Posted by Alex Rawcliffe on , last updated
Things have been busy in the IP Studio team over the last year. Our work with the wider industry has gathered pace and we’ve also been exploring how web-based tools, backed by cloud computing, can open up new opportunities for content makers and audiences.
The role of IP in broadcasting is a hot topic and has been for the last few years at broadcast industry shows and events like IBC. Lots of manufacturers are releasing new products with IP connectivity and there’s a great deal of anticipation for the emerging standards in this area to mature. At the same time, the industry is starting to look to the future and ask questions about the role of the internet and approaches such as virtualisation in our world. We always enjoy having interesting conversations about IP production and we thought we'd bring you a few recent developments!
The IP Showcase
This is a big deal. Over fifty manufacturers, broadcasters and eight industry bodies coming together to show broadcast equipment interoperating on IP networks. BBC R&D have been involved in a number of areas of this work, but in particular this year we’re helping to run a demonstration of NMOS IS-05 connection management at IBC. IS-05 will provide a standard way for pieces of broadcast equipment to be connected together. It’s been developed collaboratively in the AMWA Incubator through a series of workshops. We've found this a productive way to gain direct practical experience of using the specs across a range of equipment from different manufacturers before they are finalised.
Think about how you dial a number on a phone. There’s a specification that allows the phone network to understand the keypresses you make, and to interpret the number you dial to route your call to the right place. It also doesn’t matter what brand of phone you use. Whilst the tools and techniques we’re using in NMOS connection management are a bit different, the general aim is the same: we need a system to connect streams of audio and video from one device on a network to another, regardless of manufacturer.
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IP Production in the Cloud
What do we mean by television production in the cloud? Let’s break it down. IP Studio: Lightweight Live is a new area of work looking at how production tools can run in a web browser, reducing the need to install use specialist hardware and install software on your own computer. We want to make it really easy to get access to production tools.
The other side of this work is providing somewhere for the audio and video processing to take place: the production tools running on your browser are just a control system. They need to connect to sources of live audio and video and your mixes and editing need to be sent somewhere to be broadcast. Until recently we’ve been solving this in quite a simple way, connecting the browser-based tools to a few dedicated computers running in our labs that can store, mix and stream video.
The problem with that simple approach is it’s hard to scale. As soon as you make production tools purely out of software, you might reasonably expect that you could start multiple copies of the same software at the same time to produce different programmes. But to do that you need to be able to spin up multiple copies of the back end processing that deals with capture, storing, mixing and streaming your video.
An obvious solution to this problem is cloud computing. A ‘cloud’ is a collection of general purpose computing resources such as processing, storage and networking that can be configured and partitioned to meet the needs of multiple users and jobs. It’s quick to assign or remove resources to a particular job, and so as long as your overall cloud is big enough you can easily allocate more computing power as multiple production teams start new sessions to produce their live event streams.
We’re showing the culmination of our work in this area to date at IBC: a live vision mixer running in a web browser that uses cloud computing to do all the complex processing and storage required to make a programme and deliver across the internet.
The neat thing is that we can apply the same principles, approaches and APIs to our cloud-based deployment as we do in the physical networks we've been working on in the AMWA activities to date. Sure, there are some different constraints that require adaptations and in some cases support for different protocols, but NMOS was designed for flexibility and extensibility, so this can be easily accommodated. We're heading for a world where devices and services deployed in different ways can be seamlessly integrated over IP into hybrid systems tailored to the requirements of the broadcaster.
This post is part of the Automated Production and Media Management section