Test, measurement and monitoring

With the transition to digital infrastructures reaching critical mass in the last year, test, measurement and monitoring (TM&M) equipment manufacturers are now forced to address the marriage of broadcast and IT technologies. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 85 percent of all broadcast equipment now has an RJ 45 LAN connector. This presents an opportunity for TM&M equipment to capture and present at any instant a report on the health of the infrastructure.

New and improved

Perennial heavy hitters weighed in with either new equipment models or enhanced features to existing product lines.

Tektronix's new MTS4EA elementary stream analysis system can evaluate and compare H.264/AVC, VC1 and MEPG-2 codecs. The MTM400 MPEG transport stream monitor has added RF network interfaces for COFDM, 8-VSB, QAM-B and 8PSK. Motorola's Digcipher II is now supported. Digital program insertion, SCTE-35 and bit-stream compliance can be verified to help insure that down stream automation equipment can insert commercial messages. The WVR7100 and WVR6100 waveform rasterizer series now both support Dolby E and AC-3 with Lissajous and Surround displays.

Statmon Technologies highlighted its IP-networked based remote control and monitoring systems. At the booth was the EIF-32, a standalone remote control and monitoring interface. With a built-in CPU, it provides automated monitoring and control of remote equipment. The 1RU package can monitor and control transmitters and other remote devices on up to 192 channels through Neuro, a software-based engine and database.

Also shown was the UIF-32 monitoring interface. It provides a cost-effective way to connect a wide range of devices via serial, TCP, WAN, LAN or the Internet. It relays in real-time information on remote sensors and comes with built-in temperature, humidity and mains voltage monitors.

Videotek continues to expand its offerings with the introduction of the VTM series of HD and SD monitors. Units offer combinations of measuring and display of picture, eye pattern, gamut, jitter, timing, data word, closed captions and other performance data. The VTM-950HD combines all of these features in a single unit with an integral XGA TFT color LCD display. If you want a flexible, multi-image picture and waveform display, check it out.

Pixelmetrix announced ConsolidatorPlus, an SNMP-enabled multi DVStation management application. By collecting measurements, telemetry and alarms from a network of DVStations, monitoring can be accomplished from a centralized location. The graphical interface displays network maps and diagrams of equipment rack layouts.

The Leader FS3019 signal monitoring system allows the performance of remote HD-SDI and SD-SDI equipment to be checked via an Internet connection. Up to 50 Leader LV5700, LV5700A and LV5750 multistandard SDI monitors and LT292 SDI line analyzers can be connected to an FS3019-equipped PC, enabling local or remote studio installations to be monitored continuously on a single display screen.

Jien Shen of Triveni presented a talk about extending DVB TS priority testing to ATSC. The idea is to determine if an error is fatal and number-one priority. If so, the stream can't be decoded. Second, it can determine where quality may be affected or where it could result in an omission of screen information such as a letter in closed captioning. Products such as StreamScope MT30 can be configured according to this methodology.

DNF Controls has introduced data logging capabilities for The Analyst RS422/RS232 tester. Serial communication can be captured and logged for review and analysis, assisting in isolating and identifying communication problems.

The K-WILL VP21H baseband video analyzer is a Pick Hits award winner. The unit has SDI and HD-SDI inputs for double stimulus analysis of two video inputs in real time. This enables automated measurement and comparison of encoded vs. decoded signals in real time. It meets the requirements of J.144, the ITU-ratified standards recommendation on objective perceptual video quality measurement techniques.

TM&M to go

Rohde & Schwarz introduced the portable FSH3-TV spectrum analyzer/TV test receiver. It features spectrum analysis up to 3GHz. Equipped with a TV board, a preamplifier and a tracking generator, it supports TV standards NTSC and M/PAL, and can be upgraded for DVB-C, J.83/B or ATSC/8VSB. The battery-powered analyzer can store up to 100 measurement results and settings in memory and can transfer them by a USB interface to a PC for further evaluation.

Hand-held measuring of HD and SD-SDI video and embedded audio can be accomplished using Hamlet's FlexiScope, another Pick Hits award winner. A 3.5in diagonal TFT display shows a picture in 4:3 or 16:9 formats, while audio can be monitored on the internal speaker or via headphones. Digital cursors enable timing and level measurements. Error monitoring includes EDH, color gamut and stuck bit detection. Vidscope-VX, a video waveform, vector and audio monitoring software application, also made its debut.

Announced at last year's NAB, and now ready for shipment, Wohler's Penpal-HD test signal generator has 32 video test patterns in 18 HD standards, each of which can be combined with different audio tone settings. Its capabilities include three moving test patterns and four stereo pairs of AES audio embedded in the HD-SDI signal. The tool measures 6in long and weighs less than 6oz. It can be powered using a 3V power adapter.

Media network TM&M

IneoQuest Technologies, a well-known manufacturer of network test and monitoring equipment, was one of a growing number of IT companies present at NAB2005. By combining IQMediaStim, a video-over-IP signal source generator, with IQMedia Analyzer, which is capable of displaying and measuring live video, voice or data over IP streams, complete testing of IP networks can be accomplished. Its IQMediaMonitor application uses SNMP to enable simultaneous monitoring of several IneoQuest units for jitter, delay, packet loss and bit rate, and it includes logging and event notification features.

VideoBRIDGE, a video-over-IP TM&M product, can generate, monitor and analyze conformance on both the IP and MPEG layers. The product is the result of a partnership between Sencore and Bridgetech. Compression standards H.264/AVC, WM9/AC1 and MPEG-2 SD/HD are supported.

Sencore also has partnered with Thales to create MPEGScan, a system that has the ability to scan files on a video server and detect various kinds of MPEG errors. Sencore's MAP1850 MPEG service analyzer and the PC-based DTU-234 probe continue their tradition of RF-capable monitoring features.

Spirent Communications, another IT vendor at NAB2005, exhibited its Avalanche 2500 and Avalanche 220 load testing appliances. By generating realistic network traffic, media networks can be stressed and analyzed to ensure that file transfers never choke network throughput. Real-time statistics provide instant feedback during performance testing.

Acterna announced the addition of MPEG-4 real-time analysis to its DTS-330 and DTS-200.

The system supports QPSK, ASI. GigE, SMPTE-310. DHEI, QAM, COFDM and 8VSB inputs and outputs. With these capabilities, the system can be used to verify MPEG, DVB and ATSC standards compliance.

BRAIN is an SNMP-based monitoring and control system offered by BUG.TV, a vendor exhibiting at NAB for the first time. Based on open-source software, custom-user interfaces with features such as automatic switchover can be built, making it possible to implement a complete end-to-end strategy for monitoring signal flow.

Where do we stand?

Essence TM&M has never been an issue and is sufficiently addressed. MPEG TS streams now have been analyzed by several generations of equipment. However, still lacking are adequate means to monitor application health and computer configurations. I don't understand why this technology is not exhibited at NAB shows. Similarly, security technology is noticeably absent.

The holy grail of complete infrastructure monitoring and analysis using one application is nowhere to be found. However, if one intelligently centralizes essence, media network, application and security status presentations onto one large multiple window display, all of a network's critical operation status will be easy to see. Even more important, with this type of centralization, ease of diagnosis and dispatch of support personnel in the event of an alarm condition will be a natural conclusion.

Philip J. Cianci has been in the TV business for 21 years and has done circuit design in the Grand Alliance ATSC prototype system.