Software Infrastructure Global Viewpoint – August 2017

Gary Olson’s IBC 2017 Pre-show Wish List

Another fall, another IBC. Its’ that time of year when we find out if the promises made at NAB are kept, new promises are made and we see if there are real differences between U.S. and the rest of the world regarding technology philosophy and direction.

It's time to talk about IP. 

At NAB 2017, the IP Showcase was hidden and under promoted. Still once you found the exhibit, the technology displayed was encouraging. Supposedly, the SMPTE ST-2110 Family of Standards was to be ratified in time for IBC with manufacturers promising to have a full complement of ST-2110 products to show.

Well, it’s almost IBC 2017 and the 140-member SMPTE ST-2110 committee is not quite finished with the standards. I guess getting 140 people to agree on anything is not that easy. On the positive side, apparently, they speak together weekly, there have been more InterOP events and IBC will feature another IP Pavilion. On the other hand, or should I say, “There are many sides,” there are still competing IP protocols being manufactured and sold.

Therefore, in addition to the transition from SDI to IP, there is the confusion between what I buy today and will it be interoperable with my next purchase?

Unfortunately, the InterOP events are not focused on interoperability between protocols; it’s between manufacturers who have adopted the same protocol, more specifically SMPTE 2110 (so far). Will these products support multiple protocols, or as one manufacturer keeps telling me, “it’s just a firmware upgrade”. Yeah right, what broadcaster is going to take their systems off line for a major firmware upgrade to a completely different protocol and hope it all works when the system comes back on line?

Gateway products were first introduced to ease the transition from SDI to IP. Now they will have a second life as the interface between incompatible IP systems. Moreover, looking forward, remember the ST-2110 road map shows that 2110-50 based on VSF-04 will transition to 2110-20 based on VSF-03 that are not upward or downward compatible as of this writing. It appears the gateway products have a nice long product life ahead of them.

As far as buzz, I have not heard any significant IP announcements in advance of IBC. Nope, no big announcements yet. Let’s see how this plays out. There have been some interesting consolidations in the network switch sector so we need to see what impact that will have on the transition to IP. One of the bigger statements made at NAB was that media IP technology was based on commodity-off-the-shelf network switches (COTS). There is still one IP equipment maker still using their own proprietary non-interoperable switches.

Joint-Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM) assumed of path of networked media development as of April 2017. It will evolve over time.

Joint-Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM) assumed of path of networked media development as of April 2017. It will evolve over time.

On to 4K or is it 8K?

4K seems to have become just another format in the serial parade of more formats. Anyone remember 3D? Products are 4K enabled or 4K compatible and it’s still mostly based on a coaxial topology. Of course everyone remembers that NHK has mandated that the Olympic Broadcast Systems’ host broadcaster only produce in 8K for the upcoming Korean and Japanese Olympics.

NAB exhibited an 8K living room and IBC is promising something similar. Quoting Larry Thorpe, “You need at least an 84” screen to appreciate 4K.” So what does that translate into screen size for 8K?

I remember way back when HD 16:9 was going to dramatically change production and use fewer cameras – yeah and how did that work out. Can the same be said about 4K and 8K solutions? In addition, smartphones and POV cameras are all claiming 4 K resolutions. In addition, could UHD and HDR nudge 4K and 8K out?

HDR and UHD do not require substantial infrastructure changes or conversions. IP, 4K and 8K do. The former are both really an upgrade to HD using the mostly same production tools.

You need at least an 84-inch screen to appreciate 4K.
Larry Thorpe, National Marketing Executive, Canon USA.

Another stroll down memory lane when HD was first introduced, many devices were switchable between SD & HD. Today most products support both and even auto detect. Today we have SD, HD, 3G, 4K and soon 8K. Will the new products be switchable or auto detect? How will systems handle the multiple formats? Can a production intercut between them? Will we be able to up and down convert between these formats? What about auto screen manipulation? What about editing, and signal processing equipment? The raw image area between HD and all the K’s are substantially different. Finally, lets’ not forget how much additional bandwidth and storage is need for all this uncompressed content. However, that’s for another article.

What about all the platforms?

Let us get back to IBC. Outside of the U.S., viewing on mobile and portable screens is more prevalent with wireless delivery the preferred model. I expect to see many products targeted at streaming production and distribution.

There have been some big movements in streaming providers. Disney has taken control of BAM (formerly known as Baseball Advanced Media) and opted out from Netflix. Are they taking all Disney properties with them (ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Touchstone, etc)? Netflix, Amazon and Google are now moving into mainstream content in a direct confrontation with the cable and broadcast programmers. How will this change media production and will signal bandwidth play a role in format decisions?

This opens the conversation on compression and codecs. While the debate swirling around uncompressed for production and contribution has its own “many sides”, delivery and distribution will most likely always be compressed. How many different “flavors,” aka formats and bitrates, are practical for origination? Are there enough “G’s” in the mobile distribution topology to support the many K’s of content? Even on the OTT side, can the ISP's provide sufficient bandwidth to sustain the number of subscribers streaming multi-K content? Finally, what about all the PVR/DVR recorders? How will those devices be upgraded to handle larger imagery?

Here is my IBC wish list:

  • IP Standard Ratified
  • Full IP Product Lines across manufacturers (Deliverable)
  • True Interoperability
  • Multi K product support
  • And Of Course- World Peace
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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