Is This the End for SDI?

October 2017

Why should broadcasters move to IP for production applications? After all, SDI has been around for nearly 30 years..

SDI has been around for nearly 30 years as an open standard and has served us well. Point to point connections provide a reliable network infrastructure and deliver superb studio video quality. SDI offers low levels of jitter and latency, is easy to deploy, and implementing frame accurate switching is straight forward.

It is however a technology that is unique to the relatively small media equipment industry. Until recently, little has been done in production applications to take advantage of the economies of scale offered by high-speed Ethernet-based technologies so widely deployed in telecoms, trading floors and many other demanding applications.

dB Broadcast has advised clients on the transition to IP for some time, and of course, the adoption of IP within broadcast workflows is not new. Transmission and distribution networks started moving away from ASI early in the first decade of this century, and now with over 15 years of experience, these networks provide an affordable, flexible and reliable means for distributing MPEG-2 transport streams. More recently, OTT streaming applications have seen the entire distribution workflow reliant on IP technology all the way to the display device. Also, starting more than 10 years ago, the tape to file migration process has been highly reliant on IP infrastructure.

Whilst the adoption of IP-based commercially off-the-shelf (COTS) technology minimizes the reliance on infrastructure technology unique to the broadcast industry, there are other advantages that can be realized by adopting IP in place of SDI.

The most fundamental advantage offered by adopting IP is the massively increased flexibility it offers to production workflows. One example of this is that IP is an enabler to centralise common resources that can be applied to multiple productions. By implementing centralised production facilities, it is possible to reduce the resource required in each studio or on location. In the future, as individual camera feeds are all available at the centralised production facility, these could be selectively live streamed to the consumer, enabling them to select specific camera feeds in addition to the produced main feed. Essentially this is an end-to-end IP service from the camera to the consumer’s playback device. This opens up potential new business opportunities for the broadcaster to offer augmented services beyond the basic produced programming.

Another advantage of using IP is that of routing flexibility. With a correctly designed IP network, any network node can be routed to any other network node, irrespective of the node’s physical location. This also means that unlike SDI-based facilities, which have a pre-defined hard limit to the number of usable sources, an IP-based facility is much more versatile. Extra services and capacity can be added for major events – such as elections or the Olympics – more easily and at lower cost than with existing SDI-based facilities. Also, when this routing flexibility is combined with the separate elementary flows for video, audio and metadata, as offered by SMPTE ST 2110, tremendous production flexibility is offered to the broadcaster. Effectively, devices connected to the network act as a resource pool that can be easily reconfigured and allocated under software control for individual production needs, without the need to change cabling. This means that any gallery in the network has access to any IP-enabled camera, and any sound desk has access to any IP-enabled audio source, even if the resources are all in different physical locations.

Obviously, having separated video and audio elements does mean that a separate timing system is required within the network to ensure that audio/video delay issues are avoided. This system is known as Precision Time Protocol (PTP), and all networks deploying SMPTE ST 2110 must also implement PTP in that network. Likewise, all switches and routers must be ‘PTP aware’.

The next aspect to consider is that of scalability. With SDI, if a move is made from HD to UHD/4K, or indeed from UHD/4K to 8K, the network infrastructure needs to be changed. With IP, scalability is driven by network bandwidth. In other words, the network simply needs to handle more data.

SDI is also fundamentally tied to hardware implementations, whereas, aside from the physical layer network interface, with IP networks it is possible to implement devices as ‘appliances’ more heavily reliant on software, such devices being inherently adaptable and upgradeable. This makes it unnecessary to do wholesale replacement of network elements as new technology is deployed. Likewise, IP makes virtualisation of network elements a very real prospect.

Does this mean the end for SDI? This is unlikely in the near term as some IP network elements are not yet available, and so hybrid SDI/IP facilities are being implemented. In the longer term, SDI still offers a very simple way of making point to point connections between devices. In the same way that IP has not yet eliminated the use of ASI in the transport stream distribution world, SDI is likely to be used for the foreseeable future, albeit in increasingly niche applications.

As the largest and most respected independent UK system integrator, dB Broadcast has been involved in the implementation of large scale flagship IP production projects, and is an ideal partner for the successful deployment of IP-based live and non-live production applications.

RECENT NEWS

Exhibition Schedule 2024

Exhibition Schedule 2024

It’s exhibition season again, and dB will be at several major shows, eager to meet as many visitors as possible.

At The Media Production & Technology Show at Olympia, London, our team will be on hand to discuss latest industry trends and technologies, as well as catch up on current broadcast projects. We’ll also be debuting dB FLEX, a versatile power solution designed to power Starlink data terminals in the field. This was used in our award winning project for ITV Studios teams on location from Australia to Alaska.

See us there at Stand no. E27 on 15-16 May 2024.

https://www.mediaproductionshow.com/

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Then we’re off to CABSAT at the Sheikh Saeed Halls 1, 2, 3 and Trade Centre Arena, Dubai World Trade Centre. We’ll be looking to show off the new dB FLEX solution to delegates from the Media and Satcomms industry, and we expect lots of interest in our S3 Satsio antenna tracking and positioning systems.

