The router has long been the traffic cop of the broadcast facility, directing signals to various control rooms and destinations around the plant. But, it’s become clear that traffic direction alone is insufficient to support today’s ever-increasing signal volume and complexity.
The usefulness of increased router capability extends well beyond the traditional call-letter station. Centralcasting facilities and satellite headends support many more channels today compared to one decade ago, and mobile production trucks often require 512 x 512 matrices or larger. Meanwhile, facilities like sports venues and houses of worship are asking more of their routers, from increased signal capacity to tighter integration with complementary systems.
Meeting these expanded signal routing and management requirements is just one reason that Harris Broadcast has introduced the Platinum IP3 router. It delivers multiformat signal routing up to 576 x 1024 in a single 28RU frame, and scales to more than 2048 x 2048 in multi-frame configurations.
Additionally, the router breaks new barriers for signal redundancy, on-air expandability, stability and control, while also offering the industry’s first path toward true network convergence within the router.
From there to here
High-density routing, integrated processing, reduced power consumption and smaller rack-space requirements remain significant capabilities in the IP3 design as an extension of the established Platinum architecture. Notably, the original Platinum’s inclusion of a dual-path routing architecture was a big technical stride, enabling completely independent audio and video paths for every slot within the frame. This enables a completely embedded routing infrastructure without sacrificing matrix size.
The IP3 evolves this concept with the industry’s first triple-path architecture. The third, separate path is designed to accommodate data-centric elements that might include program-associated metadata, graphical elements or pure IP signals. The ability to support separate video, audio and data paths is what makes the IP3 the first router architecture that promises true network convergence as the industry moves from pure baseband to a hybrid infrastructure.
The road toward creating the industry’s largest-capacity router and first triple-path routing architecture begins with the product’s unique design characteristics.
The IP3’s enabling technologies introduce faster processing and increased bandwidth to support the triple-path architecture, reducing hardware and accommodating more signals. The design also greatly simplifies wiring and integration and eliminates the need to take stations off the air while scaling into multiple frame systems.
Large routing systems involve multiple separate frames due to physical limitations for signal capacity. Traditionally, this requires external distribution amplifiers to support signal expansion to multiple frames. To expand into additional frames, the user must unwire each input from the first frame and run it through a distribution amplifier to the original and new frame or frames. Further adding to the complexity, outputs from two frames, each with unique sets of inputs, require a secondary switching matrix to avoid “blocking” signals. The expansion process requires the user to “break” the signal upon adding another component — thus taking the station off air.
The IP3 design builds distribution amplifiers into the routing frame, employing a single-wire connection to bridge each input module to the next frame — without breaking signals from the first frame. Additionally, an intelligent output module design ensures that each new input, regardless of which frame it enters, is available to all router destinations.
This architecture provides seamless expansion between multiple frames, reducing wires and without taking the station off air. Furthermore, the common architecture preserves the initial investment — and ensures no limitations for future expansion.
Mix and match
The benefits of multiviewer, frame sync and other component integration within router frames is immediately clear from the space- and power-saving perspective. Harris Broadcast’s philosophy of providing generic slots for such products within the router remains unique, eliminating the need to define future needs for each task when purchased. This ensures that users aren’t dead-ended if they wish to scale multiviewer outputs to more control rooms in the future, for example.
The router also accommodates combination cards within any slot, allowing users to take full advantage of the triple-path architecture. This could include routing video inputs over one router path, and demuxing audio from those inputs over a second path. In this example, IP3 users might simultaneously route metadata from these signals over the third path, using built-in encoding and decoding capability, all without sacrificing video matrix size in the same frame.
Redundant crosspoints to protect all critical signal paths further enhances value. This router’s architecture shields all video, audio and multiviewer crosspoints, eliminating any single point of failure.
This is far more advantageous to a traditional architecture that uses separate outputs from router crosspoints to feed external multiviewers. Those outputs can only see the frames’ inputs, and cannot see the muxed outputs or audio feeds. Viewing the actual output would first require wiring it back to an input.
The IP3 architecture demuxes audio signals on the inputs and routes the signal through the audio path to the output slots. This allows monitoring of those audio signals on the integrated multiviewer, providing a clear view of what is going to air.
It should be noted that overall system protection is further enhanced through a fully redundant control system and power supplies.
Enhanced control across the infrastructure allows for simple, dynamic updating of software-centric devices and operations. The IP3 addresses this trend by enabling updates to databases and sources without taking the system down. This allows users to make firmware updates, test new software and recall specific operational settings without interruption. It also simplifies troubleshooting issues, allowing for quick layout changes, alarm settings or bypass options to route around problems.
Harris Broadcast Magellan control panels offer a common solution to manipulate these tasks across the entire infrastructure, including all integrated routing systems and external components from terminal gear to video servers. The product-agnostic design ensures interoperability with non-Harris Broadcast components.
User control is also enhanced through easy router configuration and maintenance. Further, the router brings all settings into a common matrix. This is a big advantage over clustering settings across various matrices, such as separating SDI and HD operations. A logical mapping system enables systems integrators and users to quickly make proper connections.
The future-proof design looks beyond baseband/IP convergence to cover ultra-high-bandwidth needs including 4K, 6GB/s routing and beyond. Harris Broadcast is already showing the ability to move high-bandwidth graphical elements approaching 10GB/s through the Platinum IP3. The takeaway, though is the router allows users to build fully embedded, smartly scalable routing solutions that meet present day needs and beyond, for fixed and mobile facilities.
—Kerry Wheeles is director of product marketing for routing, multiviewers, master control & branding at Harris Broadcast.