SMPTE ST 2110: Lessons Learned

by Larry Shenosky, Senior Broadcast Project Manager, Advanced Systems Group

When it comes to designing and deploying media production systems, SMPTE ST 2110 technology is no longer the wave of the future… it’s here today and here to stay. SMPTE ST 2110 delivers vastly improved flexibility, scalability, and overall agility by facilitating rapid reconfiguration to meet evolving business needs.

While SMPTE 2110 represents the long-sought convergence of Audio/Video and IP network technology – it is not plug & play… yet. As Advanced Systems Group’s Vice President of Systems Integration and Professional Services, Michele Ferreira puts it: “The complexities of 2110 require a trusted technical advisor to harness the true power of this technology – while avoiding the pitfalls. ASG has deep experience designing, deploying, and exhaustively testing 2110 solutions. Because each customer has unique business needs, no two systems are exactly alike.”

This series outlines some of the SMPTE ST 2110 lessons our teams have learned along the way.

First, if you’re new to the 2110 world… you may be wondering: what is it?

SMPTE ST 2110

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) developed the ST 2110 suite of standards for the transmission of audio, video, timing information, and ancillary metadata (such as captioning) across Internet Protocol (IP) networks. 2110 is rapidly replacing legacy High-Definition Serial Digital Interface (HD-SDI) systems because it significantly improves business agility. Whether within a new studio facility or across a corporate campus, 2110 is delivering value for ASG customers today.

You can get more information about ASG’s experience with, and perspectives on ST 2110, by watching Advanced Systems Group’s Sam Craig, ASG’s VP of Cloud Production on this SMPTE 2110: Advancements in SMPTE 2110 for Corporate Production.

Engineering & IT Expertise

One of the first realizations when implementing 2110 technology actually revolves around people. The convergence of Audio/Video and IT has put a premium on Systems Integrators having knowledgeable engineers who can communicate well while working effectively in both domains. Such individuals are hard to recruit and retain but are essential to the ultimate success of each project. Advanced Systems Group is fortunate to have a core team of experienced engineers with hands-on experience crossing both the IT and A/V regimes and the ability to explain key concepts to customer engineers and production personnel.

However, some customers still separate Audio/Video and IT Engineering teams and therefore may have knowledge gaps between the two disciplines. Still, other organizations may have blended IT and A/V engineering staff into a single unit but have individuals who specialize in one or the other skills – but not both.

No matter what the internal organization, ASG strongly recommends that customer A/V and IT teams complete online SMPTE 2110 network training. This provides a baseline knowledge level necessary to understand both design decisions and deployment plans. Working effectively together, ASG and knowledgeable customers can quickly learn to “complete each other’s sentences,” which speeds decision-making.

SMPTE 2110 virtual courses are offered online via https://www.smpte.org/virtual-course/st2110.

Larry Shenosky
Senior Broadcast Project Manager
Advanced Systems Group

Network Architecture

Migrating from HD-SDI to IP-based systems requires a robust network infrastructure capable of meeting the performance and reliability demands of mission-critical live production. It is imperative to choose proven 2110 network switches and routers even though many network appliances have an exceptionally long supply chain lead time.

A redundant Spine-Leaf network architecture is essential because it offers key advantages compared to traditional three-tier network designs. Spine-Leaf provides a low-latency switching fabric where every leaf switch is connected to every spine switch. This cuts the number of network hops and reduces latency. Spine-Leaf networks are better because scaling up only requires adding extra leaf switch connectivity to new devices, eliminating the need to make changes across the entire network.

There are many other tangible benefits to a 2110 Spine-Leaf network architecture, including abundant bandwidth, reduction of traffic bottlenecks, and ease of troubleshooting.

It’s About Time… Literally

Because 2110 breaks down media streams into separate essence packets for audio, video, and metadata, Precision Time Protocol (PTP) is required to provide sub-microsecond synchronization and maintain packet alignment. Getting PTP right requires careful planning and skillful deployment. When properly integrated, it is largely invisible to end users, but failure to deal with the details can give rise to any manner of errors.

ASG has learned that, when it comes to PTP, not all production solutions are created equally. There are two PTP versions: PTPv1 and PTPv2, and they are not compatible. Some production systems can only “hear” PTPv1. We have also found certain PTPv1 systems have an exceptionally long supply chain lead time. Finally, as a mission-critical element of any 2110 system, precisely synchronizing redundant PTP generators to a grand master clock ensures multiple audio and video streams don’t get out of sync – or worse: drop out completely.

