Does IP have to be a PAIN?

Cinegy workstation
Jan Weigner, Cinegy
Post Production
August 25th 2016 at 3:48PM : By

With his company’s battle cry “SDI must die”, Jan Weigner, co-founder and CTO of Cinegy, has been a vocal advocate for the move to IP. He wants people to know that the transition need not be agony - and it may even be quite simple

It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many beads of blood popping out on the foreheads of those contemplating a move from SDI to IP. It’s not that difficult people, either to conceive, or implement.

So, take a tissue, wipe your brow, and get on with it. It’s easy. Those racks upon racks of boxes that have consumed your energy, time, and budget - in some cases for decades - won’t even thank you for the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve invested in it over the years. Yes, they and their SDI interfaces still work, in many cases quite well, but why continue to haul an aging, cumbersome, and increasingly unforgiving infrastructure into the future when in one IP-based swoop you can expand your broadcast and playout possibilities to near limitless proportions at a fraction of the cost and with none of the grief.

Just migrate to IP, which I suggest can be better described as greener “Internet Pastures”.

It may be a slight overstatement to say the path to IP glory is paved with gold, but it certainly doesn’t have the stumbling blocks associated with SDI, nor does it cost a mint to get there, as many broadcasters worldwide have already discovered. The revenue generator, however, kicks in once the migration is complete, and it doesn’t take long.

The key, of course, is to convert tape-based assets into digital media and it is from there that all benefits flow

Taking the first step

The first step is possibly the most time consuming, and even that is not, in relative terms, too long. It’s simply a case of requiring the majority of decisions to be made up front to determine what tapeless production workflow is best suited to the needs and ultimate goals of a specific organisation. The beauty of this in a software-defined, IP-based environment, however, is that several approaches can be explored simultaneously once a basic office network is established, which becomes the common infrastructure for the entire facility.

A lot of the early process is to ensure that you fully understand what you need to change in your live broadcast signalling chain, and to work with an experienced partner who can tell you what you don’t know. Critical parts of your existing, SDI-based infrastructure need to be replaced and you’ll have to calculate just how much – possibly all - of it should be consigned to the scrap heap, or a museum. It’s sometime not readily apparent, and it can admittedly be unsettling to get rid of old, faithful matrix switchers, studio mixers, monitoring devices, SDI cabling, etc., but my goodness once you’ve done it you’ll wonder why you stayed shackled to them for so long.

Because broadcast-quality video signals require full bandwidth, it is important to install a separate broadcast-capable network for video signal distribution. It might even be a good idea to build two or three unicast/multicast networks that can work in parallel, which would provide comforting redundancy. Fortunately, this is very easy to do because such networks can be established and run on standard, off-the-shelf, IT networking equipment, which is considerably less expensive than what it would cost to achieve similar results with an SDI infrastructure. Moreover, it’s far more easily extended which, let’s face it, you stand a very good chance of needing to do, if not in the near-time, almost certainly in the longer term - but not much longer.

Then it’s just a matter of getting all signals on an IP domain with the new software gateways and associated devices that are capable of live IP streaming.

Even non-technical people can be up and running in a couple of days, in some cases hours

 

Reorganising

Once that is settled, it becomes a matter of organising the workflow in terms of archiving assets, logging, editing and providing access to all created material, not forgetting ingest and playout. The key, of course, is to convert tape-based assets into digital media and it is from there that all benefits flow. The possibilities for generating new revenue streams from storing, retrieving, and repurposing vast repositories of content are limited only by the creative or commercial minds charged with developing those opportunities. And there are some pretty creative minds in this business.

It may sound simplistic, and in some ways it is in an IP world, but educating staff to fully implement and take the best advantage of new working practices is the next, crucial step.

However, it is, again, a much easier process because, in many cases, staff have very little to learn. Even non-technical people can be up and running in a couple of days, in some cases hours. Because most processes and systems will now rely on IT, a lot depends on the in-house balance of IT-centric and traditional broadcast engineers, but for most personnel, whatever their background, the required training is pretty intuitive, and transparent, which makes the SDI to IP transition pretty easy. This is largely because working in an IP environment is so flexible and resilient. It can tolerate a certain amount of trial and error. An innocent mistake, or slight misinterpretation, will not bring an entire workflow to a halt, or require a system to be brought down to figure out which box has been plugged in backwards.

So, migrate to IP. You’ll only stop the bleeding once you stop banging your head against the SDI wall.