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Where is Professional Broadcast with IP?

How many years has IP been the major topic of conversation within the professional broadcast industry? Some might say "too many to remember", but it was back in 2014/15 that the more serious rumblings started to occur.


By Kevin Salvidge, Leader Electronics, March 18th, 2019

As we approach the professional broadcast industry's showpiece event at NAB in Las Vegas, the mists are finally starting to clear concerning the further shape and form of a professional broadcast IP world. AIMS has done a sterling job in establishing a suite of IP standards and with the JT-NM, a qualification programme that should allow customers to select a suite of multi-vendor IP products with the confidence that they previously enjoyed with SDI products.

Sadly, I’m old enough to remember that the early implementations of SDI weren’t without their challenges, especially when HD-SDI was introduced. Who remembers the Level A and Level B fun and games?It took a while to get to the ‘plug and play’ experience we have today.

There is no doubt that the major broadcast equipment manufacturers have done an excellent job in extolling the benefits of COTS (commercial off the shelf hardware). No doubt either that the initial 25% to 30% cost premium compared with the equivalent SDI installation will, in the long term, offer broadcasters savings and better ROI during the lifetime of the installation.


Who is adopting IT based COTS solutions?

Well, as normal, OB companies are at the forefront of this IP revolution. Every week now we learn about a new IP OB truck entering service and how it can offer significant operational savings compared witha traditional SDI truck. But looking under the hood, and despite them having an IP router instead of an SDI router, the earlier winners in this IP revolution appear to be the IP gateway manufacturers.They are offering a multitude of products that will transfer our newly established IP multicast flows back into the traditional SDI world, before returning it back to IP.

The main reason for the emergence of these gateways is that not all manufacturers share the enthusiasm for IP.If you happen to be the preferred equipment supplier for a niche operation, why would you rush to market? Why not wait for the market to mature and the standards to be finalised? That is what is happening in someareas of production.

Manufacturers do of course run the risk that somebody will gain a foothold in their area of expertise and then the game changes and they become the one playing catch up. As the professional broadcast industry is traditionallyquite conservative, they will feel confident that it is going to take a significant development to oust them and the IP gateway manufactures will continue to make hay.

It is also interesting that we are told the space, weight and power-saving of the COTS products will attract OB companies to adopt IP based solutions rapidly. One OB company advised me that an OB truck has a maximum on-the-road weight.If they reduce the weight by installing lighter equipment, the weight will be put on somewhere else, so please dismiss this as a reason to adopt IP. The same applies to rack space; reduce the rack size of your unit and the space will soon be filled by another device.

Power consumption is an interesting argument.Itis true these COTs products do use less power but they also generate more heat and they emit that heat in different directions to that of traditional SDI equipment.So it is not uncommon for a truck's air conditioning system to have to be upgraded and redesigned when migrating from SDI to IP. Surprise surprise, the power consumption and weight are back to where they were with an SDI truck.

Where IP does offer savings is at major events.The new breed of IP OB truck can perform the same operational services as that of two or three SDI trucks. With the adoption of IP standards and more vendor choice, early adopters should in the long run see the benefits of their foresight. With 5G services on the horizon, this could be the catalyst for those OB companies that are undecided to make the switch to IP. But that a story for another day.

Watching with interest have been the fixed facilities and studios. As one studio manager told me, OB companies have the luxury of being able to switch-off and reset the truck if everything goes wrong. Studio facilitiesoffering post-production and playout don’t have that luxury.

Studios are seriously interested in the savings that IP routers will offer over traditional SDI routers. Because professional broadcast facilities are all about resilience, when you design a new facility you include a main and back-up router specified for your maximum I/O requirements. Then the accountants get involved and the SDI router is scaled down to a size that mets their budgets.SDI routers are incredibly reliable so most facilities switch off the redundancy and connect tie-lines between the routers to get back to their initial I/O requirements.

IP routing uses a leaf-spine architecture so you can expand your IP router I/O count very cost-effectively. Interestingly, in the dying days of SDI routers, manufacturers are starting to offer eye-watering discounts which will sway some customers to remain with SDI for the time being.

What does the post-production sector think? Many facilities feel they have already migrated to IP with the introduction of file-based shared storage. Many are now adopting cloud-based operational practices, so why do they need to replace the SDI connection from the back of their editor to the display monitor with IP? SDI routers will be at the heart of their infrastructure and trying to remove or replace them will present significant logistical challenges.


