Production Values Drive the 8K IP Revolution
The article outlines how the emergence of 8K over IP has led to a fundamental rethink of how content could be produced in the future.
Past broadcast technologies have tied us into rigid formats and workflows. Significant capital investment kept equipment renewal to ten-year cycles. And production values were driven by engineering decisions.
But this has all changed. The broadcasting IP revolution is firmly underway and delivering more opportunities than ever. Flexibility needs and ever reducing infrastructure costs are pushing more and more broadcasters to IP, but this is only half of the story. The real benefit of IP delivers demands from program makers.
In the past, the technical quality of programs has been defined by the formats and equipment available. When we broadcast in SD, program makers would only use SD to record, and the same for HD. However, as 4K and then 8K started to emerge, program makers started to use these modern technologies independent of the requirements of the broadcast infrastructure.
Before 8K, programs were recorded and mastered in 4K, and then converted to HD or SD for broadcast. Now 8K is emerging, program makers are naturally gravitating to 8K as both a record and mastering medium. Transcoding and software editing has become so effective that converting from an 8K:120P:444 edit master to HD or SD broadcast formats has become easy, with conversions either taking place in the edit suite or on-the-fly in transmission.
SDI workflows were designed to transfer a specific type of video format such as HD or SD. Even as we move to 4K and 8K, SDI systems are still capable of providing the transport layer. But SDI starts to hold us back when we move away from the studio domain, to an outside broadcast for example.
Single path satellite transmissions do not work well with multi-stream 4K and 8K signals. We can increase the number of transponder channels or improve modem coding, but costs, sensitivity and complexity increase massively. Combining four or more transponder feeds to deliver one 8K signal is possible but it would require a great deal of expertise, be very difficult to implement and costly.
IP delivers the flexibility to move data hungry systems over standard Telco connectivity without having to worry about specialist networks such as SDI transponder circuits. The same COT’s rules apply to Telco’s as they do to IT systems – the pressure on cost is down even as the bandwidth keeps increasing.
Telcos are offering higher and higher IP bandwidths, opening the path to better picture quality for video transport, distribution and broadcast. This new environment questions the way we used to compress video signals.
New generations of codecs are constantly being developed for high and low compression rates.
Using high compression rates, HEVC and similar codecs are promising high visual quality with compression of 1000:1 or more. Such codecs are optimized for human perception and could not be used in productions where cascading back-to-back encoding and decoding is regularly performed – the damage to the image quality is too severe.
Using low compression rates, JPEG and JPEG 2000 are being now challenged by light-weight and ultra-low-
delay codecs such as TICO and the upcoming JPEG-XS. The newcomers are offering tremendous image quality with very small hardware electronic footprints and reduced software processing power.
With these new compression tools, transferring 8K video over IT and Telco networks has become much easier, whether the use case targets distribution or production.
In the case of 8K studio distribution, we can dispense with SDI completely and use IP protocols now. Using low latency compression, we can tune systems to the data-rate available within the network at that time. As IT network speeds improve, we can reduce compression as required.
Attempting to build an 8K infrastructure using SDI is possible, but it’s creatively restrictive, costly, and cumbersome in cable management. As ethernet speeds continue to increase, IP is proving itself to be the only viable option when building broadcast infrastructures.
Ethernet bandwidths continue to increase with 100 Gbps now overtaking 10 Gbps. Terabit ethernet (TbE) describes ethernet speeds above 100 Gbps. With IEEE recently releasing 200 Gbps specifications chip manufacturers will already be working on development of 200Gbps connectivity. 8K-60P-422 requires 48 Gbps without compression, easily achievable in 100 Gbps ethernet circuits. And 8K-120P-444 formats, needing 144 Gbps will fly through 200 Gbps fibers.
But the actual affordable solution is leveraging lightweight codecs like TICO and upcoming JPEG-XS. By compressing the 8K signal with a factor from 4 to 10 times, the current usual IT infrastructure based on 10 GbEth, 25 GbEth or 40 GbEth is perfectly suitable to handle multiple 8K signals in parallel.
Scalability isn’t just about spinning up new servers to meet operational demand, it’s also about being able to gear up hardware infrastructure to take advantage of new imaging formats. These are not only confined to broadcast television, but may also give manufacturers and system integrators access to markets they haven’t even considered yet.
Manufacturers of IT equipment, such as ethernet switchers, IP routers and SFP connectors, are all under pressure to sell more products. In doing so their selling strategy is to deliver more throughput and bandwidth for the same cost. This breakthrough is unprecedented in the broadcast industry and is happening at breathtaking speed. Router manufacturers have development budgets that would make most of us cry, and as we embrace the IP revolution, we will be able to take advantage of this.
IP empowers us to abstract away the application from the underlying transport hardware, offering new and interesting opportunities in related, but different markets.
The origami ecosystem groups multiple vendors, from hardware chip manufacturers to design houses. It offers ready-to-go modules and firmware answering the potential of IT flexibility and the challenge of higher production resolution, combined with more mobility of processing and editing locations. The origami modules manufactured by Image Matters pre-integrate advanced chips, releasing system manufacturers from deep integration details and letting them focus of the actual added value of their system’s applications.
De-risking development costs and timescales, the goal of Image Matters’ range of modules is to make the transition to IP as easy as possible, especially as broadcasters adopt 8K.
In the history of broadcasting, this is the first time we have been able to completely ride on the back of IT innovation – the data bandwidths are available, the costs are comparatively low, and the demand is driven by program makers. IP is the only path to 8K – and beyond!