SMPTE ST 2110: Structuring the Future of Broadcasting

This standard is a game changer.

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Internet Protocol (IP) technology is the wave of the future for the broadcasting industry, providing more flexibility, scalability, and cost savings, plus increased mobility – IP networks have been deployed just about everywhere, including in the International Space Station and Antarctica. You may even be holding an IP device – your smart phone – in your hand right now.

However, until recently, vendors have been battling to control IP while end users simply wanted the industry to settle on one method of working. Agreeing to one set of standards is critical for the industry to move forward, and finally, those standards have been defined.

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE®) has created the SMPTE ST 2110 Professional Media Over Managed IP Networks standards suite, a major contributing factor in the movement toward one common IP-based mechanism for the professional media industries. With this suite, manufacturers will be able to create products that work seamlessly together in an IP-based studio.

SMPTE President Matthew Goldman, Senior Vice president of Technology, TV and Media at Ericsson, says, “Radically altering the way professional media streams can be handled, processed and transmitted, SMPTE ST 2110 standards go beyond the replacement of SDI (serial digital interface) with IP to support the creation of an entirely new set of applications that leverage information technology (IT) protocols and infrastructure. The formal standardization of the SMPTE ST 2110 documents enables a broad range of media technology suppliers to move forward with manufacturing to meet the industry’s high demand for interoperable equipment based on the new suite of standards.”

SMPTE ST 2110 delivers unprecedented interoperability and provides a solid foundation expected to accelerate adoption of video over IP and help the industry grow at scale.

SMPTE Director of Standards Development Thomas Bause Mason says, “Thanks to the ST 2110 standards suite, every element that has been part of the traditional SDI studio can now be put into an IP studio.”

SMPTE ST 2110 is made up of a number of separate documents:

  • ST 2110-10: system overview and synchronization

  • ST 2110-20: uncompressed video format details

  • ST 2110-21: management of torrents of packets needed to carry an uncompressed video signal

  • ST2110-30: uncompressed PCM audio

  • ST 2110-40: carrying the all-important metadata over IP networks

Good Timing

The key to SMPTE ST 2110 is timing. The standards make it possible to separately route and break away streams of audio, video and ancillary data over professional IP networks in real-time for the purposes of live production, playout and other professional media applications. Each essence flow may be routed separately and accurately brought together again at the end point. The component flows are synchronized, so the essence streams are co-timed to one another while remaining independent.

This advance simplifies actions such as adding captions, subtitles, and teletext, as well as processing multiple audio languages and types.

“That opens the door to [many advantages], such as taking audios and sending them off independently into an audio sub-system, without the burden of all the video overhead of SDI; or taking a closed-captioning stream and sending it to a service in the Cloud over IP,” says Paul Briscoe, a member of the SMPTE ST 2110 Working Group and Principal Consultant at Televisionary Consulting. “ST 2110 allows us to replicate the existing systems we build today with SDI – to emulate them entirely. Essentially, we can take an SDI signal, fully transport it as independent essence streams over IP, and put it back together anywhere else and make another SDI.”

In other words, with SMPTE ST 2110 “we can now build highly efficient and flexible media systems, which move around and deal with only the essential pieces needed,” says Briscoe.

Adoption Drives Changes

In an article written by Wes Simpson, he notes that manufacturers are more than willing to embrace the new standards, and outlines the changes that will be driven by the adoption of SMPTE ST 2110 for broadcasters. These include:

Common Timing: IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol allows devices to be driven by a common master clock at accuracies of better than 1 microsecond, providing complete video and audio synchronization across an entire facility.

Simplified Infrastructure: Say good bye to individual cable connections for each signal path. Using high-speed Ethernet, a single connection can support multiple uncompressed HD video along with hundreds of uncompressed audio signals.

Reduced Bandwidths: SMPTE ST 2110-20 signal with 1080p video occupies less than 2.67 Gbps, freeing up about 300 Mbps of bandwidth, almost enough capacity to carry one hundred audio signals. By sending only image pixels, the new standard moves to a system of only sending elementary signals, and removing the need for audio and metadata embedding and de-embedding.

