SVG Europe Sit-Down: Axon Digital Design’s Peter Schut with thoughts on IP and forthcoming challenges

Axon Digital Design CTO Peter Schut

Axon describes itself as one of a rare breed of pioneering technology companies. Over the last 30 years, it has grown from a base in the Netherlands to become a global leader in broadcast network infrastructure that is trusted by broadcasters, network operators and service providers. Its mission is to develop forward-thinking technologies that anticipate and satisfy the needs of customers – to save time, mitigate risks, dramatically reduce capital and operational costs and deliver competitive advantage. SVG Europe’s conversation with CTO Peter Schut, allowed him to explain more…

What solutions did visitors to your stand at NAB want to discuss primarily?

The main topics discussed by our visitors at NAB were IP control and monitoring, IP multiviewing and IP processing/conversion. 

Last year you said that you expected growth in UHD would accelerate when the situation around HDR became clearer. Has that happened in the way you anticipated?

We have experienced a great deal of interest in HDR, with many customers wanting to experiment and evaluate this. We have also seen many of these customers come to the realisation and conclusion that doing HDR properly throughout the entire broadcast chain is not easy and that there are many ways to get it wrong. As a result, we are still waiting to see a larger scale roll-out of HDR, and this is also impacting the roll-out of UHD in general.

Has the transition to IP been as rapid as you expected?

The adoption of IP is accelerating now the standard for S2110 has been set. The fact that this standard was not completed – and also confusion about S2022 vs S2110 – has caused a slow-down. Another important element in the whole equation is the fact that, due to the time it has taken, customers are now more and more requiring UHD support on IP, which means that products have to be 25Gbps rather than 10Gbps. This is a new technology, so implementation in products takes time and customers tend to wait for these new generations of IP UHD compatible products to come on stream.

Along the same lines, how has the increase in remote production impacted your solutions?

IP and remote production go hand in hand, so the faster the transition to IP takes place, the more remote production applications will see the light

Explain, please, your 4K and IP multiview solutions.

Axon has a wide range of solutions for UHD, IP and multiviewing. In the Synapse modular range, Axon offers a full set of SDI based UHD modules, both 4-wire and 12G, focussed at HDR conversion, up/down conversion, frame-syncing, distribution, etc. The Synapse range also features IP conversion – gateway – functionality for HD applications, supporting all the relevant standards: S2022, S2110, S2059, AES67. Last, but not least, Axon recently released a new modular IP/SDI multiviewer solution based on Synapse that is very flexible and very low-latency, so ideal for live production.

Later this year Axon will release a revolutionary and powerful platform (Neuron) that will support IP UHD natively for various applications – gateway, frame-sync, embedding, up/down conversion, and so on – and can handle 32x1080p or 8xUHD in one module. This platform will also feature a UHD, or mixed UHD/HD, multi-headed multiviewer version that will be available in early 2019.

What are the challenges facing you for the next 12 months? 

As is typical for a high-tech industry, the most important challenge is to bring the newest technology and latest products to market. Customers in our industry want the latest and greatest, which keeps us on our toes to deliver that to them as fast as we can.

Can you tell us a little more about the upgrades to the CTV OB fleet, please?

CTV Outside Broadcast, a subsidiary of Euro Media Group, completed the refurbishment and technical upgrade of three of its large flagship OB units to Ultra HD, featuring Axon Synapse 4K signal processing, infrastructure, control and monitoring as standard. After the successful debut of OB2 and OB11 in 2017, delivering landmark 4K events such as the Isle of Wight Festival – a European first in entertainment broadcasting – and international test cricket for Sky, the refit project is now complete on OB4 and the trio is busy on the road providing HD and Ultra-HD production capabilities for contracted and ad-hoc assignments. 

CTV worked closely with Axon and has relied on Synapse signal processing across its fleet for a number of years – a choice based on its proven reliability, scalability and design that is 4K-capable as a matter of course. 

OB4 was the third vehicle to undergo a complete technology refit and the unit went into action to deliver Sky’s 4K coverage of the PDC World Darts Championship. The triple-expanding-side OB features 24 Sony 4K cameras, a 160-input Sony MVS-8000X mixer plus six EVS server positions. It is supported by Axon 4K signal processing and 3G glue with Axon’s 4K production tools providing up and down converters that fit in the same form factor as the 3GB/s modules. Axon’s Cerebrum monitoring and control platform is at the heart of the operation, running three UHD galleries through an easy-to-use graphical interface and custom-built panels of 42 LED buttons.

In addition to regular live sports coverage, CTV has captured original entertainment shows in UHD HDR commissioned by Netflix.

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