Gabor Forgacs

2024-02-02
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What is It?

SMPTE ST 2110 is a standard that focuses on the live TV studio with streaming media, also known as Studio Video over IP (SVIP). It’s like the foundation for modern studio infrastructure that allows you to create workflows that are ready for the future.

 

Live Broadcast Studio Today

A contemporary live studio setup comprises various components. You’ll find cameras, microphones and monitors in the control room for in-studio confidence viewing or multi-viewers. Additionally, there is a video switcher, audio mixer, closed captioning embedder and graphics station. All these elements are interconnected using BNC cables and SDI interfaces, which are then connected to a central studio router. The router is controlled through dedicated panels to establish or terminate connections. Another layer of BNC cables is responsible for synchronizing all devices in the studio, typically achieved through the Genlock method. Handling the cabling can be a complex and costly endeavor, especially considering that most TV studios have multiple cameras, microphones and input/output requirements for the video switcher and audio mixer. However, with the introduction of the IP-based 2110 standard, the need for extensive cabling diminishes, as synchronization can be achieved using the IP network itself, offering more flexibility and efficiency. 

 

Switch from SDI to IP

The transition to IP offers several advantages when compared to SDI. In the case of SDI, the interface is unidirectional, requiring separate cables for transmitting and receiving signals. Additionally, extra cables are needed for synchronization and device control purposes. On the other hand, IP networks and Ethernet cables connected through an IP switch provide a more flexible and cost-effective solution. With IP networks, multiple SDI signals can be transmitted bidirectionally on a single link, along with intercom and device control functionalities. Synchronization is achieved through the use of the IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol. Therefore, transitioning from SDI to IP eliminates the need for Genlock and introduces PTP for accurate timekeeping and synchronization among network devices. This shift offers a more efficient and compact approach to building studio infrastructure. 

SDP

Unlike SDI, where each signal type has a dedicated connector, IP carries multiple and diverse signals on a single link. Consequently, it becomes less straightforward to determine the content of a specific cable or the input/output status of a particular connector. To address this, a new method of signal identification is necessary, and SMPTE ST 2110 offers a solution through the Session Description Protocol (SDP).

 

Network Architecture

Network architecture encompasses various approaches. Many current IP infrastructure implementations employ a centralized IP switch as the network architecture, similar to the traditional studio router approach.

A more effective solution is the Spine/Leaf network architecture. This design features lower-capacity leaf switches with multiple ports, connecting the IP studio equipment to two redundant high-bandwidth core or spine switches. This configuration prevents network link oversubscription and enhances network resiliency. This architecture is commonly used in networks where video-intensive devices share switches with high-bandwidth interfaces while audio devices are connected to Leaf switches with multiple ports.

In certain scenarios, a separate node or switch may be used to facilitate synchronization across devices through the Precision Time Protocol (PTP) connecting to the core.

 

Network Communication

There are two methods of network communication allowed by SMPTE ST 2110. The first method is Unicast, or point-to-point communication, where packets are transmitted from one sender to one receiver. The second method, which is particularly useful for TV studio applications, is multicast or point-to-multi-point communication. A sender transmits packets to receivers that subscribe to a multicast group using specific multicast IP addresses. Every subscriber to that group will receive the packets from the sender with the multicast IP address. There are two approaches to multicast: Any Source Multicast (ASM), where multiple senders feed a group of subscribed receivers, and Source-Specific Multicast (SSM), where one sender feeds a group of subscribed receivers. SSM is the preferred method of multicasting in live studio applications.

Additionally, there is device control, which has always been a part of broadcast operations. With an IP network, we make device control more explicit and integrate it into the same infrastructure, eliminating the need for a separate IP network to control all these devices.

 

Benefits

Let’s summarize the benefits of transitioning to an IP infrastructure. Scalability is a key advantage, as it leverages the proven technology, enabling easier scaling of infrastructure. Integration into larger IP networks becomes simpler, and additional signals can be added without the need for new cabling. Direct connection to an IP distribution infrastructure is also possible. The automatic registration of network devices facilitates uncomplicated network scaling. Agility is another advantage, as workflow changes can be realized without expensive re-wiring. New signal types can be easily incorporated into the IP infrastructure, and new systems can be added with ease. IP enables technologies like Software Defined Networking (SDN), allowing quick reconfiguration of infrastructure. Accessibility is enhanced by features like fine-grained content identifiers, enabling system analysis with IT tools. Future-proofing is ensured through the rapid improvement in link speed, with 400Gbps speeds on the horizon. This enables the adoption of next-generation image formats with higher resolutions, higher frame rates, and high dynamic range.

The cost savings and security aspects of IP infrastructure are subject to debate, the use of low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf network products may not yet be feasible and specialized high-priced network switches are still used in constructing IP infrastructure. These days, the upfront cost of an IP-based system may be slightly higher than an SDI-based system. Nonetheless, IP’s inherent agility and scalability result in significantly lower costs for upgrading and modifying an existing IP system.

  

Touch the Cloud 

One of the key drivers for adopting IP infrastructure and SMPTE ST 2110 is the transition to cloud-based solutions. It provides the flexibility to migrate computing resources to different locations, whether it be on-premises, shared resources off-premises, or even utilizing pure cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS. The capabilities of an IP network extend beyond local operations, enabling remote access to perform the same functions over the whole network.

Gabor Forgacs