Improved Versatility: SMPTE ST 2110 includes a robust mechanism for defining a wide range of video formats, including multiple bit depths, multiple colorimetry schemes, any conceivable frame rate, and other associated parameters. Separating the transport format from the video format gives broadcasters the ability to choose exactly the right format they need at each step along the broadcast chain, and still be able to transport every version over a common infrastructure.

SMPTE ST 2110 in Action

The SMPTE ST 2110 standards are already being embraced by the industry with tremendous results.

Sony and CenturyLink, Inc., recently completed a test to determine the operational latency of a long-distance Remote Integration (REMI) connection between New York and London. The entire REMI environment was built on the SMPTE ST 2110 standard with Sony IP equipment.

As part of the test, the companies simulated a live broadcast for a global news organization, resulting in the world’s first transatlantic SMPTE ST 2110 IP live transmission. The simulation yielded no discernable operational latency on the video sources, despite the significant distance between the switcher processor and control panel.

Typically, a news organization would need a control room and a switcher for every show. Now, that resource can be shared across multiple programs, and with IP, can be shared across multiple bureaus and locations.

NEP, technical production partner, recently launched the first mobile unit in North America designed and integrated specifically around SMPTE ST 2110. NEP created one of the most flexible mobile units ever for sports entertainment company, ESPN.

Dubbed EN3, the truck is NEP’s fourth to feature an IP router, but the first with a “classic” footprint. Joe Signorino, VP, Systems Integration, NEP U.S. Mobile Units, says previous versions “were primarily huge, five-truck systems. We always had an eye towards creating a more [classic] footprint and a lot quicker setup and strike. I think this unit helps define the near future for what we’ll be doing at NEP.”

Signorino elaborates on the EN3 origins, “When we started on this project [over a year ago], SMPTE 2110 was well on its way to completion of the video and audio portions of the standards. Obviously, we didn’t want to build something that we’d have to end up changing shortly, so we pushed several manufacturers to get on the bandwagon with us for a 2110 deployment and started getting more equipment connected via IP.”

One of the key things the company worked very closely on was the interface between the switcher and the router. Installing the IP router saved weight and space, and also reduced power needs, noise, and heat.

According to Signorino, IP “not only brings more flexibility but also scale, so you are able to scale the size of the system from one show to another and make something that is a lot larger than would be possible in an SDI-based system. That is certainly the case with EN3.”

Game Changer

With the ever-growing demands of today’s audiences, SMPTE ST 2110 is a real game changer for the broadcasting industry, bringing top speed and quality to the forefront for a variety of projects.

“Professional media is a uniquely challenging field because of its real-time nature and high quality-of-service requirements, both of which consumers may take for granted,” says SMPTE President Matthew Goldman in a press release announcing the publication of SMPTE ST 2110-40. “The standardization of SMPTE ST 2110 documents provides broadcasters, producers, and media technology suppliers with the tools they need to meet these requirements while working in the IP realm.”

Created in a record-breaking two years, SMPTE ST 2110 will guide IP-based broadcasting for years to come. Of course, audiences will drive future hurdles to jump, leading to the continued iterations of innovation. But that’s all part of the game.

Resources

(21 Apr 2017). What SMPTE 2110 is exactly and why it matters for production. RedShark.

(9 Apr 2018). Sony and CenturyLink Complete World’s First Transatlantic SMPTE 2110 IP Live Transmission. CenturyLink.

Bevir, George. (18 Sept 2017). SMPTE approves ST 2110 standards suite for IP. IBC365.

Dachman, Jason. (8 May 2018). NEP Rolls Out Ultra-Flexible EN3 With SMPTE ST 2110 IP Core for ESPN. Sports Video Group.

Goldman, Michael. (Jan 2018). SMPTE ST 2110: IP Revolution’s Next Step. SMPTE Newswatch.

Pennington, Adrian. (2 Apr 2017). The future of SMPTE 2110 and beyond. Sports Video Group Europe.

Simpson, Wes. (18 Oct 2017). What SMPTE-2110 Means for Broadcasters. TV Technology.

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