Ross Video Team Jan 27, 2020


Living Live Podcast: Considerations for Determining IP vs. SDI in Live Productions

Jeff Moore Podcast

For live productions, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to video. That is where Ross Video comes in. Jeff Moore, Executive VP & CMO of Ross Video, spoke with host Tyler Kern on the Living Live Podcast to discuss the range of needs clients have for video in live production settings and how to determine the right connectivity solution.

Moore said there is a lot of confusion in the marketplace around IP vs. SDI and which solution is the right one to use for a customer. The answer, Moore said, centers on what a customer is trying to achieve. Customers use both systems, but a more common situation, Moore noted, is a hybrid use of both IP and SDI.

“The starting point,” Moore said, “is what are our customers trying to do.” The solutions generate from those initial discussions.

While it’s clear there are no hard and fast rules for deciding IP vs. SDI, Ross said IP is frequently a go-to for large-scale venues and operations, while SDI works best in small-to-medium-sized environments.

Costs also play a contributing factor in decision-making. IP may include additional overhead costs and might require on-site engineering expertise, while SDI could provide a simpler, more cost-effective solution for what a customer is trying to do.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the overall production’s goals and what the client is trying to achieve. That’s really what the driver is,” Moore said.

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AUTHOR: Tyler Kern

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Podcast Transcript

Tyler Kern: Welcome to Living Live with Ross Video, a look at the tech and the people shaping the future of live production.

Live on five, four, three, two, one, go.

Tyler Kern: Welcome to Living Live with Ross Video. I'm Tyler Kern. Live production exists across a number of different venues and serves a variety of purposes these days, so it stands to reason that there isn't a one size fits all solution for everyone that is in this space. Now, there are options that need to be explored and factors that should be considered, and joining me today to help me navigate these live production options is Jeff Moore, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Ross Video. Jeff, thank you so much for joining me today.

Jeff Moore: Oh, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

Tyler Kern: Well, I'm really excited to get to dive in and have this conversation with you. And, Jeff, I was wondering about that initial, I suppose, misconception that there is this one size fits all technology that will work for everyone across all live production. Where did that misconception start, or does that exist in the industry? And why is that wrong?

Jeff Moore: Yeah, that's a great question, actually. One of the things that we we pride ourselves on is being able to provide a range of solutions to address the needs of different types of clients. So one of the areas we see a lot of confusion right now on is interconnect technology, the connectivity that we use and putting system pieces together, and the push into IP in doing that. So there's a lot of confusion, a lot of that has been generated by, I guess, the hype out there in the industry. So one of the questions, I guess, that we get a lot is, which direction do I go? Is it IP, is it SDI, or is it a hybrid solution? And the answer to that question really depends on the use case and what the customer is trying to achieve.

Tyler Kern: Absolutely. So you mentioned IP, SDI, or a hybrid of the two systems. Can we do a quick, maybe, little compare and contrast of just what each of those means and what makes them right in certain cases, but maybe not for everybody.

Jeff Moore: Okay, sure. So the idea behind IP, now when I'm talking about IP, I mean IP used in a live scenario. Because IP and networking have long been coming into media production facilities. We've been using IP for a long time for control, for file-based workflows, in all kinds of scenarios. But what's relatively new about IP is using it in a facility for the main interconnect for moving likely uncompressed video around, or lightly compressed video in a production scenario. So that's new, and there are a lot of complexities to bringing it in. But the idea is to use a commercial off the shelf, general purpose IP hardware and routing hardware to interconnect all of your production devices.

Jeff Moore: So that's IP. So the other piece is SDI, which stands for serial digital interconnect, and it's a digital connection technology we've used for, I guess, probably 30 years now. And it's much simpler. It's a dedicated connection. We have basically synchronous systems that we've used for a long time, and SDI has continued to evolve as well to higher data rates and so on. So both of those interconnect technologies are used in the industry. IP's been starting to come in and it has a certain place, and SDI has been around for a long time, but it's continuing to evolve at the same time as well. And then a more common situation now is, is hybrid, is a combination of the two technologies, especially in new greenfield type environments.

