TESTING TIMES FOR THE BROADCASTING UNIVERSE?

With the constant augmentation in technology, we dive into the broadcast industry’s need for reliable test and measurement solutions
Broadcast, Barc india, PHABRIX, Partho dasgupta, Test and measurement, Media, Technology, IP, SD, HD, UHD

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There hasn’t been an era in the history of media and broadcast, in which test and measurement solutions have been of more significance. With the expeditious evolution of the technology landscape, use of reliable and versatile test and measurement technology is on the to-do list for many a broadcaster. Broadcasting companies have to increasingly support a wide array of enhancements, from the well-established and conventional methodology, to new formats including IP, HDR and UHD; along with being ever-ready to accommodate shifting standards that follow. Consumers need to take into consideration a range of simultaneous upgrades, including the ongoing roll-out of digital HD production and transmission, the gathering momentum of 12G-SDI for UHD applications, increasing interest in the use of IP for live production - particularly with the use of SMPTE 2110, and the availability of HDR contribution feeds from major live events.
The developments in technology are swift, thus, contributing largely to re-shaping the entertainment and broadcast sector. Big Data is fuelling advanced analytics, which in turn is aiding business entities make informed decisions. In the media industry, analytics and data science is advancing rapidly to facilitate contextual programming and advertising decisions.
The advent of concepts like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) has revolutionised data analytics, which caters to a wide range of applications. Predicting ad breaks, viewership patterns and highlighting outliers, are some examples of the same.
For instance, at BARC India, over 10 million viewer- records are processed daily. “7.5 petabytes of dynamic viewership data - combined with the broadcast content and demographic data is processed by 900 CPU cores to arrive at the final viewership numbers,” said Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India.  The increasing data volumes, permutations and combinations have led to a wide-spread adoption of cloud computing platforms for storing, managing and processing large data sets.

WHAT’S UP, TECHNOLOGY?

Audience measurement is the anchor that holds and powers the television sector. The team at BARC India has relied immensely on technology, to build a cost-effective, reliable and future-ready measurement system.
Out-of-Home (OOH) TV viewing is quite prevalent all over India; given Indian audience’s ffinity to live sport events. BARC India identified the need to measure OOH TV viewing habits by leveraging its channel watermarking and BAR-O-Meter technology. This watermarking solution for measuring TV audiences, adopted by BARC India four years ago, was ahead of its time. It helps broadcasters understand the incremental viewership for event-based programming. For instance, during the FIFA World Cup 2018, 40% incremental viewership was recorded from restaurants, hotels and cafes; measured across 3 metro cities. OOH measurement has also helped new advertising opportunities emerge, for brands to target the right consumer set. The Bar-O-Meters were designed indigenously and cost only 1/6th of the global standards, which enabled scaling. “We collect multiple data sets such as the out-of-home viewing data from our Bar-O-Meters, footfall monitoring in establishments, and OOH Universe Establishment study. These data sets are combined using statistical models to provide a single source audience estimate for linear plus OOH programming,” explained Dasgupta.
Leader patented CineLite, CineZone and CineSearch features meant for content production and post-production, have helped DOPs create high-quality content. These features can be used across the HD or 4K or HDR content. For Leader, the latest addition of SDI over IP workflow in place of traditional SDI has brought in many changes over traditional technologies in test and measurements segments. Waveform monitors with a 10G interface can test about 6 HD channels, and similarly 25G or 40G interface can test two or three 4K channels. In addition to Waveform, Vector and Gamut monitoring, IP packet analysis has become one of the most coveted tests.
BIO News, one of BARC India’s proprietary analytics platforms tailor-made for broadcasters in the news industry, is a visual and interactive platform providing data-driven insights across markets and target groups. It helps map a news clip with the viewership build-up, to identify the high and low points of a story that was aired.
The Indian market is diverse in context to its geography, consumer habits and culture. This makes it cumbersome to survey each and every media consuming household in real-time. In addition to this, the vast array of content and distribution channels which swarming the Indian television, makes it nearly impossible to gauge the statistics and dynamics of consumption. “This is where new technologies like Sample Return Path Data (SRPD) come into play. SRPD allows measurement of narrow and fragmented audiences, by capturing viewing-data directly through the set-top-boxes installed in homes,” added Dasgupta.
Leader Electronics’ true-hybrid SDI/IP waveform monitor, LV5600 is designed to bridge the transition between the worlds of SDI and IP. A companion instrument, the LV7600 rasteriser offers exactly the same capabilities as the LV5600, but in a low-profile 19 inch 1U form-factor for easy rack or desk mounting. It comes with a customisable layout and a focus detection algorithm.
The LT4610 video sync generator with PTP and 12G-SDI capabilities is designed for use in broadcast studios, mobile production vehicles, post-production companies and broadcast equipment maintenance facilities.  It provides a wide range of video sync generation capabilities within a compact 1 U wide x 400 mm front-to-back footprint.

FITTING IN

Broadcasters, more often than not, fall back on systems integrators and manufacturers to investigate and type-approve their products, and then commission a system. Live productions especially continue to grow in quantity, complexity and sophistication. The requirements are broadening by the day, with each company having their own set of specifications. This calls for the broadcasters to be well-equipped to provide custom services, personalised to suit a wide range of genres and market sectors. “This could be characterised as fragmentation – but we’ve always had large and small trucks tailored for different sizes of events. That being said, it is crucial that HDR, immersive audio, remote production workflows, and working practices are developed in such a way that they match the economics of the production to which they are being applied – i.e. they are appropriate to that market sector,” explained Prinyar Boon, product manager, PHABRIX. It is easy to infer, that there is no hard and fast rule-book one can follow, to best work with these new technologies.


