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AV-over-IP workflows suitable for applications of all sizes

Earlier this year, TVU Networks, a video-over-IP technology developer headquartered in Mountain View, CA supplied a number of its solutions to two Portuguese stadiums, Estádio da Luz and Estádio José Alvalade, both in Lisbon. In May, for the first time, both facilities broadcast football games using 5G.

At Estádio da Luz, Benfica TV added seven 5G cameras to its traditional 18-camera setup. These were positioned in spaces near the goal netting, on a walkway at the top of the stadium, in the tunnel leading from the locker rooms to the turf, and beside the players’ benches—spaces inaccessible to manned, wired cameras. A combination of four TVU One 5G mobile transmitters and three 5G mobile phones featuring the TVU Anywhere app enabled the delivery of video to four dual-channel TVU transceivers to an onsite production truck, which then streamed and broadcast the signals around the world.

TVI, a Portuguese broadcaster, leveraged 5G technology at the Estádio José Alvalade with a roaming reporter and a holographic player interview. Equipped with a 5G mobile phone (again loaded with the TVU Anywhere app) and a TVU One mobile transmitter, the reporter was able to send signals to a TVU transceiver housed in an onsite production van. A holographic image of footballer Sebastián Coates was sent to a TVU transceiver via a TVU One 5G device to the TVI studio, where the show host conducted a live interview with Coates’ hologram.

“With 5G, our network capacity can handle a far greater volume of data within the stadium, allowing us to offer a superior experience to fans in the stands and those watching from home,” said Felipe Montesinos Gomes, head of sponsorship and activation at NOS, the Portuguese telecom behind the deployment. “Those in the stands can choose the angle from which to see the game or activate one of the broadcast cameras, among other more immersive activities. We’re lucky to have found in TVU Networks a partner that can provide the level of transmission reliability over IP and technical support we require for such large-scale innovation.”

AVoIP technology. “The whole concept of what we call broadcast—I’m sending one thing out to everyone—is going away,” said Jared Timmins, senior vice president of solutions at TVU Networks. “Now I can create different experiences for different components of my organization or my customer base with the same technology, and I can do all of that in the cloud for less than what it would cost me to build a control room. I just don’t think there’s a way you can build that in hardware on-premise anymore—not those kinds of experiences.”

One of the issues the pandemic highlighted is the need to create highly sophisticated systems that are easy for non-technical people to use. Almost every live broadcast production, for example, featured guests who were quarantining and connecting via video stream. Since they weren’t in the studio, it was up to them to configure their tech themselves. “We have to make sure that we select the tools that allow talent to become the new operator—they’re self-contained, and they’re self-serve,” Timmins said. “Even though it may be super complex on the engineering side, none of that complexity should be felt by the user—especially when that’s not necessarily their area of focus.”

Timmins believes that this will continue to be a priority post-pandemic, mainly because when talent participates remotely, production-related travel costs are significantly reduced. “I think the savings has been realized and I don’t think we’re going to go back to the old cost models,” he said. “I don’t think the economics of it are going to work anymore.”

The benefits of AVoIP workflows aren’t reserved exclusively for large-scale broadcast productions, however. At the Hilton Greenville in Greenville, NC, Security Automation Sound Services (SASS), a local systems integration firm, was charged with upgrading the AV systems in the hotel’s divisible ballrooms and conference spaces that are used for corporate meetings, small conventions, and private events. Stephen Gardner, president of SASS, explained that an AVoIP architecture was the best solution for this deployment due to the variety of spaces involved, and the distances between some locations. It was also necessary to provide an infrastructure that would be easy to expand. With all of this in mind, he selected Atlona’s OmniStream AV-over-IP distribution solution in conjunction with the company’s Velocity IP-enabled AV control platform.

“We wanted to establish a flexible input and output strategy that we could easily scale,” Gardner said. “That’s not really possible with a legacy matrixed system, where you are limited by fixed I/O counts and dedicated endpoints. I come from the analog world, but the AV universe is all rapidly moving to IP. We don’t want our end users to be stuck.”

Centralized Process
Will Golde, director of channel development at PTZOptics, a manufacturer of NDI pan/tilt/zoom cameras headquartered in Downingtown, PA, noted that IP-based workflows also facilitate device management. “If a tech manager [is responsible for] 200 rooms and they all have 17 components and 47 cables, their entire life is going to be spent just chasing cable and troubleshooting what’s broken in all 200 rooms at any given time,” he illustrated. An IP workflow centralizes this process, allowing for remote management. “In larger facilities, tech managers don’t have to worry about the multitudes of components and potential break points.”

Simplify Tasks
While AVoIP workflows may simplify certain tasks, AV-centric specialists who don’t understand IP run into roadblocks when communicating with their colleagues in IT about access, management, and AV signal delivery, observed Will Waters, head of global product management at NewTek, an IP video technology developer headquartered in San Antonio. “Arguably, it is this struggle that is the true inhibitor to IP adoption in the AV world,” he admitted. “Bandwidth calculations and concerns are usually the area where the most friction can arise, and that is where NewTek suggests AV tech managers work to develop their skills.” He said that understanding of how IP works and what it takes to ensure its real-time performance is necessary to achieve success. “Common skills that are part of any successful AV professional involve the configuration of layer-3 managed switches, understanding and determining the quality of service and class of service settings, and general knowledge of the protocol in use.”

That said, Waters encourages tech managers to explore AVoIP and develop their knowledge as they go. “Ultimately, the AV world will arrive at a similar place to the IT world with the cross-compatibility of devices,” he said. “Those devices should be vast, and the best protocols will be in use based on the need. The best thing to do is to just get started. You will learn along the way.”

AVoIP: Not for the Standard Network
In some scenarios, organizations deploy IP video onto their existing network, which also handles data and communications. Matt Davis, director of technology and information systems at PTZOptics, warned that this can lead to issues.

“We highly suggest that people give [AVoIP] its own network,” Davis said. “Separate that traffic. It should be its own production network, if you can do it, and it will save you down the line.” He adds that IoT devices should also be on a separate network from the one dedicated to AVoIP. AV Network

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