NMOS, IGMP, and Multicast

While SMPTE ST 2110 describes IP data on the network, control is achieved through a set of Networked Media Open Specifications (NMOS). An open standard developed by the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA), NMOS provides a vendor-agnostic framework for 2110 product integration and is the “glue” that ensures production devices can recognize each other, connect, and get the essence streams they need. 

NMOS works alongside Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) to enable efficient and standardized multicast media distribution, with NMOS focusing on the overall media workflow and device interoperability, and IGMP handling the efficient delivery of multicast data to interested devices. Together, they help small engineering teams manage large enterprise production environments.

Once everything is talking, Multicast streamlines media stream distribution to multiple endpoint groups. The efficiency of Multicast comes from its “one to many” transmission methodology instead of reliance on a “one to one” technique like Unicast.

It’s Supposed to Work, but Does It?

A key objective of 2110 is to provide seamless interoperability among hardware and software manufacturers. Still, achieving successful interop can be elusive due to subtle differences in manufacturer implementation. As Advanced Systems Group’s Vice President of Cloud Production Engineering Sam Craig puts it, “Proof on paper is one thing, but we want to actually see how things interoperate with one another.”

For this reason, extended Proof of Concept (POC) testing has been a key factor in ASG’s successful deployment of 2110 technology. A POC not only buys down commissioning risk, but it also actually speeds up eventual onsite commissioning by creating a known, working configuration. For this reason, we sometimes refer to POCs as a “Pre-Commissioning Lab” (PCL). An added benefit of a PCL is that it gives ASG and customer engineers a chance to start collaborating during the earliest stages of the project.

Future-Proofing

2110’s inherent flexibility puts a premium on structured cable patching. Adding or reconfiguring endpoints over time is typically a matter of moving a patch cable, rather than risking potential damage to an IP switch port. This means that a robust patching solution – and training in its proper use – are both critical to efficient maintenance of a 2110 facility.

These are the high-level takeaways from ASG’s experience designing and deploying 2110 solutions. And, the journey continues…

Are you looking to upgrade to SMPTE ST 2110? Let ASG be your trusted partner.

Experience Matters: The Hidden Costs of Not Working with a Systems Integrator

By Tyler Berry, Sales Director, Central Region, ASG & Kelly Fox, Strategic Account Executive, ASG

We have all considered the question, “Should I enlist the support of a systems integrator?”, or “When should I enlist a systems integration company?”. This can be met with hesitation by leadership concerned with escalating costs in the face of a finite budget. This is where we’re going to turn that consideration on its head. Let’s discuss the hidden costs of not working with a systems integrator. It can prove very expensive to proceed without a group of focused, seasoned pros by your side. 

The phrase “You don’t know what you don’t know” comes with a mighty price tag. Learning all you need to know to build a studio or other A/V infrastructure can be not only cost-prohibitive but time-exhaustive on your own. We would all love the gift of more time! There’s simply no out-of-the-box method recommended for designing and building the best studio, innovating a facility, conducting a video cloud migration, and… you get the picture. There’s no app to find the solution that meets every client’s individual needs either. 

In systems integration – experience matters. There’s absolutely no substitute for it. We’ve got scars, bumps, and bruises to prove it. As seasoned integrators, we’ve already found unforeseen hurdles in every single project. We have numerous projects going on at any given time and continue cutting our teeth on what works and what doesn’t. We’re not afraid to let a client know before you proceed, what we already know and learned. 

It’s our job to get the full picture and work on behalf of our clients. As one example, manufacturers typically have a pre-established product roadmap for their technology. You may want certain things that aren’t part of that roadmap. But you’re alone in your request, so your concerns may not be met with the urgency you need by the vendor. We push the manufacturer on behalf of our clients and may even troubleshoot and figure some things out before the manufacturer does. We may have already stumbled on the same issue on another project and know how it’s resolved. That’s the benefit of having a partner – from the client and the manufacturer’s perspective.

We’ll take you through 10 of the top points to remember when considering bringing on a systems integrator as a partner on your next project.

