There has been a clear shift in production practices within the last year. Social distancing and travel restrictions have increased logistical complexities, and this has led to many people reviewing their practices and seeking new pathways within the broadcast chain. The fundamental objectives of broadcast have not changed; the industry needs to deliver high-value video to its customers, regardless of where the feed is coming from. The shift to IP has certainly picked up momentum so what have we learned from the increase in deployments?
Considerations of IP
IP contribution has been an obvious pathway for many broadcasters due to its minimal hardware and flexible workflows. Although these have been appealing factors for many organisations for years, Covid and social distancing policies have created more urgency to swap to flexible and low-maintenance distribution methods. IP contribution and distribution can be deployed quickly and from anywhere with a working internet connection. With live feeds being broadcast directly from guests’ homes, IP has been hugely valuable in enabling broadcasts to continue regardless of lockdowns.
However, some reluctance to move to IP in the past has been due to the associations with packet loss, which can be exacerbated by poor internet connections, and latency issues introduced from multiple processes throughout the broadcast chain. Equipment and technology protocols have since evolved to address these issues. One good example is the RIST protocol, which offers professional grade transport via IP. With confidence growing within IP workflows, we have seen broadcasters turning to the other key benefit of IP working: the cloud. Cloud working has certainly gone mainstream in the last year as it allows for remote working and processing. Previously there had been a nervousness of making this swap, however confidence has grown in this process now that people have seen that the technology is more than capable. Editing and production can be performed remotely, with the added benefit of the feed already being in the correct format due to its transportation over IP.
Choosing the right protocol
Transport protocols are an important part of constructing a reliable and robust transport network. There are many proprietary protocols however, often these are not financially feasible; paying per GB can result in the protocol costing more than the connectivity. The other commonly used protocol is SRT. Although it is a good protocol with its strengths lying in integration, it does struggle with high technical debt as it is based on a file transfer protocol. This makes it challenging for users to add features and debugging any issues is difficult.
RIST has been developed by industry professionals and adapted to suit real-life use. Its packet loss recovery ensures reliable contribution and distribution of content. During its development, emphasis was placed on ensuring low technical debt by using a standard streaming protocol as a basis. Low technical debt allows changes and edits to be made cleanly and simply, creating a more flexible and usable solution. A key pain point facing IP broadcasting has been the lack of interoperability, however RIST has bypassed this issue through creating a common industry specification for manufacturers and solution providers to adopt within their products.
Deploying RIST in the real world
We have seen various use cases for IP broadcasting recently – broadcasters of live events are benefitting hugely from this technology. There have been many examples of games going ahead at the last minute, therefore requiring a quick setup solution utilising the infrastructure already in place. Beyond quick turnarounds, companies have turned to IP to improve their networks. M2A Media responded to a request to increase resilience in the delivery of feeds for a global OTT platform. The customer carries hundreds of live events weekly and chose M2A Connect (a live IP transport product) to reduce the time required to acquire, route and distribute its content. M2A Connect enabled the customer to move from a legacy RTP+FEC workflow to more secure and reliable transport using RIST. With its interoperability, RIST delivers a flexible and resilient network to M2A Media’s customer.
We have also seen more long form studio broadcasts make the switch to IP. RIST member VideoFlow’s partner successfully implemented its DVP platform at Medi1’s TV broadcast network, allowing OTT and IPTV broadcasters to retrieve MEDI1 TV signals. To avoid the expense of satellite connections, MEDI1 used internet links to broadcast three TV services in HD which were then redistributed to end customers globally. Thanks to RIST, it has been able to transport secure and resilient feeds via IP for distribution at a fraction of the cost of satellite services.
Confidence is growing
With many more broadcasts being successfully delivered over IP, broadcasters are seeing that IP stands confidently next to traditional distribution methods. Interoperability was the obvious concern for many years; we knew that the technology had potential, but we needed to ensure that the larger infrastructure would transport content seamlessly between vendors and distributors. Protocols such as RIST have been crucial in delivering standards for manufacturers to adhere to across the board. We can now see that we are most definitely reaping the benefits; content is being sent over IP with minimal transportation issues.
With this in mind, I am confident that the world of IP broadcasting is set to expand. Customers are already benefiting from the reduced cost and increased flexibility brought through working the internet. As an industry, we continue to focus on interoperability and enhancing the services available to broadcasters to ensure that their needs can be met. As we see more and more uses of IP within various forms of broadcast, confidence will continue to grow and IP will solidify its position as a go-to mode of transport within the industry.