Sony expands on IP live production plans ahead of NAB

A key theme at NAB will be the growing ecosystem for live production over IP. For Sony, in particular, it is a core development path as it promotes its own version of IP networking which it hopes will become adopted as industry standard, mirroring the hand it played in bringing to market the Serial Digital Interface in the late 1980s.

“Our vision for IP Live is to eventually replace conventional SDI routers,” explained Paul Cameron, senior trainer of Professional AV Media for Sony in a webinar. “IP Live offers all the benefits of IP and all the benefits of SDI not only for local connections, but for transmission over longer distances.”

Sony seems to have co-opted the term ‘IP live’ although the company itself says the technology underlying it is better known as the Networked Media Interface. Perhaps this will become known in time as NMI. It’s also the name of a Sony-led group of broadcast tech manufacturers to have backed this particular AV over IP approach. Cisco Systems, Evertz, Imagine Communications, Matrox Rohde & Schwarz DVS and Vizrt are among them.

IP Live showcase

At NAB, Sony is concreting some of the IP Live products it demonstrated in prototype last IBC. These include “crushing” the functionality of the core Low Latency Video Codec (LLVC) chipset to fit a 3U rack mounted system with options to fit nine SDI-to-IP convertor boards per rack.

According to Cameron: “This will allow broadcasters to build an IP Live island in their live production system, emulating what happened in normal production (where edit bays of file-based workflow were surrounded by coaxial camera links and SDI routing).”

The LLVC is based on the same codec used in Sony studio cameras and supports 4K 60p transmission over 10 Gbps Ethernet. The creation of a SMPTE Registered Disclosure Document for the codec is in process. Further, Sony will show more of its products – and presumably those of third party adherents to the Network Media Interface – with an IP connection.

“Systems cameras, switchers, servers, monitors will be fitted with standard RJ45 connectors to allow direct connection into the IP Live system,” said Cameron.

Sony is also bringing out a System Manager which will allow network management and routing from one central point. It will feature topological views of the network, list views and cross-point views. Expect all of these to ship around IBC2015.

Cameron admitted the product details were “sketchy”, but proceeded to paint several use case scenarios.

In a traditional live studio environment there would be one router sitting between lines in and lines out for transmission. “It requires an awful lot of cabling which is difficult to set-up, difficult to take down and are inflexible in terms of technology and from the stand point of contracts typically used to lease them,” he said.

By contrast with IP everything goes through a central IP switch. The amount of cabling drops significantly and changing links or contracts is much straightforward.

In a typical current 4K OB situation, he continued, the truck would be based on a SDI router with 4 lines required to connect it with each 4K camera. The amount of cabling is complex and adds to the weight of the vehicle. Adding another server is a complicated procedure, he said.

“With IP the control of the whole system is from a central IP switch. Each camera requires just one cable. The whole set-up is much simpler and arguably more cost-effective. For remote production of minor league sports events, live IP means the ability to control cameras from a central point reducing the number of staff and kit on-site.”

Some challenges remain, he suggested, notably the increase in bandwidth from HD to UHD “which we do need to watch”. A single 100 Gbps link would allow for two 4K streams, he said.

The NXL IP55, which was Sony’s first foray into live IP production, cannot be used for 4K. It has been popular with certain broadcasters, Sony said, not least because it transmits functions such as audio, intercom and tally, along with multiple HD video streams over a IP Local Area Network, but it is “not fully Networked Media Interface compliant,” said Cameron.

Latency is another big issue. “If you connect a camera to a monitor you expect to see the picture instantly,” he said.

Sony has adopted SMPTE ST 2022-6 and ST 2022-7, a technology which transports uncompressed HD-SDI over IP, although Cameron would only commit to saying the performance was fast and that “we are working on it”.

Networked Media Interface features

The chief benefits of the Networked Media Interface were summed up as:

– The ability for broadcasters to use COTS (commercial off the shelf) hardware such as standard IT servers, rather than bespoke and expensive broadcast specific ones;

– Less hardware and cabling infrastructure;

– Perfect synchronization: Working with SMPTE 2059, a precision time protocol that permits switching of different devices over IP to achieve broadcast quality IP genlocking;

– Bi-directional cabling: One reason for fewer cables;

– High fault tolerance: Sony calls it Hitless Failover;

– Scalable and extensible: IP products and networks can be modified easily and the system reconfigured far quicker than using conventional AV gear;

– Realtime monitoring: Operators located centrally can monitor and tune the traffic across the network;

– Analysis: Can be done much more easily with IP tools as can the scheduling of tasks such as updating hardware.

At the end of the webinar Sony polled those in attendance. Over half it seems were still learning about IP technologies and how it impacts their business; 28% expressed that they were not ready for Networked Media Interface technology; while 14% said they were early adopters and intended to be at the forefront of IP Live production.

The next stop after NAB for Sony in this area is a follow-up webinar on May 9, then a programme of online education before face-to-face training on new product around IBC.

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