To overcome the challenges inherent in live production, particularly in the production of remote live events, broadcasters need to simplify the remote set-up and centralize as much of the production as possible.
Content and media providers need to meet growing demand for more content and richer media experiences, including more camera feeds, higher resolutions such as 4K video, and virtual reality experiences. Industry is now transforming its media production infrastructure to an IP foundation to gain the scale, flexibility, and reliability that existing SDI cannot provide.
With the rise of IP, production facilities have been progressively migrating their infrastructure to Ethernet/IP in many different areas. Contribution workflows and continuity playout have already moved to IP due to their larger margins for acceptable latency. Live production, with its need for extremely low latency, is the last remaining segment that is not entirely IP-based. There is now a significant push from the entire industry toward a fully IP-based ecosystem.
SDI-based video routers have become a necessity of every production facility to meet the need for flexibility. In the new IP-based live production (live IP) environment, these centralized, monolithic SDI routers are no longer needed, nor are many of their inherent constraints. However, their basic functionalities must be replaced with no disruption to how people work: professional content creators, customers, need a reliable solution to coordinate the delivery of live streams across an IP fabric.
As viewer habits change with the growing use of Internet, the competition for eyeballs is intense between traditional broadcasters and new entrants like OTT providers. The focus is on providing more unique and compelling content, while streamlining operations to align costs of production with expected revenue.
One of the ways broadcasters can create more compelling content is through live TV. Live content has the power to pull in huge audiences and, as a result, is attractive to advertisers. More than that, with the marketplace so live, production becomes a powerful tool that can be used for competitive advantage.
Vendor update. EVS's Immersive Live is an ecosystem of Connected Live technology, and Creative Live solutions allow content owners, producers, and broadcasters to awe viewers with new, immersive viewing experiences. Together they enable consumers to engage with live content, including UHD-4K with HDR, 360 motion replay, and augmented and contextual visual effects on any screen.
Sony is actively developing IP-based approaches for professional video production, and has developed a new networked media interface. This packetizes video, audio, and metadata, enabling real-time transmission between equipment via standard network infrastructures. Company's approach combines the latest IP network technologies with the current SDI standard interface for any resolution of video transmission. While conventional systems require multiple different types of cable to carry various signals (video, audio, reference, metadata, and control data), this new approach requires only a single standard network cable passing through conventional network switches.
In order to support a mixture of HDR and SDR content, Grass Valley has integrated HDR up-mapping capabilities into the new Densit UHD-3901-UC cards. The cards can accommodate a gradual adoption of HD production elements into UHD broadcasting workflows, while protecting investment in installed equipment with a model for both SDR to HDR and HD to 4K/UHD upconversion. As broadcast studios upgrade to 4K/UHD, this new upconversion module allows existing, installed equipment to be used and integrated into more advanced workflows. This includes the up-mapping of SDR content to live within the increasingly popular HDR workflow.
The increasing popularity of innovative 4K/UHD has made realistic, vibrant colors the norm – and indeed the expectation – in content ranging from sitcoms to live sports. However, the quality of on-screen images depends not just on higher resolution but on the quality of each individual pixel to create high scene contrasts and adapt to challenging lighting conditions in live broadcast environments. Vendors are dedicated to providing broadcast and editing professionals with innovative equipment that allows them to bring high-quality content to their viewers in any format in live production.
Need to Simplify Production
Of course there are a number of challenges inherent in live production, particularly in the production of remote live events. Sending teams and equipment to remote locations can be expensive and places production outside a controlled environment. Costs are compounded by factors like communication links that often need to be booked and set up way ahead of time. Then there is the question of logistics and the concern of whether the quality of broadcast is going to meet expectations.
The best way to overcome many of these challenges is for broadcasters to simplify the remote set-up and centralize as much of the production as possible. To streamline the workflow, broadcasters must have extremely flexible, reliable, low-latency, two-way transport of video, audio, communication, and other data between the remote location and the central production facility.
And it is here that IP is making headway and helping broadcasters make live remote production a practical, proven, and deliverable proposition. IP networks are both pervasive and cost-effective and, as such, are ideal for transporting remote production signals from any location to a centralized facility over great distances.
Rather than setting up a relatively expensive, specialist broadcast circuit, production companies are increasingly turning to IP contribution circuits. With the right media nodes to act as gateways onto and off the IP network, management systems put users in control of their network needs. IP networks make it easy to produce live content
One of the main advantages of IP contribution is that there is reduced need to send large OB trucks or small OB vans to remote sites and fewer staff are required on site, so the cost comes down substantially. Less, more lightweight equipment is needed on site to get the job done. Directors, editors and production staff can remain in the central production facility, working in their own familiar environment and there will be greater utilization of the hardware too, adding to cost efficiency.
Cisco highlights that the IP video market is impacted by the rapid movement in business models. It impacts direct-to-audience media engagement such as OTT and virtualization.
By using a converged infrastructure that can easily handle IP video signals, new practices can be implemented. Vendors are continuously building broadcast facilities to handle massive scale, but in many casesthese remain underutilized.
Leveraging data center technology and a converged infrastructure opens many interesting possibilities and opportunities, such as the ability to add new channels and services that impact business models and create more revenue streams. Change in the economy and business models invite diversification. Tomorrow's facilities need an infrastructure ready to support future diversified monetization strategies.
The first thing a facility needs to begin an IP build-out is a high-density SDI/IP gateway. It provides simple IP connectivity back and forth with existing SDI legacy gear. Certain capabilities are necessary to accomplish this seamlessly. Redundancy is difficult, expensive, and rare in the SDI world. But in IP, it is commonplace and actually a standard when developing an IP system. IP technology easily and inexpensively enables the incorporation of full end-to-end redundancy.
On hybrid IP-SDI systems, signals must be synchronized on and off the SDI path. With multiple IP signals on the same wires, the ability for clean switching between them is important. Cisco, for instance, allows users to preset a new source on the same wire, buffer it, switch from preset to line cleanly, and convert it back to SDI for on-air or critical signals.
Flexibility Adding Value
In live TV, the network becomes one of the most crucial aspects of operations – from monitoring data and signals along the transport chain to its establishment. Connections and circuits between different points need to be established quickly and easily, almost on demand. When broadcasters use IP contribution, establishment of connections is also easy to do, whether they are relying on third-party telcos to do this or are managing the process themselves, it can be done at almost any time and more cost effectively. This is particularly advantageous for unplanned live TV, such as breaking news stories where immediacy is absolutely the key.
What's Next on the IP Journey?
In parallel to the IP transition, there is a long-term and constant rise in the virtualization of broadcast equipment. User can utilize bare metal servers to run applications hosted on virtual machines or containers. Since this new deployment style will mean more flexibility by starting and stopping more resources, it also means that the applications will need to send or receive different types of network traffic. And because virtualized environments demand an undifferentiated hardware and network infrastructure, this will certainly lead to converged traffic (live IP, file exchange, control) on a single network. In order to make this possible, the right decisions around how to design IP facilities need to be made now – at the start of the IP migration process.
A complete move to IP in the broadcast environment is happening. The interest in IP in the studio has grown exponentially. Various projects are demonstrating that IP is a realistic proposition in live production. What is really interesting about this evolution is that IP is blurring the difference between studio, campuses, and remote locations.
The same technology used for contribution, media nodes, and software-defined networks controlled by a smart management system, applies in the studios and campuses. This has the potential to radically transform content production, potentially paving the way for virtualization and with it enormous flexibility and cost effectiveness.