Catch us at Stand No- S2-F20, Shk Saeed Hall 2 on 21 – 23 May 2024.

https://cabsat.com/

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Then in September it’s all back to The Netherlands with our annual attendance at IBC in the RAI, Amsterdam. Once again we’ll be in two places at once, in Hall 1 with our focus on Satcoms showcasing S3 Satsio and dB FLEX, simultaneously also exhibiting in Hall 10 with a focus on broadcast projects and our new APIS Hive software developments.

We’ll be at Stand nos. 1.A07 and 10.A30, 13-16 September 2024.

https://show.ibc.org/%20

Andy Appleyard joins dB Broadcast Board

Andy Appleyard joins dB Broadcast Board

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Andy Appleyard as Director of Projects and key shareholder of the Company.

Andy brings over two decades of industry experience to dB, having been a respected colleague and friend of the company for more than 20 years. His appointment is a strategic move aligned with our broader objectives to diversify our activities and fortify our long-term succession plan.

Andy started his Broadcast and Media career at the BBC, and trained alongside Mike Bryan back in 2000. Progressing through the organisation, Andy played a pivotal role as a Senior Project Manager in the success of the BBC Scotland Pacific Quay project in 2004. In 2008, Andy joined the systems integrator, TSL, as a Senior Project Manager, successfully delivering projects such as Sky News Arabia, QVC Italy, and Channel 4 HD Playout.

Returning to the BBC in 2014 as a Portfolio Manager, Andy led the delivery of BBC Cardiff Central Square, the Corporation’s first venture into AVoIP (ST-2110). Following this success, as an independent consultant, he collaborated with dB Broadcast on the Warner Bros. Discovery AVoIP project for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Since 2022, Andy has been leading a dB team responsible for delivering the strategic advisory role at NRK in Norway, as well as supporting wider business opportunities. His extensive contributions and expertise make him an invaluable addition to the company.

“We are thrilled to welcome Andy to dB Broadcast, and are confident that his wealth of experience and strategic vision will play a key role in propelling the company to new heights”, said David Bird, Managing Director & Founder. “This appointment is a significant milestone in building the perfect team for our continued and long-term success.”

This appointment comes at a pivotal moment for the Broadcast and Media industry as it undergoes significant transformations by embracing new technologies and workflows. The addition of Andy to the dB team is a crucial step towards realising the company’s long-term ambitions and ensuring continued success in a dynamic and evolving industry. Pic shows Andy Appleyard (foreground)

dB Broadcast Supports Expedition and Implements Sustainability Measures

dB Broadcast Supports Expedition and Implements Sustainability Measures

dB Broadcast actively seeks to invest in sustainable technologies, and to promote sustainable business practices. This spans both our own facilities and is a core concern during the design and implementation of systems for our clients.

Over the past year we have worked with an external consultant to review our sustainability approach. This work has delivered an updated company policy, targets, measures and actions to recognise and reduce our environmental impact, and provide transparency through our engagement in the global Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). This builds upon our wider sustainability initiatives which have seen a 100kW solar PV array installed, producing around a quarter of our annual facilities’ energy consumption. Furthermore, our Data Centre utilises an ‘evaporative’ cooling system to reduce our energy use and our carbon footprint.

On top of these initiatives, we are also thrilled to announce that we are sponsoring Mark Wood on his epic Solo 100 expedition in March 2024. Solo 100 begins when Mark will head out into the Arctic for 100 days on a 2000km science-based expedition. His mission is to document climate change in real time, to inspire people to re-connect with the environment and to educate us all on the need for modern day exploration. Expedition Solo 100 is a test of human endurance like no other. No human has ever been alone in the Arctic for so long.

Mark recently wrote to dB’s Founder David Bird to say…

“Hi David, I am just a few weeks away from heading north to a small Inuit settlement along the northwest passage called Resolute Bay – home to Inuit people who are thousands of miles away from the human race in a location that is set in snow and ice. Here I will prepare and train for my 100 days solo expedition across the last remaining sea – an area half the size of Europe with a total population of 300 people and over 25,000 polar bears.
 

The reason is to collate pure ice samples for leading climate research scientists to understand possible contamination. The expedition is being filmed by myself for a major documentary we have been developing over the past six years. Each day I will communicate through a podcast from the edge of the world (flat earth believers don’t get too excited when I write edge!!!) 


This will be my toughest journey over a 20 year career in a freezer, and each day leading to this all I can think about is stepping off the small plane in the Arctic Ocean to be alone for the 100 days. I’m in fear of the journey but this will keep me sharp and focused. 


My thanks go to people who believe in me and my journey – so thank you David and all of you for allowing me to pursue my passion in the name of science. 


 Onwards…”

Each month we plan to post an update on Mark’s expedition, and we hope you will be as excited as we are to follow his courageous journey, and spread the word about his progress and achievements, giving him as much exposure and support as we possibly can.

If you’re eager to know more about Solo 100, please check the website: www.expeditionsolo100.com