I didn’t plan to be an IP system designer when I grew up. In fact, I spent the first decade of my career in live operations positions, from field grip to camera operator to master control. You may have seen me on the field, years ago, carrying coils of triax and precariously juggling a few coffees.

The demands of live production have always been intense and immediate. Base requirements can change dramatically from one event to the next. The potential for so many eyes on a show produced in real time is sometimes a rush ― and sometimes just plain nerve-racking. I was keenly aware of these demands during my 10 years in the field. 

When you’re supporting live events for national and international viewers, it’s always good to understand the required workflows of “the show,” as well as the technical capabilities of the video system. Today, I use the valuable experience I gained in live production to architect IP and hybrid video systems that work in the real world. And I’ll let you in on a secret: SMPTE ST 2110 has made my job a whole lot easier.

Simplified Operations
It’s a beautiful thing anytime we can simplify operations while providing the same ― or superior ― quality of experience for our audience. And SMPTE ST 2110 does exactly that. 

The ST 2110 standard was written to leverage the flexibility of the IP space and streamline workflows at the same time. IP packetization allows more uncompressed video signals to pass over single strands of fiber ― and over greater distances without degradation ― than is possible with SDI. In the real world, this fiber optimization, along with the low latency that accompanies uncompressed media, has proven ideal for “distributed campus” video systems serving a variety of audiences. 

For Texas A&M, this means centralized production of live sporting events from seven distant arenas that host as many as 110 events a year. By moving to IP, 12th Man Productions, the university’s sports broadcast and post facility, says they’ve at minimum doubled what they were able to do in terms of signal capacity between venues on the same amount of fiber.

North Point Ministries has linked multiple houses of worship across metropolitan Atlanta via ST 2110 to create a shared, immersive experience for a large community of worshippers. Like Texas A&M, the ministry’s production team has also been able to double capacity of their existing fiber, and their operators are able to easily route any signal from any location to any location. 

In North Carolina, NC State’s DELTA team utilizes ST 2110 for live technical support of distance learning college courses supporting almost 50,000 students, providing rapid resolution to nine classrooms over fiber runs of 10 kilometers. 

 

diagram showing the campus connections at NC State DELTA

 

Superior Audience Experience
Handles for control and manipulation of content are also important in live production environments, whether to correct issues or make creative adjustments. SMPTE ST 2110 provides separate multicast essences for audio, video, and ancillary data, enabling any audio to be married with any video ― just as live production was done in SDI systems. 

But ST 2110 takes this a step further. With the ST 2110-40 data essences, closed captioning, SCTE, and other metadata can also be routed independently. Using a modern broadcast routing control system, Virtual Workflows and Virtual Patch Points can be used to provide branches of a program output, ensuring the proper audio and closed captioning are married to the program video for each audience.

graphics showing how the three different types of SMPTE flow towards IP

 

In addition to breakaway routing flexibility, the SMPTE ST 2110-20 uncompressed video essence allows for any resolution within 32k x 32k and any aspect ratio in between. This means an ST 2110-20 multicast stream could contain any video resolution from SD to HD to UHD and beyond. Maybe you route just a small logo graphic, or the combined video for a “wrap-around” screen. SMPTE ST 2110 lets creatives do more – resulting in a better audience experience.

arrow diagram showing the difference between SDI and SMPTE 2110

Imagine partnered with Switzerland’s tpc for one of the industry’s earliest ST 2110 deployments: a fully IP, UHD HDR outside broadcast production truck. With a 100G COTS infrastructure, tpc’s truck can support UHD matrices of over 1,000 x 1,000 (or 4,000 x 4,000 HD). These UHD streams move through the IP fabric as single-raster video streams, rather than quadrants or legs of video, simplifying routing and operations. 

Today’s 8K ST 2110 systems can use COTS IP infrastructure in the same way ― it’s just a matter of provisioning bandwidth to move the content you need. And bandwidth can be found in 100G (and 400G!) options. Even with large UHD and HDR systems in the field since 2018, we have only scratched the surface of the engineering and creative options within ST 2110. 

And speaking as a former field grip, I’m sure nobody will miss carrying hundreds of pounds of coaxial cables and distribution amplifiers between events.  

*******

If you’re thinking, that all sounds great, Cassidy. But with IP, how do I know what’s on my wire? Stay tuned for my next blog ….

July 22, 2020 - By Cassidy Phillips
VP Networking Solutions Architecture

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