Kim Francis, applications specialist, Infrastructure, Grass Valley, shares his thoughts on where the media industry is headed with IP


Four years ago, it became very clear that there was a need for a standards-based approach to IP migration, within the broadcast industry. With this common goal in mind, broadcasters and vendors came together to drive open standards-based IP forward. Work by industry bodies like SMPTE, AIMS and AMWA has pushed the development of IP-based solutions forward enormously in a relatively short space of time. The SMPTE ST2110 specification addresses IP stream interoperability and need for comparable functionality to SDI environments. The widespread adoption of these standards by vendors across the content production chain has seen pricing driven down and has contributed to the accelerated deployment of IP-based solutions.
Today, most of the major broadcasters, OB and production companies – from RTE and Televisa to NEP and Mobile Television Group (MTVG) – have IP infrastructures in place. IP-based live production workflows support premier events on the global sporting calendar, from Premiership soccer and the NFL, to the Alpine World Ski Championships and Wimbledon. As broadcasters and content producers drive to meet consumer appetite for high-quality content and stunning images more efficiently, they need infrastructures that are agile and scalable. IP meets this need. The technology can handle much higher bandwidth than legacy SDI environments, supporting more live streams from a live event and opens up new, smarter approaches to content creation.
As an industry, we have passed a critical milestone for IP with SMPTE ST2110, which has driven enormous momentum and acceptance globally. Customers are seeing the clear benefits of the improved flexibility and workflow efficiency that open standards-based IP delivers, from being format/resolution-agnostic to providing scalability and resource sharing. As they drive to stay ahead of the curve in a fast-moving mediascape, IP-based infrastructures allow broadcasters and media organisations to build successful, future-ready media businesses.

SMPTE ST 2110 has undoubtedly propelled the industry forward—customers are mandating open standards and all the major vendors now have ST2110-enabled solutions on the market. Alongside flexibility and the ability to scale, the real potential of IP lies in transforming the way production teams work – especially in the live production environment; it can open up smarter ways of working, regardless of where staff are located. Remote/at-home production is just one way that IP can radically shift broadcasters’ approach and we are beginning to see how IP is changing the way content is produced. However, we’re still very much in the early stages of IP migration.
The biggest challenge facing the industry is not to rest on our collective laurels; the belief that SMPTE ST2110 takes us far enough will halt real progress. Both vendors and broadcasters must look ahead and continue to build on the work achieved to date. Making IP easier to deploy and maintain is the next stepping stone. Customers tell us they want to choose best-of-breed systems without having to worry about complex integration. They want to be able to build seamless multi-vendor systems within a single IP ecosystem. Our customers are also looking beyond the cost of ownership; they want systems that are easy to maintain and grow.
The Joint Task Force on Networked Media, whose members include the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), and the Video Services Forum (VSF), is picking up the baton from SMPTE ST2110. Aimed at making it easier to adopt and maintain IP infrastructures and workflows, JT-NM-TR10001-1 outlines practical approaches for easily connecting IP systems beyond the transport layer and streamlining deployments.

In order to leverage the as-of-yet untapped benefits of IP adoption, the momentum we have gained to date must continue. Vendors need to invest in JT-NM-TR10001-1 across their product portfolios, rather than stopping with SMPTE ST2110. Upcoming testing rounds will help spur this on, as will growing demand from customers.

As customers find it easier to deploy, maintain and leverage IP-based solutions, the momentum behind IP will continue to drive the software-centric future of our business, with workflows hosted in the cloud – or virtualised on commodity hardware – and applications being orchestrated using software. This will ensure IP-based solutions become more prevalent across the broadcast chain, moving beyond simple IP I/O to areas like IP processing. The long-term success of IP centers on lowering the pain of adoption for customers. The next big thrust in development will be solutions that make systemisation of IP more straightforward.
As an industry, we are also moving beyond viewing IP as a like-for-like replacement for SDI; IP opens up new ways of working, changing the way we think about what constitutes a broadcast facility. We’re already seeing remote/at-home production become more widely adopted – particularly for live sports production – delivering significant time and cost savings.
Shared resources, like control rooms that can be allocated where required, are already a reality. The next logical step – and certainly what our customers are telling us they need – is the wider distribution of resources. Allowing staff to be located anywhere and enabling multiple locations to be utilized—thanks to high bandwidth connectivity, which means leveraging the best directors, operators and editors that the industry has to offer, regardless of where in the world they are. We are not too far away from a scenario, where a technical director can work on several events in a single day, regardless of where in the world they are taking place. Similarly, on-air talent will be able to cover multiple games without having to travel.
Looking ahead, IP will underpin the virtualisation of more functionalities, giving media companies the flexibility and agility they need to achieve rapid speed to market and stay ahead of a fast-evolving mediascape. We are still just scratching the surface of what IP can make possible. What is clear is that as we continue to drive momentum, the impact that IP-based solutions will have on the industry will be far-reaching.

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