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Production & Post Global Viewpoint – September 2016

IBC 2016 – A Look At The Technology Displayed

Consultant Gary Olson looks at IBC and the production technology on display.

I went to IBC with relatively low expectations in my quest for Industry acknowledgement and efforts to support the transition to IP. The show itself was pretty low key, no one flying big flags or making large statement on IP, 4K, HDR or anything else. There were plenty of exhibitors showing them, just not making a lot of noise. The general sense was no drama and no dramatic claims or technology announcements. We may have finally reached critical mass. Media producers and broadcasters may have hit the 5-year depreciation/amortization cycle on their last SDI purchases and need to make decisions on capital improvements but cannot invest knowing that it is a short term investment if it’s SDI.

The AH-HA epiphany!

The final move to all IP and computer centric technologies breaks a large percentage of the vendor’s business models and will dramatically refine their revenue streams. I had more than a half dozen vendors including IBC agree with my hypothesis.

This is not a new idea, but from the vendors’ perspective this transition will have such a large impact on the manufacturers and they simply are not ready for it. There is factory retooling, business retooling, marketing and sales training. This includes changes in R&D, new support systems and a totally new set of knowledge and understanding.

One vendor made a very clear statement that his profit margins in SDI are so much better than IP and since no one is pushing him hard towards IP, why should he push it? Well, perhaps the clients are also reluctant to make the large investment in new IP core infrastructure and live production technology. 

IP Interoperability – some little forward motion

I was pleasantly surprised to see the IP Interoperability Pavilion with the EBU/VRT Studio in operation.

I was aware of an interoperability event in the US that took place right before IBC. Rumor is a number of participants sent representatives who hadn’t bothered to prepare while the network techs compromised the integrity of the testing by continually making changes to the network while the tests were going on.

Michael Crimp, CEO, IBC

Michael Crimp, CEO, IBC

In spite of this little speed bump, the IBC demo looked good and was encouraging. I had a nice chat with Mike Crimp, CEO of IBC, and was interested to hear that IBC played an active role in establishing the IP Interoperability Pavilion. Mike was very positive about moving IP technology forward and actively participating in the discussions to create a single standard.

The booth participants offered tours and explained what they did and what the results obtained. The VRT production demo showed multi-camera live switching without SDI .I even heard there was a little AVCi floating around.

Speaking of standards – I did hear that there is a willingness to have consensus around SMPTE 2110. The real question is how long will it take and when will products start appearing with it?My own concern is that we don’t forget backward compatibility or that the gateways protect any early IP integration.

The interoperability demo was designed to show a path to IP not just a studio that was all IP. I was shown they can resolve PTP with Blackburst to maintain timing between SDI and IP. WOW. There were a few gateways – these are the boxes that take non IP and converts it to now to 2022-6, this is the first stage of live IP. There were some dalliances with RFC4175 and audio was a side thought. AES67 seems to be beating Dante, but there’s still time for an upset. I would like to see the whole Pavilion show up at NAB’s New York and Las Vegas shows.

12G--the 4K Band Aid

There was an event and noise on the floor around 12Gb/s single wire to support 4K. The general feeling that until IP gets sorted out and there are requests (not that many) for 4K, there needs to be a more elegant solution than using 3 or 4 wires to move 4K signals. The 12G solutions seems like a stop gap attempt while it promulgatesthe continued use of SDI. But the live and mobile guys are hurting when they get requests for 4K, so this may be a temporary solution.

Another interesting note is that Korea and Japan joined together to mandate 8K for the 2018 and 2020 Olympics. That sure puts a wrinkle in the 4K discussions because 8K does not work over 12G. I did read that the director of the 2020 Olympics in Japan fully intends it to be all IP. I certainly hope so.

LG UHD television with HDR support shown at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.

LG UHD television with HDR support shown at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.

HDR was nice, but wait a minute

I had interesting chat about HDR. While I may have initially been a little cynical, finally someone actually explained it in a way that made sense to me. It’s still not a technology that has a true impact on anything. Here’s what I understood. Imaging devices (CCD now CMOS) always had more image dynamic range than the downstream technology could support. Remember Super Black?

Processing and creative technologies have improved to the point where they can now handle the full output of the imager. This means greater detail, higher high’s and lower low’s. Remember when music first went digital and how easy it was to blow out an amplifier or speaker? This is the same principal.

It’s not even a feature on the capture side, but on the delivery side—aka TV/monitor. It means it’s the monitors and displays that need to be able to resolve the full spectrum. So it’s really not new—just improved.

One of the more comical conversations had to do with displaying uncompressed a 2022-6 signal on a monitor. It seems the pixel refresh rate cannot keep up with the data coming into the monitor, so there will need to be some buffering to enable the screen to write fast enough to keep up with the content.

The need for training

My last thoughts from the show and a pretty large reason things are moving slowly is the lack of information, knowledge and training regarding IP. Just having a CCNE (Communications and Computer Networks Engineering) certificate does not teach a person why and how to optimize the performance of a network for media. Training someone to use a product does not educate them how it works and what the displayed information means if it turns “red”.

What are the test and measurement metrics that determine if a signal is in or out of spec and what do the metrics mean? If the images or audio look or sound distorted, where does an engineer turn to make the needed corrections?

A mobile operator said he is pressed to reduce staff on the trucks. With the need to reduce costs, how does he add an IT guy? And if SDI fails a patch cord fixes it. If IP fails what dashboard or interface tells where, why and provides a real time recovery solution?

As an industry, we are not serving ourselves well in the education and training aspect of this transition. The current engineering technical support base is intimidated and fearful of how to maintain and support these systems. (See related article: Shortage Of Engineers Prompts Companies To Train Their Own

Editor’s Note: Gary Olson has a book on IP technology, “Planning and Designing the IP Broadcast Facility – A New Puzzle to Solve”, which is available at bookstores and online.

Editor’s Note: Gary Olson has a book on IP technology, “Planning and Designing the IP Broadcast Facility – A New Puzzle to Solve”, which is available at bookstores and online.

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