What is Serial Communication


Mike Colyer TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
Download PDF
Download PDF

Don’t get me wrong - the advent of IP technology has done wonders for the broadcasting universe, especially here in Special Cams land where changing a setting could have involved a rather long walk and climb to a remote camera location! Nevertheless, this said, I still feel that serial communication is a huge contender - not only just in the realm of odd robotics systems, but also across broadcast in general.

In this article, I will walk through the very basics - introducing a few different types of serial and how they work.

So, very briefly, like all computer communications, serial is made up of binary - ones and zeros. For example, if a line had 5 volts on it, you could say it was ‘on’, thus has a value of one. If off (0 volts), you could say the value was zero. From this rapid turning off and on of a line, data can be sent - as is by Morse code. Each one of these zeros and one would be a ‘bit’. A collection of these bits would form a byte.

Framing a Byte

Now let us take a look at how collection of bits forms one byte, or one ‘instruction’:

Firstly, there will be a ‘Start Bit’ and one or two ‘Stop Bits’. These are sometimes referred to as sync bits and basically serve to tell the receiving machine where one message starts and ends.

Next, the important part - the data chunk. This is where your all important information hides and will be between 5 and 9 bits long. It is here were the command ‘start recording’ or ‘turn on tally’ could be coded for example.

The ‘Parity Bit’ follows that and is a rather cheap but effective form of error correction. Parity, in serial, will be one of three things- ‘Odd’, ‘Even’ or ‘None’. Of course, none would mean no parity - thus no error correction. Odd or Even however, would refer to the number of ‘Ones’ in the data chuck. So let’s say we had an 8-bit data chunk with the value of 00011111. The sum of the ‘ones’ is five, so if Odd parity was ‘true’ (or 1) - we would know the message was probably okay as the binary adds up as expected. If, however, even parity had been used and the bit still had the current value of ‘1’, as our binary sequence had an odd number, we would know the data was corrupt and to disregard it.

When reading through a user manual for equipment that has serial, it’ll have a number-letter-number combination such as 8N1, or 6E2, or 8O1. This would refer to the number of bits in the data chunk, whether or not it has odd, even or no parity - and how many stop bits will be sent. Useful information if you need to adapt the serial for use with external, third party systems.

You will also need to know the baud rate, often 9600 baud, which refers to the speed of the signal / how many 0s or 1s will be sent in a second. The higher the baud, the more data you can pass in a second, but also the higher the risk of lost packets.

RS 232

A known and loved serial format is RS232. RS232 could be performed on as few as two wires if one way commutation is acceptable (with the other wire being ground). Probably the most common deployment of RS232 is three wires, in which you would have a ground, a transmit (TX Line) and a receive wire (RX Line).
How you would define between a ‘one’ and ‘zero’ can be seen below in Figure Two.

In short, RS-232 will produce a ‘1’ whenever the voltage level is switched below the switching voltage of -3V and a ‘0’ when switched above 3v. Anything between 3v and -3V is not accepted as a valid switching voltage, and will return the previous binary figure if the limit is not met.

RS 422 / 485

RS 422 / 485 is different to RS 232 is physical form. Unlike the three wires of RS 232, RS 422 and RS 485 feature five. A ground, a positive transmission line (TX+), a negative transmission line (TX-), a positive receive line (RX+) and a negative receive line (RX-). An example of this in action be seen below in Figure Three.

Unlike RS-232, RS-422 and RS-485 have separate lines to send not only a signal similar to RS232 in which a ‘low’ would return the value of ‘1’ (TX+) - but also another line (TX-) in which the opposite is true (high returns ‘1’). In doing this, for the signal to be valid - the negative signal should subtract and cancel out the positive signal. Doing so acts as a method of signal balancing, acting as error correction - thus enabling the signal to be sent over greater lengths before it degrades.


Tags: iss131 | rs422 | rs232 | parity | rs485 | Mike Colyer
Contributing Author Mike Colyer

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Download PDF
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Articles
Taking a Stand at IBC - The Future of Exhibiting Clouds
Julian Wright If you’re reading KitPlus you probably don’t need us to tell you that, each year, the IBC Show attracts 1,700 exhibitors, each parting with a significant sum of money for the privilege of touting their wares from the darkened halls for five whole days. For the last eight years Blue Lucy has been one of these exhibitors and the show has always more than paid for itself in generating new business, as well as the less directly-tangible benefits from partnerships and networking opportunities.
Tags: iss140 | blue lucy | ibc | cloud | iabm | Julian Wright
Contributing Author Julian Wright Click to read
MEDIAPRO leads across the audiovisual value chain
Marc Andreu Valls

MEDIAPRO is a leading independent production company in Europe’s audiovisual market. Offering a full slate of technical and creative services, our portfolio includes everything from content production, to post production, to media and digital asset management, to the acquisition of sports TV rights, and the distribution and broadcast of television channels. We currently have 58 offices spread across 36 countries on four continents.

Tags: iss141 | signiant | mediapro | media shuttle | transport | Marc Andreu Valls
Contributing Author Marc Andreu Valls Click to read
Get Your KitPlus On - The KitPlus Show MediaCityUK 2019
KitPlus A record number exhibitors, ready to demonstrate leading products, services, and technologies from more than 100 brands – many for the first time - will be on hand at the ninth annual KitPlus Show Manchester, taking place at MediaCityUK, Salford Quays, on 5 November.
Tags: iss140 | kitplusshow | cherry wallis | alex pettitt | chris pearless | matt lees | shut up sit down | neil thompson | fx9 | venice | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read
Complex Live Streaming At Scale
KitPlus On Saturday September 14th in the Content Everywhere Hub Theater at IBC, Zixi hosted a panel featuring partners and customers who have integrated with and utilized the Emmy-winning Zixi software for contribution and distribution of live video over managed and un-managed internet connections.
Tags: iss140 | zixi | streaming | video transport | ip | zen master | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
Class: Pragmatism In Engineering
Bruce Devlin - new A couple of years ago, Hermann Popp from ARRI came to me and talked about putting MXF in ST 2110. My initial take away was that his proposal felt like exactly the right way to solve the problem he presented, but was completely counter-intuitive to the IP Engineering purists who would push back on the concept of double wrapping the content.
Tags: iss140 | mxf | st2110 | smpte | hermann popp | ip | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read