IBC 2018 Preview: The Impact of IP on Sports Production

Key benefits are scale, format flexibility, suitability for at-home workflow

When IBC2018 opens next week, its IP Showcase will feature 36 IP installations from all over the world: Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Australia. Of these installations, 25% will be either production trucks or centralized facilities for at-home production. Clearly, more and more sports-production companies are deploying IP trucks and facilities, and the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) sees the impact of IP on sports production as stronger than on other live studio applications.

Michael Cronk

According to many people responsible for these installations, IP offers several key benefits to sports production.

The Ability To Scale
Scale is one of those benefits and one of the first reasons production-truck vendors were compelled to consider IP. With SDI routers, scaling beyond 1,152 inputs by 1,125 outputs is difficult. A few years ago, as U.S. production demands for cameras and monitoring grew for such sports as golf and NASCAR, Game Creek Video, NEP, and other companies turned to IP routing to build larger trucks in their fleet.

More recently, NEP in the UK built an IP system that was the equivalent of a 3000×3000 SDI router. What is particularly instructive about it is that the system was not built as a massive monolithic system. It comprised multiple production trucks and flypacks connected together, demonstrating that, with IP, flypacks can be smaller than traditional trucks but use the same equipment to achieve effective scale. This scale provides the production staff access to more signals and more monitoring than ever.

Multiple Formats, Existing Infrastructure
Another key benefit of IP in sports production is format flexibility. By its nature, IP can carry any data, and, if the IP switch has sufficient port speeds, the same infrastructure can carry SD, HD, UHD, and compressed video without requiring anything new.

Format flexibility on existing infrastructure has been a key driver in the adoption of IP in mobile production, especially in countries that are investing heavily in UHD. For example, in the UK, where both BT Sport and Sky broadcast Premier League in UHD, mobile companies needed a technology that not only allowed them to bid on UHD Premier League contracts and handle HDR but also gave them the flexibility to use their trucks for HD work as well. Enter IP.

As fall 2018 approaches, UK mobile-production companies Arena TV, NEP, and Timeline have made significant investments in IP and can support HD, UHD, and HDR.

All systems have bandwidth limits, but IP is far more flexible (and has higher bandwidth) than SDI. Moreover, the SMPTE standard for video over IP, SMPTE ST 2110-20, supports 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 color space. It supports 10-bit, 12-bit, and 16-bit pixel depths and resolutions all the way up to 32Kx32K (far exceeding even 4K or 8K resolution). In other words, the combination of IP port speeds and the design of the SMPTE ST 2110 standard enables a format-flexible network with capabilities far beyond what is traditionally possible with SDI. Mobile-production companies that must provide UHD production services are taking advantage of this.

Facilitating At-Home Production
A third key benefit of IP is its suitability for the at-home production model. This is not a new application. Organizations like the Pac-12 Networks have been using IP signal transport between centralized control rooms and cameras at venues for some time. However, as more and more production infrastructure and equipment becomes native IP, expect to see more and more innovative workflows that save significant production costs while maintaining production values.

SMPTE is currently drafting a standard, SMPTE ST 2110-22, for constant-bitrate compressed video. The future standard promises to open up additional workflows and opportunities for at-home production, and the impact of IP on sports production will only increase.

IBC attendees are invited to visit the IP Showcase. located in Room E106 at the RAI. Sponsored by the Audio Engineering Society (AES), AIMS, Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA), European Broadcasting Union (EBU), SMPTE, and Video Services Forum (VSF), the IP Showcase will feature eight separate demonstration areas housing equipment from roughly 60 vendors, all operating under the SMPTE ST 2110 standards and demonstrating the benefits of IP.

In addition, the IP Showcase Theatre will feature a full schedule of presentations on the half hour throughout the show. For attendees new to IP technology and applications as well as seasoned veterans, the IP Showcase is a great place to both see what is possible today and get a glimpse into the future.

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