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.