Philip Scofield, Managing Director, Crystal Vision Ltd.

In the last 12 months good progress has been made within the broadcast industry to define how IP products should be used. Using IP equipment will become the most economic and flexible way of building television installations.

There is another related change that it is on its way, and that is the change from hardware to software products. Software products can easily be upgraded or replaced. Given the right platform, truly flexible installations can be built that will reduce the cost of moving to IP. Imagine a computer platform that had SDI inputs and outputs as well as multiple 10Gbit Ethernet connections and enough processing power to handle a number of applications. This platform could be used as a gateway for the initial IP installation. If the IP standard is changed, new apps could be installed which meet the new requirements.

Crystal Vision has introduced such a system. The MARBLE-V1 media processor has the SDI and IP connections – plus it has audio connections that will be useful for the second-generation ST 2110-based installations. Crystal Vision has so far announced six IP apps. All of them run on the same MARBLE-V1 hardware. To change from one function to another just needs the relatively low cost of buying a new app, rather than a whole new product. What is more, future apps can also be installed on the MARBLE-V1 hardware. This will be useful as the initial IP installations will require a large number of gateways, which can be later upgraded to have different functionality.

However, in a typical upgrade for standard definition (SD) to high definition (HD) many of the processes required are only available in SDI-based products. It is likely that the new HD system will have to use feeds that were generated as SD. The up converters are key to the success of transitions to HD. The best converters available will ensure that the new HD signal has all of the quality that was in the original SD feed.  Poor converters will mean that the new HD signal is worse than the original SD signal!

So what should people do who are planning a move to HD? Modern installations need to be flexible so that they can use a mixture of technologies. It is likely that any processing of SD signals will be carried out in SDI. It is possible that signal routing will be carried out as IP using a standard IT product. There will be a number of gateways that convert signals from SDI to either of two IP standards, ST 2022 or the emerging ST 2110. These gateways may need converting from ST 2022 operation to ST 2110 and to later incorporate any new standards such as the AMWA proposals for control.

New control standards will be of great benefit to broadcasters. If all IP equipments operate using the same controls, customers will be able to freely switch from one supplier to another and use a mixture of suppliers within their IP installation. As more of the installation gets converted to IP, the requirement for gateways may reduce and it would save money if the gateway CPU hardware could be converted to another task by installing a new software application.

The new Crystal Vision Vision 3 and Vision 1 frames are designed to have all the functionality needed for a conversion to HD and even to IP. The modular product range includes everything from analog distribution amplifiers, SDI up converters, synchronizers, audio embedders, and converters to SDI fiber. It also includes the new MARBLE-V1 IP processor which has apps that will give you IP gateways and firewalls. The apps coming for MARBLE-V1 will allow you to grow into a fully IP installation, stay in SDI, or have a mix of the two.

The broadcast industry is moving to being fully IP, but this will take a number of years. In the meantime we all have to find the best way to work with a mixture of the old and the new.