The 10,000 Hour Rule

Author Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000-hour rule” asserts that mastery in any field is achieved after 10,000 hours of intensive practice. Let’s apply this principle to production, post-production, and A/V systems integration. Professional integrators accumulate countless hours working across a range of facilities, studios, and projects. We’re in many different facilities and studios, working with a variety of people in a diverse range of applications. We’ve already seen what can go wrong so clients don’t have to. Then we document and share that info internally. Staff within a single studio or facility have limited experience due to the specificity of their environment. 

Advanced Systems Group identifies potential problems related to equipment compatibility, signal routing, workflow efficiency, and scalability because of our knowledge from previous projects. Our insights save you time, money, and resources. This collective expertise allows us to fine-tune each aspect of the system, resulting in a streamlined and functional setup. By adhering to the 10,000-hour rule, systems integrators offer clients unparalleled guidance and solutions that stem from years of practical experience.

Purchasing Power

Another compelling reason to collaborate with top A/V systems integration firms lies in our leverage during equipment procurement. Integrators maintain partnerships with various manufacturers, which grants us considerable purchasing power. A single instance of equipment failure or misalignment can result in the loss of future sales to an integrator. Consequently, manufacturers are motivated to ensure that integrators have access to reliable, well-tested equipment. 

Working in isolation may not wield that same purchasing power. Partnering with systems integrators ensures a seamless selection of equipment and a higher likelihood of project success due to the integrator’s established rapport with manufacturers.

Risk Mitigation and Real-World Insight

The risks associated with embarking on a project without expert guidance are substantial. Errors in system design, equipment selection, and project management can lead to costly delays, inadequate functionality, and even project failure. Knowledgeable Systems Integrators possess a holistic understanding of technology ecosystems and can preemptively address potential bottlenecks and challenges.

Because we work with so many video, audio, SaaS, and hardware manufacturers, we continually validate how well technologies work together. SI’s constantly work with different, customized applications. It’s never a one-off project for us. 

Project Management Expertise 

Project Management is a critical facet of successful A/V system integration. Integrators have dedicated project managers who specialize in overseeing complex projects from inception to completion. This experience-driven approach minimizes the risk of miscommunication, scope creep, and project delays. Integrators know how to balance technical requirements, budget limitations, and timeline constraints to deliver a fully functional A/V system on schedule.

When organizations attempt to manage projects on their own, they often face the opportunity cost of redirecting valuable internal resources away from their core competencies. Staff members who are experts in their respective fields may not possess the project management skills necessary for seamless execution. This can lead to sub-optimal results, strained resources, and project failure.

Even under the best circumstances, if the person managing the project doesn’t have the background required, everything can be derailed. 

Job Protection

We’ve all seen very intelligent, high-level decision-makers lose their jobs after a project goes sideways. It’s not always their fault. They may be editors or creative service directors or from other positions that find themselves in charge of something they have not been trained to do. They may not understand the technology or have project management experience. When you don’t know how to approach the work, you can become reactive. You lose precious time throwing things at the wall to see what sticks and putting out fires. Hire the right experts who’ve done this before, and the approach is methodical. With all the right tools already in their arsenal they can apply them in a very timely and cost-effective manner. 

Cost of Missed Work

If you do decide to move forward without any support from an SI or other partner, the person leading the project must get up to speed quickly and learn about all the available solutions. With that comes the cost of not doing their primary job. And if they get it wrong, you’re ultimately paying for that project again. You’re paying for the first time which was wrong, and then you must wait a while, including the time it takes to get a new solution designed and implemented. The total cost? More time. More effort. More money. And potentially upset clients and management. 

Time is wasted between when you first think the solution is not working and when you finally throw in the towel. By the time you decide to bring in help, you’ve spent a lot of money and time trying to make things right. In the worst case – there is no budget left to do it right. 

Opportunity Costs

For broadcasters and networks, we’ve seen cases where someone opts for a solution that doesn’t work within their system, and they miss going to air. Not only do they receive a fine, but they must pay back the advertisers. This represents an opportunity cost because they didn’t select the most effective system in the first place. An SI can see the whole horizon and know ahead of time what will work well together and what won’t. 

Media and Entertainment organizations may also neglect to involve all the right teams initially. If you don’t involve the IT team right off the bat, there may be certain things that your network can’t handle that you’re not aware of. If you bring them in at the end of the project – it’s too late.

A Broad View

A manufacturer sees one piece of the puzzle, while an integrator sees the whole puzzle. And odds are whatever the project is, we have a client who has done that before. Whatever solution an SI selects will be the best one for that particular workflow. We can provide valuable insights, even if we’re not hired for equipment selection, which will speed up the project and keep costs down. 

