AV over IP encoders and decoders

  • With David Kirk

AV over IP encoders and decoders

David Kirk looks at recent AVoIP hardware and software announcements from some of the leading vendors...

Audio-visual-over-Internet Protocol (AVoIP) has a respectably long history, 50 years if measured from the Voice-over-Internet (VoIP) concept first demonstrated in 1973 by Danny Cohen. Cohen was active on the ARPAnet project which formed the foundation of the modern internet. He was also a pioneer of computer-based graphics processing, including development of the first flight simulator capable of running in real time on a general-purpose computer... but that is another story.

Delivering full-motion video across an IP network required much higher data rates than voice but gradually became possible, first in SD, later HD, UHD and 8K. The SMPTE 2110 suite of standards potential supports up to 32K x 32K pixels which suggests a good future for immersive video.

A very informative guide to ST 2110 can be seen at The Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS).

AVoIP is today a thriving and highly competitive section of the media market with new encoders, decoders and codecs introduced every year at broadcast-related events such NAB and IBC and AV-related exhibitions such as the two ISE-abbreviated shows: Integrated Systems Europe and International Security Expo in London. This short overview looks at recent AVoIP hardware and software announcements from some of the leading vendors.

AJA Video Systems’ Bridge Live v1.14 is a new firmware update for AJA’s multi-channel UHD and HD live video offering for use in remote production, contribution, collaboration, streaming and delivery. Bridge Live supports a wide range of streaming and contribution codecs including NDI, H.265, H.264, MPEG-2, JPEG 2000 and now JPEG XS. A new RTMP input with H.264 4:2:0 8-bit support for ST2022-7 enables the reconstruction of a stream of RTP datagrams based on the transmission of multiple streams of identical content over potentially diverse paths. Input auto-reconfiguration for video and audio formats ensures that incoming formats are automatically recognised and passed through to the output. The output setting then determines if parameters such as frame size and bit rate remain the same. 

BBright’s Encoder is designed to meet the needs of live broadcast contribution. Capable of encoding up to parallel eight streams in HEVC or H264 up to 10-bit 4:2:2 component, it can be used to feed a contribution network in a single transport stream or natively in SRT to transport content via the open internet. “Whether your streams are HD or UHD, transported in SDI or 2110, the BBright Encoder will fit perfectly into your environment,” says CEO Guillaume Arthuis. “Thanks to its hardware acceleration, you will benefit from a robust encoding solution capable of reaching unequalled levels of quality. We have taken special care to provide maximum relevant information in the user interface: video and audio preview, metadata status, bitrates and alarms.”

Also available is BBright’s Decoder, an HEVC/H.264/MPEG2/J2K multichannel contribution and monitoring decoder supporting HEVC (up to 160 megabit/s), J2K (up to 400 megabit/s), H.264 and MPEG2 transport stream input over IP or DVB-ASI. Video, audio and metadata are output over SMPTE-2110, quad 3G-SDI links, 12G-SDI or HDMI 2.0b. “A software-based decoder with adjustable latency, it can be used in any live conditions either for sport events contribution and for various broadcast monitoring applications,” Guillaume Arthuis adds. “Multiple HD, high bitrate HEVC and AVC streams as well as Dolby DD, DD+, Atmos, E, ED2, AC-4 audio streams are supported. The decoder can be to interfaced with any type of contribution source. It natively supports the SRT protocol.”

BirdDog’s latest firmware update, Play, can now decode SRT and sources directly from the BirdDog Cloud Connect platform. Play can be used in almost any workflow where needed to deliver an HDMI output. BirdDog OG4 is an NDI openGear card with four independently configurable 12G SDI inputs and outputs plus SFP+ port for 10GbE connectivity. The card encodes or decodes up to four 4K60p streams to connect with NDI. Up to 10 cards can be combined in a 2U OpenGear frame for up to 40 Channels of NDI. BirdDog OG4 offers full support for Dashboard, the freely available unified control software for MacOS, Windows, and Linux.

Black Box’s MCX AVoIP platform extends, switches and splits video to multiple screens or video walls. It comprises encoders and decoders as well as an optional controller, all connected via standard network switches. The number of supported sources and displays can expand for use with any installation. Latest addition to the MCX family is the MCXG2TD11 transcoder which combines the features of MCX encoders and decoders. It can be set up as an encoder or decoder for link flexibility using CAT6A copper or SFP+ fibre. The transcoder allows matrix switching of uncompressed video up to 4K/60 plus stereo audio. USB, serial RS-232, IR, and Ethernet connectivity is included. It can be used to manage video wall and multiview displays as well as allowing AV content to be monitored locally and remotely. The transcoder uses SDVoE. Used with the optional MCX Gen2 controller, multiple transcoders form a distributed video matrix, a multiviewer system or a video wall with advanced layout options. “The Black Box line of MCX AV over IP distribution products is the ideal solution for today’s broadcasting challenges,” says David Muzinic, AV and Connectivity Product Manager at Black Box.”

