SVG Europe Sit-Down: Media Links’ John Smith discusses the rise of IP-based delivery and workflow optimisation

John Smith, head of Media Links EMEA

John Smith, head of Media Links EMEA

One of the latest additions to the roll-call of SVG Europe Gold Sponsors, Media Links has been an increasingly significant presence on the media technology landscape since the firm debuted in the early 1990s. Today its broadcast solutions revolve around enabing the process of remote production over IP through the implementation of IP gateways which work by allowing traditional 3DHDI/SDI and 4K broadcast signals to be encoded into an IP data stream. Synchronisation is ensured with IP Genlock over multiple points on the network, using IEEE 1588V2 Precision Time Protocol. This space and time coding means broadcast clients can achieve signal transport and clean switching over both local and also, more importantly, wide area networks.

As a highly successful 2015 drew to a close, SVG Europe sat down with John Smith, head of Media Links EMEA, to discuss the way forward for IP-based production, the steps it is taking to help simplify broadcasters’ workflows, and its plans to achieve growth throughout the EMEA region…

How would you describe overall activity levels in 2015 compared to last year, and in what specific areas have you observed particular growth?

As a global organisation Media Links is seeing increased interest in IP-based delivery including broadcast in studio and remote production over IP in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Therefore we set up our Media Links EMEA operation and officially launched [it] at IBC. A noticeable growth area we are aiming to address within the EMEA region is the demand for 4K over IP, where organisations are looking to upgrade HD/SDI systems, and we look forward to helping them deliver on that goal.

Media Links’ history reaches back to 1993. How would you define the company’s USP and to what extent have its objectives changed over the last 22 years?

We provide the technology that links IP networks throughout the studio complexes and OB units through to delivery across the WAN, making the much talked about subject of remote production over IP a viable reality.

Over the years our global clients have relied on our video over IP and switching solutions to deliver pixel perfect video throughout the duration of some of the most widely viewed events in the world. Our solutions have been used to build some of the world’s largest video and media transport networks, including major installations in the USA, Europe, Japan and Australia.

For more than two decades, globally, we have provided the ‘Rolls Royce’ of networking solutions and now we are delighted to be able to make our vast skillset and experience in both the telcos and broadcast sectors available to a much wider marketplace through the development of high-end yet affordable solutions in EMEA.

We see a great deal of excitement around IP-based delivery for sports production. What do you think are the main hurdles still to be overcome before this can become a daily default?

The possibility of simplifying networks by consolidating all media traffic onto a common platform, and taking advantage of the increasing availability of video devices that natively support IP, could solve many challenges. However, the existing investment in HD/SDI systems, cable infrastructure and cameras will mean the migration to IP-based delivery will take time. Patience will be necessary! It will also be necessary to ensure networks have sufficient bandwidth to cater for the transport of content, especially when it comes to delivering 4K over IP.

What are the main elements that Media Links brings to the table to make IP-based production as smooth as possible?

Media Links’ years’ of experience of IP-based delivery means this workflow is not new to us! We are currently undertaking a project to enable end-to-end delivery from within the studio to distribution across WAN all over IP, enabling broadcast quality remote production. This may be a world first; however, our experience in each individual element can ensure the complete project will be brought to realisation successfully.

From a technical point of view, there are various ways in which Media Links’ solutions smooth the production path. One example is Media Links’ IP gateways, which work by enabling traditional HD/SDI broadcast signals to be encoded into an IP data stream. Space and time coding means our broadcast clients can now achieve signal transport and clean switching over both local and also, more importantly, wide area networks, as well as being scalable.

Using this model means broadcasters no longer need to carry the high cost of producing live events on-site. The technology is available now to enable broadcasters and network providers to convert and move the complete suite of broadcast signals – whether video, audio or data – onto their multi-service IP/Ethernet networks. By using this remote production model, both 4K/60P, HD-SDI/3G-SDI camera feeds and data traffic can be sent from the remote venues directly to the studio, where all production and editing can take place.

The Media Links MD8000 video over IP media transport and switching solutions, together with our NetGazer Network Management System, provide video over IP transmission, which is an efficient, seamless and highly reliable way of moving content between shooting locations and the broadcast studio. As a result, utilisation of bandwidth is enhanced and media connectivity can be maximised over the entire IP network and over long distances during live event productions.

What has been your most significant recent product introduction with relevance to sports broadcast?

We are currently developing a new range of IP gateway solutions for broadcasters following unprecedented interest at IBC. Like Media Links’ current product portfolio, the new broadcast friendly range converts established broadcast signals for transport over IP across established internal and external networks.

The range will be available at an entry level price point, opening doors to a wider market place. Following discussions at IBC we anticipate sports broadcasters will be particularly interested in this technology as it enables signals to be transmitted from numerous remote venues such as football stadiums or other sports facilities, over established telcos networks, with both hitless switching and timing which is critical for the production workflow.

If you had to nominate a significant recent project involving sports production, what would it be – and why?

IP-based technology from Media Links was the backbone of the most recent soccer World Cup, where over 470 hours of live broadcast were transmitted over IP using Media Links’ equipment. Our MD8000 products encoded and decoded the content across the network with no packet loss and 100% uptime.

In addition, our solutions have been used for the winter and summer Olympic events, major US American football events, Asian Games, Women’s World Cup, and many other high profile global sporting events since 2002. In each case, the Media Links solutions have been used by major broadcasters to transport broadcast signals from these events to destinations around the globe.

Finally, what can you tell us about your current projects and plans as 2016 approaches?

Growth in EMEA is our aim for 2016. At IBC our plan for providing an increased product range was met particularly positively, and we now look forward to delivering on this promise with the help of the new partners we are creating across the region.

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