SMPTE standard, ST 2110 covers this area.

The next steps are discovery, registration and connection management. Gradually the pain will be taken out of building IP system for live video and audio.


It should not be forgotten that ancillary data in SDI occupies the horizontal and vertical blanking intervals that were an integral part of analog television. The intervals carried the sync pulses key to the scanning and synchronisation of the CRT displays with the tube cameras. With both consigned to history, surely it is time to move on, and ST 2110 is a key component. The work of AIMS to promote this move to an IP future should surely contribute to acceptance of the technology by the media and entertainment sector.

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