The ability of smartphones to record and play media ranging from text to video can threaten or enrich traditional media sources. First-hand social media reports can provide an alternative to traditional news sources or amplify those sources. ICT has helped foster competition for traditional media sources and also offers ways to make traditional media more attractive than ever before.
These factors frame the concept of omnimedia — a media operation model in which all possible media channels and platforms constitute a far-reaching content production and distribution system. While the emergence of alternative media platforms dilute the influence of traditional media outlets such as broadcast TV, these outlets can leverage omnimedia information and communication technologies to transform both media content and media production.
Crucial technologies for traditional media outlets now include 4K video resolution, convergence of media types, Big Data analytics, all-IP production networks, and a focus on fulfilling the demands of each individual consumer.
Stepping Up to 4K
With a horizontal resolution of 4,096 pixels, 4K video offers about twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of previous-generation 1080 (2,048 x 1,080) High-Definition (HD) television, which amounts to approximately four times as many pixels. Multiple 4K resolutions are in use for digital television and cinematography. For movie projection, the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) is the dominant 4K standard, defined as 4,096 x 2,160 pixels. Television has adopted an Ultra-High Definition (UHD) standard called UHD-1 that specifies a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. In addition to higher resolution, 4K provides improvements in frame rate, color gamut, and color depth.
Using 4K for video production achieves more than a better picture. 4K is versatile because it can be scaled down easily to suit lower-resolution screens, and multiple 4K images can be stitched together for extremely high resolution images.
The 4K stitching technology from Sony Corporation combines the image raster of two 4K cameras into a single, panoramic view — helpful if the requirement is to show the entire playing area of a sporting event, such as a basketball or football game. Interestingly, HD portions of the stitched image can be isolated to follow individual players or present replays not covered by the primary camera. It is also possible to insert one or more virtual views to track the ball in real time.
Using this stitched-image approach, broadcasters could capture entire games with only two fixed 4K cameras. By design, each member of the audience would define his or her desired point of view from the panorama. For example, multiple-stitched 4K images broadcast live from the Academy Awards ceremony would allow fans to focus on their favorite celebrities during the event.
Traditional media outlets can combine ‘new media’ capabilities with their conventional media channels. For example, a single news organization can combine resources for newspapers, TV stations, websites, and social media by having staff members coordinate the effort of producing content that will be used in multiple ways. Media organizations need to transition from closed-system production and one-way, mass distribution to multimedia collection, multi-platform production, and multi-channel distribution.
Omnimedia centers achieve this goal by integrating all variety of media resources. And, as described below, all-Internet Protocol (all-IP) media platforms simplify the convergence of enterprise media assets. Unlike traditional TV production that centers on separate programming projects, all-IP media platforms use a standard ICT network infrastructure to connect assets with the editorial, creative, and commercial work groups.
All-IP Media Platforms
4K resolution and media convergence developments have increased the urgency of solving long-standing cabling and bandwidth issues in the production, transmission, and broadcast of digital television programs. Signal paths carried over Serial Digital Interface (SDI) baseband cables and dedicated SDI cross-point matrices have become increasingly complex and inefficient. Television production is ripe for a new IP-based, digital network architecture.
Managing large numbers of SDI cables is a challenge for signal transmission at any resolution. At 4K resolution and higher, SDI becomes impractical for several reasons:
Using standard SDI, multiple cables are needed to transfer 4K content. With several hundred SDI cables already in use at a typical TV station, multiplying that number by two or four promises to create a maintenance nightmare. With so many bundled SDI cables, resolving a problem due to a faulty cable is practical only by adding yet another cable.
The transmission distance of SDI signals is limited to 100 meters. This limit is sometimes a problem even for HD content today, since long SDI transmissions can produce error codes that result in image distortion.
SDI-based HD systems, cables, and back-end storage products come from a few vendors and are expensive. TV stations and other media organizations need more choices of system solutions, which will help contain costs.
Sony Offers an IP Solution
IP networking offers many advantages over SDI: wide coverage, mature transmission technologies, simple cabling, and re-use of existing devices that helps reduce costs. The compression and coding methods used for IP transmission are mature, and upstream and downstream services and devices are evolving at a fast pace to support IP.
Sony is a leader in IP-based video production. At the April 2015 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas, Nevada, Sony demonstrated an advanced 4K live-over-IP solution for broadcasting that centers on the world’s first 4K-ready, IP-networked live production switcher. The Sony 4K switcher allows users to install either IP or SDI interfaces in each of the unit’s I/O slots and configure their equipment for IP only, SDI only, or IP and SDI hybrids, so broadcasters can continue using existing SDI assets while migrating to IP.
For the demonstration, Sony used a single 40 GE fiber-optic cable to transmit multiple 4K and HD video streams from the camera area in the company’s booth. The video streams from the cameras were converted from SDI to IP by an NXL-FR318 signal processing unit equipped with Sony’s NXLK-IP40T SDI/IP converter board. The 4K live switcher performed IP and SDI hybrid switching, including a ‘hitless’ failover feature that assures the smooth switching between live sources in the event of IP transport errors. All devices were under the control of the Sony PWS-100NM1 IP Live System Manager Station. Sony’s Quality-of-Service (QoS) algorithm assures secure and stable 4K transmissions by selecting optimal network bandwidths stream by stream.
Huawei Teams with Sony
Sony and Huawei have partnered in developing an all-IP solution for TV stations. Sony chose Huawei’s CE7850 and CE6850 series switches to meet the solution’s strict delay and bandwidth requirements.
Sony provides 4K cameras with IP-interfaces, SDI-to-IP signaling processing gateways, an IP-capable 4K live switcher, and the LSM-100 audio/video screen management system. Huawei provides the ICT infrastructure equipment, including the servers, storage, and data switchers. The LSM-100 manages all of the ICT equipment.
As part of the “IP Live” production solution, Sony has developed a Networked Media Interface that transforms all live video signals to IP, including audio, metadata, synchronization, and control. The device permits integrated resource sharing between file-based systems and live signals. These capabilities improve productivity and provide significant cost savings for broadcasters, who now no longer need to double their investment in SDI cabling and baseband routing for each production system.
The Sony-Huawei all-IP solution unleashes the full potential of 4K programming production. With IP transmission, single Ethernet cables can carry multiple channels of 4K content rather than having discreet pairs of SDI cables per signal. By using the Ethernet protocol, this dramatic increase in per-wire video signal transport capacity is inherently scalable and results in a future-proof solution able to exceed the requirements for carrying 4K and higher resolutions over long distances. ICT networking schemes can allow for capacity expansion by simply deploying additional IP gateways that ensure smooth upgrades from HD to UHD and beyond.
Looking ahead, as 4K usage expands and converged omnimedia platforms make media usage more efficient, Huawei will continue collaborating with Sony and other companies to develop practical, innovative media solutions.