There is no denying that IT technology has become an integral part of the television production landscape. Communications protocols and control layers of video equipment already speak IP, and it is only a matter of time before the video essence moves through the plant on an IP backbone.
What is also certain is that the evolution to an IP-only video plant will not happen overnight. Like nearly all technology transitions, this one has no timetable – no mandated deadline. Video creators and providers will move at their own pace and nearly all will operate in a hybrid environment – a mix of IP and older transport technologies – for the foreseeable future.
Regardless of how far along you are in the transition to IP, or if you have yet to get started, you will want to make your migration as painless as possible. What follows are the five most important things to keep in mind as you plot out your path to an all-IP video plant.
IP is Inevitable
Time has a knack for turning the unthinkable into the inevitable. A television in every home, pocket-size computers and the staying power of rock & roll were all considered longshots at one time or another. And just a few years ago, brash assertions that TV plants would one day be all-IP were met with eye-rolls and a chorus of “ain’t gonna’ happen.” The benefits of IP, though, are just too compelling for video creators and providers to ignore.
For starters, as more and more content enters the plant as IP, routing these signals without conversion offers significant cost savings. That is already the case with cable headends and monitoring situations where IP content is the delivery method of choice.
Even if IP does not figure into your current operations, it simply makes good business sense to keep tabs on this fast-moving technology.
Evolution, not Revolution
Just as the analog-to-digital transition has been going on for well over a decade, the transition to IP will happen over an extended timeframe. Just the other day I visited a broadcast video facility that uses 1-inch, C format analog tape as playback-to-air on a daily basis. Since all-IP build-outs from scratch will remain rarities for the next few years, digital baseband technologies will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Baseband and IP will Coexist
Much like hybrid analog/digital systems existed for many years and hybrid standard-definition/high-definition systems exist today, IP and baseband architectures will coexist for quite some time. Current baseband routing infrastructure includes, among multiple other things, audio and video breakaway routing, frame synchronization, audio mux/demux and multiviewer processing. In order for IP routing to achieve 100% penetration, these processing functionalities need to be included within the IP domain.
Seamless integration of an IP infrastructure into a baseband video plant is going to be the order of the day for an extended time period. Intelligent tie-line management that enables operators to route any source to any destination regardless of its format, transport type or connectivity, will be necessary. For example, a news operation will need an intelligent routing infrastructure to take an IP signal coming from an IRD and convert it to baseband before delivering it to the production switcher.
IP is Proven Technology
Some of the largest tech companies in the world have been building and perfecting IP-based equipment for the past decade or so. As you migrate your video plant to IP, it only makes sense to leverage low-cost, off-the-shelf IP routers and other equipment designed to move IP packets in the most cost-efficient manner. Proprietary, IP-based video routing systems will simply not be able to keep pace with the momentum of today’s IT industry.
It is not a Race
Some video creators and providers may accelerate their transition to IP for competitive reasons or to realize operational cost efficiencies. But there is no all-IP finish line or prize awaiting those who get there first. Every video plant faces unique competitive and financial challenges and all should move toward an all-IP future at a comfortable pace, partnering with a trusted technology supplier that can help you meet today’s challenges – and whatever tomorrow may bring.
The wide acceptance of IP video technology has paved the way for this transition. But like any large-scale change, the migration to IP will be unique to all video creators and providers – and not something that happens overnight.