Playout & Transmission Global Viewpoint – January 2020

Trends For 2020

In my view, there has never been a more exciting time to be working in broadcast television. IP is roaring ahead, and SDI is demonstrating a massive resurgence. Audio is coming into its own with object processing, and HDR is redefining how we shoot programs. And then there’s AI.

The business case for transitioning to IP assumes you want a scalable and flexible broadcast infrastructure. But not everybody wants this. There are many broadcasters who are more than happy to continue with SDI, their systems are flexible enough and simplicity is key.

However, SDI isn’t limited to existing SD and HD systems, and far from being dead, it continues to increase in data-rate capacity with 12G-SDI coming online. To meet the demands of the rapid progression of 4K and 8K, SMPTE have provided the ST-2082 suite of documents. This facilitates the use of 12G-SDI resulting in eye-wateringly high data transfer rates.

As IP becomes easier to use and more automated through plug-and-play, I expect it will eventually take over, but not for years to come, especially as the demand for SDI shows little prospect of waning.

Moving audio images around the sound space and having the ability to provide dynamic mixes targeted at specific devices greatly improves the audience immersive experience, way beyond the stereo images we’re used to. Object audio is encouraging us to work with television sound in a whole new way and driving creativity to new levels.

Further enhancing the immersive experience is HDR. Often combined with WCG, HDR is providing some stunning television. Sports often tends to push technology to its limits, and this is most noticeable in HDR. The enhanced Rec 2020 color space plays beautifully into augmenting the greens to improve the aesthetics of field sports, and the greatly improved dynamic range helps show more detail in the shadows and highlights, a feature much needed in harshly sunlit stadiums.

HLG and PQ systems both have applications where they shine, and we’ll certainly see more focus on these in the coming year. Vendors are finding some interesting and innovative methods to transfer between HDR and SDR thus simplifying simulcast SDR/HDR workflows. I can see we’ve only just started to scratch the surface of HDR’s capabilities and with the Tokyo Olympics only a matter of months away, we are sure to see some outstanding transformation and augmentation to the viewing experience.

But my big prediction is AI, or to be pedantic, ML (machine learning). ML is a specific subset of AI and is quite unique in the way it works. Traditionally, computer code relies on the programmer creating a test for each specific input condition to deliver a result. But ML is data driven, that is, conditional code does not exist. Instead, there is a massive neural network that is able to provide an outcome based on its inputs and a general knowledge of the domain represented by the training dataset. Therefore, each possible input to output condition no longer has to be programmed or considered.

I accept this is profound, but when you understand the difference between conditional programing and ML, then you will really understand the power of ML and see a whole plethora of applications unfold before your very eyes.

ML is definitely in its infancy and it has yet to truly demonstrate its capabilities. Therefore, we must be careful and watch out for those jumping on the ML bandwagon as there is a massive difference between ML and creating conditional programs based on statistical algorithms.

There are vendors developing truly fascinating ML solutions and we should see more of them this year. I also expect to see many ML developments in the monitoring domain, especially for anomaly detection, as IP continues its relentless offensive.

2020 is going to be a fantastic year for broadcast innovation, both for the technologists and creatives, and I look forward to sharing it with you. Happy New Year!

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