Sony’s Ohnishi discusses 4K and 8K IP OBs, interop and remote production

Sony’s Toshihiko Ohnishi speaking at the launch of the new IP Live Studio at Pinewood

Sony’s Toshihiko Ohnishi speaking at the launch of the new IP Live Studio at Pinewood

“One of the main challenges that we face in the uptake of IP live is interoperability,” which is why Sony has taken a completely open approach and has joined the AMWA’s advanced Networked Media Incubator project, Toshihiko Ohnishi, deputy president, of Sony’s Professional Solutions and Services Group, told SVG Europe.

“We want to go beyond simply talking about interoperability. We want to show it in action. Like the case of the TV Globo 4K IP Live truck being used this summer in Brazil,” said Ohnishi, speaking at the launch of Sony’s new IP Live Studio at Pinewood Film Studios.

TV Globo “has first determined to transform the infrastructure to IP, particularly in the sports production environment. That’s why they jump on Sony’s IP technology; probably they can’t do it based on the 2022-6 standard, because they attach importance to switching as well as to scalability, to be able to capture 4K or even beyond that,” he said.

“TV Globo’s request was such that the system has to be scalable, not just limited to low bitrate content like HD, but to have at least four or five 4K cameras to be captured. Also, they needed to have this system to be interoperable throughout the OB van and studio environment.” The truck had to be interoperable with systems from other manufacturers, such as Imagine Communications.

“Now that TV Globo has the world’s first 4K IP OB van, they are operating Sony switchers with Imagine accessories and the 4K cameras flawlessly. It is already in action.”

“We could not have achieved the TV Globo project without interoperability”, although Sony does now offer an end-to-end IP system, because the truck is not just built around only Sony products, added Norbert Paquet, Strategic Marketing Manager, Sony Professional Europe, in charge of live production.

The van was built for the summer games, with such sports as volleyball, where there is a lot of interest in Brazil, the main focus. “TV Globo was most concerned about the latency, but they approved. It is working to their expectation,” said Ohnishi, as it uses Sony’s LLVC (low latency video codec) compression, which has been put forward for standardisation by SMPTE.

“People have to apply some sort of codec,” added Olivier Bovis, Head of AV Media, Sony Professional Europe. LLVC “is a very visually lossless and a very low latency codec [less than half a frame].” It has been used by Sony in its HDC cameras for several years, between the camera and the CCU, “so it doesn’t generate any workflow issues in a live environment.”

8K for NHK for 2020

Sony is also working with NHK on 8K trucks for 2020, and NHK took delivery of the world’s second 8K OB (and the world’s first 8K IP OB) last year, which will also be used in Brazil. Sony had to develop an 8K IP switcher for that truck.

“Scalability is the reason why we came up with our own NMI [Network Media Interface] standard,” said Ohnishi. “It is going much beyond what the current industry standard can capture. If you go beyond 4K, of course, you need bigger bandwidth than the 10Gbps of the Ethernet.”

Sony uses very mild compression, to allow two streams of UHD to go through 10Gbps, but 8K would require further compression to use Ethernet — or the use of other transport mechanisms. For NHK the 8K truck uses multiple Ethernet cables via NMI, but this is still a big saving on cabling and weight compared to the number of SDI cables that would have been required.

Pushing the boundaries further, the Poznań Supercomputing and Networking Center in Poland has installed a unique system to do IP-based 8K 3D production as a reference laboratory and experimental space for UHD technology. It has built a 17,382km 100Gbps test optical loop, which generated 85ms delay, making it possible to simulate real applications of 8K 3D transmission, which consumed about 30Gbps bandwidth.

IP can be cost effective

Sony hasn’t done many IP-based installations in sport, with greater take up so far in news, with a multi-site installation in Eastern Europe and adoption by ITV in the UK. It is working on a few OB vans, particularly for UHD in Japan, but can’t talk about them yet.

Although IP may not save money, at least on a like-for-like basis, Ohnishi insists that it does make sense when you consider future expansion, whether going beyond HD/UHD or higher frame rates. “That requires a hell of a lot of cost, but compared with the total cost of changing the entire system, IP is a more cost effective way.”

Sony is soon to start delivery of its new high frame rate camera, the HDC-4800, and associated server, “which can capture 4K at eight times speed — 480 frames per second. Until you see it, you don’t believe the quality of the picture. The quality is not deteriorated,” said Ohnishi. It can also do 16x HD and has huge data requirements, but the new PWS-4500 four-channel server can capture that speed and play it out directly as it records, without having to download the data for replay.

“We started this IP development for the studio or sports production environment, which we think is really most challenging, in terms of the latency and clean switching, and metadata all the way, and also the scalability needed. It is a very challenging field,” said Ohnishi.

Previously, the industry has focused most on the media transport layer, but now issues such as timing and clean switching need to be addressed. “The standards, like 2022-6, emerged from the contribution environment, and other standards emerged from totally asynchronous IT data centre environment,” he said. “Clean switching is very important in the production environment.”

Remote production = lower budget production

Sony demonstrated remote production capabilities at NAB. “Now, a customer having IP-based switchers, say a 3M/E sitting in front of you, and maybe a 2M/E sitting in London [or anywhere], when the need arises that 2M/E switcher needs to be 3M/E, because each component has an IP address, in theory you can utilise it to scale up and down,” said Ohnishi.

“One of the benefits of remote production will be the accessibility to lower budget production for sports,” added Bovis. Premium sports will still require the big OB trucks, which can gain scalability from IP (in terms of adding M/E banks or cameras), but for rolling out remote production for less important games one of the most important considerations will be establishing the connectivity at the remote location, and how long that takes.

“How quickly do you connect from one end to the central gallery, for example, reliably and effectively, and how do you transfer the setup? I don’t see major challenges with that beyond adapting the workflow,” said Bovis.


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