Regular readers of
this column know that I have recently been
writing about UHDTV and its potential applications
in the terrestrial broadcast environment.
Regardless of whether we actually
broadcast UHD terrestrially or not, the format
will have a place in the station environment.
For long-tail content, UHD provides
a methodology for making content more
future-resistant as technology continues to
evolve. Additionally, stations such as Iowa
Public Television that create content have
to begin considering that the terrestrial
path will not be the sole delivery method
and while one avenue may not support a
piece of UHD content, others may.
With that in mind, I began looking at our
facility and figuring out how we would deal
with UHD content in the production environment.
|Utah Scientific’s UDS router
The situation is not unlike our conversion
to HD. Long before we were able to
broadcast in hi-def, IPTV had begun producing
content in HD; likewise, I expect that
IPTV will begin producing UHD content
before we have the facilities to terrestrially
broadcast it. However, a key difference is
that other delivery mechanisms like OTT
have already begun to evolve to handle
UHD and the consumer hardware to display it is already being deployed.
It is always great fun to go out and look
at the acquisition, production and editing
systems. I think because of their direct interface
to the users, they are always top of
mind. Equally important, although not as
sexy, is the backbone infrastructure which
is why I started looking at the station’s routing
facility. Our existing facility uses a Utah
Scientific 400 series router with a primary
matrix of 184x240.
I am a big fan of the Utah Scientific products
for a number of reasons. First and foremost
is that their products just work. Secondly,
their customer support is excellent
so when we do have the occasional problem
the repair is made quickly. Of course
there is their 10-year warranty and no maintenance
support contracts so ongoing cost
of ownership is very low. I am therefore
highly motivated to try and stay with them
for our UHD evolution if at all possible.
It turns out there are a few variations
that I can consider. Probably the simplest
would be to use dual or quad links in and
out of the router, which would allow the
use of the existing routing fabric with no
modification to the router itself, however
each UHD signal would tie up two or four
crosspoints. While this is an interesting idea and would probably be acceptable for some
experimentation or very limited production
use, as a long-term solution, it leaves something
to be desired. Most stations do not
have a large number of vacant inputs and
outputs in their core router.
Another potential is the wholesale replacement
of the existing router with a
system that is UHD-capable. This is pretty
much what was done when IPTV converted
to HD. The difference I see here is that the conversion to HD was revolutionary in that
virtually everything was changing. We were
converting from an analog facility to digital
and from 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9. It was an
entirely new world!
I see the migration to UHD as a much
more evolutionary step. Everything is still
going to be digital and 16:9. The big change
will be in the amount of data being moved
but it will still be data.
So I took a look at the Utah Scientific UDS
series of routers. The system is a single link
so that each UHD signal transitions through the router on a single path. Now while the
UDS is designed as a standalone router, it
can be configured as a layer within the architecture
of our existing 400 series. Since
we’re very happy with the performance
of the 400, this provides a way to migrate
while maintaining our existing workflow. As
I extrapolate along the evolutionary path, I
can see a complete transition of our facility
to UHD without the disruption and turmoil
that would be caused by a wholesale
replacement of the existing infrastructure.
That is not to say that there will not be
challenges. In its current maximum configuration,
the UDS router doesn’t appear
to have the total crosspoint capacity we
currently need and I expect our needs may
grow. I expect larger capacity units are already
being planned but the UHD environment
is just beginning to develop and based
on our experience, Utah Scientific is a company
that focuses on helping it customers
throughout the entire life of their products.
Bill Hayes it the director of engineering
for Iowa Public Television. He can be
reached via TV Technology.