A Future of Interoperability?

The transition to IP-based media production and transport in our industry is the most transformative development since the move to digital. Internet protocol will lay the foundation for a revolutionary process that will enable faster, more flexible production and a much wider and more diverse array of services and programming.

But in the fast pace world of high-tech, the transition for IP-based video transport within the broadcast community has been slow and, for better or worse, some vendors are moving forward with their own networking protocols. Our industry looks to SMPTE (and related groups, such as AES and VSF) for the standards to guide this transition forward, and while the group is making great progress towards a standard, organizations such as the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) are helping to corral manufacturers, media companies and the various alphabet soup of standards bodies towards a future where interoperability will break down the proprietary barriers that have characterized so much of our industry’s history. Less than a year old, AIMS has already attracted more than 50 members, including its founding members Imagine Communications and Grass Valley. (Check out our story, “The Ground Level View of IP-Based Media Transport”)

At the 2016 IBC Show, we saw the latest developments in these efforts with the IBC IP Interoperability Zone, sponsored by AIMS and the IABM and showcasing the work of the JT-NM (the Joint Task Force on Networked Media, a combined initiative of AMWA, EBU, SMPTE and VSF), and the AES on a common roadmap for IP interoperability. The zone included a live production studio, based on the technologies of the JT-NM roadmap that Belgian broadcaster VRT has been using daily on-air since last summer as part of the LiveIP project, a collaboration between VRT, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and LiveIP’s 12 technology partners.

After the show, I spoke with Mike Cronk, vice president of core technology for Grass Valley and the chairman of the board for AIMS about reaction to the zone. “People were saying, ‘wow, this stuff works,” he said. “There was the live IP demonstration people were doing real television with it. People said, ‘OK, now I see things coming together. I’m going to think more about IP.’”

Cronk said that, in addition to promoting interoperability in the IP world, the main goal for AIMS now is to support the adoption and completion of the SMPTE-2110 transport protocol which will provide the foundation for that interoperability. But he added that AIMS is also helping to fill in the some of the gaps during the standards process.

“I think AIMS has helped bring some unity,” he said. “The good people at SMPTE would’ve still been working probably on the same thing. AIMS can’t claim credit for that at all. We’re just one other piece of the puzzle.”

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.