Tyler Kern: Absolutely. So you mentioned you interact with clients quite a bit, and you're always trying to figure out and decipher, what are these particular needs, I suppose, for this client, and what solution is going to work best for what their needs are and the different constraints that exist? So how do you approach those conversations to get to the bottom of, here's exactly what you need and here's a solution that fits best for your particular situation?

Jeff Moore: So yeah, from a broad perspective, interconnect is actually a small part of this overall conversation. So it's really about what our clients are trying to achieve. What are their project production objectives? How can we help them make amazing live productions that are going to wow their audiences, engage their audiences in an amazing way creatively? How do we make that efficient from a business perspective? How do we address cost of ownership and operational issues? So the technology really should support those two things, the creative and the business side.

Jeff Moore: And so the starting point is, what are our customers trying to do? What are their objectives, what are their pain points? And then how can we bring the very broad portfolio that we have and the technological expertise we have to help with that? So it's a lot of fun, actually, because we get into some pretty amazing conversations with clients. And we've got some very ambitious customers out there that help drive us forward in terms of the tool sets and the workflows and things like that that we're putting together.

Tyler Kern: That's really interesting. Now, I'm sure, like you mentioned, that you work with some really, really capable and knowledgeable clients, but are there ever times when your job turns more into an education type scenario, where you have clients that weren't even aware of some of the options that are available, be it hybrid systems or something like that, that you get to open a new world to them in terms of what's possible?

Jeff Moore: Absolutely, yeah. So one of the things, I travel all over the world, and quite often I'm asked to give a technical presentation. So one of the hot topics has been, on a connectivity side, is IP versus SDI, and which direction do I go? Like it's a binary choice. And it's not, actually, it's a choice where you can pick and choose. And even within organizations we've got parts that it makes sense to move forward with SDI, and other times to go to IP. And generally IP is best for scale, for very large scale facilities, and SDI works best in small, medium size environments, and also in existing solutions. And given that SDI is now advanced, we've got support for 12 gigabits per second to handle 4K UHD, the majority, actually, of the systems that we're seeing out there that are supporting 4K UHD for live production are being done with 12 gig SDI, just because it's a very practical and easy and dependable way to do it.

Tyler Kern: That's really, really fascinating. So you mentioned maybe the size of the venue. If it's a large scale operation, that IP might be the way to go. What are some of the other primary considerations when it comes to live production, like size of venue? What are some other things that you're running your decision making process through to consider and that helps, I guess, narrow down or present different options?

Jeff Moore: I guess scale of the facility, part of it cost, cost of the overall solution. Because there is an overhead on the IP side with additional costs that maybe customers don't want. There's additional complexity. And quite often, our clients, because we have a lot of clients that don't have ... Sometimes they don't have on staff engineering support at all. So they need something that's going to be simple, dependable, plug and play, and SDI has definitely got an advantage there. And it's an interconnect that's super easy to use by maybe less engineering centric customers. So there's that, there's support, there's the scale of the operation, and at the end of the day it's more about the goals, the production goals and what clients are really trying to achieve. And sometimes that's really what the driver is. So you work backwards from the outcomes you're looking to generate, and then the underlying technology that you're going to use to achieve those goals quite often will become obvious.

Tyler Kern: Absolutely. That 100% makes sense. What if you have a client that at some point might see their facility grow or something along those lines? There's a desire to maybe scale in the future, but they're exploring what they can do now. Are there options that are better for that scenario, or how do you work through a situation like that?

Jeff Moore: Yeah, absolutely. So most of the solutions that we offer are quite modular, and more and more they're software based. So with software, the underlying hardware can change out as we move the software forward. And so more and more that is what we're seeing in the market as we harness off the shelf compute to do things like graphics and video servers and those sorts of things. Some customers combine it into a platform, continue to move it forward as the technology changes and evolves.

