Broadcast Signal Monitoring

  • With David Kirk

Broadcast Signal Monitoring

Broadcast signal monitoring was complex enough during the reign of SDI and has become even more so with the migration to IP networking - by David Kirk...

ATSC 3.0, a.k.a. NextGen TV, was a dominant feature of the April 2023 NAB Show and its parallel conference, offering broadcasters the opportunity to transmit UHD HDR content rather than continue to rely on the integral upconverters through which many viewers justify their investment in a UHD HDR receiver. The quality difference is academic except for viewers sitting close to 65-inch-or-larger displays but will be appreciated by any consumers tempted to invest in 8K domestic TVs. The latter are becoming increasingly affordable and compression algorithms increasingly ambitious so the television industry may be only a few decades short of NextNextGen. This short overview looks at some of the most recently introduced broadcast signal monitoring products, ATSC 3.0 included.

Avateq's ATSC 3.0 MIMO receiver can be used to capture RF content from cross-polarised antennas, processing and combining streams from two independent RF channels into an ATSC 3.0 standard compliant output. By enabling multiple antennas to be used for both transmitting and receiving data, MIMO technology allows increasing data rates and improved reliability. The key benefits of MIMO technology implemented in modern broadband applications include improved signal quality, increased coverage, and reduced interference. In the context of ATSC 3.0, MIMO technology can be used to increase spectral efficiency and enable higher data throughput (theoretically doubling the data rate). For a TV broadcaster, this would allow an increased variety of channels and/or higher quality content delivery.

Bridge Technologies has added of a continuous log record feature to its the VB330 monitoring probe. This allows broadcasters to monitor and control SCTE 104 and 35 events through alarming, and to visually document and review the integration of downstream ad insertion. Up to 200 channels can be recorded simultaneously, triggered either by events or on a ring buffer basis with user-customisable loop duration. Trigger-based recording is prompted by reference to a SCTE 104/35 error alarms already present within the VB330 - of which there are over 100, drawn from TR 290 standards. The recording feature uses a pre-fill buffer to ensure that the actual fault itself is recorded (for instance, audio loss or freeze-frame, or in relation to complex PST/SI structure faults). This allows a cache of records centered around the trigger points themselves to be created for validation, inspection, fault-finding and fault evidence. Alternatively, recording can be automatically triggered based on the SCTE 35 cue in/cue out marker. A week’s worth of manual recording for any given channel can thus be captured for historical record keeping or analysis. File size is limited only by the storage system to which the files are directed, and can be stored locally or via a storage area network. Recorded files are instantly accessible directly from the VB330 timeline, where a dashboard shows a record file overview with search functionality. Files can be accessed from anywhere via any HTML-5 web browser “The ability to log every SCTE 104 and SCTE 35 event through both data and visual record carries with it a high commercial value that is truly important to broadcasters,” says Bridge Technologies’ Chairman Simen Frostad.

Interra Systems’ Orion and Orion-OTT monitoring systems are designed for use in cloud-based linear broadcasting, IP-based delivery infrastructures and live/VOD OTT content. Recent enhancements to Orion include improved support for localisation, more HDR and ST2110 checks, enhancements in scheduled reports, usability improvements in live monitoring views, and support for scheduled monitoring that enables automated, time-based monitoring of feeds. Upgrades to ORION-OTT include enhanced support for localization, as well as Dolby Atmos audio and monitoring of low-latency streams, more DASH compliance checks, improvements in freeze detection, and additional system alerts for third-party integration. 

Leader’s new LV5600-SER33 for the LV5600 waveform monitor and LV7600-SER33 for the LV7600 rasterizer provides support for JPEG XS (SMPTE ST 2110-22) compressed signals up to 4K. Purchasable as a license option, it can perform JPEG XS stream parsing, decoding and encoding, compressed video signal and packet header analysis, packet error detection and comparative display of JPEG XS, SDP, and ST2110-40. The SER33 toolset also includes the ability to output JPEG XS compressed video test signals. Checks can be performed during pre-transmission line-up and live production. Decoded JPEG XS signal streams can be compared alongside uncompressed test sources using the multiscreen facilities common to both instruments.

