IBC2015: New IP Spec Paves Way for OTT, 4K

NewTek bows open protocol that can work with 100,000-plus systems
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Internet-protocol video is increasingly dominating discussions of how to provide broadcasters and programmers with a smoother path to launch new next-generation TV services, including over-the-top video and ultra-high-definition 4K channels.

But, as reported last week, many technologists still worry that existing standards aren’t well-adapted to programmers’ needs. For instance, they’e concerned that the SMPTE 2022-6 standard uses uncompressed video that would require expensive upgrades to higher capacity networks; that video, audio and metadata are embedded into the feed, which can force users to convert streams back to serial digital interface (SDI) format; and that existing equipment would need to be replaced with newer, IP-compatible gear.

While those concerns weren’t laid to rest during last week’s IBC2015 in Amsterdam, the convention did showcase some notable developments in codecs that might mitigate those problems.

One was NewTek’s launch of NDI, an open protocol that will be available in the fourth quarter as a royalty-free software developer kit (SDK).

FAST TRACK TO IP

“We are big believers that IP workflows are the future, and that the entire industry is about to shift and change forever,” NewTek senior director of industry marketing Ellen Camloh said. NDI would greatly speed that adoption, because it would allow broadcasters and vendors to use their existing infrastructure to make the transition, she said.

To speed adoption, NewTek has worked closely with a large number of top manufacturers and developers to allow IP connectivity between devices. NDI will work with products and systems from Brainstorm, CasparCG, CharacterWorks, ChyronHego, ClassX, Compix, EasyWorship, Gnural Net, Graphics Outfitters, LiveXpert, Media 5, PlayBox Technology, Teradek, Vizrt, Wasp3D and other vendors.

In addition, capture cards from AJA, Deltacast and Matrox can act as NDI senders or receivers. Boland, JVC, LiveU, Microsoft Skype TX, NewsMaker, Panasonic, PESA, Sienna and Wowza are also working on providing NDI-based solutions.

Overall, NDI will support more than 100,000 compatible systems already deployed worldwide, Camloh said.

During IBC, NewTek also launched its first product based on NDI, the NewTek Advanced IP Workflow. This offering makes it possible for any device to use another device’s connected inputs (and outputs) across the network, which in turn means the number of inputs and output resources can be easily scaled.

The workflow also works on a standard Gigabit Ethernet local area network infrastructure rather than the expensive, dual-10 Gigabit-per-second Ethernet networks often used in IP workflows.

SQUEEZING INTO 4K

Another notable development was the expansion of the TICO Alliance, a consortium of tech companies involved in live 4K demos at IBC. TICO promotes an approach that uses lightweight video compression within broadcast production facilities. That means 4K/Ultra HD can be transported over current 3G-SDI and 10 GbE IP-based infrastructures without expensive upgrades.

TICO said recently that Deltacast, EVS, Media Global Links and Tektronix have signed on with the group, joining such existing members as Altera, Artel Video Systems, Belden Grass Valley, Embrionix, Deltacast, EVS Broadcast Equipment, Image Matters, Imagine Communications, Keisoku Giken, Macnica Americas, MediaLinks, Nevion, Ross Video, Tektronix and Xilinx.

It’s still an open question as to where these efforts will go. Concerns about standards have convinced some broadcasters to delay their IP move until it becomes clearer which approaches will be standardized and adopted by the whole industry.

There’s little doubt, though, that efforts by industry players to come up with new approaches to deliver IP video at IBC2015 marked a notable step forward in the progress of the shift toward these new technologies, several vendors at IBC said.

“IP-based workflows are the future of our industry,” said Samuel Wasserman, CEO of LiveU, a provider of widely used cellular-bonding technologies that use cellular and IP networks to deliver remote video from cameras to studios. “We are excited to work with NewTek on NDI to open a standard that allows any company or customer to take advantage of the flexibility and power that it brings to our solutions.”

LAUNCHPAD: The New Apple TV

AVAILABLE TO MARKET: Priced at $149 for the 32GB model and $199 for the 64GB model, the new units should go on sale at the end of October.

NEW FEATURES: With Apple CEO Tim Cook proclaiming that “the television experience has been virtually standing still,” and that “today, we are going to do something about that,” the company unveiled a major refresh of its Apple TV system, with an impressive new Siri remote, the launch of Siri voice controls on Apple TV for the first time, a new Apple TV app store, a new tvOS operating system and a vision based on the idea that “the future of TV is apps.”

PLUSSES: Impressive voice command and search features; touchscreen remote that will simplify navigation; new Apple TV app store should attract developers; motion detecting sensors that could be used for gaming; part of a well-established ecosystem of interlocking devices and content; decent line-up of TV apps from players such as Netflix, HBO, Hulu, MLB.com and Showtime; improved user interface and new operating system could lay groundwork for launch next year of subscription-TV services.

MINUSES: Very expensive compared to streaming sticks and devices from Google, Amazon and Roku priced at under $50; unclear if the focus on gaming will prove attractive to many consumers; in some respects represented a catch-up play to Roku and other manufacturers who already offer universal search and other features; hard to tell if upgrades are enough to attract consumers not already committed to the Apple ecosystem.

Internet-protocol video is increasingly dominating discussions of how to provide broadcasters and programmers with a smoother path to launch new next-generation TV services, including over-the-top video and ultra-high-definition 4K channels.

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