Hardware Infrastructure Global Viewpoint – September 2015

IP: Short for Idiot Proof?

IP solutions were top-of-mind at IBC 2015. The question remains, are they real.

After attending some 75, or so, trade shows, I imagine myself as a decent judge when it comes to a show’s success in advancing any particular technological theme. Some show-announced technological improvements live on for many years, like automation for example.

Other technology show themes die a quick death.

At the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 3D television was all the rage. Millions must have been spent just promoting 3D, let alone developing the televisions. But money spent does not guarantee success.

Anyone recall the main technology theme of NAB 2010? It was 3D of course.

Strictly because of the 3D hoopla of the 2010 CES show, the following NAB show was all a rush with 3D as the next “must have” television technology. NAB exhibitors did their best to highlight their 3D products and demonstrations.

Did the technology last? Did it succeed? No, 3D died faster than a bug in a bird’s mouth.

Industries have spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting 3D. Yet to view this image in 3D, you need to build your own 3D glasses. Image courtesy Experimentosparaniños.org

Industries have spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting 3D. Yet to view this image in 3D, you need to build your own 3D glasses. Image courtesy Experimentosparaniños.org

One must be careful when deciding if any technology exhibited at NAB or IBC will last through the next “idea” from the consumer electronics people.

Now we come to IBC 2015. With the above caveat, this year’s IBC had two themes; IP connectivity and High Dynamic Range (HDR) imagery. Let’s examine where the first of these ideas (IP) stands.

Probably 80-percent of the booth visits and press conferences I attended involved some discussion about the vendor having an “IP solution”. The word “compatibility” was less often used.

While the claimed benefits from implementing IP solutions are many, it is far less clear when industry-wide solutions may truly be available. Some tests are underway.

The EBU, VRT (a Flemish public broadcaster) and more than a dozen additional technology partners have created the world’s first total IP TV studio. The project is using state-of-the-art IT-centric hardware and software to enable the production of programs.

VRT studio uses IP connectivity to embrace the needs of live TV production.

VRT studio uses IP connectivity to embrace the needs of live TV production.

The multi-phase LiveIP Project is part of Sandbox+, an international joint platform for collaborative innovation put together by VRT, EBU and iMinds. Familiar vendors participating in the project include Axon, Dwesam, EVS, Genelec, Grass Valley, Lawo, LSB, Nevion, Tektronix and Trilogy. If you would like to know about the technological demonstration, see this article on The Broadcast Bridge for more information.

A scaled down version of the studio was on display showing a proof-of-concept demonstration on the EBU IBC stand. So, yes, IP does work in a television production environment.

Evertz MAGNUM SDVN orchestration and control software for IP and hybrid facilities powers Evertz' Software Defined Video Networking (SDVN) solutions.

Evertz MAGNUM SDVN orchestration and control software for IP and hybrid facilities powers Evertz' Software Defined Video Networking (SDVN) solutions.

The reality of IP.

With the failure of 3D to develop as a competitive solution, the first test of a new technology is how many vendors are supporting the new idea. But then there were plenty of supporting demonstrations of 3D at the 2010 NAB show and it eventually died an inglorious death.

There are today many vendors supporting a move to IP interconnectivity. IBC show announcements included the Evertz ASPEN, a method to encapsulate uncompressed Ultra HD, 3G, HD and SD for transport over an MPEG-2 transport stream. Sony is a partner in using the technology.

Sony and Evertz exhibited the integration of their solutions in live production demonstrations in each other's IBC booths. The demonstrations included MAGNUM, Evertz SDVN Orchestration and Control and Sony's IP Live Production switching Sony NMI over Evertz high capacity switch fabrics.

Evertz says that Ross Video and 12 other vendors and facilities are supporting the protocol.

Ross Video Acquity production switcher.

Ross Video Acquity production switcher.

But, there are other heavy-hitter players in the IP space. Imagine Communications and EVS, announced official cooperation to make their solutions IP compatible.

“With EVS we are aggressively going after the live news and sports market,” declared Charlie Vogt, Imagine Communications CEO. “We are taking their best of breed solutions in slo-motion and instant replay and marrying that with our playout automation.”

Imagine demonstrated their signal processor, Selenio MCP and Magellan SDN Orchestrator software managing multichannel HD video over SDI and IP linked to EVS’ XT3 server and the EVS XiP gateway.

“The key is that we are using SMPTE-2022 standard and our JPEG-2000-based compression to allow broadcasters to work with video over SDI and IP at the same time,” said Vogt.

By putting its weight behind SMPTE and the J2K scheme Imagine expects others to follow. “The evolution of standards will accelerate around successful technologies being deployed by the largest global companies. DirecTV, Disney ABC, Fox Networks are all adopting SMPTE-2022 and J2K so you will see smaller companies begin to adopt those.

Imagine Communications SelenioNext high-density multiscreen transcoder.

Imagine Communications SelenioNext high-density multiscreen transcoder.

Other companies, while supportive of IP solutions, were much less enthusiastic. And, there remains more work to be done in the standards arena. The current SMPTE 2022-6 standard is long way from being as common as SMPTE 259M.

More than one exhibitor compared the current IP solutions as similar to MXF. While many vendors claimed to support MXF, the solutions were often incompatible.

One day IP connectivity will be as common and well understood as SDI. However, just because a company with 45B in revenue adopts some vendor’s solution does not mean everyone can/should do so. Recall also the “Tape is dead” theme when hard drives became available? Tape lives on as an effective and low-cost LTO archive solution.

Technology seldom grows or dies as fast as proponents claim. Follow the money.

IP does not mean Idiot Proof.

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