Telestream’s MPP 100, MPP 200 and MPP 300 software-defined monitoring instruments are aimed at post-production users requiring high-end production video formats such as 12-bit RGB for 4K/UHD applications in both SDI and IP. They include measurement tools for colourists with HDR requirements, a complete set of QC tools for objective evaluation of high-end video and audio content, and a remotely accessible user interface. Loop-through for reference monitors and analog audio out for edit suite configurations are included.

Triveni Digital has introduced a new ATSC 3.0 Translator that reduces the cost of ATSC 3.0 service delivery by allowing broadcasters to repeat or translate their existing ATSC 3.0 signal to other areas without the need for an entire broadcast chain, minimizing costs, equipment, and power.  “The ATSC 3.0 Translator is ideal for public state-wide networks and private cloud-based environments,” says Ralph Bachofen, VP of Sales and Marketing. “It is also perfect for business channels using SRT distribution, signal capturing for manufacturing, signal monitoring for automobiles and remote areas, ATSC 3.0 retransmission, and changing channel numbers for local broadcast stations.” Also new is an ATSC 3.0 decryption capability for our StreamScope XM analyzer and monitor. The company additionally offers a 12-port input card and new continuous transport stream recording capability that enables a more detailed dataset for troubleshooting QoS issues.

Wohler Technologies has introduced an ‘audio only’ 12G monitor to its iAM product range. Based on the 3G iAM-Audio-1 Plus and virtually identical in operation, the new iAM1-12G has two 12G-SDI inputs on BNC and a looped output of the selected SDI input, while retaining an SFP slot for additional SDI, 2110, or 2022. Other functional aspects remain the same, including the ability to license AES, MADI, custom-mix output routing and Dolby processing. The audio over IP option card IP option card offers monitoring of either Dante or Ravenna (including monitoring of 2110-30). Primary and secondary RJ-45 Ethernet ports on the AoIP option card enable redundant 2022-7 monitoring. Out-of-band 2110 set-up is available via the unit’s web GUI. Also available is an analog option card with eight balanced inputs and outputs on DB-25 connectors and a TOSLINK (SPDIF) connector. A third option card adds two SFP cages which will accept either 3G or 12G SFPs. APIs, remote GUIs, loudness and network ports remain standard on both units. “The addition of the iAM1-12G offers our users a lower cost 12G monitor for those not needing video monitoring while at the same time retaining the familiar features, benefits and options already available across our iAM range,” says Kim Templeman-Holmes, VP of Sales & Marketing.

Also new from Wohler are the iAM SUM range of audio monitors. Occupying 1U, these offer a choice of up to 32 channels of audio metering on a 7 inch with screen. Available with a choice of 8, 16 or 32 channel formats, the iAM-SUM includes a row of virtual rotary dials to adjust trim levels of individual channels or pairs. The monitors also display loudness, stereo phase, and the channel name, which can be manually edited or automatically read from a network connected router. Whether monitoring 8, 16 or 32 channels, the unit can be configured to operate in either single channel or pair mode. Standard features include 3G-SDI plus a pair of analog inputs and outputs. Other signal formats and processing options and be licensed when needed. Options for additional signals include AES3, MADI, DanteTM, RavennaTM, SMPTE-2110 and SMPTE-2022-7.

Worldcast Systems’ Audemat FM Probe can be used to perform remote monitoring of a set list of channels and to verify the conformity of FM networks. Housed in 1U, it can monitor up to eight channels continuously or 50 channels sequentially. Other functions include spectrum analysis, RDS decoding, alarm notification, recording and scan monitoring. Fast FM band scanning allows the entire FM spectrum to be visualised. 24/7 scan monitoring is also available and can alert the operator to missing or unauthorised FM stations. In addition to FM and audio related information, the probe can display real time RDS information ranging from basic RDS to more advanced services such as RDS-TMC traffic information. The unit stores the RF measurements over three sliding months on a microSD card. The graphical representation allows trend identification. The 10,000 most recent events, including alarms, can also be consulted and filtered to display relevant information. Kantar watermarking technology decodes and monitors the INK code of any station. Integral audio recording and streaming tools can be used to capture real-time sound rendering of a programme. The probe is compatible with SNMP Network Management Systems such as Kybio. Worldcast Systems' ScriptEasy technology provides additional features including telemetry, facility management, plus web page customisation for simple aggregation and display of relevant data.