Bolin’s D20 Series Dante AV Ultra transceiver is a single-channel networked AV-over-IP device capable of delivering up to YUV 4:4:4, 4K/60 video with up to eight channels of Dante audio using JPEG2000 video compression technology.

It has a claimed 16 ms latency across a standard 1 Gbps network. Features include HDCP 2.2 pan/tilt/zoom camera movement control via IP (VISCA or RS-422 serial) and IR passthrough. The transceivers can be customer-configured as an encoder or decoder through a firmware update. “We designed the D20 transceivers to complement our Dante AV Ultra-native PTZ cameras but they can send or receive any high-quality HDMI video and Dante audio source with the same perfect timing and extremely low latency,” says Product Marketing Manager Tim Godby. “The D20H and D20S can encode video from any standard HDMI video source up to 2.0, send it across the network and output HDMI to endpoints like LED walls, large flat screens and standard monitors. In addition to HDMI, the D20S can simultaneously output up to 12G SDI for compatibility with professional SDI workflows.”

Bolin’s EG40F Edge Series Fast HEVC decoder, paired with Bolin’s Fast HEVC cameras, delivers 4K/60p YUV 4:2:2 10-bit video quality within a claimed two frames of latency. Users can tailor their data consumption between 20-50 megabit/s. The EG40F offers simultaneous video output through SDI and HDMI interfaces. It can also decode H.264 and H.265 video.

Cobalt recently launched Sapphire BBG-2110-H/S and Sapphire BBG-2110-2H mini-converters are designed to display JPEG-XS content on HDMI monitors. The BBG-2110-H/S is a single-channel unit with simultaneous SDI and HDMI outputs; the BBG-2110-2H is a dual-channel unit with HDMI outputs. “Due to the rise in remote production, it is necessary to receive and display JPEG-XS streams transmitted over a WAN connection, typically using high-end consumer-grade monitors,” says Suzana Brady, Cobalt Digital’s SVP of Worldwide Sales and Marketing. “The BBG-2110 units satisfy all these needs. They are mounted behind the monitor to save space; they are low-power and they are fanless which translates to an absolutely noiseless solution with improved reliability. If the bit rate is still too high, our new Pacific ULL ultra-low latency decoder can be combined with the Pacific 9992-ENC encoder in ULL mode. This uses H.265 to achieve the lower bit rates (around 80-100 megabit/s for 4K or around 30 megabit/s for 1080p50/60), with end-to-end latency of less than one frame.” The Pacific ULL decoder supports MPEG-2, AVC, HEVC and 4K with less than 5 milliseconds of latency for suitable streams. It is a full broadcast-grade decoder with features such as scaling, extensive audio decoding support and wide network protocol support. The Pacific ULL decoder can also work as a traditional professional decoder with genlock, arbitrary scaling and support for MPEG-1 layers 1/2/3 audio, AAC (both LC and HE), Dolby AC-3/EAC-3/AC-4, and Dolby-E. On the input side, the low-latency decoding can be combined with RIST for reliable delivery, SRT for legacy systems, UDP/RTP/FEC as well as RTMP/RTSP and, of course, ASI inputs. 

Kiloview’s P3 is a new generation of 5G bonding video encoder based on KiloLink, supporting multi connections bonding: 4-channel 5G cellular network, Wi-Fi and Ethernet. The P3 is equipped with dual video inputs of 3G-SDI and HDMI with resolution up to 4Kp30 through its HDMI input and up to 1080p60 through its SDI input. P3’s modular design allows users select 5G/4G/Wi-Fi modems. P3 supports up to six connections bonding to maximise the video transmission capacity: four-channel 5G cellular, Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Each 5G modem can also be replaced by 4G modem or Wi-Fi modem to achieve the bonding of up to 10 IP connections. The P3 can also support Wi-Fi hot-spot for data and file transmission over 4G. An integral 4.3 inch LCD touchscreen allows real-time viewing of IP address, network status, video resolution, tally status, CPU performance and temperature. Return video can be viewed as a purchasable extra service. The encoder is equipped with dual battery module. A single battery supports a claimed 4 hours of 4-channel 5G cellular networking, the automatically switching to the internal battery.

