Video: Is IP Really Better than SDI?

Is SDI so bad? With the industry as a whole avidly discussing and developing IP technology, all the talk of the benefits of IP can seem like a dismissal of SDI. SDI served the broadcast industry very well for decades, so what’s suddenly so wrong with it? Of course, SDI still has a place and even some benefits over IP. Whilst IP is definitely a great technology to take the industry forward, there’s nothing wrong with using SDI in the right place.

Ed Calverley from Q3Media takes an honest look at the pros and cons of SDI. Not afraid to explain where SDI fits better than IP, this is a very valuable video for anyone who has to choose technology for a small or medium project. Whilst many large projects, nowadays, are best done in IP, Ed looks at why that is and, perhaps more importantly, what’s tricky about making it work, highlighting the differences doing the same project in SDI.

This video is the next in IET Media’s series of educational videos and follows on nicely from Gerard Phillips’ talk on Network Design for uncompressed media. Here, Ed recaps on the reasons SDI has been so successful and universally accepted in the broadcast industry as well as looking at SDI routing. This is essential to understand the differences when we move to IP in terms of benefits and compromises.

SDI is a unidirectional technology, something which makes it pleasantly simple, but at scale makes life difficult in terms of cabling. Not only is it unidirectional, but it can only really carry one video at a time. Before IP, this didn’t seem to be much of a restriction, but as densities have increased, cabling was often one limiting factor on the size of equipment – not unlike the reason 3.5mm audio jacks have started to disappear from some phones. Moreover, anyone who’s had to plan an expansion of an SDI router, adding a second one, has come across the vast complexity of doing so. Physically it can be very challenging, it will involve using tie-lines which come with a whole management overhead in and of themselves as well as taking up much valuable I/O which could have been used for new inputs and outputs, but are required for tying the routers together. Ed uses a number of animations to show how IP significantly improves media routing,

In the second part of the video, we start to look at the pros and cons of key topics including latency, routing behaviour, virtual routing, bandwidth management, UHD and PTP. With all this said, Ed concludes that IP is definitely the future for the industry, but on a project-by-project basis, we shouldn’t dismiss the advantages that do exist of SDI as it could well be the right option.

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Ed Ed Calverley
Trainer & Consultant
Russell Trafford-Jones Moderator: Russell Trafford-Jones
Exec Member, IET Media Technical Network
Editor, The Broadcast Knowledge
Manager, Services & Support, Techex

Video: Web Media Standards

The internet has been a continuing story of proprietary technologies being overtaken by open technologies, from the precursors to TCP/IP, to Flash/RTMP video delivery, to HLS. Understanding the history of why these technologies appear, why they are subsumed by open standards and how boost in popularity that happens at that transition is important to help us make decisions now and foresee how the technology landscape may look in five or ten years’ time.

This talk, by Jonn Simmons, is a talk of two halves. Looking first at the history of how our standards coalesced into what we have today will fill in many blanks and make the purpose of current technologies like MPEG DASH & CMAF clearer. He then looks at how we can understand what we have today in light of similar situations in the past answering the question whether we are at an inflexion point in technology.

John first looks at the importance of making DRM-protected content portable in the same way as non-protected content was easy to move between computers and systems. This was in response to a WIPO analysis which, as many would agree, concluded that this was essential to enable legal video use on the internet. In 2008, Mircosoft analysed all the elements needed, beyond the simple encryption, to allow such media to be portable. It would require HTML extensions for delivery, DRM signalling, authentication, a standard protocol for Adaptive Delivery (also known as ABR) and an adaptive container format. We then take a walk through the timeline staring in 2009 through to 2018 seeing the beginnings and published availability of such technologies Common Encryption, MPEG DASH and CMAF.

Milestones for Web Media Portability

John then walks through these key technologies starting with the importance of Common Encryption (also known as CENC). Previously all the DRM methods had their own container formats. Harmonisation of DRM is, likely, never going to happen so we’ll always have Apple’s own, Google’s own, Microsoft’s and plenty of others. For streaming providers, it’s a major problem to deliver all the different formats and makes for messy, duplicative workflows. Common Encryption allows for one container format which can contain any DRM information allowing for a single workflow with different inputs. On the player side, the player can, now, simply accept a single stream of DRM information, authenticate with the appropriate service and decode the video.

