Video: Case Study: Dropbox HQ ST 2110

Dropbox is embedded in many production workflows – official and otherwise – so it’s a beautiful symmetry that they’re using Broadcast’s latest technology, SMPTE ST 2110, within their own headquarters. Dropbox have AV throughout their building and a desire to create professional video from anywhere. This desire was a driving factor in an IP-based production facility as, to allow mobile production platforms to move from room to room with only a single cable needed to connect to the wall and into the production infrastructure.

David Carroll’s integration company delivered this project and joins Wes Simpson to discuss this case-study with colleague Kevin Gross. David explains that they delivered fibre to seventy locations throughout the building making most places into potential production locations.

Being an IT company at heart, the ST 2110 network was built to perform in the traditional way, but with connections into the corporate network which many broadcasters wouldn’t allow. ST 2110 works best with two separate networks, often called Red and Blue, both delivering the same video. This uses ST 2022-7 to seamlessly failover if one network loses a packet or even if it stops working all together. This is the technique used with dropbox, although there these networks are connected together so are not one hundred per cent isolated. This link, however, has the benefit of allowing PTP traffic between the two networks.

PTP topology typically sees two grandmasters in the facility. It makes sense to connect one to the red network, the other to the blue. In order to have proper redundancy, though, there should really be a path from both grandmasters to both networks. This is usually done with a specially-configured ‘PTP only’ link between the two. In this case, there are other reasons for a wider link between networks which also serves as the PTP link. Another element of PTP topology is acknowledging the need for two PTP domains. A PTP domain allows two PTP systems to operate on the same network but without interfering with one another. Dante requires PTP version 1 whereas 2110, and most other things, require v2. Although this is in the process of improving, the typical way to solve this now is to run the two separately and block v1 from areas of the network in which it’s not needed.

PTP disruptions can also happen with multicast packet loss. If packets are lost at the wrong time, a grandmaster election can happen. Finally, on PTP, they also saw the benefits of using boundary clock switches to isolate the grandmasters. These grandmasters have to send out the time eight times a second. Each end-device then replies to ascertain the propagation delay. Dealing with every single device can overwhelm grandmasters, so boundary clock switches can be very helpful. On a four-core Arista, David and Kevin found that one core would be used dealing with the PTP requests.

A more extensive write-up of the project can be found here from David Carroll

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Kevin Gross Kevin Gross
Media Network Consultant
AVA Networks
David Carroll David Carroll
David Carroll Associates, Inc.
Wes Simpson Wes Simpson

Video: AES67 over WAN

Deeply embedded in the audio industry and adopted into SMPTE ST 2110, AES67 workflows surround us. Increasingly our workflows are in multiple locations so moving AES67 on the WAN and the internet is essential. If networks were always perfect, this would be easy but as that’s not the case, this RAVENNA talk examines what the problems are and how to solve them.

Andreas Hildebrand introduces the video with an examination of how the WAN, whether that’s a company’s managed wide area network or the internet at large, is different from a LAN. Typical issues are packet loss, varying latency meaning the packets arrive with jitter, lack of PTP and multicast. With this in mind, Nicolas Sturmel from Merging Technologies takes the reins to examine the solutions.

Nicolas explains the typically EBU Tech 3326 (also known as ACIP) is used for WAN contribution which specifies how a sender and receiver communicate and the codecs to be used. Although PCM is available, many codecs such as AptX are also prescribed for use. Nicolas says that ACIP is great for most applications but if you need low-latency, precise timing and PCM-quality staying AES67 may be the best policy, even over the WAN.

Having identified your AES6-over-WAN workflow, the question is how to pull it off. Nicolas looks at three methods, one is FEC whereby you are constantly sending redundant data. FEC can send up to around 25% extra data so that if any is lost, the extra information sent can be leveraged to determine the lost values and reconstruct the stream. This is can work well but requires sending this extra data constantly therefore putting up your bandwidth. It can also only deal with certain losses requiring them to be of a short duration.

Instead of FEC, you can use RIST, SRT or a similar re-transmission technology. These will actively recover any lost packets and have the benefit that you only transmit more data when you have lost data. Lastly, he mentions SMPTE ST 2022-7 which uses two paths of identical data to cover losses in any one of them. Although this is 100% extra data, the benefit is that it can deal with any type of loss including a complete path failure which neither of the others can do. It is, however possible to combine FEC or RIST with a 2022-7 workflow so you can have two levels of protection.

Timing over the WAN is not ideal as PTP loses accuracy over long-latency links and it assumes symmetry. On the internet, it’s possible to get links where the latency is longer in one direction than the other. An easy, though potentially costly, workaround for distributing PTP over the WAN is to use GPS, GLONASS or similar to synchronise grandmaster clocks at each location.

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Nicolas Sturmel Nicolas Sturmel
Product Manager & Senior Technologist
Merging Technologies
Andreas Hildebrand Andreas Hildebrand
RAVENNA Evangelist,

Video: Timing Requirements in Broadcast Applications

How does timing for AES67 and SMPTE ST 2110-30 work? All is revealed in this short video by Andrea Hildebrand who explains why we need PTP timing and how we relate the absolute time to the signals themselves.

