Broadcast Test & Measurement

  • With David Kirk

Broadcast Test & Measurement

Contributing Editor David Kirk re-examines the developments in the field of broadcast test and measurement...

The transition from analog to digital technology in the mid 1980s opened up the prospect of a future in which digitised signals would remain error-free through the entire production and delivery chain; test and measurement routines would no longer required. But the seductive attractions of bit-rate reduction proved too strong to resist. Far from being relegated, quality monitoring became increasingly important. This short review looks at recent developments in test and measurement as the broadcast media business continues its migration from SDI to IP.

Actus Digital's Intelligent Monitoring Platform is designed to complement traditional test and measurement tools by providing the actual video that aired when faults were detected. "We provide tools for both OTA and OTT on the same platform, enabling engineers to troubleshoot difficult and intermittent problems more easily and improve overall broadcast and streaming quality," says Actus Senior Vice President Ken Rubin.

For OTA television, the platform provides live transport stream analysis including bit-rate per programme and P1/P2/P3 errors plus with the actual transport stream being recorded to disk, content can be replayed through other test and measurement tools for further analysis. For OTT and streaming media content, transport statistics plus HLS analysis and attributes are provided for each rendition along with both QoE and QoS evaluation percentages. It also records SCTE triggers and highlights issues that occurred during an advertisement to identify when 'make-goods' may be required. The platform can log issues detected by traditional third party T&M tools in addition to the many QoE and QoS issues it detects. When combined in the same Actus Alert Center report, patterns of disruption can be recognised. Users can immediately see what was on air at the time of the alert and whether it affected viewer experience. The recently introduced Actus Synchro tool allows operators to drill down from an error message in its penalty box, or on one pane of a multiviewer screen, into the same channel at all nodes throughout the video distribution chain. This shows where in the workflow an issue has been introduced and which downstream OTA and OTT signals have been impacted.

Bridge Technologies' VB440 now includes signal generation as well as signal monitoring, allowing reference signals to be generated when setting up a studio. These references can also be used to measure and test network performance for elements which are not due to be integrated into the studio setup until later in the workflow. The new signal generation functionality allows for users to manually set placeholder reference signals through the GUI itself, or through NMOS. This can be achieved for any resolution or frame rate, for SDR and HDR signals. These can be used to represent specific sources, each being given a colour bar and video or audio ident - even before the physical asset itself is set-up.

"Through the delivery of continuous real-time visually-intuitive data drawn from monitoring probes based at the heart of the IP-production studio, the whole production studio - whether fixed or remote - can leverage monitoring data," says Bridge Technologies' Chairman Simen Frostad. "The net result is that the quality of production and the reliability of eventual service experienced by the audience are all dramatically enhanced."

Bridge Technologies has also added SCTE 104 and SCTE 35 marker monitoring to its broadcast monitoring probes, including the VB330. This will give broadcasters the ability to monitor and control the integration of downstream ad insertion. As part of Bridge Technologies’ 6.1 software upgrade, SCTE 35 and 104 checking are moved to the QoE/Content checking tab. A greater range of event types have been added, along with the integration of support for newer SCTE 35 messages, including ‘time signal with segmentation descriptor’ and hierarchical messages. The range of alert-related features available has also been extended, automatically signalling event occurrences (or the failure thereof), all of which can be customised according to need. Furthermore, recent SCTE 35 Cue Out events are now visualised within the thumbnail overview mosaic, along with their current state - giving at-a-glance insight into the status of advert cues.

Cobalt Digital's 9978-ANC-MON is a 3G/HD/SD-SDI ancillary data monitoring probe on an openGear card. It monitors and shows the status of SDI stream ancillary data in 'plain language' on-screen overlays. The status burn-in overlay can be viewed via SDI and HDMI. The probe has its own user interface or can integrate with automation systems through IP and SNMP. Data packages such as closed captioning, SCTE 104, 608-XDS and AFD can be monitored, including interpreters that parse the payload and display it as a burn-in. Also included is a continuously running display of ATSC A/85 LKFS loudness. Cobalt's DashBoard control and monitoring application for the openGear platform or Cobalt remote-control panels allow full status and control access locally or across a standard Ethernet network. The probe is also available stand-alone as the BBG-1078-ANC-MON, three of which can be installed in 1U.

