Confusion over standards could be delaying the move to IP

NAB 2016 Show Floor - Axon/Utah Scientific Booth
Peter Schut, Axon
Opinion
May 27th 2016 at 9:48AM : By

4K will play a part in the broadcast industry’s future, but how the IP transition will play out is up for grabs, says Axon Digital Design’s CTO Peter Schut

NAB2016 was very busy for Axon Digital Design, with a good flow of people visiting the booth we shared with our US partner, Utah Scientific. The relationship between our two companies is already making it a lot easier for customers to access our wide portfolios of broadcast solutions, and it is also helping us develop next generation solutions together, such as the integration of Utah’s S2022 IP router with Axon’s Cerebrum control and monitoring.

Indeed, the subject of IP proved to be a big talking point at the show and these conversations made it apparent that there is still a lot of confusion amongst broadcasters and manufacturers on where the industry is heading.

Although everyone is convinced that video over Ethernet will eventually happen, the debate on which standard to use remains vibrant. It is positive to see that there are initiatives, like AIMS (Alliance for IP Media Solutions), that are trying to ensure our industry adopts a single standard.

Some customers even indicated that their plans to move to IP were on hold because of the confusion

AIMS is dedicated to an open standards approach and the creation of products and solutions that support these standards in the real-world environment. Axon shares that philosophy and is collaborating with various industry bodies such as the EBU, SMPTE and IEEE to develop next generation standards. We have already delivered a proof of concept demonstration showcasing development work on AVB and S2022-6, with both standards working effectively in live production environments.

AIMing for some clarity

The fact that Evertz and Sony have announced their participation in AIMS is an interesting development, but whether that means TR-03 via TR04 (which AIMS is backing) is the obvious way forward remains to be seen. One could question whether their participation is to actually support the TR-03 initiative, or if their motives are of a different nature.

We spoke to a number of customers during NAB who expressed their concern about the various standards and the fact that we, as an industry, are not able to agree on just one. Some of them even indicated that their plans to move to IP were on hold because of this confusion and that further investments in SDI were imminent. In fact, the popularity of AIMS stops customers from buying 2022 now!

Whatever standard our industry decides to embrace, Axon will make sure that its signal processing equipment can support it. We foresee another standard change before the end of the year and we are already prepared to support whatever is chosen.

Apart from IP, another major topic of conversation at NAB was 4K/UHD. Unlike the hype around 3D, 4K is fast becoming a standard that TV audiences are prepared to back. Their demand for 4K content will inevitably force broadcasters to start broadcasting in 4K.

As a result, many of the questions we faced at NAB related to transmitting 4x3Gb/s over a single 12G link. There were also lots of conversations about the next step for 4K, which involves higher dynamic range and the inclusion of the REC. 2020 Color Gamut.

Enabling change

Companies like Axon will have to enable these changes in coming months, and we are already working towards that end. Earlier this year we launched a range of 4K Synapse signal procession products and production tools, which were on show at NAB 2016. We know they are what the industry needs because they were developed in close cooperation with BT Sport to help the broadcaster deal with the challenges of this new format. Our products are now integral to the success of Timeline Television's bespoke OB vehicle, which delivers content to BT Sport Ultra HD (Europe’s first live sports Ultra HD/4K channel).

In our opinion, 4K is now accepted by the industry and clearly here to stay. Having the opportunity to discuss this technology – and many other topics - with our customers was incredibly valuable – and let’s face it, Las Vegas isn’t the worst place you can go to gather customer feedback!