Having more or less mastered the process of converting media to IP, broadcasters now can focus on the opportunities that arise as content is placed into a multilayer IP framework. Intelligence and power across this network open the door to greater innovation and the introduction of compelling new services. Of course, with great power and great intelligence come some challenges too.
With the shift to IP, all elements of the network—from endpoints to the core of the network—have become intelligent and addressable. Cameras, receivers, displays, software—every element has a name that can be used to identify and refer to it, classify its capabilities and allow it to be authenticated so that it can use services in the network.
Broadcasters working in the IP realm therefore need to establish robust management layers that not only control intelligent elements across the network, but also apply some rules with regard to the movement of content and data. To ensure all of these exchanges take place as they should, broadcasters also need to be able to monitor systems and data across the network.
THE DIFFERENCE FROM SDI
When dealing with content in the SDI world, broadcasters enjoyed fairly straightforward monitoring. The signal was contained in a cable, and it stayed in there. Now, though, as soon as content gets into the network, it hits the switch along with numerous other flows. Although they are routed as independent IP traffic, different flows can very easily get mixed if problems occur along the network. Such problems are often difficult to trace, and broadcasters need specific monitoring tools in order to pinpoint problems associated with IP networking or other elements.
Along with media flows being carried over the network, there are timing flows, as well, with synchronization using PTP being carried through. These timing flows require tools that tap into the flow and extract information that confirms the health of the flow. Broadcasters must address these types of management and monitoring challenges across the whole framework, using highly intelligent layers to assess the well-being of the network.
Authentication and security are critical concerns as IP-based cameras, sources and receivers are deployed in large quantities. To reduce their vulnerability to distributed denial of service attacks (DDOS) and similar malicious acts, broadcasters will need to create “walled gardens” and implement safeguards to protect from these and from other rogue entities.
With these challenges in hand, broadcasters can take advantage of a powerful multilayer IP framework to explore new opportunities. In terms of facilities, broadcasters can move away from purpose-built infrastructure and thereby reduce cost while taking advantage of developments coming from the larger network community. In terms of staffing and operations, the ability to control content (audio and video) and data flows independently allows broadcasters to realize greater operational efficiencies. Depending on the needs of the application, they can send audio, video and metadata to the facility and people who can most cost-effectively process that content.
THE POWER OF METADATA
In production and broadcasting, IP allows for more extensive analysis and richer viewing options. For a high-profile sports broadcast being shown around the world, IP makes it easy to replace a French- or English-language audio flow with a Greek, Spanish or Japanese flow. Metadata from the broadcast can be leveraged to support in game-analysis, as well as archiving and searches within just minutes of the event.
Just name the sport, and data is being used to help talent convey the strategy behind player choices and the skills that are required of players, whether it’s a golfer’s club head speed or launch angle on the golf ball or the revolutions on a baseball thrown or a soccer ball kicked. Consumers’ thirst for that kind of information will never be quenched, and IP makes it easier for broadcasters to offer more data and better analysis.
IP also supports greater viewer autonomy in selecting the feeds or angles they get to watch. Right now the technical director calls the shots, but in the long term, broadcasters will take advantage of the IP framework to give viewers the ability to select shots of interest. Looking even further ahead, adoption of artificial intelligence will open up amazing capabilities in terms of archiving and recalling specific content.
These are just a few of the significant ways in which content delivery and consumption will evolve as the broadcast industry embraces an IP-based framework. Obviously, it’s not a done deal, but vendors continue to work on solutions that address concerns across monitoring, security, service assurance and availability. The opportunities vastly outweigh the nontrivial challenges the industry faces in migrating to IP. And, when the whole IP framework has been put in place, the possibilities will be endless.
Rafael Fonseca is vice president and director, product management for Artel.