It is clear that one, if not the biggest, winner in the transition from SDI to IP will be production workflows. With many touchpoints for signal processing and the creative process for operators in live and as-live environments, the arrival of easy–to-access flows for video, audio and data as well as reduced dependence on conversion equipment will greatly benefit this segment. One day, event-based and fluid environments — where sources, destinations and available devices are in flux — will become relatively easy to handle. The network infrastructure that everything is connected to makes it simpler to connect devices and find signals with technologies like discovery and registration, and connection management. And the entry barriers, in terms of cost and bandwidth, from compressed MPEG-2 transport streams to uncompressed 4K/UHD, are decreasing. As a result, there are fewer issues blocking a move to full uncompressed media over IP workflows.
Networks used to be for configuration, management, file transfer and device monitoring. Real-time video and control ran though completely dedicated systems. These can now be eliminated in favor of all network solutions. IP-based video, audio and data flows are not the only elements on a network that can make the change. The control system over IP — for real time as well as for monitoring, management and troubleshooting — has become progressively widespread. Control commands via IP protocol are reliable and predictable, allowing dedicated serial control solutions to finally be laid to rest.
The outcome is IP streamlining — the removal of proprietary or non-IP connected systems — in favor of a connectivity model that uses commodity IT as its core building blocks. There are still going to be many points of interactivity, with control surfaces, multiviewers, talkback and other interfaces that drive the creative process. But much of the unseen infrastructure can move to COTS hardware and networks running IP protocols, standardized and commoditized by vendors to ensure interoperability.
If your studio facilities are not ready for all-IP due to budgetary constraints or the need to deploy other technologies, such as delivery infrastructure for OTT services, fear not. There are solutions that can bridge the SDI to IP gap. This is not simply SDI to IP conversion gear, but intelligent ingest and playout systems, storage and other products that support a mixture of SDI and IP signals on their inputs and outputs. These solutions make future proofing a practical reality while enabling video content and service providers to deal with other priorities.
It is still relatively early in the transition to all-IP. However, preparing for and investing in future-proof solutions is a very real and practical proposition.
In the next installment of this blog series on IP in broadcast studio production, we’ll look at remote production and ways to resolve workflow requirements where content acquisition takes place thousands of miles away from the staff doing the bulk of the production work.
— Andy Warman, Director of Playout Solutions, Harmonic and Board Member and Marketing Working Group Chair, AIMS