Today at NAB we are launching our new Stagebox technology in concert with our partners from Bluebell, Leading Light Technologies, CoreEL, and Xilinx. The technology is on display and available for demonstration at NAB, one of the worlds largest trade exhibitions and conferences covering broadcast technology.
The prototype Stagebox camera back enclosure, showing the full range of I/O connections and ports, plus aerials for wifi connectivity. Note the v-plate attachement point.
Stagebox has been developed by BBC R&D engineers over the last eight months, building on open internet standards to provide a new way to allow high definition multicamera productions to use standard internet technologies to link their equipment and move content in real time. Given the huge advantages we think this can bring to productions in the BBC and further afield we're moving quickly to license our inventions into manufacturers kit which should be available in the market this year.
The BBC R&D Stagebox logo, soon to be found on many Stagebox elements.
In essence, Stagebox takes up to half a dozen expensive cable connections and squeezes them into a single link that can be networked and treated like any internet connection.Each Stagebox element allows a high definition camera, plus the associated sound channels, and talkback, plus tally lights and timecode and, crucially Genlock data to be brought together and sent, fully duplex, down a standard cat5 ethernet cable. Within the encoded format all the data is completely manageable over standard IP protocols, and as a default the video is encoded at AVC100, a widespread industry standard for HD television production.
We're looking forward to seeing this technology find applications in the new generation of low cost production environments, and especially in outside broadcasts. Using IP tech can dramatically reduce the overheads involved in staging OBs, and with appropriate connectivity we could even see whole OBs being directed and mixed remotely, using IP connections to link cameras and sound in the field with galleries and edits in central broadcast hubs.
Unlike some other systems that have compressed multiple data sets into a single digital stream for point to point transfer, by using IP standards the Stagebox technology allows the data stream to be sent anywhere there is an IP connection- trials to date have linked facilities in London, Manchester and Glasgow, running continuously for up to 24hours with no downtime. The freedom afforded by using open standards means that users don't even need a Stagebox element at both ends of the link. Multiple streams of data from multiple sources can be input via a single ethernet or fibre optic link into a single compuer and managed entirely in software.
From an R&D point of view this project represents a very rapid evolution from a number of discrete development initiatives into a set of technologies that can be productised. Although many of the distinct elements are mature and well known, the overall integration of the technology has been a very challenging project drawing upon some of our best expertise, and it's hugely satisfying to see this work being so warmly recieved in the industry.