1) What has been the broadcast industry's feeling about the move to an all IP workflow?
Transitioning from conventional signal transport to an all-IP environment in broadcast or content production operations seems to be a matter of "when" rather than "if," as it brings a great number of advantages with it.
IP is touted as offering numerous benefits, including lowered capital and installation costs, large weight reductions of mobile production vehicles, and use of easily replaceable and upgradable off-the-shelf "generic" equipment from the computer network sector. However, a shift to any new technology or business model is almost always accompanied by a certain amount of anxiety or even discomfort. There seems to be a great deal of apprehension and uncertainty about IP, and possibly even more than in the 1990s when we began to get serious about transitioning from analog to digital technology. Some of the same arguments voiced then are being heard now: the inability to simply troubleshoot signal flows (plugging headphones or video monitors into patch panels), putting all of one's eggs in one basket (muxing audio with video), and operational uncertainty surrounding the new technology (difficulties in monitoring levels and a difference in the methods used to speedily identify and restore failed equipment or signal paths).
Some of this trepidation could stem from the very nature of IP - no more direct "point A-to-point-B" signal pathing, unpredictable latencies, software-driven transport systems, radically new troubleshooting techniques and - especially in the audio realm - a lack of consensus or standardization about the best way to achieve IP connectivity. This need not be the case, as with careful planning and embodiment of technologies available it is possible to enjoy the best of both worlds.
2) Is IP mature enough of a technology to support a broadcast workflow?
While broadcasters may harbor some concerns about IP, it's important to note that there is really nothing new or untried about the concept of moving packets of data containing built-in addressing information, or datagrams, from multiple sources to multiple destinations through a common network. IP came into being more than 40 years ago and is the mainstay of the Internet. If such technology didn't work well and offer a high level of reliability, the Internet would never have gained acceptance.
3) What are some of the benefits of IP?
IP brings with it many very real and tangible benefits. One is the use of low-cost and lightweight "CAT" data cable instead of conventional coaxial and shielded twisted-pair cabling. This can greatly reduce fixed facility construction costs, and in the case of a large mobile production truck, substantially reduce curb weight, increasing allowable payloads and potentially reducing operating costs over the life of the vehicle. Another advantage is the substitution of off-the-shelf IP data switches for massive and expensive conventional audio and video routing systems leading to cost savings. An IP switching system and infrastructure is totally agnostic when it comes to signal format. An SDI router with SD inputs would balk when confronted with HD video or discrete AES/EBU audio signals, but this is not the case with IP. SD, HD, 3G and UHD packets are all accommodated as well as different audio "flavors" (mono, stereo, 5.1, 9.1, etc.) in varying sampling rates. Even in such a limited IP application as the replacement of conventional multicore audio "snakes" with networked audio connectivity can be beneficial - from easier deployment, lighter weight and reduced complexity in construction and maintenance.
Other big advantages that come from transporting audio and video signals on an IP network include the capability for remotely monitoring signal flow and the health of these signals from virtually anywhere in the world, and the ability to easily and speedily reconfigure a single piece of equipment connected to the network, or simultaneously make changes to any number of network-connected devices. Similarly, a network environment like this lends itself to dynamic reconfiguration to accommodate special routing and/or processing requirements during certain portions of the broadcast day, or for the origination of special events outside the studio environment. These SDN and IP-connected systems could eventually lead to the abandonment of conventional outside broadcast practices, with little more than direct-to-cloud cameras deployed at the sports center or other remote venue, and switching, DVE, monitoring, intercom and other equipment remaining behind at the studio facility and repurposed as required.
4) What approach should broadcasters take when moving over to IP?
The best way to approach this move to IP is to learn from our recent move to digital. Transitioning from a conventional infrastructure to an IP-connected environment doesn't necessarily mean a "flash cut" any more than it did when moving from analog to digital. A much more reasonable approach was to ease into the new technology with the creation of "islands of digital." Similarly, a "hybrid" approach to IP can be the reasonable line of attack when making the move to this new technology. Several broadcast audio monitor manufacturers are already offering interfaces to tie IP switching to conventional A/V routing operations.