SMPTE-2110 – Professional Media Over Managed IP

SMPTE Professional Media Over Managed IP Blog PostHave you ever found yourself thinking “How come people haven’t thought about it before?”. That’s close to what went through my mind when I first read about SMPTE ST 2110 – a standard from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Of course, people have thought about it, and here is what it is all about.

For years, Serial Digital Interface (SDI) has been the common standard for transporting uncompressed video within facilities and allowed broadcasters to connect equipment together safe in the knowledge that they would work together.

But Internet and IP networks, in general, made in-roads into the studios, as they did in our everyday lives. So the industry had to agree on standards that will provide that same flexibility and avoid vendor lock-ins. Also, remote production and contribution which are so popular nowadays require transport standards which are the same as the ones used within the facilities, blurring the distinction between studios, campuses, and remote locations.

So people have thought about it, several times. For example, SMPTE 2022 encapsulated the SDI data into an IP packetized transport so Ethernet could be used as the transport mechanism. Same process at the end, IP back to SDI back to component video and audio. But all the content — audio, video and ancillary — is still transported as one big stream, not giving a chance to the receiving party to specify its needs and often wasting the bandwidth.

What is SMPTE ST 2110?

SMPTE ST 2110 (Professional Media Over Managed IP) is a suite of new standards that make it possible to separately route and break audio, video, and ancillary data over standard Internet protocol (IP). So it becomes simpler to add metadata such as captions, subtitles, Teletext, and time codes, as well as to process multiple audio languages and types. All elements can be routed separately and brought together again at the endpoint. With ST 2110 standards, every component flow — audio, video, metadata —are synchronized to each other while remaining independent streams. To make it possible, proper timing and synchronization take place. Here is the list of the standards in the suit:

ST 2110-10 System Overview & Timing Model
ST 2110-20 Uncompressed Active Video
ST 2110-22 Compressed video (working draft stage)
ST 2110-30 PCM Audio (compatible with AES67)
ST 2110-31 AES3 Emulation (non-PCM audio)
ST 2110-40 Ancillary Data
ST 2110-50 Timing Interoperation with ST 2022-6

Some of them are yet to be published in 2018, while others have been published just a few months back, at the end of the year 2017.

The benefits of using 2110 compatible equipment

The impact of onboarding 2110 goes beyond just replacing the serial digital interface (SDI) with IP. With 2110 we have the flexibility to create a whole new set of applications based on IP protocols and infrastructure.

The new standards have numerous advantages over previous attempts to packetize professional video data with few of them being:

  • Provide all the advantages of IP-based routing;
  • Work with standard IP switches/routers;
  • Improve versatility — provides mechanism for defining a wide range of video formats, multiple bit depths, frame rates, and other associated parameters;
  • Require less bandwidth – by removing obsolete video data like horizontal and vertical blanking, an HD stream in 2110-20 can save up to 300 Mbps out of 3.17 Gbps needed for an SDI-HD stream, which is enough space to transfer 100 audio streams;
  • Efficiency – Processing an audio stream or metadata from an SDI-based signal requires a de-embedding process, which eats up significant amounts of computing capacity. SMPTE 2110 does not require audio or data streams to be de-embedded, which removes the expense of associated computational overhead.
  • Simplified Infrastructure — In large studios, individual cable connections for each signal path can become congested, heavy, and hard to maintain. Using high-speed Ethernet, a single connection can support multiple uncompressed HD video along with hundreds of uncompressed audio signals.
  • Common Timing — By using GPS receivers, separate facilities that are many miles apart can be accurately synchronized and share a common timecode base.

SDI is not the future, but it is the present!

Thanks to the SDI-to-IP bridging support provided by SMPTE ST 2110, broadcasters can continue to rely on legacy equipment while building their new IP-based environments. Alternatively, they can start by building IP-based facilities as replacements to their redundancy equipment, which they can switch to for primary use once they see everything works as expected.

Why now?

SDI specification has been around since 1989, the IPv4 protocol – from a decade earlier, SDI-over-IP has been there for some time too. Why the industry catches up so late with the IP-based technologies? The reason is mostly business-related – there is a lot of legacy SDI equipment out there, which costed a fortune to acquire and set up, and it is still doing a great job. Also, the migration from SDI to IP is not enforced by a government and is a matter of business decisions. So the switchover may take 10 years overall. Meanwhile, broadcasters see the benefits that IP can provide.

How Bianor fits into the puzzle

At Bianor we’ve gained experience in dealing with video/audio streams and splitting them apart in a variety of video-related projects. In case you need a custom-made video solution to cover your specific use case, be welcome to contact us and we’ll be happy to help!