Available at Any Stage 

An important point to note is that it’s never too late to call in support. Unexpected things are bound to happen, and we’re used to being brought in at different points. Obviously, we’d like to be brought in at the beginning. We think that that is by far the most beneficial. But, if you’re in a pickle and you feel like something is just not working, please reach out.

ASG can help in any facet of an integration project. We can handle design architecture, the build-out, or the equipment purchase. The customer can pick and choose what makes the most sense for their scenario.

Value of a Team

It’s always wise to work with a trusted partner who’s been down the road you’re traveling many times and can point out the potholes along the way. And it’s invaluable to work with someone who has the insight of multiple projects in many different places and who maintains good relationships with their technology partners that need to work together. You don’t have to take this journey alone. We’re happy to stand by your side and offer our expertise and support as we determine the best possible design path for your future.

Ready to discuss how ASG can help you on your next project? Reach out to us.

Dave Van Hoy of Advanced Systems Group Discusses Cloud Power: Decisions, Decisions

from Systems Contractor News

As I’m writing this, I’ve just returned from the whirlwind of the NAB Show. “Should I go to the cloud?” was a question often heard echoing throughout the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. I‘d like to press pause on that conversation for just a moment to talk about the many considerations that go into the initial part of that decision. If not carefully thought through, these issues can sabotage efforts during the next phase.

It’s very easy to get to the point where you don’t have the right steering wheel to drive the car you’ve built. Let’s discuss the major decisions that need to be determined before making this determination.

Perhaps the biggest underlying question is: What’s driving you? It’s important not to make a dogmatic decision when it comes to designing a public cloud workflow. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Even if upper management decides they want to move everything to the cloud it doesn’t mean it’s a good decision for your part of operations or your bottom line. The decision points for the IT organization, for example, are very different from a media firm or any company producing and delivering real-time audio and video. Even in terms of storage alone, an IT organization’s general needs are vastly different than a media workstream.

It’s the same type of decision process when you’re using an existing IT infrastructure, be it on-prem or in the cloud, to produce a special project or handle a workflow that it wasn’t designed for initially. The data points other parts of your organization base their cloud decisions on are not going to be the same data points you use.

READ MORE…

Immersive Music is Here to Stay


By Tom Menrath, Audio & Key Accounts Manager, ASG

This is an incredible time for immersive audio. From its start in cinemas in the 70’s with Dolby® Digital 5.1 surround to Atmos 3D Surround today, Dolby has remained a pioneer in multi-channel sound. And just as 5.1 Surround migrated to home entertainment, Dolby Atmos is now commonly delivered via streaming services, such as Amazon, Netflix and Apple TV.

Always at the forefront, Mix Magazine has been holding immersive audio-themed conferences for years. Its May 20 event, “Immersive Music Production Nashville,” was a series of panel discussions, technology demonstrations and listening sessions at various Nashville recording studios focused squarely on the impact of immersive audio on music production. Nashville has the highest concentration of immersive music mix facilities in the U.S.

Tom Menrath

During the Mix event, we got to visit several studios on Nashville’s legendary Music Row producing content in Atmos, including Columbia Studio A, Quonset Hut, Starstruck Studios, Curb Studio, Front Stage/Back Stage Studios, and Blackbird Studio. We listened to tracks from various producers and engineers working in Atmos.

Some of the engineers that were involved 20 years ago with groundbreaking 5.1 audio mixes are working with Atmos today and producing some of the most emotional Atmos mixes we heard that day. One highly impactful demo was from acclaimed producer/engineer Chuck Ainlay. He played stereo and Atmos versions of tracks he’d mixed in both formats. He would seamlessly crossfade the stereo material into the Atmos version and go back and forth.

It was fascinating to hear the differences in real time. It made me realize that, if done well, Atmos is a true enhancement. It’s not a gimmick or a fad. It’s a genuine way for artists to express their music in a new and very exciting way.

During our “Studio Crawl,” one of the demos that stood out took place in the George Massenburg-designed ‘Studio C’ at Blackbird. On one side of the room, there was a Sony 360 demo with Genelec speakers. On the other side, an Atmos demo with ATC speakers. Hearing the different nuances presented by each was extremely interesting and educational.

