Video: A Review of the IP Live Core Implementation in BBC Cymru Wales

Whenever there’s a step change in technology, we need early adopters and moving to SMPTE’s ST 2110 is no exception. Not only do early adopters help show that the path ahead is good, but they often do a lot to beat down the bushes and make the path easier to pass for all that follow. For larger companies whose tech refresh or building move comes at a time when the industry is facing a major technology change, there comes a time when whilst the ground may not be firm ahead, the company can’t justify investing in technology that would soon be out of date or in technology which won’t support the needs of the company in several years’ time. This is just the situation that BBC Cymru Wales found themselves in when it was time to move out of their old property into a purpose-built national HQ in the heart of Cardiff.

In this video from the IP Showcase, Mark Patrick and Dan Ashcroft guide us through ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ of the relocation project. It’s important to remember that this project was long in the making with the decision on location taking place in 2014 with the technology decisions taking place in 2016 and 2017. The project took an open approach to the IP/SDI question and asked for RFP responses to include a fully-SDI and a fully-IP option. It was clear during the selection process that IP was the way to go not because the solution was cheaper in the short term, but because it was much more future-proof and the costs would come down over time giving a much better total cost of ownership. Don’t forget that the initial costs of HD video equipment were much higher than those now. For more on the pros and cons of SDI, watch ‘Is IP really better than SDI?‘ by Ed Calverly.

 

 

Mark and Dan talk through the thinking for the IP choice and their decision to pick a vendor who would be their partner in the project. The theory being that given the standards were still very young, it would be important to work closely to ensure success. In addition to Grass Valley equipment, they chose a Cisco network with Cisco SDN control and operational control by BNCS. The talk references architectures we’ve featured on The Broadcast Knowledge before with Arista’s Gerard Phillips discussing the dual-network spine-leaf architecture chosen and noting the difficulty they had incorporating the Dante network into the 2110 infrastructure and their choice of a third network purely for control traffic.

We often hear about the importance of PTP in a SMPTE ST 2110 network for live production because it is vital to keep all the essences in sync. For more information about the basics of ST 2110 check out this talk by Wes Simpson. PTP is both simple and complex so Mark explains how they’ve approached distributing PTP ensuring that the separate networks, amber and blue, can share PTP grandmasters for resilience.

Other topics covered in the talk include

  • Control Methodology
  • AES67 and Dante
  • Testing equipment
  • JT-NM interoperability testing
  • Successes and difficulties

Watch now!
Speakers

Mark Patrick Mark Patrick
Lead Architect,
BBC
Dan Ashcroft Dan Ashcroft
Senior Project Manager,
BBC
Wes Simpson Moderator: Wes Simpson
LearnIPVideo.com

Video: UHD and HDR at the BBC – Where Are We Now, and Where Are We Going? –

Has UHD been slow to roll out? Not so, we hear in this talk which explains the work to date in standardising, testing and broadcasting in UHD by the BBC and associated organisations such as the EBU.

Simon Thompson from BBC R&D points out that HD took decades to translate from an IBC demo to an on-air service, whereas UHD channels surfaced only two years after the first IBC demonstration of UHD video. UHD has had a number of updates from the initial resolution focused definition which created UHD-1, 2160p lines high and UHD-2 which is often called 8K. Later, HDR with Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) was added which allowed the image to much better replicate the brightnesses the eye is used to and almost all of the naturally-occurring colours; it turns out that HD TV (using REC.709 colour) can not reproduce many colours commonly seen at football matches.

In fact, the design brief for HDR UHD was specifically to keep images looking natural which would allow better control over the artistic effect. In terms of HDR, the aim was to have a greater range than the human eye for any one adpation state. The human eye can see an incredible range of brightnesses, but it does this by adapting to different brightness levels – for instance by changing the pupil size. When in a fixed state the eye can only access a subset of sensitivity without further adapting. The aim of HDR is to have the eye in one adaptation state due to the ambient brightness, then allow the TV to show any brightness the eye can then hold.

