IP has been the core foundation for networking and data transfer for decades. In the wider world, the vast majority of files, audio and video, all routinely utilize IP. Even in the broadcast world, there are few places where IP has not already taken over.
IP video in recent years has been boosted hugely by the proliferation of devices capable of playing back video content and by improvements in fixed and mobile bandwidth. These developments have led existing non-IP-based video service providers, including both cable and satellite TV providers, as well as public and commercial broadcasters and other content providers, to develop and implement IP video services, either to complement existing pay- and free-TV services by delivering anytime on-demand and anywhere multiscreen, multidevice offerings, or to extend their base by appealing to new user segments.
The critical new factor in the IP discussion is live multicamera video – the last bastion of baseband within the industry. As any video professional knows, with live production, there is no margin for error. Live video content must be transported with ultra-low latency, broadcast-level reliability, and zero compromise in quality.
Video pros are wary of rushing in. Add to this the fact that most video and broadcast businesses have significant existing investments in legacy technologies such as SDI, and it is easy to see that no one is simply going to replace their current infrastructure to embrace IP. But the fact is with today’s technology, service providers do not need to rip and replace anything.
With live multicamera IP video, however, the available opportunities really do address many of the critical pain-points video pros and broadcasters struggle with every day – increased infrastructure complexity, demand for more, more, and more content, and shrinking operational budgets. In reality, IP is a very practical, highly pragmatic solution.
Simply put, with IP, service providers can move to a truly interconnected production environment, an environment where users can connect virtually anything to anything across their network. Fundamentally, it means the user is no longer limited by inflexible point-to-point connections. Rather than being restricted to the cameras in a specific studio and the edited feeds coming in from elsewhere, users will be able to natively access any camera in any facility that is connected to the network. This radically increases potential capacity without resulting in an inflexible nest of expensive point-to-point infrastructure. There is no need for workarounds, no need to move kit or patch connections, no need to be constrained by I/O ports.
Availability for Live IP Video
Video accounted for 73 percent of all consumer internet traffic in 2016. This will continue to rise, and will be 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic, up 31 percent, by 2021, according to Cisco’s prediction. One of the bigger drivers will be live video. This will be 13 percent of the internet video traffic by 2021, still lower than other kinds of streamed video; it is growing, up 15-fold between 2016 and 2021, representing the biggest growth opportunity for new entrants and creators compared to the long tail of recorded and existing content.
Before now, live broadcast-quality video over IP has been simply unavailable to many in the industry. The kind of equipment required meant significant changes to core broadcast infrastructure. The choice in solutions has been limited as many manufacturers have been slow to innovate. Now, however, live IP video is hitting critical mass. The core foundations are in place for reliable, broadcast-quality delivery. The latest equipment offers widespread interoperability with the wider video ecosystem. There is now meaningful choice in how user can realize real-world benefits right now.
As a core IT standard used the world over, IP means users can utilize standard off-the-shelf components. This is a critical element as it frees users from being held hostage to the price premiums demanded by traditional proprietary systems. For video professionals staring down the barrel of seemingly ever-decreasing budgets, the cost efficiencies on both equipment and more streamlined, centralized workflows is a compelling argument for change. Ultimately, the result is that with IP there is greater flexibility, at lower cost, all with in-built high availability
With such clear tangible benefits, the move to IP would appear to be an easy decision to make. But with any new technology, there will always be questions that need answering before moving forward. Live multicamera IP video is no different.
IP delivers powerful new capabilities that remove restrictive limitations, lower costs, accelerate deployment times, and enable valuable new workflows. Better still, these are capabilities that forward-thinking businesses can begin to take advantage of right now. Using current SDI equipment with a hybrid-ready IP solution enables service providers to realize the real-word benefits IP offers. This lays the foundations for fully embracing the live multicamera IP future.
SDI and IP
Most broadcasters and video producers have already put in years of investments in traditional SDI-based systems. They do not want to abandon this investment before that equipment has delivered the maximum ROI that can be achieved. So any approach that demands a whole replacement of valuable existing kit is going to encounter resistance. With today’s hybrid-ready systems existing SDI equipment can not only coexist with IP, it can also deliver greater value as a result. As such, many businesses contain a range of legacy equipment that is still perfectly serviceable and fit for purpose.
This will typically mean that it is based around an essentially SDI-focused infrastructure. So any operation making the move to IP is likely to want to do it in stages. First, they need to get used to new ways of working. Second, they need to get their people to fully exploit the opportunities IP offers. And lastly, they need to release investment to pay for these new capabilities.
With IP solutions, service providers can easily move to a hybrid environment. These systems feature both SDI and IP connectivity. It means that not only can a facility continue to use their existing SDI equipment; they can now make it available right across the IP network.
IP’s Next Frontier
The broadcast and production industry is at the beginning of a historic shift to IP environments. The real benefits of an IP environment come from virtualizing live production technology – video production servers, switchers, and camera processing.
One of the last big barriers to improved media workflow point has been the inability to virtualize input and output for point-to-point signals like SDI. Those systems remain bound to the physical interface, which has prevented advances in the live domain. Support of IP standards and new production tools will progressively eliminate those physical connections, thus enabling a new age of virtualization.
Virtualized processes are already in use today, particularly for business systems, control layer tools, and file-based processing. These functions of the management and control plane are deployed on standard data center appliances driving live video plane equipment. Through functional separation – decoupling network control and forwarding functions – network virtualization and automation, users entirely control traffic from a centralized console. Enter the virtualized production model. IP enabled, software defined, COTS hardware driven, and increasingly paving the way for migration toward the cloud.
For all the talk about the move to IP and virtualization – more flexibility, streamlined production, and economy of scale – there are larger market forces at work. Broadcasters and content owners must face changing media consumption habits. In this new world of non-broadcast channels, the need to spin production workflows up or down on demand is critical. And it must be done in a way that is fast and cost effective. This means a move away from infrastructures of purpose-built hardware. While the transition to complete IP-based systems will not come cheap, the long-term cost benefits like game-changing flexibility are tremendous.