Leader Electronics has expanded the feature set of its ZEN Series SDI/IP range of waveform monitors and rasterizers with enhanced IP test and measurement capabilities. The newly introduced Version 6.5 software adds extra capabilities that SDI-based customers have been requesting. Among these are additions to the vectorscope toolset which is now equipped to display a colour bar scale and an HDR transfer characteristic. Also announced are additions to the capabilities of the LVB440 IP Analyzer. The instrument's IP traffic and signal monitoring resources are now supplemented by signal generation tools plus the ability to monitor and analyze SR Live Metadata. Operators can create placeholder reference signals locally using the integral GUI or remotely via NMOS. SDR and HDR signals such as chroma bars can be configured for specific video resolutions or refresh rates, including a user-definable video or audio ident, saving time during system setup or alteration. Placeholders can also be created to represent video and audio feeds that will be required later in the production timeline. Network connections such as remote OB or studio sources can then be tested before the start of a live transmission.

PHABRIX' QxP inherits the toolset and flexible architecture of the QxL rasterizer but in a 3U form factor with an integral high-contrast 1920 x 1200 7-inch multi-touch LCD screen. ST 2110 with NMOS and ST 2022-6 operation over mono-mode/LR or multi-mode/SR fibre using generic 10/25G SFPs comes as standard. Single/Dual/Quad SDI operation is available as a factory fitted option for hybrid IP/SDI applications. The QxP can be controlled using the touchscreen and/or integral buttons, or with a mouse and the HDMI rasterizer output running up to 16 instruments. Uniquely, the UI is also available remotely as 2110-20/30 flows.  Full remote operation is available over HDMI KVM and NoVNC, with an extensive API and the capability for remote upgrade and access to PCAPs. The front panel includes an integral speaker, headphone socket and two USB ports for mouse and USB stick (PCAP or local upgrade). Power can be sourced from an internal mains unit, external four-pin DC PSU or a factory fitted camera battery V or G-plate as standard. The QxP supports a very wide range of 422 and 444, YUV and RGB video formats over ST 2110, ST 2022-6 and SDI. As with all PHABRIX products, audio monitoring and ANC data analysis tools come as standard.

Telestream's SPG9000 timing and reference system provides two independent 1G/10G IP ports over which PTP messaging can be sent between all clocks and devices across separate networks to keep them synchronised with whatever device is designated the grandmaster clock reference. The SPG9000 can serve as a grandmaster, leader, or follower. "The SPG9000 also offers the ability to get accurate timing information from GPS satellites as well as any GNSS satellite whether GLONAST, BaiDau, GPS, Galileo, or QZSS. So, satellite connectivity is global," adds Steven Bilow, Senior Product Marketing Manager, at Telestream. "SDI and analog devices and systems also require identical timing information. That need is not going away so including the right interfaces to support it is another fundamental SPG9000 design principle. By including six black outputs, four LTC outputs, and a genlock input, the SPG9000 is perfect for timing and synchronization in SDI and analog environments. And, in those all-pervasive hybrid environments, having all these interfaces in a single instrument means that, no matter what interface, the entire facility can be identically timed."

Triveni Digital's new ATSC 3.0 StreamScope XM Monitor performs real-time monitoring and analysis of ATSC 3.0 streams. Operators can create rules-based notifications to pinpoint and troubleshoot NextGen TV service quality issues. "ATSC 3.0 deployments are quickly accelerating in the USA, opening up a variety of new revenue streams for broadcasters," says Ralph Bachofen,VP of Sales and Marketing.

"Broadcasters can ensure accurate delivery of datacasting content which is a key revenue generator in the ATSC 3.0 environment. Long-term monitoring and reporting capabilities streamline postmortem analysis. Critical auditing capabilities allow broadcasters to comply with industry regulations including closed captioning, audio loudness, and the Emergency Alert System. The instrument also offers decryption functionality." The StreamScope XM Monitor integrates with Triveni Digital’s StreamScope XM Analyzer, StreamScope XM Dashboard and StreamScope Enterprise.

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 and fifty 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.