The operational perspective

OB production companies have already been able to demonstrate the benefits of IP by being able to increase productivity while reducing equipment quantities and personnel headcount at each venue. Many are now investigating expanding IP production to include remote IP production. Some major OB companies are now looking to locate production facilities inside data centres so that they can benefit from the connectivity and route multiple I/O signal flows. This will significantly reduce production costs again and is being seriously considered.

Fixed facilities and studios are keen to see if the new SMPTE ST.2110 suite of standards can deliver the benefits manufacturers are promising. As I previously mentioned, the broadcast industry is traditionally conservative by nature. When file-based production and share storage solutions were first mooted, they offered the benefits of collaborative workflows, with multiple operations being carried out simultaneously on a single file. In reality, early adopters replicated a tape-based workflow, with the next stage of the production only commencing when the previous stage had been completed. It took many years for the true benefits of file-based share storage collaborative workflows to be realised.

Itis no surprise that the IP revolution is following the same well-worn path, with the majority of facilities that have adopted IP infrastructure deploying SMPTE ST.2022/6 & 7, where SDI is encapsulated into an IP stream. They have deployed the IP infrastructure but are still retaining the SDI workflows. SMPTE ST.2110 offers them the ability to handle the video (-20), audio (-30) and Ancillary Data (-40) essences separately. However, if you’ve been around this industry long enough, that’s what we did with discreet audio before embedded audio became the preferred choice.

SMPTE ST.2110 does have the potential to be a powerful tool in encouraging the adoption of IP, especially when you couple this with the NMOS developments on control and registration of network devices. It is very impressive when you see one of the multitudes of control systems with their eye-catching graphical displays of a facility allowing an operator to drag and drop a camera source from a studio onto a monitor in the central equipment room, the picture appearing instantaneously. Even more impressive when the camera is located in a stadium in Los Angeles and the central equipment room is in London! That’s where the true power of these new IP systems starts to surpass that of SDI.



Adopting IP infrastructure introduces the risk of unwanted visitors to your networks if your security protocols are not up to standard. Isolating these facilities inside firewalls negates the benefits previously described. So, designs have even gone as far as installing an SDI DMZ so all incoming IP sources are converted to SDI and then converted back to IP before entering the facility.

The largest user of SDI video is the US military because SDI video is a point to point connection and incredibly difficult to hack without being observed.The IP gateway manufacturers think this is a superb solution .But remember that most security breaches are caused by human failing, a disgruntled employee or a hacker gaining access via a simple user-name and password selection.

Again, the JT-NM is working on addressing these issues with recommendations like the EBU R148 and R146 and JT-NM Security recommendations. One thing is for sure: you will need to ensure your equipment is covered by service and support contracts because not only will the latest software and firmware updates provide you with the latest operational functionality, they will also include the latest security patches.


Back to the original question

That leads us back to the original question, where is professional broadcast with IP? Well, if the professional broadcast industry stood still, this would be a no-brainer. Basing your IP infrastructure on the most cost-effective hardware would see a 10GbE architecture with 40GbE backbones. Then away you go to enjoy the operational efficiencies and financial benefits described earlier.But the professional broadcast world does not stand still.While the majority of standard-definition and high-definition services would be happy with a 10GbE/40GbE infrastructure, we have a 4K/UHDTV service being adopted and even 8K in Japan. This means the 10GbE/40GbE infrastructure needs to be replaced with 25GbE/100GbE infrastructure, and suddenly your capital expenditure is running away as these are still premium products in the COTS world.When you couple this with broadcaster’s requirement for switches that do not delay or drop packets, the 25% to 30% premium over SDI starts to get even wider.

So, it is not surprising to see that broadcasters are being extremely cautious as they start to adopt IP. Very few have the luxury or the budget to walk out of an SDI facility into a new IP facility.Even for those that do, the ratio of IP to SDI equipment is closer to 50:50 than most commentators expected.

A common approach is to start with a small proof-of-concept systemthat allows all the stakeholders to evaluate the benefits and define the operational workflows before committing to an operational deployment. This approach will also be very useful for testing software upgrades, future operational expansion and software upgrades/regress processes before deployment on operational systems.