In a network for audio streams, Andreas starts, we want all the streams to run on their native sample rate, use the same clock, but also want to have the possibility of multiple concurrent streams using different sample rates. Also, it’s important to have a deterministic end-to-end latency and that, when streams arrive, they should be suitably aligned. We achieve all of this by distributing time around the system. Audio has very high accuracy requirements of down to within 10 microseconds for typical 48KHz broadcast signals, but AES11 requires within 1 microsecond which is why the Precision Time Protocol, PTP is used which is defined by the standard IEEE 1588. For more information on PTP, check out our PTP back library

End devices run their own local clocks, synchronised to the PTP on the network. In charge of it all, there is a grandmaster locked to GPS which can then distribute to other secondary clocks which feed the end devices. The end device can generate a media clock from the PTP and by using PTP, different facilities can be kept in time with each other. All media is then timestamped with the time when they were generated. For advice on architecting PTP, have a listen to this talk from Arista’s Gerard Phillips.

RTP is used to carry professional media streams like AES. RTP builds on top of UDP to add the critical timing information we need. Namely, the timestamp but also the sequence number. Andreas looks at the structure of the RTP packet header to see where the timestamp and identifiers go. To follow up on the IT basics underpinning AES67 and SMPTE ST 2110, check out Ed Calverley’s presentation on the topic.

‘Profiles’ are required to link the time of day to media flows – to give the time some meaning in terms of the expected signal. The AES67 Media Profile does this for AES67 as an annexe in the standard. SMPTE use ST 2059 to define how to use AES67 as well as all the other essences it supports and relate them all back to an originating epoch time in 1970.

The talk finishes by looking at the overlap in timing specs for AES67 and ST 2110-30 (AES67 for 2110). For more information on how AES67 and ST 2110 work (and don’t work) together, watch Andreas’s ‘Deeper dive’ on the topic.

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Andreas Hildebrand Andreas Hildebrand
RAVENNA Evangelist
ALC NetworX

Video: Keeping Time with PTP

Different from his talk of the same name we covered last week, Mike Waidson from Telestream explains the fundamentals of PTP joined by Leigh Whitcomb from Imagine Communications and Robert Welch from Arista. Very few PTP talks include a live BCMA quiz plus, with more time than the IP Showcase talks, this is a well-paced, deep look into the basics.

Mike starts by reviewing how the measurement of time has been more and more accurately measured with us now, typically using atomic clocks. In the TV-domain analogue video used signals for B&B which gave frequency information in the subcarrier and allowed frequency locking and to keep in sync with other signals. NTP has allowed computers and routers on IP networks to keep lock allowing sub-millisecond synchronisation over LANs. Now we have IEEE 1588 PTP which harnesses hardware for maximum precision providing sub-microsecond precision.

Traditionally an SPG would create many different synchronising signals, distributed by DAs. With PTP however, the idea is creating a single time signal on to the network (as well as older signals if necessary). Although, the important thing to remember is that PTP both sends and receives data from the endpoints. GPS is made from 31 active satellites of which only 4 are needed for a lock. But other systems such as the Russian GLONASS, the Chinese BAIDU Navigational system or the European Galileo can also be used, sometimes in conjunction with each other to improve locking speed or give resilience.

Mike and his co-hosts give an overview of the standards that make all this possible, starting with the PTP standard itself IEEE 1588-2019 which is added to by SMPTE 2059. The latter is two standards which, together ensure broadcast devices can usefully harness PTP which is a general, cross-industry standard and track all signals back to a single point in time in 1970. Whilst this may seem extreme, the benefit of doing this is that if we know that all possible types of signal were in-phase at this one point in time, we can extrapolate how each signal should be phased now and use that information to synchronise the system. Upcoming to PTP, we hear, are standardised ways to monitor PTP plus additional security around the standard.

The next section looks at the types of Grandmaster and the fact that each clock works in its own domain. Typically, all your system will be in the same domain, but if you have incompatible situations such as older Dante networks or if you want to have a testing environment, you can use domains to separate your equipment. The standard, as defined by SMPTE 2059 is 127.

Mike then looks at the different types of PTP Message types: Announce, Sync & Follow up, Delay Request, Delay Response and Management Messages (broadcast information, drop second, time zone etc.) He then brings some of these up in Wireshark and talks us through the structure and what can be found within.

The most original part of the talk is the live walkthrough of three different scenarios where Leigh and Robert talk through their thinking on which clock will be the grandmaster and for what reason. This comes down to their understanding of the order of precedence of the metrics such as the manually-allotted priority, then the class of clock, clock accuracy and other values. One value worth remembering is that if your clock is locked to GPS it will have a class of 6, but if it then loses lock, it will become 7.

PTP talks are not complete without an explanation of the sync message exchanges needed to actually determine the time (and the relative delays in order to compute it) as well as the secondary clock types, boundary and transparent. Boundary clocks take on much of the two-way traffic in PTP protecting the grandmasters from having to speak directly to all the, potentially, thousands of devices. Transparent switches, simply update the time announcements with the delay for the message to move through the switch. Whilst this is useful in keeping the timing accurate, it provides no protection for the grandmasters.

Before the talk finishes with a Q&A, the team finish by explaining the difference between operating in unicast and multicast, prioritising PTP traffic using the differentiated services protocol and adding redundancy to the PTP system.

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Robert Welch
Technical Solultions Lead,
Leigh Whitcomb Leigh Whitcomb
Principal Engineer.
Michael Waidson Mike Waidson
Application Engineer,