IP networks in broadcasting

The early phases of the industry’s transition from broadcast-specific signals and connectivity to using IP-based media transport have focused mainly on replacing existing infrastructure with high-speed networks. This shift brings space efficiencies along with modest flexibility advantages. It will certainly mean fewer cables. In the long term it may also reduce cost - only time will tell.

New tools and systems

Our IP Studio programme of work has always had its sights on the power of IP connectivity to transcend the physical boundaries of the production facility.   Building on the foundation of the work we’ve done in our own labs and in wider industry groups, our lightweight live project seeks to reduce the need for large broadcast centres, replacing racks of kit with internet-connected cloud computing systems.

To achieve this, the tools our production teams use will need to change too: they'll run in a web browser so that you don't have to install any specialist software. Our goal is to enable production teams to make great live content without having to be in a production gallery.

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

BBC R&D - IP Studio

TV Production on the web

Web browsers are not specifically designed for any purpose in particular, least of all to process multiple synchronised streams of live video. Up to now they’ve been used primarily to consume video content rather than to create it.  

Part of the answer to this challenge is VideoContext - a BBC R&D open-source JavaScript project that simplifies manipulation of video streams in the browser.  All of our recent experiments into browser-based production tools have used this component.  

The most recent of these tools is SOMA: the Single Operator Mixing Application, designed covered by this series of blog posts.  We trialed this tool at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival to garner feedback on its usability from production professionals using it for real. All of the work we’ve done so far on lightweight browser-based production tools has been backed by physical infrastructure providing software-based processing hosted on high-bandwidth private networks.

BBC R&D - Building a Live Television Video Mixing Application for the Browser

BBC R&D - Nearly Live Production

Virtual clouds...

A fixed private network is a great way to test out our web-based production tools and their capacity to free production teams from the constraints of traditional broadcast technology.

However the problem with this setup is it's hard to modify quickly as production demands change. What if we suddenly need to cover fifty live news stories? Maybe tomorrow we want to use the same infrastructure to cover every stage at a music festival.

This is where we think cloud computing approaches can help. Cloud computing takes a flexible approach to assigning things like processing, networking and storage to a particular task: you can easily add, remove or partition capacity depending on the mix of jobs you need to do. Even better, with the right approach it's possible to rent extra computing resources over the internet to 'top up' your in-house capacity.

We're researching how broadcasters could make best use of cloud techniques to help us work more efficiently and produce better content for audiences.

More content for audiences

We think our lightweight live work will have wide-ranging benefits: production teams will need less equipment, less setup time and no broadcast specific connectivity. That means they'll be able to get on air more quickly from more locations. For audiences that could mean coverage of more events, more live video in local news, and new ways of interacting with our programmes via the web.

Working with the industry

The wider broadcast industry also stands to gain a great deal from this. By collaborating with manufacturers and other broadcasters we want to build standards and specifications that help everyone work together more easily: making it easier to share content, tools and techniques. 

Our destination is a world where IP-based media production systems interoperate seamlessly across the whole spectrum of infrastructure choices. From fixed function devices connected to a small private network, through private cloud solutions such as OpenStack, to public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

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

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

BBC R&D - IP Studio

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

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

BBC R&D - Running an IP Studio

BBC R&D - Building a Live Television Video Mixing Application for the Browser

BBC R&D - Nearly Live Production

BBC R&D - Discovery and Registration in IP Studio

BBC R&D - Media Synchronisation in the IP Studio

AMWA - Advanced Media Workflow Association

BBC R&D - Industry Workshop on Professional Networked Media

NMOS - Networked Media Open Specifications

BBC R&D - The IP Studio

BBC R&D - IP Studio at the UK Network Operators Forum

BBC R&D - Industry Workshop on Professional Networked Media

BBC R&D - Covering the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games using IP Studio

BBC R&D - Investigating the IP future for BBC Northern Ireland

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

This project is part of the End-to-End IP Broadcasting work stream

People & Partners

Project Team