What are the challenges of AoIP


Craig Newbury TV-Bay Magazine
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At the setup of a recent Outside Broadcast (OB), I was privy to an attempt to pass a signal across two independent Audio over IP (AoIP) enabled trucks. In an SDI world, this bridge would have been as simple as coupling two BNC cables together, but here the engineers quipped about the additional and sometimes challenging processes of connecting one truck's IP router to the other's. What range, what subnet, what protocol? And so, I was introduced first-hand to some of the practicalities of transitioning from SDI to AoIP within a live production environment.

For all the immediate tasks associated with AoIP for broadcast applications, there are significant benefits including the possibility for better security and greater redundancy. Perhaps, the most compelling is the reduction in costs, especially because of the greater capacity that it offers. For example, a single gigabit network cable can carry approximately 512 channels, a cable that could now replace 32 x SDI streams or eight x MADI streams and all the previously required real estate and infrastructure that those cables would have consumed on a regular traditional audio/video router.

At the sharp end, there are now a multitude of available streams - from player cams following individual football players, to cockpit cams that emulate accompanying a driver travelling at 200mph.

Monitoring all these signals is perhaps more important now than ever, not only because the signals are so valuable, but because there is just so much more complexity in the chain that can go wrong. To properly prepare for your migration from SDI-based monitoring to an AoIP environment, there are few important factors that should be kept top of mind.

Protocols: I have been in the industry just long enough to have experienced life without SDI, but its introduction and the standardization surrounding it means knowing that a cable carrying a signal would "just work."

Fast forward to the advent of files and the myriad metadata, containers and compression formats that became available. We painstakingly tried to recreate the interoperability we were so familiar with against the goal of scalable workflows and enablement of new platforms that a file-based workflow offered. Now with IP, we once again face similar challenges with the seemingly relentless journey toward new standards - starting with AVB (Audio Video Bridging), then Dante® and AES67. While it is nice to see that vendors are working together toward open standards, the rapid evolution of the media industry will require constant development to allow the industry to meet and monetize its full potential. Signal monitoring solutions must be evolvable to meet these ongoing needs.

Scale: At Wohler, we have always provided the finest solutions for monitoring up to 16 channels of audio. However, our customers are now asking us to help them monitor a single cable that may contain hundreds of potentially very valuable streams. It is not just the scale of the streams that we must innovate solutions for, but also the various types of streams as well. What today's customers are looking for is a Swiss Army knife for all eventualities; a box that can take multiple streams in multiple formats and handle it all seamlessly.

Presentation: A natural bedfellow of a requirement for processing data is how to provide feedback to users. Displaying 16 channels of audio is somewhat easy, and the use of level meters and VU meters is a long and very well-accepted way of presenting this scale of data. The downside is that no person can consume information about hundreds, even thousands of channels of audio simultaneously - and what equipment rack is wide enough to accommodate that many level meters? New monitoring solutions, such as our iAM¢¢ Series, are being built with smarter interfaces, including PC applications and multi-user browser-based interfaces that are more familiar and more accessible to users.

Automation: All humans are fallible, and with so many connected devices within the IP broadcast workflow the need to be more accurate and timelier is increasingly critical. Thankfully computers can make the process of driving toward better efficiencies via automation easier. Monitoring systems can no longer only show a meter or an alarm on a front panel, but they must also be able to tell "the system" what it has seen and perhaps even pass instructions about what should be done via open instruction sets such as those offered by APIs. The ability to log the data and provide tools to review that information also helps to diagnose problems systematically after the fact.

So, as we can see, with great power comes great responsibility that falls on both manufacturers and users. It is incumbent upon both to fully understand the ever-evolving technology of the industry and how we can harness it for growth and success.


Tags: iss122 | aoip | madi | wohler | Craig Newbury
Contributing Author Craig Newbury

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