IP-Linked Cellular Production

  • With David Kirk

IP-Linked Cellular Production

Contributing Editor David Kirk reports on the current trends in IP-linked remote OB production...

A notable aspect of the April 2023 NAB Show was the large number of conference presentations focused on signal delivery, from REMI links onward to terrestrial, satellite and IP broadcasting. 5G continues to attract strong attention as a production tool, exemplified by the presentation from Ian Wagdin (BBC Research & Development) et al under the title ‘Pop-up 5G Standalone Non-public Networks (SNPNS) for Live Broadcast Production’ which merits study by everyone with a serious interest in OB developments. A brief summary:

“The use of 5G technology is of great interest to the broadcast industry, as it can offer the low latency and high bandwidth requirements for outside broadcast (OB) program making. There are two main scenarios that should be considered in the deployment of 5G technologies for program making. First are contribution feeds, which are characterized by the current use of bonded cellular devices on a public network. These are typically constrained in terms of latency and bandwidth but offer advantages in ease of deployment and large coverage areas. The second scenario is the use of production links that are characterized by low latency, high bandwidth local connectivity dedicated to a single wireless camera channel. Private 5G networks have the ability to impact on both of these scenarios. A portable, pop-up private standalone 5G network has been developed and deployed around the world in a series of successful proof-of-concepts for outside broadcast production in remote locations. When we started on this journey, the potential benefits of 5G SNPNs for the broadcast industry were understood, but whether the technology was mature enough to use in practice and whether it ultimately delivered on its promises in real-world application remained to be seen. Our biggest take home from the trials and events described here is that the technology is absolutely ready to find use in broadcasting, and will continue to improve with adoption and experience.”

Mike Palmer (Sinclair Broadcasting, USA) outlined Sinclair’s Cloud Media Pipeline  which allows centralised reception and processing of commercials, syndicated programming and promos across the group’s 210 channels by applying IP-linked applications and services to achieve savings, efficiency and speed: “Each month Sinclair’s 210 channels receive on average 30,000 advertising spots, 6,000 syndicated programs, and create more than 60,000 episodic promos. This content was formerly received across 60 different physical locations, each with its own hardware, software and operators, where media timing and quality was manually checked. Though much of the content was also used on other channels, every master control site received and prepped its own content. If an exception, such as bad timing, was found at one site, the content had to be manually corrected at all other sites where that same content was also used. The result was unnecessary duplicated effort by both humans and machines and produced redundancy costs, including support, power, cooling and rack space, etc. Sinclair determined that the best course forward would be to consolidate ingest and prep operations into the public cloud, using a limited number of flexible and loosely coupled cloud-native applications and services to ingest, process and deliver content to playout for the entire group. The system is operating well, and producing content used by the full enterprise. Full efficiencies will come over time as the environment continues to evolve.”

The April 2023 NAB Show also saw significant product introductions and upgrades. The following are some of the highlights:

ABonAir’s AB4000 is a 4K wireless video link supporting 4K, 12G-SDI, HDMI 2.0, HDR, lens control (L-bus), RCP and PTZ. It includes an integrated intercom and loopthrough using a single RF channel. The AB4000 incorporates a wireless-optimised H.265 codec and uses bi-directional communication allowing each video pixel to be acknowledged by the receiver. If no acknowledgement is received, the same packet is re-transmitted. Coverage range is 300 metres or more. Among additional features are three mount options (Hot Shoe, Gold Mount, V-Lock), and light weight (350g). Suggested applications include broadcast and digital film production and monitoring, news production and live event coverage.

Dejero’s 5G EnGo 3 and EnGo 3x combine 5G connectivity, multi-camera support and 4K UHD resolution, employing 4x4 MIMO antennas. Up to four fully frame-synced HD feeds can be accommodated. “The redesigned RF and antenna architecture, multi-camera support, 4K UHD features and internet gateway give mobile news teams and production companies more flexibility than ever before,” says Dejero’s Michael Stanton. “The transmitters provide wireless broadband internet connectivity in the field so that news teams only need to carry a single transmitter to go live, quickly send or receive large files and securely access private newsroom systems and cloud services from any location. The EnGo 3 and 3x also offer enhanced security with AES256 encryption, a security-hardened Linux OS and a cryptoprocessor to authenticate the hardware.” 

Haivision’s StreamHub receiver decodes and distributes live video streams coming from any Haivision/Aviwest mobile transmitter or third-party platform. The latest version can now receive live IP video streams using the SRT, RTMP, HLS, and NDI protocols. It can adapt incoming HEVC or H.264 video sources to match the required output resolution and frame-rate or generate a multiviewer for live monitoring, then output to SDI, NDI, ST 2110 and IP streaming formats including SRT. StreamHub is available as 1U rackmount unit including SDI and IP interfaces; it can also be deployed as software on a virtual machine or in the cloud. Up to 16 inputs and outputs and multiple StreamHubs can be managed over IP. StreamHub can also be used to stream live video returns and establish two-way audio links back to Haivision’s mobile field units including the Pro, Air, and Rack series. 

