Services Global Viewpoint – October 2018

The Growing Demand For IP Technology Interoperability

At the recent 2018 IBC Show, two different, yet similar, technology showcases were hosted that addressed the increasing need for interoperability of third-party companies around a common set of specifications that leverage the internet protocol (IP). As more broadcasters seek to embrace IP, these live demonstrations and industry “plug-fests” serve as important proofs of concept.

One was the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS), which now counts more than 100 member companies and supports the SMPTE ST 2110 standards that are now being successfully deployed for uncompressed audio and video over an IP infrastructure.

Sponsored by the Audio Engineering Society (AES), AIMS, Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA), European Broadcasting Union (EBU), and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), the AIMS group said it saw nearly 2,000 visitors to its IP Showcase at the IBC Show—the largest and best attended IP Showcase since the alliance originally formed in 2017. The message was clear: the interest in adopting standards-based IP for real-time professional media applications is growing fast.

While past IP Showcases have focused on demonstrating interoperability, the group said this year’s showcase was the first to focus on the tangible benefits of transitioning to IP-based media networks.

“At IBC2018 we were able to give visitors a real sense of why they should be considering IP now,” said Michael Cronk, AIMS board chairman and vice president of Core Technology at Grass Valley. “In other words, IP Showcase visitors could clearly see what's in it for them.”

New types of demonstrations were featured at IBC2018, including multiple vendors displaying interoperable technology using the AMWA IS-04 and IS-05 specifications for automatic discovery and registration of devices in IP workflows.

The AIMS initiative now boasts more than 100 members and mainly focuses on live uncompressed video transmissions over IP.

The AIMS initiative now boasts more than 100 members and mainly focuses on live uncompressed video transmissions over IP.

In another part of the RAI Convention Center during that same fall conference, the Video Services Forum (VSF) was staging its own IP showcase, with a total of eight companies demonstrating a newer emerging specification. This one, called the Reliable Internet Stream Transport (RIST) specification, is designed for the transmission of compressed (for H.264 and H.265) video over the public internet.

The benefit to both IP signal exchange methods is that they are agnostic to bit rate or resolution formats. A broadcaster could send HD video one day and 4K video the next over the same networked system architecture.

The fundamental difference between the two initiatives: AIMS is primarily a method for putting video (compressed and uncompressed) into IP packets. The RIST spec describes the way to deliver those packets over an unreliable network (the internet).

“At its base, SMPTE 2110 assumes that the network is error free,” said Wes Simpson, president of Telecom Product Consulting (Orange, Conn.) and co-chairman of the RIST working group within VSF. “There are mechanisms in the spec to compensate for that, but at its fundamental layer, it sends each pixel once and that’s it. With RIST, we assume that the network is going to lose packets somewhere along the delivery chain and we need a way to intelligently retransmit those packets that have gone missing,” he said.

Using the RIST spec, each packet that goes out has a sequence number associated with it. Specialized software algorithms looks for gaps in the sequence numbers at the receiver. If packets become lost, the receiver sends a message back to the transmitter instructing it to send only those lost packets. This way a file transfer or live video stream is guaranteed to arrive at the correct time, in the correct package.

Simpson said the current “Phase One” version of the RIST specification describes the minimum set of capabilities that any software or hardware system must implement in order to be considered RIST-compliant. Future versions of the spec will include additional features that cover a wider range of user applications.

Wes Simpson, co-chairman of the RIST working group within VSF, sees a growing demand for sending video over the public internet for professional applications.

Wes Simpson, co-chairman of the RIST working group within VSF, sees a growing demand for sending video over the public internet for professional applications.

“RIST was created by a panel of experts from multiple companies, and it has benefited greatly from their combined experience,” said Dr. Ciro Noronha, director of technology, Compression Division, at Cobalt Digital. Noronha has been instrumental is helping to write the specification as part of the RIST Group within VSF. The results of a series of live tests have been very positive.

At IBC, several companies streamed content from Cobalt’s exhibit stand over the internet to a bank of Cobalt 9990-DEC-MPEG decoders at Cobalt’s headquarters in Champaign, Illinois. The resulting feeds were combined at the company’s IBC both into a mosaic using the Cobalt 9970-QS multiviewer and then published to YouTube using the Cobalt 9223 encoder. The live demo was hosted for IBC attendees during the four-day convention but could be repeated at anytime with the cooperation of the other RIST members.

[RIST members include: Artel Video Systems, Cobalt Digital, DVEO, Evertz MicrosystemsNevionVideoflow, Qvidium and Zixi.]

“The RIST protocol ensures basic interoperability while allowing each company to innovate,” Noronha said. “As a result, broadcasters are no longer tied to products from a single company and can choose the best devices for each application.”

Like AIMS, RIST was also born in 2017 (at that year’s at VidTrans Show), as VSF members expressed increasing interest in using COTS hardware and the public internet to produce live streams for sporting and corporate events. By leveraging the public internet, users can avoid renting expensive private network bandwidth.

“Ten years ago sending video around meant renting a dedicated Vyvx line on a private network,” Simpson said. “Today, people want to do new and better things that today’s technology allows. We’ve got all of this internet bandwidth, let’s use that instead of a costly private network.”

Cobalt’s Noronha said that the RIST specification was created by a panel of experts from multiple companies and has benefited from their combined experience.

Cobalt’s Noronha said that the RIST specification was created by a panel of experts from multiple companies and has benefited from their combined experience.

He said RIST is designed to serve as a common industry specification for low-latency video contribution over the internet. The first version of the new spec, the RIST Profile, is now available on the VSF website.

While developing the new spec, Simpson said one of the goals of the VSF RIST group was to avoid inventing anything new if it didn’t have to. For example the SMPTE 2022-2 standard, designed for compressed video transmission, is supported in RIST.

“We’d like to be a SMPTE standard at some point, but we don’t need it to enable user to start using the spec,” said Simpson. “Whether or not [RIST] does become a SMPTE standard is up to other people to decide. As an organization, we have to stay with the trends in the market. Right now, for those that want to send compressed video, RIST is the answer.”

Like the AIMS group, the big benefit of RIST is that it is an industry specification that is supported by many companies, rather than being a proprietary protocol designed by one vendor or another. That allows customers to pick the product they want to use and know that it will work with other RIST-compatible devices.

Expect to see more showcases popping up at various trade shows over the next few years, as the membership of like-minded companies for both specs grows. The AIMS group said they plan to host future events to address issues like security and functionality beyond the transport layer. The VSF will also continue its interoperability work.

“We need new specifications to keep up with the times,” Simpson said, adding that the industry is clamoring for interoperability among third-party suppliers to facilitate a smooth and cost-effective migration to packet-based signal delivery over an affordable IP network.

IP Showcases, like those from AIMS and VSF, are just the thing to show customers that the technology works.

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