Mark Davies, Director of Products & Technology, TSL Products
These are interesting and exciting times for the broadcast industry, with major changes occurring in the name of progress, cost-saving, and efficiency. This article seeks to give a snapshot of where we are and where we believe the industry is heading.
Without doubt, the broadcast video/audio market is now very focused on the capabilities and advantages being offered by the IT industry. Today it is possible to purchase production kit such as cameras, vision mixers, replay servers, and audio consoles capable of connecting directly into an IP infrastructure, allowing traditional SDI infrastructures to be kept to a minimum or, in some cases, replaced entirely.
Indeed, now that we can see some of the early adopters' success stories and full production chains from camera to transmission working in IP, the uncertainty about the technology and standards is dissipating. However, while a lot of broadcast professionals are getting excited about the benefits IP can offer, we are not at the final destination yet where we can realize the full benefits of IP; and there are still large sections of the broadcast production community that will not see these benefits for some time. They are considering producing 4K material using quad-link 3G-SDI, or single link 12G-SDI and in the short term there are many who will remain with the familiar SDI production chain as this meets their business drivers. Hybrid solutions will also continue to play an important role during this transition. Full IP adoption will be driven by cost and the business agility that it offers, as well as a continued clarification of standards.
Due to its lower bandwidth, audio is already well ahead of video in the IP domain – it can be successfully deployed through 1Gb ports rather than 10Gb. This has speeded the adoption of IP-based audio production. Use of IP-based audio production is now commonplace in the radio community, using standards such as Dante, Ravenna, and AES-67.
Outside of the ongoing IP discussion, there is also considerable momentum behind HDR, which has clear and visible benefits; however, it is not as far down the standards clarification road as IP at this stage. This is not just a matter for technology companies either, as television set manufacturers also have a vested interest in standardizing the delivery formats. Then there is the marketing activity needed to convince their customers of the benefits of HDR – thus there are more stakeholders at play.
We also believe that operations will continue to look to technologies such as automation and advanced control systems in order to improve efficiencies and do more with less. From our perspective, this is where advanced control systems such as TallyMan can help, adding reliable control to value chains within the broadcast infrastructure. As reliance on control automation becomes more wide-spread, operations that are seen as complex today, such as repurposing an entire studio setup from a game show production to a talk show, will be accomplished using the single push of a button on a virtual control panel.
As broadcasters deal with these myriad changes and challenges, they need three key things: good, impartial advice from manufacturers and system integrators in order to make the right decisions, both for the short term and the long term; manufacturers that understand the value in creating ongoing partnerships with their customers, not just box shifters who are only interested in the next sale; and manufacturers that understand that their products may only be a part of the workflow, and that are willing to collaborate with each other to help broadcasters achieve a future-proof, streamlined, and efficient workflow. With these elements in place, the industry is indeed in an interesting and exciting place.