Simon explains the two HDR formats: Dolby’s PQ widely adopted by the film industry and the Hybrid Log-Gamma format which is usually favoured by broadcasters who show live programming. PQ, we hear from Simon, covers the whole range of the human visual system meaning that any PQ stream has the capability to describe images from 1 to 10,000 Nits. In order to make this work properly, the mix needs to know the average brightness level of the video which will not be available until the end of the recording. It also requires sending metadata and is dependent on the ambient light levels in the room.

Hybrid Log-Gamma, by contrast, works on the fly. It doesn’t attempt to send the whole range of human eye and no metadata needed. This lends itself well to delivering HDR for live productions. To learn more about the details of PQ and HLG, check out this video.

Simon outlines the extensive testing and productions done in UHD and looks at the workflows possible. The trick has been finding the best way to produce both an SDR and an HDR production at the same time. The latest version that Simon highlights had all the 70 cameras being racked in HDR by people looking at the SDR down-mix version. The aim here is to ensure that the SDR version looks perfect, as it still serves over 90% of the viewership. However, the aim is to move to a 100% HDR production with SDR being derived off the back of that without any active monitoring. The video ends with a look to the challenges yet to be overcome in UHD and HDR production.

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Speaker

Simon Thompson Simon Thompson
Senior R&D Engineer
BBC R&D

Video: CDNs: Building a Better Video Experience

With European CDN spend estimated to reach $7bn by 2023, an increase in $1.2 in only three years, it’s clear there is no relenting in the march towards IP. In fact, that’s a guiding principle of the BBC’s transmission strategy as we hear from this panel which brings together three broadcasters, beIN, Globo and the BBC to discuss how they’re using CDNs at the moment and their priorities for the future.

Carlos Octavio introduces Globo’s massive scale of programming for Brazil and Latin America. Producing 26,000 hours of content annually, they aim to differentiate themselves as much with the technology of their offerings as with the content. This thirst for differentiation drives their CDN strategy. Brazil is a massive country, so covering the footprint is hard. Octavio explains that they have created their own CDN to support Globo Play which is based on 4 tiers from their two super PoPs in Rio and Sao Paolo down to edge caches. Octavio shows that they are able to achieve the same response times as the major CDN companies in the region. For overflow capacity, Globo uses a multi-CDN approach.

Bhavesh Patel talks about the sports and news output of beIN, both of these being bursty in nature. Whilst traffic for sporting events can forecast, with news this is often not possible. This, plus the wide variability of customers’ home bandwidth are drivers in choosing which CDNs to partner with. Over the next twelve months, Bhavesh explains, beIN’s focus will move to bring down latency on their system as a whole, not on a service by service level. They are also expecting to continue to modify their ABR ladders to follow viewers as they continue their shift from second screens to 60 inch TVs.

The BBC’s approach to distribution is explained by Paul Tweedy. Whilst the BBC is still well known as a linear, public broadcaster, it has been using online distribution for 25 years and continues to innovate in that space. Two important aspects to their strategy are being on as many devices as practical and ensuring the quality of the online experience meets or is comparable to the linear services. The BBC has been using multiple CDNs for many years now. What changes is the balance and what they use CDNs for. They cover a lot of sports, explains Paul, which leads to short-term scaling difficulties, but long term scaling difficulties are equally on his mind due to what the BBC calls the ‘glide path to IP’. This is the acknowledgement that, at some point, it won’t be financially viable to run transmitters and IP will be the wise way to use the licence fee on which the BBC depends. Doing this, clearly, will demand IP delivery of many times what is currently being used. Yesterday’s article on multicast ABR is one way in which this may be mitigated and fits into a multi-CDN strategy.