LiveU Studio is a new SaaS-based cloud-native IP live video production offering which supports multiple IP video protocols and provides live switching, audio mixing, graphics, remote guest management, and one-click distribution to up to 30 different, simultaneous digital destinations. It allows users to create, edit and distribute shows from via a web interface. Production teams can collaborative remotely, paying only for what they need. “Studio takes the LiveU workflow to the next level,” says one of the first Studio customers, KAUZ-TV Chief Engineer Jeffery Zotz. “It simplifies getting more content for on-air/livestream to cover big events or breaking news.” Users can stream from any LiveU device directly into the LiveU Studio without needing a dedicated decoder.

Magewell’s latest offering for remote production and contribution is a new model in its Ultra Encode encoder series. Ultra Encode AIO offers expanded features including HDMI and SDI input connectivity in a single unit, 4K encoding and streaming, simultaneous multi-protocol streaming, higher streaming bitrates and file recording. Supported video encoding formats include H.264, H.265 (HEVC) and NDI HX. Delivery protocols include SRT, RTMPS, HLS, and TVU’s ISSP. Video can be encoded at resolutions up to 4096 x 2160 at 30 frames per second from HDMI sources, or up to 1080p HD at 60 fps from the device’s 3G-SDI input. The unit  can encode one live input source, HDMI or SDI, or mix video from the HDMI and SDI inputs (picture-in-picture or side-by-side) into a combined output. Video can be encoded at up to 32 Mbps. Up to eight channels of audio can be encoded in AAC format. Ultra Encode AIO can be configured, monitored, and controlled through its web interface. “IP-based solutions have made remote production more cost effective for large productions and viable for mid-sized and even small productions where satellite-based contribution was cost prohibitive,” says CEO/CTO Nick Ma.

Teradek Prism Mobile is a 4K HDR camera-back video encoder with two built-in cellular modems supporting nine simultaneous network connections. "Prism Mobile solves three of the most common complaints we've heard from camera operators in the field: product size, power usage and feature set," says Michael Gailing, General Manager of Teradek's Live business. "When paired with our Core Cloud orchestration platform, it allows users to collaborate, control, archive, monitor and distribute streams from virtually anywhere. Prism Mobile's milled aluminum chassis weighs in at just 864g with Gold-mount or V-mount battery plates, allowing camera operators to go live for long periods of time without heavy backpacks.” 

TVU Networks' TVU One delivers live video over a 5G cellular bonded infrastructure. It is designed to transfer live UHD video with sub-second latency at 100 Mbps and supports up to 4 hours and 30 minutes of live transmission. The transmitter uses an H.265 hardware encoding chip claimed to deliver full 4K 10-bit  60 frames per second HDR video at as low as 3 megabits per second, or 1080p60 HDR at as low as 800 kilobits per second. Claimed battery charge life is 4.5 hours. The unit aggregates up to 12 data connections comprising cellular 3G/4G/5G LTE, WiFi, Ethernet, Ka-band and Ku-band satellite, microwave and BGAN. Bandwidth is up to 25 megabits per second.

Vislink’s 5G-Link allows bi-directional data communication between free-roaming wireless cameras and production centres. Its updated Quantum receiver features COFDM and cellular bonding connectivity. “5G-Link serves as an interface bridge to communicate with and control edge devices,” says CEO Mickey Miller. “It delivers wireless freedom to roam over an uncontended 5G private network, providing high-quality low latency video and bi-direction IP control to the very edge of the broadcast network. It transmits ultra-low latency, high-quality video over a private 5G network, delivering uncontended connectivity that can interface directly into cloud and remote production workflows. Using a private 5G network allows connectivity to be kept separate from public cellular networks, free from the risk of network contention issues that can occur at crowded large-scale events when personal cellular devices usage spikes.

The 5G-Link can be used with standard video cameras, in tandem with our HCAM video encoder. It also provides IP intercom connectivity for the camera operator, allowing full voice connectivity to the edge. Full IP data control and management are provided through our LinkMatrix cloud-based control system, allowing links to be made and configurations created on a scheduled or ad-hoc basis. The newly updated Vislink Quantum receiver enables production teams to utilize both COFDM and bonded cellular technology formats that are integrated into the same workflow. This is ideal for sports-related applications including marathon races, bicycle races and stadium sports that use on-field COFDM wireless cameras in addition to cameras outside the stadium for team and spectator reporting.”