How IP Standards Contribute to Convergence of Broadcast & Pro AV

Published: July 10, 2024
Undoubtedly, AV-over-IP ascendance in the broad market has been astronomical. However, there still remains a wide variance in integrators' leveraging of AV-over-IP for their deployments. Kentma/

The broadcast tech industry and pro AV market have evolved differently over the years. Each has matured and adapted to address the specific practical and technical requirements of end users and their use cases in those markets.

Both broadcast and pro AV share a need for precision, control and high reliability, particularly during live broadcasts or in-venue during live performances.

For these types of mission-critical broadcast and pro AV applications, vendors typically have focused on delivering hardware and software systems engineered to provide predictable, uncompromising performance. With the benefit of larger budgets and highly skilled engineering teams, stakeholders have been able to bring extensive resources to bear in implementing innovative solutions and media workflows, which in turn support creation of fresh, engaging content for viewing audiences.

Working through various industry bodies, end users and vendors together have established open standards that help both groups to ensure interoperability among technologies and products, again in service of the stringent demands — precise timing, extensive media format support, etc. — of modern live event operations.

Pro AV isn’t only arenas and stadiums for live events though. It also comprises conference rooms, control rooms and event spaces that mix AV signal processing and routing much more with PC/IT equipment as well.

In these unified communications workflows, organizations traditionally have worked with integrators to identify, integrate and install the right AV systems for their visualization, communication, and control needs. Sometimes lacking their own internal teams of specialized technical experts, or the budgets for the upper echelons of professional processing gear, users in this space have looked to products and solutions that deliver essential functionality while ensuring straightforward maintenance and operation.

For simplicity and support, sometimes integrators and customers have been more comfortable using single-vendor solutions based on proprietary technology or protocols than in broadcast or event space Pro AV.

In spite of overlapping use of professional live processing equipment with signal processing and routing equipment, dealing with different end users presenting different requirements, broadcast and Pro AV have often been considered separate markets. But technological advances, cost concerns, evolving requirements by stakeholders, and higher client and consumer expectations for the use of media in any application are combining to blur the gap.

Drivers of Convergence

Over the history of the mission-critical live events equipment and services industries, major events such as elections and high-profile sports competitions have been a driver of innovation and capital investment. To help producers raise the bar for storytelling and audience engagement in their coverage of these premier events, leading technology vendors have focused on delivering next-generation products and capabilities.

Having successfully implemented advanced features and functionality in new products, some of the ecosystem vendors necessarily look beyond the highest end of the live production market to find broader user bases for their professional grade equipment — cameras, displays, middleware and other media processing tools. The products and capabilities invariably spread to enterprise, government, healthcare, defense and other sectors. Thanks to the live production industry’s ongoing shift to IP, largely via the SMPTE ST 2110 standard, more and more IP solutions and workflows are making their way into the pro AV realm.

Increasingly taking advantage of IP-based systems and workflows, customers in the pro AV realm benefit from the rise of PC-based and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based solutions, a trend that has brought down the cost of high-end production tools. The move away from specialized equipment and toward software-defined workflows further simplifies the mixing and matching of IT and AV tools, allowing for more extensive blending of traditionally isolated areas, such as AV signal management, production and corporate communications.

As a result, large and mid-sized organizations outside the broadcast space have been able to boost the sophistication of their productions for internal events such as customer training, education, partner communications and other use cases. They can incorporate news-style graphics, professional-looking transitions and effects, remote camera control and automation into productions. Thanks to a wider spectrum of product costs and complexity, these organizations also enjoy greater flexibility in building out their production capabilities, as well as more advanced functionality that facilitates a higher grade of production by smaller teams.

The Impact of Open Standards

Broadcasters have embraced open standards in making their shift to media-over-IP because this approach provides a valuable reference for deployment, enables broad interoperability, and — through continued standards work — serves as a foundation for further growth. Recognizing these advantages, integrators and users in the pro AV market likewise developed the same appetite for commonly accepted and implemented IP-based transport standards for media.

The broadcast industry put ST 2110 on the map, and technology vendors have increasingly sold ST 2110-based systems into the pro AV market to support specific IP workflows. While ST 2110 has become the de facto choice for broadcast applications, the next area that got supported by developers was to evolve those standards and specifications into something better tailored to the needs of users across Pro AV. With the open specifications finalized and launched in January 2024, IPMX is now here.

A comprehensive suite of standards and open specifications for AV-over-IP, IPMX is based on ST 2110 and AES67 but augmented with solutions specifically added for pro AV and enterprise PC/IT media needs, including such things as HDCP copy protection, network discovery and registration, cybersecurity privacy encryption, and better options for device automation features, when applicable, such as EDID.

The rise of standards-based media transport in pro AV makes IP-based production possible for an expanding world of content creators and distributors. As technology vendors adopt both ST 2110 and IPMX, users and integrators gain a more extensive array of IP-capable solutions, including LED canvases, cameras and acquisition systems, and gaming engines, often with less stringent technical requirements and lower price tags. Both ST 2110 and IPMX provide a proven framework for establishing much-needed interoperability in the IP realm.

For integrators and users, growing support for both standards across the media technology landscape will translate to greater flexibility and economy in implementing the best IP-based systems and workflow for a project or facility.

The Road Ahead

Going forward, the continued introduction of new processing chips and inexpensive solutions leveraging open standards will further allow diversification in the general market. IPMX bridges all three asset classes in the Pro AV environment — professional equipment, AV signal processing and routing, and PC/IT equipment . So, expect increased utility and cost improvement. Migrating signals to a standards-based IP infrastructures also paramount to enabling new distributed and cloud-based media processing and presentation workflows.

Breaking down barriers between broadcast and pro AV, convergence is bringing fresh opportunity to end users, integrators, and vendors. With greater freedom in deploying standards-based IP-based workflows, these stakeholders can more easily create the compelling, high-quality content that drives their organizations.

Sam Recine headshot.Samuel Recine is vice president of sales, APAC, AV/IT Group, Matrox Video.

Posted in: Insights

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