The next stage is to start to deploy IP islands within your facility. Once these islands are operationally proven, you can start to link them together. Gradually, like the tide going out in a harbour, the small IP islands start to become one larger IP island and eventually your IP infrastructure becomes the majority of your facility and your SDI infrastructure becomes the minority. 

The other method is to build your IP infrastructure as a back-up to your SDI infrastructure. That way, you have the reassurance that your tried and trusted SDI infrastructure will deliver the operational performance you have become accustom to, while you can evaluate and refine your IP infrastructure and operations. Then when your ageing SDI infrastructure has reached its end of life, you can simply switch over to the IP infrastructure which, because you have planned for this day, now also carries the level of resilience and redundancy that you would expect to see in a broadcast facility.

All of these approaches result in a hybridenvironment that contains both IP and SDI signal flows so this is going to require a ‘True Hybrid’ IP and SDI test and measurement solution.

Leader, the Japanese test and measurement equipment manufacturer has been considering this requirement for some time. It formed one of the critical design criteria behind the new ZEN Seriesof waveform monitors and rasterizers which were launched at the April 2018 NABShow. Leader’s new products feature all the traditional SDI test and measurement tools that engineers have come to expect plus Leader’s innovative customisable graphical user interface and ‘real-time’ false colour displays tools. The latter are designed for operational and production staff who do not have an in-depth understanding of waveform and vector scope displays have become accustomed to, irrespective of whether the video source is IP or SDI.Where necessary, multiple displays can be viewed simultaneously side-by-side. This is ideal for monitoring those IP gateway products that are dotted about in the facility. At the same time, the ZEN Seriesbrings a new suite of IP test and measurement tools providing the same unrivalled level of engineering support as currently provided by the SDI measurement tools.

Leader ZEN series – LV5600 true hybrid IP and SDI waveform monitor


The result is the LV5600 ‘True Hybrid’ IP & SDI waveform monitor and LV7600 rasterizer. Both products feature 4x 3G/HD-SDI inputs, with re-clocked loop-through outputs, analogue and digital audio I/O and dual 10GbE (SER05) / 25GbE (SER06) IP interfaces, with support for both SMPTE ST.2022-6 & 7 and ST.2110-20, 30 and 40 with redundancy. Both products support 4K/UHDTV/HD and SD operation, as well as BT.709, DCI-P3 and BT.2020 colour space operation and come with the CIE colour chart display as standard. For users who require 12G/6G-SDI and HDR operation, a software license can be included in the initial order or as a post-delivery modification that the customer can carryout in-situ without having to incur a service call-out. Both units also feature SDI and IP test pattern generators, customisable display and extended gamut display tools as software licenses.

True hybrid IP and SDI display and measurement


Leader’s forward thinking did not stop at the ZEN Series. The LT4610 video sync generator was designed with IP in mind and features a Precision Timing Protocol (PTP) option (unlike many other manufacturers who have shoehorned a PTP option into a legacy product). The LT4610, which was released in 2016, had PTP as part of its initial design brief which has resulted in this unit having both a 1GbE and 10GbE interface, thus removing the requirement to add 1GbE to 10GbE conversion products when attaching the LT4610 to a broadcasters 10GbE infrastructure.

It is a brave broadcaster who can tell us where this industry will be in the next three to five years. The pace of change is unrelenting, everything is changing, nothing is standing still. So how do you make capital expenditure decisions in such a challenging environment? Hopefully Leader’s ZEN Series has removed one of your headaches? If your facility is HD/SDI today but you know that HDR is around the corner and potentially 4K/UHDTV and IP need to be considered, while at the same time having no impact on your operational capabilities, then hopefully Leader can be your partner through these challenging times.


Put Leader to the test!

All of Leader’s ZEN Seriesproducts will be on display at the 2019 NAB Show in Las Vegas from April 9thto 11th, 2019, booth C8508. If you would like to schedule an appointment or simply find out more about Leader and our products, please visit our web-site ( or contact Leader Europe Limited, Tel : +44 7826 178 752, Email:

Kevin Salvidge, European Regional Development Manager, Leader Europe Limited, has over 20 years of broadcast industry experience. He joined Marconi Instruments in 1982 as an apprentice and later field service engineer. In 1994 he progressed to Sony Transcom as a field service representative before moving into sales roles with Sony, Grass Valley, Thomson Multimedia and Omneon.


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