Watch now! Free registration

Looking at today’s streaming services, Paul and his colleagues aim to get analytics from every player on every device wherever possible. Big data techniques are used to understand these logs along with server-side, client-to-edge and edge-to-origin logs. This information along with sports schedules can lead to capacity planning, though many news events are much less easy to plan. It’s these unplanned, high-peak events which drive the BBC’s build up of internal monitoring tools to help them understand what is working well under load and what’s starting to feel the strain so they can take action to ensure quality is maintained even through these times of intense interest. The BBC manage their capacity with their own CDN, called BIDI, which provides for the baseline needs and allows an easier-to-forecast budget. Mulitple, third-party CDNs are, then, the key to providing the variable and peak capacities needed.

As we head into the Q&A Limelight’s Steve Miller-Jones outlines the company’s strengths including their focus on adding abilities on top of a ‘typical’ CDN. For instance, running applications on the CDN which is particularly useful as part of edge compute and their ability to run WebRTC at scale which not many CDNs are built to do. The Q&A sees the broadcasters outlining what they particularly look out for in a CDN and how they leverage AI. Globo anticipate using AI to help them predict traffic demand, beIN see it providing automated highlights whilst the BBC see it enabling easier access to their deep archives.

Watch now!
Free registration
Speakers

Carlos Octavio Carlos Octavio
Head of Architecture and Analytics,
Globo
Bhavesh Patel Bhavesh Patel
Global Digital Director,
beIN MEDIA GROUP
Paul Tweedy Paul Tweedy
Lead Architect, Online Technology Group,
BBC Design + Engineering
Steve Miller-Jones Steve Miller-Jones
Vice President of Product Strategy,
Limelight Networks

Video: Building A Studio

The fundamentals of building a studio are the same whether for TV or Radio. You want to keep sound out…and in. This has forever been a challenge which doesn’t stop when the room’s built. Before it’s pressed into use, you have to lay it out correctly, considering the equipment, acoustic treatments and keep it cool.

Fortunately, experts from the BBC and Global are here to talk us through it at this Masterclass from Radio TechCon. Dave Walters from the BBC kicks off explaining how the aim of isolating your studio from physical vibration both through the structure and through gaps in the walls, floor or ceiling. Once isolated from the outside, the task is to manage the sound in the room and that calls for acoustic treatment. Dave goes through the options for lining the ceiling and walls showing that there’s acoustic treatment at all budgets. Dave finishes by highlighting that the aim is to dissipate sound and not let it bounce around. This means reflective surfaces such as glass windows need to be angled so they don’t directly point at any other hard surface.

With a deadened acoustic and a quiet atmosphere, your studio is ready to be occupied. Stephen Clarke from Global talks through laying out the studio taking into account what people do and don’t want to see. The presenter, for instance, will want to see through to the control room for visual cues during the programme, but it’s best to keep guests pointed away without distraction. This can also extend to the placement of TVs, computers and other equipment. Equipment, of course, is a concern in itself. As it generates heat and, often noise, it’s best to minimise in-studio equipment which can be done with a KVM system. Stephen talks us through a photo of the Today studio to see these principles in action.

To finish up, Global’s Simon Price talks about making holes in the studio that Dave managed to isolate. The inconvenient truth is that people need oxygen, generate heat and generate odour. Any one of those three is a good reason to put air con into the studio so Simon explains the use of baffles in ducting used to introduce the air. This absorbs sound from the air’s movement and also any external sounds that happen to come in. Simon concludes by explaining safe electrical distribution for studios keeping wiring to a minimum and reducing fire risk.

Before leaving, the team have just enough time to answer a question about studios with large amounts of glass and how to choose how ‘dead’ you want the reverb in the studio to be asking ‘can you go too far’ in minimising sound.

Watch now!
Speakers

Dave Walters Dave Walters
Head of Systems and Services: TV, Radio & Archive
BBC
Stephen Clarke Stephen Clarke
Broadcast Engineer,
Global Radio
Simon Price Simon Price
Broadcast Engineering Manager,
Global Radio