Apple’s adoption of immersive audio, known as Spatial Audio (typically derived from Atmos masters), has supercharged the need for content from record labels and artists in Dolby Atmos – as well as content utilizing Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and Sennheiser’s AMBEO technology. While Dolby Atmos remains the leading format currently, Sony and Sennheiser will soon be a larger part of the immersive audio conversation. Apple Music currently offers thousands of titles in their immersive audio format.

More and more artists are thinking about Atmos production from the start, planning out their content with the intention to produce in both stereo and Atmos. Previously Atmos was used primarily for remixes of popular catalog music. That provided end users with a dynamic, new experience while also providing labels and artists with a new revenue stream.

But with people starting the recording process with Atmos in mind, it’s opened tremendous creative opportunities and given people a new way to think about presenting their music. That was really evident at the Mix event. Getting an inside look into how different engineers approach mixing for this format was eye-opening. There’s quite a learning curve for engineers to maneuver initially. It takes a lot of experimenting. Each engineer has their own take on it.

I walked away confident that immersive music is here to stay. The end user can listen to it in a variety of different ways – headphones, earbuds, soundbars, speaker systems and in their car! As opposed to 20 years ago, when the music industry put a lot of energy and resources into creating 5.1 surround music, this time it’s got traction. Much of the music created in 5.1 was very engaging, but unfortunately it wasn’t optimized for headphones, and most people didn’t have a surround sound system at home to take advantage of it. And so, it never really gained critical mass.

But now, the hardware has evolved dramatically. The headphone versions of this music are deeply engaging and satisfying. So, at this point, it’s the beginning of an exciting time in producing immersive audio and music in multi-channel formats.

It’s worth noting Sennheiser Neumann’s AMBEO and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio as immersive innovations we’ll be hearing more of soon. Sennheiser’s AMBEO is spatial audio technology that takes Atmos files and algorithmically mixes them down into a two-channel delivery system. So, you can listen with stereo headphones, but what you hear is a far more engaging spatial experience that’s far beyond stereo. AMBEO translates any stereo headphone or speaker system into an enhanced spatial experience with zero end user upgrades required.

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio uses Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound technology to dynamically place individual sounds within a 360-degree, spherical, sound field. So Sennheiser, Sony and several others are figuring out ways through software to deliver immersive experiences – even in traditional stereo playback systems.

Car stereos are another area where Atmos has garnered support. It is currently available on the Lucid Air; several Mercedes models; the Volvo EX90 SUV; and the Polestar 3. Lotus has announced a collaboration with Dolby, bringing Atmos to its Eletre EV set to debut in 2024. The car is a fantastic place to listen to immersive sound. I’ve heard several excellent car systems, both custom and factory-supplied systems.

Many private and commercial studios are setting up rooms equipped for Atmos and other immersive formats. Studio owners are looking to add speakers and redesign control rooms to make them Dolby certified or just Atmos capable. That’s a big part of what ASG is focused on moving forward in the immersive audio space. We’re currently working on a flagship Atmos mix room in the Bay Area. Once the facility is complete, it will be a showcase for the studio owners, ASG, Dolby Labs, and will be one of the premier immersive mix rooms in the country. We are extremely enthusiastic about what the future of immersive audio holds for our industry and for end users.

2023 NAMM Show Recap

By Tom Menrath, Audio & Key Accounts Manager

This was a pivotal year for The NAMM Show (National Association of Music Merchants), held last month in Anaheim. Here is my NAMM 2023 recap. Typically, NAMM runs every January but was held in April this year – just before the NAB show in Las Vegas. While the energy of the show was through the roof, with attendance and momentum scaling way up from last year, several major companies impacted by the date change were unable to attend. The start date for next year’s show is back in January. With another year of business under our belts, it’ll be interesting to see if exhibitors and attendees return in pre-Covid numbers to NAMM 2024.

For the ASG audio team, NAMM 2023 was a fantastic opportunity to see our manufacturers, partners, and friends. The vibe of the show was upbeat, and the turnout from the pro audio community was phenomenal. Our entire audio team was there. It was incredible to see customers and partners face-to-face, some that we work with routinely but may have not seen in years. For our inside sales and purchasing manager, Joe Putnam, it was particularly beneficial for him to meet people in person that he’s only spoken with over the phone. At the end of the day, trade shows are about the people, and it’s as much a social event as a business endeavor.

