The end of SDI?

At the upcoming IBC show in Amsterdam, numerous equipment manufacturers will be showcasing the benefits of an end-to-end IP infrastructure.
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While it’s been several years since the IEEE and SMPTE separately standardized a way of moving digital video signals from the SDI domain into the IP world using Ethernet switches over a local are network (LAN), the implementation process has taken a bit longer. Actually, about ten years.

For Europe, the standard now known as AVB (Audio Video Bridging) technology (or IEEE 802,) provides the roadmap that allows time-synchronized low latency streaming services through IEEE 802 networks,” also known as LANs. IEEE 802.1Qat and 802.1Qav are subsequent amendments to the base IEEE 802.1Q document that specify the operation of "Virtual Bridged Local Area Networks."

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The general goal is to develop robust A/V infrastructures based on less costly CAT-5 cables and Internet Protocol (IP) system designs. Once digital files are carried as packets, the flexibility to support remote camera operations and other types of device control are easily leveraged.

At the upcoming IBC show in Amsterdam, numerous equipment manufacturers will be showcasing the benefits of an end-to-end IP infrastructure. Indeed, these companies that traditionally made their living off SDI technology, will be promoting a new way to get rid of it.

Peter Schut, CTO, Axon, a company in the Netherlands that markets all types of signal distribution, monitoring, control and conversion technology, said that AVB will help transform the way broadcasters manage and deliver live production video content, making the design and build of a studio or facility easier, more flexible and more cost-effective. In fact, he called IP distribution “game changing.”

At IBC (hall 10, stand B21) Axon, will demonstrate what it calls “the new potential” of AVB technology; with the launch of a new product line for live audio and video production with integrated monitoring, management and protection. The company will also launch a new solution to monitor and control broadcast infrastructures; a new live production tool called SynLive; and new 4K conversion modules for its Synapse product range.

Sony has also been championing new ways of using IP networking for live video production. The company has wired a entire tennis stadium to facilitate multiple unmanned camera positions being used to augment the main live telecast. Sony has also developed its own specification, known as the VISCA protocol. VISCA is a set of professional camera control commands used with PTZ camerasthat works with several of Sony’s surveillance and OEM block cameras. It’s based on RS232serial control at 9600 bit/s, but can also support 8-Pin DIN, RJ45and RJ11connectors used in daisy chain configurations.Sony said distance limitations (about 300 meters) could be overcome by piggybacking onto a fiber-optic camera cable if necessary. The company also said that the NXL-IP55 generates less than a field of delay at the receive end—which is vastly improved over earlier versions of video-over-IP switching systems. This low latency, said Sony representatives, is barely noticeable to the naked eye.

AVB proponents hope to get rid of all this cabling

So, is the field-tested Serial Digital Interface (SDI) way of sending signals doomed? Most agree not any time soon, but the tide is coming in and there’s little anyone can do to stop it. With all of its related cost and manpower benefits, why would you? Well, for equipment suppliers, once the IP floodgates are open a whole new level of competition becomes available for broadcasters to take advantage of. That usually means less profits for vendors. Conversely, we all live in an IP world. Better to embrace it because a new generation of customers will. IP infrastructures allow their staff do more with less resources.

“We’ll see a move away from one-way, single-purpose and point-to-point infrastructures, which will ultimately bring an end to SDI,” Axon’s Schut said. “The simple ability to have one connection that can carry multiple audio and video streams, control and metadata for live production will be game changing.”

Perhaps another telling sign that the high-speed synchronous communication technoogy has seen its day, The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will present the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) with an Emmy Award for Technology and Engineering in recognition of the standard-setting group’s work on development, standardization, and productization of the HD-SDI standard.

Many have called the HD-SDI standard the workhorse of the industry, but once a technology is recognized with an Award from N.A.T.A.S., that usually means the end is near.