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OPINION: Beware the magic bullet IP

For some time we will be in a ‘hybrid’ world where SDI and IP infrastructure co-exist, argues Chris Exelby, managing director, TSL Professional Products

In my IBC Daily article last year I talked about how the broadcast industry was at the very early stages of the move to IP-based infrastructures. Fast forward to IBC2015, and the Audio over IP (AoIP) and Video over IP (VoIP) revolution is now well and
truly here.

Ambitions in the broadcast community are set high. Some see it as a technology of ultra-convenience, or as a magic bullet for the bloated capital budgets that come with infrastructure and capacity upgrade — a high channel count transport system that can use existing IT provision.

There could also be an even brighter future where infrastructure flexibility with software-driven routing of audio, video and metadata, complete with all-encompassing synchronisation, is actually the main prize.

We are seeing broadcasters and facilities either refurbishing their existing technical centres or building from scratch, integrating their broadcast audio and video with IT networks to create building-wide data systems. Where expensive edit suites were required for audio correction and compliance, we can now achieve this through software programmes with simple user interfaces and channel mapping technology allowing users to simultaneously correct, analyse and report streams of audio material from a single workstation.

Gone are the days of heavy copper wire cables and over-kitted-out edit suites – the future is single cable, low latency audio delivery. It’s a leaner, more cost effective future.

However, we must be realistic about the challenges of practical implementation of AoIP and VoIP in the broadcast environment and we will be, for some time, in a ‘hybrid’ world where both platforms co-exist in the same infrastructure.

Generally a broadcaster’s IP transport will require a separate, managed network, with high enough bandwidth for audio and video, and capable of clean switching. Every point where you might have a camera really needs to have a 10Gb switch.

A busy area on a network might be the video mixer on a live production, which would certainly require a 40Gb or even a 100Gb switch. This is neither commonplace nor inexpensive technology, though audio-only is a different matter and its bandwidth requirements are tiny in comparison.

Also, moving to IP-based workflows necessitates the IT training and knowledge requirement that up until now has not been prevalent in the broadcast department. Today’s reality is that most implementations of AoIP are straight replacements for an existing technology such as MADI or SDI.

While there are advantages such as using metadata for remote control of mic pres, the broadcaster’s content-over-IP ideal — where audio and video share the same, synchronised, software-managed transport — is still in its infancy.

Audio and video over IP for broadcast is not really about cost. We don’t think implementation of IP-based infrastructure will be significantly cheaper. However, a convincing argument can be made on significant and very practical gains.

At TSL Products, we’re already embracing the future and working on next generation audio and video monitoring products to support all flavours of audio and video over IP. Our new range of AMUs address the move to AoIP, with models compatible with Dante, Ravenna, Hydra and MADI workflow requirements (the MADI option addresses video routing requirements as well as embracing single cable technology).

Come and have a chat about your IP requirements with us at IBC.