Tyler Kern: So give us an idea, maybe, of, I suppose, the scope of the various venues that you are talking about when we consider a live production. Because it's not just a gigantic concert hall or something like that. This can also be houses of worship, workspaces, things like that. So just give us an idea, maybe, more of the scope of the various places that can be served with live production.

Jeff Moore: Yeah, that's true. We've got a very broad range of customers, customer applications, and market segments that we sell into. So it's media and entertainment, of course, television stations, television networks, production companies, production, mobile production trucks, as an example. So that's a big chunk of our business. We also do a lot in stadium environments, so sports stadiums. We've got like 60% market share in NFL football, for example, in the production gear that's driving the displays in those venues, the big screens and the ribbon boards and so on. And we could do that in a way that's pretty amazing with some of the technology we've created working with those clients. And then we have houses of worship, as you mentioned, corporations, we've got a lot of corporations that more and more video is becoming ubiquitous. Everybody's using it to communicate, to educate their staff, to communicate with clients, to announce new products, and things like that. So we're seeing a lot of movement there and increase in sophistication in some of our corporations. We also sell a lot of products into legislative markets. So these are state legislatures, city legislatures, national legislatures that have our technology as well. So it's a pretty broad range, and they all have unique needs that we need to make sure that our technologies support to provide a solution, a total solution for them that really works well and achieves their objectives.

Tyler Kern: That's really incredible. Just as we talk about that, we talk about the small venues all the way up to NFL stadiums, like you were mentioning. Was it important for you guys at Ross Video to be able to have those wide range of products and have, I guess, the versatility in the marketplace to be able to go from even the smallest venues all the way up to NFL stadiums?

Jeff Moore: I think so, yeah. Absolutely. So it's something that we've intentionally driven for, is, technology is expensive to develop. So the more, I guess, customer segments that we can address with the technology, the better job that we can do, the more cost effective we can make it, and the more leverage on our R&D that we have out there in the marketplace. And it's interesting and fun, and it gives us a window into other challenges and problems that we're going to solve, because none of these are the same. The television station doing news production, for example, is very, very different than a sports stadium, which is, again, different than a legislature. So having the ability to really tailor solutions for them has been part of the magic that we can bring to their productions.

Tyler Kern: Yeah. So one of the things that, I suppose one of the buzzwords or terms that I've heard recently quite a bit, is a lot of talk about remote workflows or cloud-based workflows. How has that maybe changed the game a little bit or changed the conversation around what people want and need in the industry?

Jeff Moore: Yeah, that's a really interesting one. Absolutely. So there's two questions in one there. So remote workflows and cloud workflows. So I'll talk about cloud workflows first, I guess. With cloud we actually ... So when I talk about cloud, there's two things. There's private cloud and then public cloud deployments. We have a couple of products now, Inception, our news and social media system, and Streamline, our media asset management system for graphics and clips, video clips, are both available as cloud services. We run on AWS. We've got a number of clients using both of these services now. And the interesting thing about those is that it's really easy from a customer perspective to get up and running, start using those solutions. And so it's easy on, we take care of all of the back end management, the customer just starts using the system.

Jeff Moore: In doing that and developing these systems, we've actually had to create some new technology that secures the connection back, communications that need to happen back to the facility. So from the cloud back to the facility, we've got secure encrypted gateway. We've actually donated that technology into the MOSS committee, which is one of the protocols that's used in news production, essentially. Yeah, so it's an area that we've been very active in and pioneering some new techniques and workflows.

Jeff Moore: As far as remote production is concerned, which is another use case, and this is typically where you have a studio in some city somewhere, and then the back office gear and potentially the production crew that's operating the equipment somewhere else. And there's a variety of different models in doing remote production. So we've been active in this for over a decade in various ways. And we have, actually, some patents related to doing these kinds of remote productions. So we're active with a number of clients in creating even more compelling scenarios for remote production. And the key goal here, of course, is efficiency, efficient use of your staff, maybe less travel. One of the advantages is less airfare. We're not flying people around as much, which reduces the carbon footprint of an organization, which is top of mind for a lot of clients that we have these days, especially in Europe.