CMAF is another key technology called out by John in enabling portability of media. It was co-developed with Apple to enable a common media format for HLS and DASH. We’ve covered this before on The Broadcast Knowledge starting with the ISO BMFF format on which DASH and CMAF are based, Will Law’s famous ‘Chunky Monkey’ talk and many more. We recently covered FuboTV’s talk on how they distribute HLS & DASH multi-codec encoding and packaging.

Also highlighted by John. are the JavasScript Media Source Extensions and Encrypted Media Extensions which allow interaction from browsers/JavaScript with both ABR/Adaptive Streaming and DRM. He then talks about CTA WAVE which is a project that specifically aims to improve streamed media experiences on consumer devices, CTA being the Consumer Technology Association who are behind the annual CES exhibition in Las Vegas.

What is often less apparent is the current work happening developing new standards and specifications. John calls out a number of different projects within W3C and MPEG such as Low latency support for CMAF, MSE and codec switching in MSE. Work on ad signalling period boundaries and SCTE-35 is making its debut into JavaScript with some ongoing work to create the link between ad markers and JS applications. He also calls out VVC and AV1 mappings into CMAF.

In the second part of the presentation, John asked ‘where will we end up?’ John draws upon two examples. One is the number of TCP/IP hosts between 1980 and 1992. He shows it was clear that when TCP/IP was publicly available there was an exponential increase in adoption of TCP/IP, moving on from proprietary network interfaces available in the years before. Similarly with websites between 1990 and 1997. Exponential growth happened after 1993 when the standard was set for Web Clients. This did take a few years to have a marked effect, but the number of websites moved from a flat ‘less than 100’ number to 600, then 10,000 in 1994 increasing to a quarter of a million by 1995 and then over one million in 1996. This shows the difference between the power ‘walled garden’ environments and the open internet.

John sees media technology today as still having a number of ‘traditional’ walled gardens such as DISH and Sky TV. He sees people self-serving multiple walled gardens to create their own larger pool of media options, typically known as ‘cord cutters’. He, therefore, sees two options for the future. One is ever larger walled gardens where large companies aggregate the content of smaller content owners/providers. The other option is having cloud services that act as a one-stop-shop for your media, but dynamically authenticate against whichever service is needed. This is a much more open environment without the need to be separately subscribing to each and every outlet in the traditional sense.

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John Simmons John Simmons
W3C Evangelist, Media & Entertainment

Video: Progress Update for the ST 2110 WAN VSF Activity Group

2110 Over WAN Update

Is SMPTE ST 2110 suitable for inter-site connectivity over the WAN? ST 2110 is moving past the early adopter phase with more and more installations and OB vans bringing 2110 into daily use but today, each site works independently. What if we could maintain a 2110 environment between sites. There are a number of challenges still to be overcome and moving a large number of essence flows long distances and between PTP time domains is one of them.

Nevion’s Andy Rayner is chair of the VSF Activity Group looking into transporting SMPTE ST 2110 over WAN and is here to give an update on the work in progress which started 18 months ago. The presentation looks at how to move media between locations which has been the primary focus to date then introduces how controlling over which media are shared will be handled which is new to the discussions. Andy starts by outlining the protection offered in the scheme which supports both 2022-7 and FEC. Andy explains that though FEC is valuable for single links where 2022-7 isn’t viable, only some of the possible ST 2022-5 FEC configurations are supported, in part, to keep latency low.

The headline to carrying 2110 over the WAN is that it will be done over a trunk. GRE is a widely used Cisco trunking technology. Trunking, also known as tunnelling, is a technique of carrying ‘private’ traffic over a network such that a device sending into the trunk doesn’t see any of the infrastructures between the entrance and the exit. It allows, for instance, IPv6 traffic to be carried over IPv4 equipment where the v4 equipment has no idea about the v6 data since it’s been wrapped in a v4 envelope. Similarly, the ipv6 equipment has no idea that the ipv6 data is being wrapped and carried by routers which don’t understand ipv6 since the wrapping and unwrapping of the data is done transparently at the handoff.

