Posted by Peter Brightwell on

BBC Research & Development's IP Studio team is addressing the building blocks that will help make our vision of the future a reality. These include the networking and compute technologies that are used in broadcast facilities, the mechanisms to connect, control and these, and how we can benefit from cloud computing.

This blog post covers developments since our previous summary in May.

New IP-based facility at CBC Radio-Maison, Montréal.  Photo: Félix Poulin, CBC

IP Production Facilities

SMPTE ST 2110 is now widely supported in the industry, with several broadcasters now planning, building and commissioning new facilities. This has been helped by the JT-NM Tested programme of interoperability workshops and a catalogue of 2110-capable devices. The programme now also checks support for discovery and connection using AMWA NMOS IS-04 and IS-05. This uses a test tool developed by BBC R&D and others, and our Andrew Bonney managed these tests at a recent plugfest. This was a significant step forward for NMOS, making it easier for broadcasters to see who/what supports it and to require these technologies in the future.

In July, AMWA Networked Media Incubator held a workshop at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s Montréal location — where CBC are building a new IP-based facility — and allowed us to successfully test NMOS on a network that was representative of what is being installed. The workshop enabled to progress our work on API Security, and carrying real-time data/event information (IS-07).

The team were busy at IBC 2019, demonstrating and presenting on our NMOS and JT-NM Tested work in the IP Showcase, and on the EBU stand.

BBC R&D - Securing the Future of Broadcast with Public Key Infrastructure

IP Showcase - AMWA NMOS IS-04 & IS-05: Things You Might Not Know

Cloud-Fit Production

We’ve already written about our storage and hybrid storage approach to an architecture that can be parallelised, and deployed onto different platforms. Now we are looking at building these into useful workflows, that support support traditional production operations, but will also be useful for new types of content.

So we now have a Stream Packaging component, which pulls media from a Media Object Store and streams it in a chosen format. We’ve started by using FFMPEG to create an H.264 playout instance, and plan to support ST 2110 and other formats in the future. See Simon Rankine’s recent post for more about this.

Simplified Stream Packaging Service Architecture Diagram

Stream Packaging component

The Media Object Store doesn’t have to be accessed as a stream of course, and the team is now developing components to provide more conventional file-based access on-the-fly, for instance to support edit-during-capture workflows.

We are also investigating how our highly-parallelised approach to storage can help with parallel processing at scale for our wider media operations, such as video analysis and machine learning.

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Computing and Networks at Scale

A server with network cables coming out of it.

Part of the London on-premise cloud

Following on from our initial pilot in Salford, we are now building a larger on-premise cloud in London, again using the OpenStack framework and Ceph storage. This will provide a facility for much of our project work, and also help inform BBC’s wider cloud strategy.

As SMPTE ST 2110 becomes more common, there is increasing interest in how it can be used alongside virtualised infrastructure, as in an on-premise cloud. There are significant technical challenges to overcome, such as the need to support PTP (Precision Time Protocol) and multicast streams. We’ve presented at the EBU’s Network Technology Seminar and at IBC on this subject, and the team is now actively investigating technical approaches.


An illustrations of a 'settings' type cog-wheel in a computer desktop window

A common objective across our projects is how automation can provide BBC with the flexibility and scale it will need. This includes not just automation of how we deploy devices and services (including our NMOS work), but also how we deploy software.  We make extensive use of open-source tools such as Ansible and Terraform for provisioning and configuring the on-premise cloud infrastructure, and tools such as Jenkins and Travis CI to automate our software development and testing.

This is an area that will be important to all broadcasters, and we are setting up a project to help us work alongside our colleagues in other EBU members to share experiences in this new area, where many of the tools and approaches have come from outside our traditional industry.

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BBC R&D - IP Production Facilities

BBC R&D - Cloud-Fit Production Architecture

BBC R&D - Computing and Networks at Scale

NMOS - Networked Media Open Specifications

AMWA - Advanced Media Workflow Association

BBC R&D - IP Studio

BBC R&D - Beyond Streams and Files - Storing Frames in the Cloud

IBC 365 - Production and post prepare for next phase of cloud-fit technology

BBC R&D - High Speed Networking: Open Sourcing our Kernel Bypass Work

BBC R&D - IP Studio: Lightweight Live

BBC R&D - IP Studio: 2017 in Review - 2016 in Review

BBC R&D - IP Studio Update: Partners and Video Production in the Cloud

This post is part of the Automated Production and Media Management section