Tyler Kern: Absolutely. So I guess I want to wrap up just by talking a little bit about your time in the industry, because you have a lot of experience, you've seen a lot of things just in your time here. So what do you see coming down the pipeline as the big trends in live production of the future? If you look back on just the development of different trends and different things that you've seen over your time in the industry, what do you see coming next?

Jeff Moore: Coming next? Yeah, that's a wide open question. There are so many different things. I think what we're seeing is just an explosion of opportunity in terms of technology that we can use in a really interesting way going forward. So things like the computers and the capabilities that we get and being able to use compute to process images. There's IP and networking, there's virtualization. One of the things we've been involved in, and we've shown tech demos at the last few major trade shows that we've done for the last couple of years, showing how we've been advancing the technology in doing this. So it's being able to take a lot of the technology that we're using in live production and virtualize it onto data center hardware. So that's one of the things that we're very active in.

Jeff Moore: We'll be showing some more technology at NAB coming up in April that I think will be of interest to a lot of our clients. And by the way, those aren't easy with moving real time IP video in and out of data center computer hardware, it's not that easy to achieve. So there's a bunch of things that we've done to work out the kinks in that and get that to a state where we can now start to entertain deployments. So that's one area that's got a lot of future potential.

Jeff Moore: The hardware that we build, there's this interesting dichotomy now with dedicated hardware versus off the shelf compute. Both are moving forward. So the technology that we use most in our real time processing gear are called field programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs. And they continue to get faster, better, quicker, have more capabilities in them. And so as they grow, we're able to do more and more in less and less hardware, in a smaller footprint.

Jeff Moore: So one of the examples of that is our Ultrix. We call it a router, but it's way more than that. It's provides connectivity, but it also provides a lot of integrated processing. And Ultrix has the ability to connect into either SDI or IP networks. So it's interesting as a hybrid processing box. And it's got integrated multi-viewing, it's got frame syncs inside, it's got a full audio fabric, it's got 16 channels of embedding and disembedding on every input and output. It has MADI breakout, it has all of these capabilities that are possible in it in a very small footprint. So we literally can save racks and racks and racks and racks of equipment in one box that is five rack units big.

Tyler Kern: Wow.

Jeff Moore: This is one of the things that that has really changed the game in facilities, that it can do so much more for the same amount of money or less money, and in a much simpler way because they eliminate a lot of the interconnect. It's better for the environment because there's just less equipment that is needed. There's less power, less cooling. So you're going to see more of that coming forward. At the same time as we're doing that, by the way, we're souping it up and making it capable of 4K UHD. And this is one of the trends that's happening in the industry. We're seeing more and more deployments, 4K UHD deployments, and so that will start coming in, and we've all got our 4K UHD TV sets at home now, so there's a drive to get more content created for it. That is happening, and we're seeing a lot of growth there too.

Tyler Kern: I think what's really exciting is that there are options for everybody. And like you mentioned, and we talked about it right off the top, is that it's not a one size fits all thing. And so figure out what option works best for you. And I loved what you said about starting with what you want to create, the content you want and that sort of thing, and then working backwards from there, always keeping that as the goal, I think, is absolutely huge and fantastic. Jeff, thank you so much for joining me today, talking a little bit about the different options that people have at their disposal and finding what works for them.

Jeff Moore: Well, thank you, Tyler, it was my pleasure.

Tyler Kern: Thank you so much for checking out this episode of Living Live with Ross Video. We really appreciate you listening. Be sure to go subscribe on iTunes or Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. Make sure you go subscribe so you get the latest episodes of Living Live, stay up to date with everything going on in the world of live production. We'll have more podcasts just like this one coming soon, I am absolutely positive. But until then, I've been your host today, Tyler Kern. Thanks for listening.


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