In the context of SMPTE ST 2110, a trunk allows one port to be used to create a single connection to the destination, yet carry many individual media streams within. This has the big benefit of simplifying the inter-site connectivity at the IT level, but importantly also means that the single connection is quite high bandwidth. When FEC is applied to a connection, the latency introduced increases as the bit rate reduces. Since ST 2110 carries audio and metadata separately, an FEC-protected stream would have variable latency depending on the type of the of traffic. Bundling them in to one large data stream allows FEC to be applied once and all traffic then suffers the same latency increase. The third reason is to ensure all essences take the same network path. If each connection was separate, it would be possible for some to be routed on a physically different route and therefore be subject to a different latency.

Entering the last part of the talk, Andy switches gears to talk about how site A can control streams in site B. The answer is that it doesn’t ‘control’, rather there is the concept of requesting streams. Site A will declare what is available and site B can state what it would like to connect to and when. In response, site A can accept and promise to have those sources available to the WAN interface at the right time. When the time is right, they are released over the WAN. This protects the WAN connectivity from being filled with media which isn’t actually being used. These exchanges are mediated and carried out with NMOS IS-04 an IS-05.

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Andy Rayner Andy Rayner
Chief Technologist, Nevion,
Chair, WAN IP Activity Group, VSF
Wes Simpson Moderator: Wes Simpson
Co-chair RIST Activity Group, VSF

Video: LL-HLS Discussion with THEO, Wowza & Fastly

Roundtable discussion with Fastly, Theo and Wowza

iOS 14 has finally started to hit devices and with it, LL-HLS is now available in millions of devices. Low-Latency HLS is Apple’s latest evolution of HLS, a streaming protocol which has been widely used for over a decade. Its typical latency has gradually come down from 60 seconds to, between 6 and 15 seconds now. There are still a lot of companies that want to bring that down further and LL-HLS is Apple’s answer to people who want to operate at around 2-4 seconds total latency, which matches or beats traditional broadcast.

LL-HLS was introduced last year and had a rocky reception. It came after a community-driven low-latency scheme called LHLS and after MPEG DASH announced CMAF’s ability to hit the same 2-4 second window. Famously, this original context, as well as the technical questions over the new proposal, were summed up well in Phil Cluff’s blog post which was soon followed by a series of talks trying to make sense of LL-HLS ahead of implementation. This is the Apple video introducing LL-HLS in its first form. And the reactions from AL Shenker from CBS Interactive, Marina Kalkanis from M2A Media and Akamai’s Will Law which also nicely sums up the other two contenders. Apple have now changed some of the spec in response to their own further reasearch and external feedback which was received positively and summed up in, THEO CTO, Pieter-Jan Speelmans’ recent webinar bringing us the updates.

In this panel, Pieter is joined by Chris Buckley from Fastly Inc. and Wowza’s Jamie Sherry discussing pressing LL-HLS into action. Moderator Alison Kolodny hosts the talk which covers a wide variety of points.

“Wide adoption” is seen as the day-1 benefit. If you support LL-HLS then you’ll know you’re able to hit a large number of iPads, iPhones and Macs. Typically Apple sees a high percentage of the userbase upgrade fairly swiftly and easily see more than 75% of devices updated within four months of release. The panel then discusses how implementation has become easier given the change in protocol where the use of HTTP/2’s push technology was dropped which would have made typical CDN techniques like hosting the playlists separately to the media impossible. Overall, CDN implementation has become more practical since with pre-load hints, a CDN can host many, many connections into to it, all waiting for a certain chunk and collapse that down to a single link to the origin.

One aspect of implementation which has improved, we hear from Pieter-Jan, is building effective Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) switching. With low-latency protocols, you are so close to live that it becomes very hard to download a chunk of video ahead of time and measure the download speed to see if it arrived quicker than realtime. If it did, you’d infer there was spare bit rate. LL-HLS’s use of rendition reports, however, make that a lot easier. Pieter-Jan also points out SSAI is easier with rendition reports.

The rest of the discussion covers device support for LL-HLS, subtitles workflows, the benefits of TLS 1.3 being recommended, and low-latency business cases.

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The webinar is free to watch, on demand, in exchange for your email details. The link is emailed to you immediately.

Chris Buckley
Senior Sales Engineer,
Fastly Inc.
Pieter-Jan Speelmans Pieter-Jan Speelmans
THEO Technologies
Jamie Sherry Jamie Sherry
Senior Product Manager,
Alison Kolodny Moderator: Alison Kolodny
Senior Product Manager of Media Services,