Picking up the IP transition vibe at NAB 2017

As I blogged about prior to this year’s NAB, the video industry is rallying around the AIMS-endorsed video over IP networks (SMPTE ST 2110) standard.  AIMS, which stands for Alliance for IP Media Solutions, is a non-profit trade alliance comprised of industry leaders (including Tektronix) with the goal “to eliminate fragmentation and maximize hardware and software interoperability through a comprehensive, ubiquitous set of IP broadcast standards.”

There’s no question that the IP video transition benefits greatly from the emergence of a dominant standard. Nothing delays the adoption of new video technologies more than competing and often incompatible standards. Fortunately, that’s not happening here.

The IP Showcase at the NAB Show in Las Vegas this year pulled together SMPTE 2110-compliant gear from more than 30 participating companies to demonstrate interoperability and fault tolerance. Remarkably, it all worked, even given the complex logistics involved with setting up a large video network infrastructure on the show floor.

In case you missed it, the demo involved both transport and receive of live content using an IP standards-based infrastructure. One of the highlights was the use of two laser beams to showcase dual stream redundancy. People could block either of the lasers and one stream would disappear, but the remaining stream took over and content continued to play back. The only way to break it was to block both beams.

The IP Showcase network incorporated network switches from three different vendors. The backbone of the network was running a 40 Gb/s network with 10 Gb/s links running to most of the devices. Tektronix equipment played an important role in the IP Showcase AIMS demo with our PRISM Hybrid IP/SDI Media Analysis Platform used for monitoring content and confirming that packets were getting through the network unscathed. It was also used to help set-up and troubleshoot the demo. Our SPG8000A Hybrid Master Sync and PTP Grandmaster Clock Generator was incorporated in the timing synchronization network as well.

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Tektronix applications engineer Karl Kuhn demonstrates PRISM at NAB Show 2017

Despite having an obscure location in the back of a hall, the IP Showcase drew a steady stream of visitors according to Tektronix applications engineer Mike Waidson, who spent many hours there as the Tek representative chatting with broadcasters about their interest in IP video. So, what did he learn?

Mike reports that there was essentially a 50/50 split between people who already knew about the SMPTE 2110 standard and wanted to see it in action and those who were eager to learn more about IP video and audio networks. Regardless of where they fell in the learning curve, most people saw IP-based live production workflows as the future. But in the short-term, they are looking at limited deployments where it makes the most sense, such as in a new facility. What this means, of course, is that hybrid IP/SDI infrastructures will be common for many years to come.

Still, there was a strong sense of inevitability about the transition to an all IP infrastructure. As Mike learned, broadcasters are excited about the prospect of greater flexibility and future readiness in a fast paced production environment. Broadcasters already use an IP infrastructure for their file-based workflows and streaming services. “Currently SDI sits in the middle of this infrastructure. But at the end of the day, everything is going to be moving over an IP network from file to file to transport of video, audio, and data,” Mike explains. “With the SMPTE 2110 standard coming together, people are definitely interested. The excitement is there.”

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