Networked Media using IT Protocols Discussed

Matt Brennesholtz

Broadcast & Distribution – On March 4th, SMPTE presented a webinar titled “Networked Media and the Joint Task Force.”  The webinar was presented by Felix Poulin, EBU’s Senior Project Manager, Media Production Technologies.

Poulin addressed the broad, fast paced, ever changing landscape of Networked Media, where several interested organizations realized the need to collaborate to better understand the “bigger picture.”  As a result, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), and the Video Services Forum (VSF) formed the Joint Task Force on Professional Networked Streamed Media (JT-NM).

EBU, SMPTE VSF logosThe JT-NM is addressing the issue of the use of IT protocols and IT hardware to replace the video-centric protocols and hardware currently used by the production, post-production and broadcast communities.  These video protocols include the progression of Serial Digital Interface (SDI) standards that have moved from SD-SDI through HD-SDI, 3G-SDI and beyond.  Other video standards considered included AES, MADI, Black Burst/Tri-Level, LTC, Serial control, Cross point router, etc.  IT technology considered included packet network protocols including Internet Protocol (IP), Ethernet, etc. and generic IT hardware such as switchers, servers, storage, etc.

Note that the JT-NM is considering real-time video.  The use of IT protocols and hardware is well established in terms of storing and transmitting the huge files associated with professional content creation where real-time display is not required.  One of the driving forces behind networked streamed media is cost: since the IT community is much, much bigger than the post-production community, their hardware systems are built in much higher volume and are therefore significantly less expensive.

The JT-NM has completed Phase 1 of its charter.  Phase 1 addressed the current status of the industry and looked at:

1)      User requirements—What must video via IT do?

2)      Currently available technology from existing companies.  The JT-NM survey produced 66 existing technologies from 27 respondents.

3)      Gap analysis—what gaps are there in the existing video via IT product ecosystem?

There were several aspects of video via IT that phase 1 does not cover.  These include:

1)      Compatibility between existing video via IT technology from different companies.

2)      Consumer grade video such as streaming video from Netflix, YouTube, etc.

3)      HDBaseT video.

When asked about HDBaseT video, which uses CAT-5 Ethernet cabling to deliver uncompressed video from servers to display systems, including high-end professional display systems, Poulin dismissed it for a couple of reasons.  First, he said it was essentially HDMI via Ethernet and, as such, was more of a consumer than professional product.  (Tell that to all the content creators that use HDMI to connect their displays to their editing systems!)  Second, he said it was not strictly an IT protocol and could not be switched by conventional IT routers nor saved on conventional IT servers.  Insight Media considers this second objection a more valid objection.

The 117 page Phase 1 report, titled “Joint Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM): Gap Analysis Report,” was issued December 23, 2013 and is available as a free download.

One of the reasons SMPTE and the EBU sponsored a webinar on this topic now is to recruit people to work on the Phase 2 study committee, which was announced the week of February 24th.  Phase 2 will examine two key questions not considered by Phase 1:

1)      How do the existing bits and pieces fit together?

2)      What are the points of interoperability of the existing bits and pieces?

Anyone interested in participating in the Phase 2 JT-NM study is urged to send an e-mail to bob.ruhl1@verizon.net.  –Matthew Brennesholtz

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