Videos: Standards – What are they and how are they changing?

Standards in media go back to the early days of cinema standardising the sprocket holes in rolls of film with the intent of making it easier for the US Army to distribute training films. This standardisation work marked the beginning of SMPTE, though the acronym lacked a T at the time since television hadn’t yet been invented. There is a famous XKCD comic that mocks standards or at least standards that promise to replace all that went before. This underlines why it’s more important what standards don’t say than what they do. Giving the market room to evolve, advance and innovate is a vital aspect of good standards.

The broadcast industry is emerging from a time of great stability thanks to a number of standards that have been around for ages. SDI is a decades-old technology that is ubiquitous in the industry. Likewise, H.264 has become the only codec to use unless you have a specific use case for HEVC, AV1, VP9 etc. thanks to its almost universal presence in devices. Black and burst is now being replaced by PTP in IP installations. This is novel, despite PTP’s upcoming twentieth birthday, because it doesn’t matter if PTP is four decades old, its launch in the broadcast sector is recent, support will be low.



This panel from SMPTE Hollywood features two members of SMPTE deeply involved with standardisation within the industry: Bruce Devlin, Standards Vice President and Thomas Bause Mason Director of Standards Development. . They are joined by IP specialist JiNan Glasgow George and moderator Maureen O’Rourke from Disney.

In a sometimes frank discussion, we hear about the attempt by standards bodies to try and keep up with the shift form hardware to software within the whole industry, the use of patents within standards, how standards bodies are financed and the cost of standards, software versus hardware patents, standardisation of AI models, ensuring standards are realistic & useful with plugfests, the difference between standards bodies such as ANSI, ISO, SMPTE etc.,

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Thomas Bause Mason Thomas Bause Mason
Director of Standards Development,
Bruce Devlin Bruce Devlin
Standards Vice-President,
JiNan Glasgow George JiNan Glasgow George
Patent Attorney,
Neo IP
Maureen O’Rourke Maureen O’Rourke
Technical Lead Quality Control Officer,
The Walt Disney Company

Video: Introduction to Precision Time Protocol (PTP)

As we’ve seen in so many videos, PTP is fundamental to large-scale SMPTE ST 2110 and pro-audio installations. On The Broadcast Knowledge we’ve looked at a large range of talks on PTP on architecture, scaling, and how it fits in to the broadcast industry. Few of these break down PTP into the fundamentals like today’s article about a video from Albert Mitchell from Cisco.

The key to a PTP network is having one grandmaster clock which can provide time for the rest of the network. In this article, the clocks running in the end devices are called ‘ordinary clocks’. Whilst there are ways to avoid using PTP with uncompressed video such as ST 2110, for live, studio-style productions where you will be bringing them together in a video mixer or similar, keeping these videos effectively zero latency is important and frame syncs on every input of the mixer are discouraged. A grandmaster clock can provide the timing the whole network needs to make this work, usually fed by GPS time.



SMPTE’s ST 2110 suite has built itself on the timing mechanism of PTP in form of IEEE-1588. SMPTE ST 2059 standards suite provides a method to accommodate all legacy reference and media signals using IEEE-1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP), delivered over an IP network.

Albert moves on to how this all works. He keeps it simple explaining that there are two measurements needed to get the timing right. You need to know how long it takes to get a message from the grandmaster to the clock and how long it takes to get a message from the clock to the grandmaster. If the grandmaster sends a message with the time in it, it’s trivial for the ordinary clock to look at the time when the message arrived and work out the time it took. It can do the same; an ordinary clock can put the time into a message and send it to a grandmaster. The grandmaster will look at the current time and reply saying how long the transmission delay was. The ordinary clock averages these two measurements and can use the result and the time from the grandmaster to correct its own clock.

Albert finishes by explaining that if there are other switches between the grandmaster and the ordinary clock, those switches should be expected to identify the ‘residence time’ and add this extra delay of simply going through the switch to the time message. Changes in network delay due to congestion or path changes are the reason this timing calculation happens once a second.

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Albert Mitchell Albert Mitchell
Technical MArketing Engineer,

Video: Best Practices for End-to-End Workflow and Server-Side Ad Insertion Monitoring

This video from the Streaming Video Alliance, presented at Mile High Video 2020 looks at the result of recent projects document the best practice for two important activities: server-side ad insertion (SSAI) and end-to-end (E2E) workflow monitoring. First off, is E2E monitoring which defines a multi-faceted approach to making sure you’re delivering good-quality content well.

The this part of the talk is given by Christopher Kulbakas who introduces us to the document published by the Streaming Video Alliance covering monitoring best practices. The advice surrounds three principles: Creating a framework, deciding on metrics, and correlation. Christopher explains the importance of monitoring video quality after a transcode or encode since it’s easy to take a sea of green from your transport layer to indicate that viewers are happy. If your encode looks bad, viewers won’t be happy just because the DASH segments were delivered impeccably.

The guidance helps your monitor your workflow. ‘End to end’ doesn’t imply the whole delivery chain, only how to ensure the part you are responsible for is adequately monitored.

Christopher unveils the principles behind the modular monitoring across the workflow and tech stack:
1) Establish monitoring scope
Clearly delineate your responsibility from that of other parties. Define exactly how and to what standard data will be handled between the parties.

