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The IP future is now

By Neil Maycock, SVP strategic marketing, Grass Valley

Two years ago, it was clear that the industry recognised and understood how central IP was going to become to workflows and new, innovative ways of working – yet the market lacked the confidence to invest in the emerging technology. Now, we’re seeing a growing number of major broadcasters, OB companies and service providers forging ahead with adopting IP – or making concrete plans to do so within the coming months. This has been a significant change in quite a short amount of time, and provides some strong indicators about what’s to come as we move into 2019.

This strong IP investment and adoption momentum stems from a number of key areas. Grass Valley recently conducted research among nearly 750 media industry professionals to gauge the primary reasons for moving to IP, the most important technical considerations when looking to deploy IP infrastructure and the importance of standards. Unveiled last month, the 2018 Global IP Barometer study identified that open standards is the favoured approach, and that flexibility and cost are the primary factors driving the shift from SDI. These insights confirm a strong industry desire to migrate to IP; 69 per cent of respondents expect to have IP projects underway by mid-next year.

Unlocking its potential

The development of open standards has been central to the evolving IP story. Work on interoperability by industry bodies such as AIMS and AMWA have significantly contributed to this and the SMPTE’s effort with ST 2110 has gone a long way towards pushing IP migration forward. There is now a wide range of available products amongst vendors that offer native IP connectivity – from cameras to production switchers, processing to multiviewers, routers and video servers. As a result, broadcasters and media organisations can flexibly select best-of-breed solutions from multiple vendors with assurance that all the selected products will be compatible with one another. This option, compared to working with a single lead vendor, is the preferred route amongst media professionals by more than a two-to-one margin, further cementing the need for open standards and their inherent interoperability.

The business case

This shift to IP is rooted in the growing requirement for improved infrastructure flexibility. There is increased pressure on broadcasters and content providers to reach new audiences, while at the same time they face downward pressure on budgets. Flexible, agile workflows are not only critical to handling projects of any size – from the very simple to the most complex – but free up valuable time for production teams to spend on high value, creative tasks. IP makes this possible. The latest set of SMPTE standards deliver greater bandwidth efficiency, reliability, fast SDI-level performance, independent audio and video routing and clean switching. This combination makes for a compelling reason to seriously look at IP as a viable alternative to SDI, and is mirrored in the fact that 43 per cent of media professionals already have IP deployments in progress.

Any move to IP has to make sense for a broadcaster’s business – there is no right or wrong answer. For some broadcasters, adding IP to existing SDI infrastructure for a step-by-step transition could be a better option. This coupled with realistic budget scope and the desire to re-deploy existing SDI equipment has led 67 per cent of media professionals to favour a hybrid approach – at least in the short term. This model enables them to add some of the benefits of IP, while continuing to leverage existing SDI investments.

Upskilling to upscale

Training and upskilling media professionals to implement and manage IP will underpin the smooth transition to IP. Currently, 36 per cent of European media professionals believe they have the right skills in place to manage an IP migration, and a further 55 per cent believe they partially have the required skills. There is a clear opportunity to bridge this knowledge gap and the industry is actively addressing this, with over three quarters of media professionals dedicated to address this by training their current staff internally. Combining IP technical knowledge and skills with the already rich broadcast backgrounds will no doubt equip broadcasters and media organisations with even stronger, more capable engineers.

A strong response to a shifting mediascape

Broadcasters and media organisations are faced with a mediascape that is shifting at a faster rate than ever before. Consumers are now firmly in charge of how and when they engage with content, placing pressure on broadcasters to deliver new services in parallel with traditional linear content offerings. Existing broadcast infrastructures and production workflows have been specifically designed to meet the needs of linear content production and delivery. What broadcasters require to meet the challenges they face today are future-proof infrastructures and flexible, agile workflows. IP delivers the capability, agility and efficiency required to do exactly this.