SVG Summit: Transition to IP-Based Remote Production Faces Technical, Cultural Hurdles

The subject of moving to IP-based infrastructures was a major topic during the 2014 SVG Summit, beginning first with a workshop on the morning of Dec. 15 and then ending with a discussion featuring industry leaders later that afternoon. Anytime a nonlinear editing system is fired up or a graphic or video file is transferred from server A to server B the worlds of broadcast and IT merge. But now the goal is expanding to include creating a completely IT-centric facility that will allow for greater signal transport flexibility, lower weight in trucks, and more.

(l-to-r) Luc Doneux of EVS, Kevin Callahan of Fox Sports, George Hoover of NEP, and Christopher Street of Riedel all discussed the move to IP-based remote production during day one of the SVG Summit in New York.

(l-to-r) Luc Doneux of EVS, Kevin Callahan of Fox Sports, George Hoover of NEP, and Christopher Street of Riedel all discussed the move to IP-based remote production during day one of the SVG Summit in New York.

Game Creek Video, for example, is building the industry’s first mobile unit with an IP-based router (courtesy of Evertz) at its core. The unit will handle Fox Sports coverage of the U.S. Open and other USGA golf events as well as NFL A-level games.

“For us it was a logical step as it solved problems [related to the physical size of a baseband router] for us,” explained Kevin Callahan, Fox Sports, director of technical operations. “And we go into it knowing full well it will create another world of problems but solved the size issue.”

If the rollout is successful, he added, it would be completely seamless to personnel in the truck.

“For a large compound IP can do a lot for the core distribution and simplify the compound,” added Callahan.

There are still some large missing pieces when it comes to moving to an “all IP” infrastructure, most notably cameras. And issues like making sure IT gear is ruggedized for the road and adjusting cooling and ventilation systems to keep up with new heat loads are a couple of the technical difficulties to be overcome. And there will be more and more demand for products that can bridge legacy SDI needs with developing IP needs.

“Everything is file-based today and implementation of IP is an extension of that,” said Luc Doneux, EVS, EVP, Major Events & Sports Federations.

But there are also vast cultural gulfs between traditional broadcast engineering and IT engineers that also need to be traversed and they may, ultimately, prove to be the biggest challenge.

“In the broadcast world if there is a problem or change we will [fix it then] while IT people typically want three weeks to study what the problem is and then take the system offline and fix it,” said Callahan. “That approach doesn’t work in [the live production environment].”

Doneux added that finding engineers that have both broadcast and IT engineering skill sets is complex, especially if the goal is to create an IT production workflow that is at the level that current SDI workflows.

“That, ultimately, will dictate where IP production is done,” he said. “Also it is easier to get a 25-year-old with IT knowledge to learn broadcast rather than teaching a broadcast engineer with 20 years experience IT.”

That is one reason George Hoover, NEP Broadcasting, CTO, said that an aggressive training program should be an industry-wide goal to ensure that engineers-in-charge understand the limitations and pitfalls of IP-based systems.

“The best scenario is to have a grey-haired broadcast engineer and a 25-year old work together as they both bring something to the table,” he added.

He also said it is important to build hooks into the IP-based remote facilities so that support personnel who are not on site can log in from off site, including those from manufacturers whose products are in the field. The debate then will shift to how the network can be locked down in order to prevent bad things from happening between the remote site and the broadcast facility (and elsewhere) as the pipes are two-way streets whereby viruses and other attacks can quickly spread.

Callahan added that Fox Sports has taken measures to make sure that the network is locked down while also allowing the manufacturers to look into the infrastructure from a remote location and help out.

“All of us will be getting a lot more involved with network security folks,” he said. A simple step for network protection is to stop posting the passwords to IT networks on pieces of paper outside a truck or other relatively public areas.

All of these issues will be, like the move from analog to digital and digital to HD and HD to 4K, a work in progress with constant evolution.

“Early HD gear became obsolete and first-generation IP will as well,” said Hoover. “We wonder about 10 Gbps as an interface and then realize how fast 40 Gbps and 10- Gbps is coming along.”

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