2) Partition workflow with monitoring points
Now your scope is clear, you can select monitoring points before and after key components such as the transcoder.

3) Decompose tech stage
Here, think of each point in the workflow to be monitored as a single point in a stack of technology. There will be content needing a perceptual quality monitor, Quality of Service (QoS) and auxiliary layers such as player events, logs and APIs which can be monitored.

4) Describe Methodology
This stage calls for documenting the what, where, how and why of your choices, for instance explaining that you would like to check the manifest and chunks on the output of the packager. You’d do this with HTTP-GET requests for the manifest and chunks for all rungs of the ladder. After you have finished, you will have a whole set of reasoned monitoring points which you can document and also share with third parties.

5) Correlate results
The last stage is bringing together this data, typically by using an asset identifier. This way, all alarms for an asset can be grouped together and understood as a whole workflow.

End-to-End Server-Side Ad Monitoring

The last part of this talk is from Mourad Kioumgi from Sky who walks us through a common scenario and how to avoid it. An Ad Buyer complains their ad didn’t make it to air. Talking to every point in the chain, everyone checks their own logs and says that their function was working, from the schedulers to the broadcast team inserting the SCTE markers. The reality is that if you can’t get to the bottom of this, you’ll lose money as you lose business and give refunds.

The Streaming Video Alliance considered how to address this through better monitoring and are creating a blueprint and architecture to monitor SSAI systems.

Mourad outlines these possible issues that can be found in SSAI systems:
1) Duration of content is different to the ad duration.
2) Chunks/manifest are not available or poorly hosted
3) The SCTE marker fails to reach downstream systems
4) Ad campaigns are not fulfilled despite being scheduled
5) Ad splicing components fail to create personalised manifests
6) Over-compression of the advert.

Problems 2,3, 5 and 6 are able to be caught by the monitoring proposed which revolves around adding the Creative ID and AdID into the manifest file. This way, problems can be correlated which particularly improves the telemetry back from the player which can deliver a problem report and specify which asset was affected. Other monitoring probes are added to monitor the manifests and automatic audio and video quality metrics. Sky successfully implemented this as a proof of concept with two vendors working together resulting in a much better overview of their system.

Mourad finishes his talk looking at the future creating an ad monitoring framework to distribute an agreed framework document for. best practices.

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Christopher Kulbakas Christopher Kulbakas
Project Lead, Senior Systems Designer, Media Technology & infrastructure,
CBC/Radio Canada
Mourad Kioumgi Mourad Kioumgi
VOD Solutions Architect.

Video: Time and timing at VidTrans21

Timing is both everything and nothing. Although much fuss is made of timing, often it’s not important. But when it is important, it can be absolutely critical. Helping us navigate through the broadcast chains varying dependence on a central co-ordinated time source is Nevion’s Andy Rayner in this talk at the VSF’s VidTrans21. When it comes down to it, you need time for coordination. In the 1840s, the UK introduced ‘Railway time’ bringing each station’s clock into line with GMT to coordinate people and trains.

For broadcast, working with multiple signals in a low-latency workflow is the time we’re most likely to need synchronisation such as in a vision or audio mixer. Andy shows us some of the original television technology where the camera had to be directly synchronised to the display. This is the era timing came from, built on by analogue video and RF transmission systems which had components whose timing relied on those earlier in the chain. Andy brings us into the digital world reminding us of the ever-useful blanking areas of the video raster which we packed with non-video data. Now, as many people move to SMPTE’s ST 2110 there is still a timing legacy as we see that some devices are still generating data with gaps where the blanking of the video would be even though 2110 has no blanking. This means we have to have timing modes for linear and non-linear delivery of video.

In ST 2110 every packet is marked with a reduced resolution timestamp from PTP, the Precision Time Protocol (or See all our PTP articles). This allows highly accurate alignment of essences when bringing them together as even a slight offset between audios can create comb filters and destroy the sound. The idea of the PTP timestamp is to stamp the time the source was acquired. But Andy laments that in ST 2110 it’s hard to keep this timestamp since interim functions (e.g. graphics generators) may restamp the PTP breaking the association.

Taking a step back, though, there are delays now up to a minute later delivering content to the home. Which underlines that relative timing is what’s most important. A lesson learnt many years back when VR/AR was first being used in studios where whole sections of the gallery were running several frames delayed to the rest of the facility to account for the processing delay. Today this is more common as is remote production which takes this fixed time offset to the next level. Andy highlights NMOS IS-07 which allows you timestamp button presses and other tally info allowing this type of time-offset working to succeed.

The talk finishes by talking about the work of the GCCG Activity Group at the VSF of which Andy is the co-chair. This group is looking at how to get essences into and out of the cloud. Andy spends some time talking about the tests done to date and the fact that PTP doesn’t exist in the cloud (it may be available for select customers). In fact you may have live with NTP-derived time. Dealing with this is still a lively discussion in progress and Andy is welcoming participants.

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Andy Rayner Andy Rayner
Co-Chair, Ground-Cloud-Cloud-Ground Activity Group, VSF
Chief Technologist, Nevion