ST 2110 in the WAN – Part 1
At Net Insight we have been working with IP based wide area network (WAN) solutions for more than a decade, today helping 100s of customers move to IP based media networks. That means we now get tons of questions on SMPTE 2110 and how to handle the shift from SDI to IP and ST 2110. Because of that we’ve decided to put together a series of articles on ST 2110, trying to answer at least some of the most common questions we get.
As the shift from SDI to IP is much more than just a change of technology and a change of cable, to understand the challenges this shift creates in the WAN we first need to understand the drivers for moving to IP. And the short answer is that it provides a lot more flexibility, flexibility that will let you change the way you do live productions. For that reason, we will begin by looking at how live production will actually change, before moving into details of ST 2110 and their implications in the WAN.
While there has been a bunch of proprietary IP production solutions for years, SMPTE 2110 is the first time we get an IP standard designed from the ground up for truly flexible workflows. With it production workflows can be adapted to the situation and the needs of each individual production, and the fact that broadcasters move to standard infrastructure enables distribution of workflows. Workflows that cross a WAN between venues, studios and really any other location.
Distributed workflows are really one of the most interesting and important live production changes brought by the shift to IP, which is why those are our focus here.
First of all, one example of distributed production is remote production, where you sit in your home studio producing a live event at a different location. You do it by sending raw camera feeds, audio, and equipment control over a telecoms infrastructure to a central studio facility where your staff produces the event.
Like all forms of distributed workflows, it enables better use in-house production resources and increases production efficiency. With less on-site staff and less equipment at the venue broadcasters reduce cost, but more importantly with direct access to central archives and other in-house resources they enable a richer content production. And with production staff in-house, they can make more use of your best on-screen talents and potentially do multiple productions per day. All-in-all, remote production lets broadcasters produce more content with less cost.
But you it’s possible to go further than remote production and distribute the production team completely, with for example sound engineers in one place and video editors in another. By distributing workflows across multiple rooms, buildings, cities and countries broadcasters can use your best resources for productions where they really make a difference. They can outsource parts of the work to production companies anywhere in the world, and on top of that bring in freelancers to do their thing.
By completely distributing broadcast and production workflows there are also added values such as letting production talents work from where they want (e.g. their homes).
And while software-based production solutions have been used for quite some time, and cloud resources have been used for non-live production tasks, the shift to IP and ST-2110 really opens up for using more software and cloud-based resources also for live productions. By allocating production resources in the cloud, paid by the minute, broadcasters can easily and quickly scale production without overinvesting.
Finally, the shift to software and cloud resources enables more and more workflow automation. While especially non-live workflows have been partially automated for some time, going forward we expect that what can be automated, will be automated. And as artificial intelligence evolves and matures we believe it will have a big impact on the industry and how content will be produced in the future. With software and automation becoming more capable, humans will get to focus on what really matters. High quality production tasks for high quality content.
With that we’ve concluded that the shift to IP and more specifically to SMPTE 2110 is much more than just changing technology. Therefore, understanding the challenges in the WAN requires that we do look beyond the technology in itself, and to the drivers for making the shift in the first place. Drivers of workflow flexibility, remote and distributed production, cloud and software-based resources as well as automation.
With that in mind we’re ready for looking at SMPTE 2110 in a bit more depth. Something we will do in the next part of this series.