Tech Across America
SMPTE ST 2110 IP Spec Becomes A Standard
For almost two years, the industry – that is both broadcasters looking to set up Internet Protocol (IP) workflows and the equipment manufactures that support them with new technology to make it happen – have been eagerly awaiting the formal standardization of the SMPTE ST 2110 specification for sending and receiving Professional Media Over Managed IP Networks. The standard, actually a suite of standards, opens the door to innovative uses for IP, such as remote control of an entire system from miles away, and maximizing resources within a studio to improve productivity.
The best part is that the new SMPTE ST 2110 standards are video-format-agnostic and therefore support Ultra HD, HDR, and other new and emerging formats. In September, at this year’s IBC2017 Show in Amsterdam, the Society of Motion Picture And Television Engineers (SMPTE) announced it had reached approval on a new set of standards that outline best practices for the carriage, synchronization, and description of separate elementary essence streams over professional IP networks in real-time for the purposes of live production, playout, and other professional media applications. ST 2110 standards make it possible to separately route and break away ancillary data, as well as the audio and video. This change promises to simplify the process of adding metadata such as captions, subtitles, Teletext, and time codes; as well as tasks such as the processing of multiple audio languages and types. All elements can be routed separately and brought together again at the endpoint. With ST 2110 standards, each component flow – the audio, video and metadata – is synchronized to each other while remaining independent streams.
By deploying the SMPTE ST 2110 standards, intra-facility traffic now can be all-IP, allowing media organizations to rely on one common data-center infrastructure rather than two separate facilities for SDI and IP switching/routing. The foundation for the first SMPTE ST 2110 standards came from Video Services Forum (VSF) Technical Recommendation for Transport of Uncompressed Elementary Stream Media Over IP (TR-03), which the VSF has made available to SMPTE as part of the newly approved specifications. The new SMPTE ST 2110 standards were a primary focus of the IP Showcase at IBC2017, where SMPTE joined with the Audio Engineering Society (AES), Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS), Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA), European Broadcasting Union (EBU), IABM, Media Networking Alliance (MNA), and Video Services Forum (VSF) to support the interoperability event. With more than 60 companies working together to demonstrate real cases of IP interoperability based on the final draft SMPTE ST 2110 standards, the IP Showcase featured the latest advances in IP technology for the professional media industries and demonstrated how SMPTE ST 2110 standards add value.
Numerous interoperability demonstrations using ST 2110 were held to show broadcast/IT engineers, CEOs, producers, and others in understanding how they can leverage the benefits of the ST 2110 standards. To prove ease of use as well as interoperability, the demonstrations are divided into a series of application pods, such as live production signal flows, contribution and playout signal flows, etc., which were all shown under the control of familiar user interfaces (such as an editing timeline, playout server interfaces and various web-based (and highly, secure) portals.
The need for an official standard (and the IP Showcase) was also critical to manufacturers that are developing the new software and hardware tools that can make ST 2110 useful in the real world. In fact, many of the standards committee members on the SMPTE ST 2110 Drafting Group are also representatives from many different manufacturers. Without the standard fully approved, many were forced to hold off development of key technology because they didn’t want to build a product that wasn’t supported by SMPTE. This approval is critical for customers to know that the technology they buy will work with other companies’ technology in a file-based workflow. However, SMPTE said that while the industry can now start manufacturing equipment, a fully interoperable system will require additional areas to be addressed. Nevertheless, the new SMPTE ST 2110 standards are already being embraced by the industry. In a survey conducted by the AIMS group, 70 percent of its members said that they would begin offering equipment and solutions implementing the SMPTE ST 2110 standards soon.
According to SMPTE, the ST 2110 standards suite is made up of three key parts. The current status of documents included in the suite, as of October 2017, is:
- SMPTE ST 2110-10/-20/-30 – addressing system concerns and uncompressed video and audio streams — are now approved standards. The press release can be found here.
- SMPTE ST 2110-40 – concerning metadata such as captions, subtitles, active format description, time codes, dynamic range, and more – is presently undergoing final committee draft ballot and is anticipated to be published before the end of 2017 or early in 2018.
- SMPTE ST 2110-21 – specifying traffic shaping and delivery timing of uncompressed video — is presently in the comment resolution phase of the final committee draft text.
The SMPTE standards committee is now resolving final comments on ST 2110-21 before conducting the final ballot (draft publication) to elevate it to standard status. This document is anticipated to be published before the end of this year or early in 2018. Additional portions of the standards suite, such as support for compressed audio and video, will follow a similar process and will likely be published in time for the 2018 NAB Show.
The impact of the new standards goes beyond just replacing serial digital interface (SDI) with IP to having the flexibility to develop a whole new set of applications based on, and leveraged off, information technology (IT) protocols and infrastructure. SMPTE said the advantages of shifting to IP are comparable to those achieved when the industry moved from physical tapes to virtual files for content storage. Files were not treated as if they were just virtual tapes; rather, all the benefits of software and virtualized access have come to be realized with new workflows and functionality offered.
Another advantage is that intra-facility traffic now can be all-IP. Thus, rather than requiring two separate sets of switches
- SDI switches for professional media and IP/Ethernet switches for general data
- facilities can rely on one common data center infrastructure. Most operators will continue to separate traffic by priority; however, the newer switches do have the intelligence to prioritize real-time media streams.
So, while additional work continues, SMPTE has given the much-needed green light for suppliers and users to begin deploying IP networks and reaping the benefits. Most agree that IP is the future of video transport, remote control and automated playout of virtual channels. And SMPTE’s final stamp of approval has, for the most part, finally arrived.