Pundits have been predicting the death of SDI for many years at tradeshows throughout the world. Strangely, I did not see one single slogan to this effect during the whole of the 2019 NAB Show. But I did sense that IP has now entered mainstream television and broadcasters are beginning to stress its capabilities.
Three significant IP technologies are emerging; SMPTE’s ST2110, Haivision’s SRT, and NewTeks NDI. All seem to have their place in broadcast facilities with their individual niche. Their business models vary enormously but the end game is still the same – move video, audio, and metadata from A to B in the most efficient manner possible over IP infrastructures.
Haivision’s SRT provides point to point video and audio IP connectivity over unreliable networks such as the internet. I found their open source approach to IP distribution refreshing as it's banging the open source drum. Unfortunately, the term “free” in open source is being confused. We should remember what Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, tells us; “it’s free as in free speech, not free beer”.
Open Source is not Free
Although several vendors are advocating open source, I think there still needs to be more education in this area. Companies based on the open source approach must continue to maintain, test, and verify their source code requiring a dedicated team of skilled and experienced software developers. And somebody somewhere must pay for them.
So just because a software solution is open source doesn’t automatically mean there is no associated cost.
Interoperability is Crucial
More and more broadcasters are moving to ST2110, especially with green-field site installations. Being able to distribute real-time baseband video is important to many broadcasters. Ethernet switches and PTP timing is much better understood and all this is leading to better adoption and integration.
Interoperability is working progress for ST2110. Although much work is being done in this area, the multi-vendor plug-and-play seamless solution is still yet to emerge. I’m confident it will as broadcasters are driving vendors hard to achieve this.
NewTek’s NDI IP ecosystem is based around the NDI royalty free standard enabling compatible products to share video, audio, and data across a LAN. The SDK is freely available from their website enabling developers to build compatible products very quickly.
Video Compression Benefits
NDI is the ultimate plug-and-play system. All discovery, registration, and synchronization processes are taken care of by the software enabling seamless communication between devices such as cameras and vision switchers. Although the video is lightly compressed, NewTek maintain it is visually lossless and very low latency. And that the benefits of using this system far outweigh any prejudices associated with video compression.
But even after all this IP progress, 12G-SDI is far from dead, some would even claim it’s making a massive resurgence. For basic systems, such as fly-a-way’s or smaller 4K studio’s, 12G-SDI is proving the perfect solution. Video is distributed as baseband, network jitter is at an absolute minimum, and connectivity is simple and rugged.
Is SDI dead? Certainly not. There is still a place for SDI as well as the emerging flavors of IP. And as we progress along our IP journey there will be new and interesting solutions emerging from innovators throughout the world.
The 2019 NAB Show demonstrated IP is making massive inroads into broadcast television. Although SDI is finding its place and digging its heals in, IP is providing a gargantuan multi-solution platform for software developers to express their creativity, present their ideas, and show us how television can work better.