Tom Menrath

All the major audio console, microphone and outboard gear manufacturers were there. There was also a large contingent of boutique vendors and specialty products. If there was one overriding theme on the pro audio side, it would be immersive audio in general and Dolby Atmos specifically. Sony was also doing very compelling immersive audio demonstrations.

We were eager to check out immersive monitoring and mixing solutions for Dolby Atmos Music and Apple Spatial Audio. Immersive audio is a rapidly growing category, and manufacturers were out in force with products to support immersive music production. Dolby showed a vehicle factory-equipped with an Atmos audio system as well as listening rooms with Atmos. Genelec and PMC had Atmos listening spaces. Several other loudspeaker manufacturers had live demos set up with some great content. 

Atmos is being rapidly adopted by people building or retrofitting mixing studios. At ASG, we’re seeing that work coming in at a very fast clip right now. We’re in the middle of several studio projects that call for the rooms to be Atmos-capable, in addition to 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound. The acoustic design and tuning necessary to make the room work properly for an Atmos-capable mix is something we’re discussing a lot with customers right now. Immersive audio is here to stay.

Trade shows are also a great opportunity to meet with people from overseas that we don’t get to see very often. We deal with companies in Asia, the UK, Denmark, and many other places in the world. While we were in Anaheim, we got to spend time with many of those folks – out at dinner and in their booths. The NAMM show has always had a strong international presence, and that’s always been a very attractive factor for ASG. NAMM reported 46,711 attendees, representing 120 countries and territories, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. International attendees accounted for a 64% attendance increase, year over year.

Going into trade shows these days, there’s little mystery regarding new technology. Most of the news and new technology introductions are communicated online, with little held back just for a trade show, as companies used to. So, there aren’t many surprises once you get to the show. We went to NAMM with networking, education, and partner collaboration in mind. And with those as our goals, we were hugely successful. 

Today’s NAMM is less focused on rockstars signing autographs in booths and more on education. There were plenty of parties with free beer and live music, which is a big part of NAMM as well, but not at the level as previous years. That’s always fun but in the end it’s not as useful as the panel discussions and white papers presented by NAMM and the AES community. There were panels from a host of audio engineers, music producers and record label executives talking about Dolby Atmos and other immersive formats.

Overall, NAMM proved a great show for us to learn, get business done and most importantly, connect in person with our industry friends. We’re looking forward to next year’s show in January!

What You Missed at NAB 2023: Dave Van Hoy on VR Production, Cloud Technology

From Systems Contractor News (SCN)

The Advanced Systems Group president talks VR production, cloud technology, and new products.

SCN’s own Mark J. Pescatore was live from the NAB 2023 Show floor at the Epiphan video booth, talking the sites and sounds from Las Vegas. In this episode, he is joined by Advanced Systems Group president (and SCN Cloud Power columnist) Dave Van Hoy to talk about 100 years of NAB, the trend of virtual reality video walls, and the power of the cloud.

See full article here.

NAB: A Veteran Attendee Looks Back… and Ahead

By Keith Lissak for Post Perspective

The 2023 NAB Show wrapped up its 100th anniversary on April 19th, with what NAB says were 65,000 registered attendees and 1,200 exhibitors. While I hadn’t attended the show since 2019, the year before the pandemic, it felt strangely natural to be back at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

I’ve now been to more than 25 NAB shows during my career, which pales in comparison to some industry folks, like Dave Van Hoy, president of post solutions provider Advanced Systems Group, who has been to more than 40 of these events.

What keeps him coming back after all these years? For starters, the change in the scope of NAB, says Van Hoy. “When I went to my first show as a 19-year-old in 1979, it was clearly a broadcast show. The two dominant vendors were RCA and Ampex. SMPTE timecode was brand-new. Minicomputers were controlling tape decks and switchers to perform edits in real time and record on tape decks. It was all about over-the-air and cable. Today, I would call NAB an overarching content creation and distribution show.”

Read more at Post Perspective.

ASG Team Reflects on the 2023 Silicon Valley Video Summit

One heck of a speaker list combined with dynamic panels and an actively engaged crowd made the inaugural Silicon Valley Video Summit (SVVS) in Mountain View, CA an event to remember. Held at the Computer History Museum, the mission of the event was to provide “a vital exchange of Broadcast and Big Tech thought-leadership right in the heart of Silicon Valley.” With appearances by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and some of the top minds at Google, LinkedIn, Dolby, and Microsoft, the event delivered on that promise. It also proved a great venue for our team to connect in real life. ASG-ers from all over the west coast, and some from as far away as Texas, networked a lot and learned even more at SVVS.

