SVG Europe Forecasts: Mo Goyal, Director of Product Marketing, Evertz
In the latest in an occasional series of prediction-led artists looking at the future of sports production technology, Evertz director of product marketing Mo Goyal mulls over the continuing adoption of IP workflows, the growth of the ASPEN community, and the broader challenges that still confront the industry as it journeys towards this great new era of interoperability…
Evertz sees a number of continuing trends for IP production in live sports. The first trend is the deployment of Ultra HD in stadiums to enhance the fan experience. As stadiums begin to refresh their technology with bigger displays and Ultra HD cameras, an IP infrastructure will be required to distribute these signals throughout the facility. With the additional bandwidth requirements of Ultra HD 4K (with high dynamic range, high frame rate and wide colour gamut), moving to a 10GbE infrastructure makes the most sense.
Another trend will be the coverage of the second and third tier type of events including regional college and lower divisions of professional league sports. Broadcasters will continue to look for content to broadcast on their numerous channels and platforms. However, costs incurred creating this content will have to be managed and monitored. The use of compression and IP will see broadcasters adopt more “at-home” production for the lower revenue generating events without incurring high costs and comprising quality. An IP infrastructure at the production facility will allow the broadcaster to pool resources (e.g. graphic engines and replay servers) and dynamically assign them to events. We’ve seen this with ESPN and PAC-12, and expect the trend to continue.
On the other end of this trend is that big events will continue to grow into larger productions where more cameras (not just Ultra 4K cameras, but ones in pylons and sky cams) and replay systems will be deployed to cover the event. Last year’s U.S. Open and this year’s Super Bowl are great examples of this. Both Game Creek Video and NEP used Evertz Software Defined Video Networking (SDVN) products to meet the demands of these large scale productions. The increased volume and bandwidth of signals will see more IP cores being deployed into mobile/OB production units. We’re seeing this in the current round of builds for the upcoming events such as the Winter and Summer Games, World Cup, and the Masters, to name a few.
The evolving ASPEN community
ASPEN was developed to utilise the benefits of an IP infrastructure while meeting the demands of a live production environment. IP offers the opportunity to move from the constraints of SDI to allow for independent video, audio and metadata streams.
ASPEN, an open format that is standards-based, uses the industry-proven MPEG-2 Transport Streams (ISO/IEC 13818-1). ASPEN, as defined by SMPTE RDD 37, carries uncompressed UHD (4K and 8K), 3G, HD and SD video format over MPEG-2 Transport Stream (TS). When coupled with SMPTE ST 302 (audio over TS) and SMPTE ST 2038 (Ancillary data over TS), the broadcasters and OB providers have full control over the streams to perform features like audio shuffling and re-mapping with the need for external discrete equipment. Also, the use of MPEG-2 TS is a proven technique that has been vetted by the industry for years. Thus, it allows for a quicker transition to IP to meet the growing demands of live production.
The other important element of ASPEN is that it defines uncompressed Ultra HD 4K over TS. This is important to the mobile/OB production environment where the preference is to remain uncompressed as much as possible.
The ASPEN Community was formed at IBC 2015 and it started out with about 12 vendors and end users. Today, the ASPEN Community has over 35 members and continues to grow weekly.
The objective of the Community has remained the same since conception. The community is there to provide an open format that is standards-based to the industry. The other objective is to provide interoperability amongst many vendors to complete the entire IP Live Production. The Community consists of camera, production switcher, graphic engine, production server, infrastructure, test and measurement manufacturers. The Community also includes end-users and system integrators who have started to deploy IP solutions based on ASPEN. From our perspective we have engaged a cross section of the industry to deliver a working IP solution; that is unique among the other groups promoting IP.
The ASPEN Community intends to exhibit this effort with a demonstration of ASPEN at NAB this year, which will include multiple vendors interfacing over an IP switch fabric.
Remaining IP hurdles
Although the transition to IP has been happening for a couple of years, there are a number of hurdles that remain. For larger facilities and mobile/OB production units the transition to IP is more easily justified as there are significant cost- and space-saving benefits. For the mid-to smaller facilities and mobile/OB production units, the move to IP is a little more difficult. For them, the cost of supporting legacy SDI infrastructure (e.g. cameras, production switchers, etc.) via IP media gateways does not offer immediate benefits. However, with newer IP-based cameras and production switchers coming to the market over the next year, the move to IP is about picking the ‘right time at the right price’. As more deployments occur, the costs of moving to IP should decrease to a point where it’s a “no-brainer”.
Another hurdle, especially with Ultra HD 4K, is the variety of compression formats being offered by many vendors as well as concerns of interoperability. Today, various manufacturers of cameras and production switchers are offering products that specifically use JPEG2000, Sony Low Latency Video Codec (LLVC), TICO, or VC-2 as options to transport Ultra HD over a single 10bE cable. This creates a layer of complexity when trying to build a multi-vendor IP facility. One approach to avoid this hurdle is not to be concerned with trying to fit the signal into a single pipe, but simply use uncompressed video over IP to remove the complexity of dealing with various compression formats. Our feeling is that IP technology available today removes concerns for bandwidth.
The largest hurdle at this time, however, is the perception that there isn’t a common standard for uncompressed video over IP. Today, there are a number of groups that are promoting different formats that try to solve the same problem: IP in the Live Production environment. All the approaches recognise that IP offers the opportunity to move from the constraints of SDI to allow for independent video, audio and metadata streams. The differences between the groups is how (and when) to deliver this.
These different approaches range from modification of SMPTE 2022-6, completely new packet types, or using MPEG-2 TS. From our perspective today, only open formats that are standards-based and proven should be considered. With over 40 installations to date, the only option that meets the criteria is ASPEN, which is MPEG-2 TS based. The others are either proprietary or in the investigative phases. Also, the ASPEN Community was formed to help ease customer concerns and build confidence that an IP facility based on ASPEN addresses their concerns.