The Kiloview E3 video encoder builds on the capabilities of the company’s original encoder models with new features: video input and loopthrough with HDMI up to 4K/30p and 3G-SDI up to 1080/60p, encoding both HDMI and 3G-SDI video by H.265 and H.264 simultaneously, or either of the sources, or a mix video from the both video sources with multi-protocols including NDI|HX2/ NDI|HX3/ SRT/ RTMP/ RTSP/ UDP/ HLS for live production, post production, remote transmission, live streaming or recording. The new chipset uses HEVC technology and supports streaming to 16 destinations with adjustable bitrate up to 100 megabit/s simultaneously.

“With its compact design and 5G bonding service, the P3 is ideal for outdoor on-the-go live streaming,” comments Judy Zuo, VP of Kiloview. “The E3 offers a comprehensive solution with versatile inputs and powerful live streaming capabilities. Upgraded H.265 encoding capability and perfect adaption to KiloLink Server ensure the best quality of multi-protocol live streaming and video transmission. Both products provide reliable options for various AVoIP needs."

Magewell’s NDI encoders and decoders bring SDI or HDMI signals into and out of IP production workflows and AV-over-IP networks. Magewell’s new Control Hub software, released this summer, allows centralised management of multiple Magewell encoders and decoders. An HTTP-based API is available for third-party integration. Users can remotely configure device parameters, monitor device status, trigger operational functions such as starting or stopping encoding, and perform batch firmware upgrades across multiple units of the same model. “Market adoption of IP-based production and distribution workflows continues to grow rapidly so efficient management of these deployments becomes more important than ever,” says James Liu, VP of Engineering at Magewell. “Control Hub incorporates feedback from our customers to further streamline remote management and control of our hardware devices.” Magewell’s newest IP encoder is the company’s second dedicated audio product and its first solution with integrated support for Dante audio networking: the Pro Convert Audio DX multi-format IP audio encoder, decoder and capture device. The new hardware lets users convert audio between Dante, NDI, and SRT while bridging analog audio, software, and IP networks. It can also encode analog audio into Dante, NDI or SRT streams and decode IP audio streams in any of these protocols for analog output. “By letting users easily convert between multiple audio-over-IP technologies and seamlessly bridge traditional and IP audio infrastructures, Pro Convert Audio DX frees them from needing to worry about which audio types their chosen tools support,” adds Will Chen, Product Manager at Magewell.

Matrox ConvertIP is designed to convert HDMI or SDI signals to and from SMPTE ST 2110, bridging the gap between traditional baseband video workflows and IP-based transmission. ConvertIP is fanless and features PoE+ support. Laying the foundation for a standards-based IPMX-ready infrastructure, ConvertIP supports compressed and uncompressed ST- 2110 formats, including JPEG XS for 2110-22. With support for up to 25 gigabit/s of connectivity, ConvertIP allows monitoring of full uncompressed 4K video. The ConvertIP Command Center web UI and ConvertIP Manager application are software tools designed to provide a convenient way to set up, update and monitor devices. For system integrators, the ConvertIP Restful API is an HTTPS-based API that enables creation of routing and control software to build custom applications of ConvertIP devices, from basic operations to total control, or addition of specific functionality into existing workflows. 

Netgear’s M4350-series managed switches build on the M4250-series with the addition of higher bandwidth 1G-100G ports, power redundancy, quiet-mode fans, more PoE per port and easily selected codec profiles. Selectable setup profiles include NDI, SRT, AES67, SDVoE, IPMX, Dante AV and now SMPTE ST 2110 with PTP time synchronisation planned for some models. The Engage controller uses a port-based approach to switch configuration with profiles certified by over 200 audio/video/lighting equipment manufacturers. Up to Ultra90 PoE++ per port is available power to encoders/decoders, cameras, audio equipment, lights, and other broadcast equipment. Centrally managed control also simplifies AV multicast deployments with Netgear IGMP Plus. M4350 supports forwarding stacking, spine and leaf, edge to core connectivity for AV and IT networks.

Ross Video’s Ultrix is a 12G routing platform that also provides multiviewer and signal processing for studios, OB vehicles and flypacks. Ross’ Ultriscape is a software license that integrates multiviewer capability into Ultrix without the need for additional hardware. Building on Ultriscape, the recently announced Ultristream software license extends Ultriscape multiviewer outputs through NDI encoding integrated in Ultrix, removing the need for external NDI converters.

“Multiviewers are no longer limited to centralised screens but instead become dynamic resources that can be efficiently dispersed based on requirement,” says Tod Musgrave, Netgear’s Senior Broadcast Development Manager.