At BARC India, we process over 10 million viewer-records daily. 7.5 petabytes of dynamic viewership data - combined with broadcast content and demographic data is processed by 900 CPU cores to arrive at the final viewership numbers.– Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India

To provide an immersive experience in linear and non-linear TV, content creation and broadcasting need to be at the top of their game, which is not a facile task without efficient test and measurement solutions. For instance, test and measurement can aid light engineers to provide appropriate lighting; camera men to capture best shots using an accurate white and black balance. An editor or colourist can leverage test/measurement solutions to enhance the content quality, while a broadcast engineer can ensure broadcasting  without compromising on quality and utilising best bandwidth.

SRPD offers census-like data, and also interdicts concerns surrounding the intrusion of an individual’s privacy. The granular data helps broadcasters improve their programming strategy, which in turn aids informed planning to target the right audience. Furthermore, the data filtered through the SRPD technology comes in handy for the operators. It helps them integrate the data with their CRM for better subscriber management, content acquisition and increasing revenues.
“We continue to see an astonishing increase in the capabilities that can be squeezed into smaller sized equipment. This is enabling a new generation of trucks and facilities to be built with high levels of capability and flexibility,” added Boon.  Most of these enabling formats are still being developed and optimised. Boon asserted, “It’s a journey we are all embarking on together – and we have some very innovative partners who are at the forefront of adopting and adapting these new cutting edge technologies.”

THE CHALLENGE

4K/UHD has led to a proliferation of new standards and formats, with delivery using quad-link 3G, dual link 6G or single link 12G signals. According to Boon, higher bandwidth signals are more challenging to manage, and physical layer testing (Eye and Jitter) at facilities is especially important in view of the greater cable length sensitivity and unforgiving nature of 4K/UHD. As 12G-SDI continues to gather momentum for UHD applications, and many customers face a choice between SDI and IP infrastructure, there is a real need for informed and pragmatic decision making influenced by business values. 
“For SDI applications, we at PHABRIX, have recently introduced the Qx SDI STRESS suite for HD and UHD systems. When used in conjunction with our RTETM (Real Time Eye) technology, it provides the automatable tools to thoroughly stress and qualify 12G-SDI interfaces to the levels required to guarantee reliable performance,” explained Boon.
The widely established SMPTE ST 2022-6/7 and the SMPTE 2110 suite of standards, has beckoned a new genre of test and measurement tools. ST 2110 based IP systems employ Precision Time Protocol (PTP) with multiple audio, video and ancillary data flows delivering highly complex interactions between edge devices and switches; something not possible with SDI systems. Boon echoed, “The testing of ST 2110 flows with ST 2022-7 protection, and PTP is challenging. The big issues are currently around protocol behaviour, network jitter, and PTP on these complex networks. Configuring a large IP facility can be challenging, with tens of thousands of IP addresses to be allocated and managed.”

Prinyar Boon

We continue to see an astonishing increase in the capabilities that can be squeezed into smaller sized equipment. This is enabling a new generation of trucks and facilities to be built with high levels of capability and flexibility.– Prinyar Boon, product manager, PHABRIX

PHABRIX is actively developing both: handheld as well as rack-mount IP enabled test and measurement equipment, which supports 2022-6/7 and 2110 video, audio and ANC IP flows. The handhelds pose as IP line-check devices on the lines of how they are used for SDI applications. Additionally, they can also act as IP to SDI gateways. The powerful rack-mount devices can be configured for conventional broadcast operations with a powerful suite of basic IP diagnostics, as well as more sophisticated engineering -grade analysis that is used for commissioning and debugging.
Analog and SD technology serve better and longer as compared to HD.  NHK, Japan has launched a channel in 8K, leaving behind the widely adopted 4K. These advances call for heavy investments for broadcasters.Up-linking 4K and 8K content over satellite requires a huge bandwidth, which is again expensive.
“Simultaneously shooting live productions in both: conventional Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) ITU-R BT.709 and High Dynamic Range (HDR) ITU-R BT.2100 with wide colour gamut, poses its own set of challenges. This is particularly true with a mix of SDR/709 and HDR/2100 sources - be it cameras, replays or graphics,” added Boon.
PHABRIX’s HDR test suite supports most of the HDR live production formats: HLG, PQ, Slog-3 and SR-Live, as well as conventional SDR with both - Rec 709 and Rec 2020 colour spaces. The company has developed a range of cross-mapped test patterns to help characterise and de-bug HDR/SDR workflows; given its experience with HD/SDR equipment.

WHAT’S NEXT?

An ever-changing industry domain like media, calls for constant and consistent evolution of science. As digital video consumption takes off at a never-seen-before pace, content and consumers is bound to be of focal essence. “Audience measurement will have to adapt to the changing scenario and deliver a solution that can offer common metrics across pipes and screens. Further, it should not only capture the audience statistics, but also provide effectiveness metrics across platforms - to assess real ROI. A transparent and reliable third-party measurement is the need of the hour to realise the full potential and grow the media advertising pie,” concluded Dasgupta.
The shift from SDI to IP, SDR to HDR and SD/HD to UHD, has tagged along a testing time for broadcasters. Their role is to ensure that their test and measurement equipment helps them to adapt to and navigate through this new terrain seamlessly!

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