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NAB Las Vegas Reflections

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For us at ATG Danmon the annual NAB spring conference and exhibition are always useful for person-to-person networking, seeking out the latest new products and sensing which way the wind is blowing in terms of long-term technical trends. All the anticipated topics were in evidence: UHD, HDR, mobile newsgathering, OTT and IP.

Regarding IP, the industry appears to be aligning itself to the adoption of SMPTE 2110 as the standard defining the uncompressed transport of 3G HD-SDI over IP, although the need for compression in some circumstances hasn't gone away completely. AIMS board member Andrew Warman gave an information summary titled 'Status of IP Interoperability of the Broadcast Industry':

"With a membership of more than 60 vendors and end users at the time of this writing, AIMS is helping drive the adoption of IP, which will enable production and playout workflows to move away from SDI and embrace IT technologies and interoperability. AIMS does not create the standards or specifications that make up its roadmap. Instead AIMS promotes a unified approach to standards-based IP protocols, registration and discovery as the go-forward method for migrating from SDI to IP."

Staying with IP, an additional subject covered by the conference, in a full-day session, looks set to become a major factor for broadcasters: cybersecurity. This proved to be a timely topic to discuss given the mid-May attacks on computer network users around the world clearly exposing the new danger. Mike Ellis (BBC, UK) gave an excellent presentation on the theme 'Security in a Live IP Environment':

"A traditional broadcast facility is able to depend on physical security to ensure the integrity of both content and systems. However, as the adoption of IP production techniques moves us toward an increasingly connected world, our systems become increasingly exposed to malicious and accidental attack. In order to protect both systems and content, we must carefully examine the potential threats and identify the best techniques to address each of these. Some of these techniques already exist in other industries. Broadcasters merely need to adopt or adapt these, while new threats will require completely new solutions to be developed.

"The idea of 'black and silence to air' gives many broadcasters sleepless nights, but this is exactly what happened to one global television network when its IT systems were compromised. Even if the main transmissions are protected, an attack could prevent ongoing production operations, or block access to archive content. Systems may be overwhelmed by a Denial of Service attack such as the ones executed in 2016 by the Mirai botnet where common domestic internet-connected devices such as webcams and routers were used to flood servers, preventing legitimate traffic. As we move to using IP throughout a production facility, each camera is likely to have at least a 10Gbit/s connection – imagine the impact of a botnet compromising these devices and connected to the internet through high-capacity links!

"Delivering a Live IP environment securely is not simple and requires everyone from the equipment manufacturer through the designers and installers to the users and maintenance teams to play their part. Security is built upon trust. When the trust was only extended from one end of a cable to the other, it was relatively easy to be sure. As the cable spanning a few metres becomes a network spanning the entire globe, maintaining and validating the trust relationships becomes both harder and more critical to achieve."

Customers look to the SI for their knowledge and ability to determine which new technical trends will most efficiently handle a specific business challenge and budget. Currently we see 12G SDI becoming a viable alternative to IP based systems and we have delivered several successful 12G systems. Whilst other technologies can offer the bandwidth required for 4K, the fact that 12G offers higher frame rates and simple single cable connectivity is a big advantage. Several major suppliers showed increased adoption of 12G and it was particularly interesting to see NEP Visions and other major OB companies calling on manufacturers to deliver more 12G SDI kit. More customers are talking 12G to us based on our experience.

This article is also available to read in the latest edition of Broadcast Film & Video here, page 28.

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