Video over IP vital to Sony’s 4K live plans

The cost of building 4K-ready outside broadcast units must be significantly reduced if the pace of Ultra HD production is to be quickened and Sony believes it has the weapons to achieve this feat. The manufacturer has poured considerable research and development into a video over IP infrastructure expressly designed to encourage adoption of Ultra HD production in live environments.

“A very important objective is to facilitate construction of OB trucks to promote use of low-cost remote HD and 4K production across multiple venues,” explains Hugo Gaggioni, chief technology officer for Broadcast and Production Systems Division of Sony. “The issue for Sony is to reduce the cost of implementing 4K in OB trucks and the most difficult challenge is the cost of cabling. As we move to 4K, the cost of wiring is extremely high. We need four coaxials to support a single 4K signal making the cost prohibitive. The only way to negate this is to move to an IP infrastructure.”

Telegenic’s T25, the first multi-camera scanner built for 4K when it was sent into action to cover the Confederations Cup for FIFA last summer, is an all-coaxial vehicle.

“Every single 4K feed [in T25] needs four 3G HD-SDI cables,” stresses Gaggioni. “It’s very expensive to install and takes a lot of weight when transporting [it is now en route to Brazil again for the World Cup finals]. Going forward we can replace every four wires [in the truck] with a single fibre connection to dramatically reduce the weight.”

Sony’s Japan-HQ’d image processing division Sony LSI has developed a proprietary AV over IP Interface which packetises video, audio, and metadata and control data for signal transmission between production equipment via standard network infrastructures.

In the near-future, Gaggioni reveals, Sony will introduce IP packet transmission directly to all its devices “from our 4K live and studio cameras, monitors, XAVC servers and MVS-X switchers to Anycast Touch. In the not too distant you will see our RJ45 [ethernet ports]  side by side with [coaxial] BNC connectors.

“For those devices that cannot be retrofitted right away or easily, we have small portable conversion boxes to convert IP to HD-SDI or the other way around.” These modules are set for release by the end of 2014.

Other parts of the IP Live Production system include a IP Live System Manager, which among other duties will monitor Quality of Service levels. This is also due by the end of the year.

“We require very low latency transmission between trucks and broadcast centres and we need to reduce the weight of the trucks,” Gaggioni adds. “Four channels of 1080 60p requires transport at 3 Gbps, therefore 4K is 12 Gbps and you need four coaxial cables to transmit the signal. Very quickly you create an enormous amount of cabling. Our goal is to replace this with Cat 6 or Cat 7 cable or 10 gigabit Ethernet fibre connection.”

Last year Sony introduced the NXL-IP55 as the first step in its quest for IP transmission. This permits the multiplexing of four HD signals over gigabit Ethernet cable at 1 Gbps.

“Instead of only point to point we want multipoint to multipoint communications between sports applications and broadcast centres. Our desire is to take packets of information directly from source devices – switchers, servers, cameras and to use the standard IT commodity environment for connections.”

In making the transition to IP we cannot risk removing any of the user experience the industry has gained from decades of broadcast engineering, he says.

“We need to send realtime video over IP with the same speed and latency as we do today with coaxial otherwise the technology will not be adopted by users.”

To achieve broadcast quality IP genlocking Sony is using IEEE 1588, a precision time protocol that permits a seamless switching of different devices over IP. “This has to work with baseband video as well as compressed streams at HD and Ultra HD,” he says.

Sony faces competition, from Snell (now part of Quantel) for example, but Gaggioni believes Sony’s proposal will eventually persuade the industry of its merits. It plans to open a licensing programme open to third party manufacturers.

“There are some technologies out there capable of streaming point to point, others of going point to multipoint, some of going through Layer 1 switchers in plants and others of operating between plants or cities in Layer 3. If you are going to work in Ultra HD signals it has to go though Layer 1 and Layer 3 switchers otherwise the signal will never leave the building. There is only one solution on the market capable of doing that and that is Sony’s. Others are not doing this.”

Xilinx is named as one partner working with Sony under the licensing programme to enable the deployment of programmable-based video-production equipment. In addition, Sony says it will collaborate with video over IP solutions developers including Altera Corporation and Macnica Americas.

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