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How an IP-Powered Network Operations Center Will Drive Future Workflows
By Claudio Lisman
This article was first published by TV Technology February 16, 2021.
The media industry’s evolution from baseband to IP turned into a revolution in 2020. With the global pandemic shuttering studios, emptying broadcast operations centers and sidelining OB trucks, streaming and broadcast productions were forced to double down on remote production workflows and technologies. Consequently, they embraced IP like never before, together with its game-changing efficiency, cost savings and flexibility for meeting rapidly changing requirements.
As IP continues to go mainstream for video production, producers have identified key requirements. They’re looking to move away from bulky, expensive hardware to more flexible software and cloud-based solutions as well as more lightweight field gear like bonded cellular backpacks.
They need IP streaming solutions that can be incorporated easily into production workflows, with the ability to ingest non-baseband sources. Broadcast operations need to be able to use the entire gamut of IP-based protocols, and sometimes several of them during the same production. Likewise, they need fast, frictionless ways to transcode feeds and files into multiple video house formats for asset management and distribution.
The concept of an IP network operations center (IP NOC) addresses all of these requirements by bringing together the state of the art in IP-based signal acquisition and cloud-based media asset management (MAM). Driven by these enabling technologies, the IP NOC offers a paradigm shift from traditional broadcast operation centers and satellite trucks to smaller and more nimble transmission gear, cameras and capture devices.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the IP phenomenon, the core elements of the IP NOC and the IP future of video workflows.
A POWERFUL EVOLUTION
Traditional broadcast systems using SDI require dedicated routing switchers, video monitors and ingest hardware. While they offer reliability and high quality, they are inflexible and limited in terms of the number of inputs and outputs that can be achieved without adding additional hardware routing switchers. Adding additional output formats for edit, MAM and playout is equally cumbersome.
In contrast, IP-based systems offer the ability to acquire signals from a virtually unlimited number of inputs using a wide range of protocols (SRT, WebRTC, HLS, RTSP, etc.), then output via an Ethernet switch for live multicamera monitoring, real-time transcoding to house formats, live editing and finally publication, distribution and/or retransmission.
And there’s good news for broadcasters who are taking a phased approach to the IP migration: With an IP NOC topology, they don’t need to drop SDI entirely—IP streaming, NDI and SDI can coexist in the same workflow.
The IP revolution is also having an impact on outside broadcasting and on-location newsgathering. Traditionally, remote broadcast teams have had to rely on OB trucks, large antennas and plenty of logistical and technical wrangling just to get a signal back to the broadcast operation center. Today, bonded cellular transmission radically simplifies remote production and live contribution, replacing those unwieldy antennas and expensive uplink trucks with devices small enough to hold in your hand or, at most, wear in a backpack.
Camera operators and producers can bond together 10x 1Mbps upstream SIM cards to achieve 10Mbps of throughput, which is more than enough to deliver an HD stream and negate the need for a satellite uplink.
BUILDING THE FOUNDATION: THE IP NOC
Working in combination, portable IP signal acquisition technologies and cloud-based tools are enabling broadcast and streaming production teams to work entirely remotely—with access to more capabilities than ever before.
This is the essence of the IP NOC, which extends advanced bonded cellular transmission solutions and cloud-based MAM systems in either centralized or distributed deployments. With the right technologies, broadcasters can assemble an entire IP operation using off-the-shelf hardware and acquire signals from all manner of IP sources.
CAPTURING ANY VIDEO, FROM ANYWHERE
The first key component in the IP NOC is advanced video production and distribution technology for remote video capture. For effective IP video streaming and broadcast, this component should include the following attributes:
- Ability to capture content from any IP stream, camera or broadcast source, including SRT, NDI, HLS, RTSP, DASH and even SDI, taking incoming feeds from both baseband and non-baseband sources.
- Ability to transcode live content in real time into broadcast formats (ProRes, XDCAM, AVC-Intra, DVCPRO, H.264 and H.265/HEVC) for fast integration into production, management and delivery workflows.
- Ability to work with both HD and 4K UHD signals.
- Support for real-time editing in Apple Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro, enabling editors to preview and edit live streams in those NLEs while the video feed is still being captured.
- A software-only solution that manages all streams in real time without costly hardware decoders.
TAKING MAM TO THE CLOUD
The MAM component of the IP NOC brings powerful asset management functionality to the cloud, making it easy for geographically dispersed teams to store, access, produce and manage all of their media assets as well as collaborate on projects from anywhere in the world. Operations making a more phased journey to the cloud can deploy the solution either as a temporary replacement or supplement to an on-prem MAM installation, or as a long-term hybrid solution for the future.
The IP NOC’s MAM capability includes the following:
- Ability to access all production assets and associated metadata both within and outside the facility from a single, unified UI, with comprehensive search capabilities and real-time playback.
- Integrations with major editing software (Adobe Creative Cloud, Apple Final Cut ProX, DaVinci Resolve), giving video, sound, graphics and effects teams the ability to work on any streams or files from any location.
- Ability for production teams to work with both baseband and SDI sources as well as IP files and streams.
- Ability to archive and restore content to local and cloud-based archives from any location and across multiple storage tiers.
THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE
The traditional broadcast operations center will always have its place, but the new IP normal offers unlimited possibilities for broadcast and streaming operations. This migration was well underway before 2020, but the unprecedented events of last year have pushed many production teams to make the leap now.
The advanced IP-based video acquisition and cloud-based MAM solutions built into the IP NOC is smoothing the way—helping video operators meet their immediate demands today, while positioning themselves ideally for the IP future.