Just one of the panels,“Virtual Production in the Real World,” led by ETC@USC’s head of virtual & adaptive production Erik Weaver is profiled here. Did you miss out? Have no fear! Sessions will be posted on demand on the Silicon Valley Video youtube channel.

ASG team members had a lot to say about the day’s high points. You’ll see why you need to be Bay Area-bound for next year’s SVVS. Read on and hear what made this first-ever event so successful.

A portion of the ASG team enjoying the Silicon Valley Video Summit

Mikey Shaw, ASG@Google Senior Technical Director and SVVS Panelist on the “Digital First” Transforms Live Event Technology session on the value of panels and the show’s relevance:

“The SVVG panel discussions were huge! The ability to collaborate and explore different perspectives from industry experts ‘living’ in the new norms of production was eye opening. All panelists were engaging, and left the attendees informed and armed with valuable insights going forward.

“It had the overall vibe of a mini NAB. Being an industry enthusiast and professional, it was welcomed to be a part of a gathering that addressed the questions and concerns we all have about our transitioning industry. It was true therapy to be a part of a gathering where everyone got it. Kudos SVVS!”

Andrew Bridgewater, ASG Account Manager, on the value of in-person events:

“I really enjoyed connecting with people and vendors I haven’t seen in a couple of years. It was good re-establishing our relationships and where we are these days. It was great pitching managed services, our flex workforce and just getting ASG’s name out there in front of potential new clients. Highlights of course were the keynote by Wozniak, but also seeing John Shike and Claudia Souza on stage representing our company.”

Claudia Souza, ASG Chief Cloud Officer and Moderator of the SVVS Panel,  “Making the Cloud Work On-Prem” session, on continuing the cloud conversation:

“How do we address this new hybrid world we live in? We have some workers coming back to an office, while some stay remote. For events and productions, some audience members don’t want to attend in person but still want to feel engaged. So now it’s not just how do we make technology work in a hybrid model, which we’re already doing, but how do we, as an industry, leverage technology to support hybrid events that engage all audiences regardless of location?

”We are now living in this new hybrid era. Our kids have mastered the art of cultivating friendships regardless of location. They hang out with their friends in person, and they connect with their friends online, and both are equally important. We now need to use the knowledge we’ve gained about how to provide live productions in the cloud and on prem to ensure we’re connecting with our audiences in equally meaningful ways regardless of our location or theirs. This is a topic I’d love to continue to explore in depth at the next SVVS.”

ASG’s Claudia Souza on a panel at SVVS.

Tom Menrath, ASG Audio Team Leader and Key Accounts Manager on the genesis of SVVS:

“The SVV group started about three years ago. Marty Porter [Executive Director, Sports Video Group] said he was doing some events in Silicon Valley. B&H was involved and Marty asked if we wanted to be involved as well. That was a no brainer. We ended up getting together and calling the venture Silicon Valley Video since it was specifically focused on corporate video for Silicon Valley and founded it as a partnership between Sports Video Group, B&H and ASG. We started planning an in-person event at LinkedIn headquarters because they’d just built a new ST 2110 (a suite of standards from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers – SMPTE) infrastructure, and it was a highly interesting build to show off. We had about 150 to 200 RSVP’s right when COVID hit. Suddenly in-person events were not practical. So we shelved the LinkedIn event. For the next couple years, we did virtual events at least every six weeks. They usually featured a technology discussion. We had probably 10 or 12 of those that were extremely well attended. People were deeply engaged, asking all kinds of great questions. We all did a good job keeping the organization going during the Covid lockdown.  

“That brings us to last month when we were actually able to do the very first in-person event, which we called the Silicon Valley Video Summit. Between Marty, B&H and ASG, we ended up putting together a really compelling agenda. We got a lot of excellent speakers, and the attendance was phenomenal. We had over 400 industry people at the Computer History Museum with another 40+ students, which is remarkable for a first event. All the panels were outstanding and educational. To me, it was a Grand Slam win for an inaugural event and we’re looking forward to doing it even bigger and better next year!”

John Shike, ASG Key Accounts Manager, lists his show highlights:

“I truly enjoyed Dave Van Hoy’s presentation that described the history of the Silicon Valley Video group, from its beginnings with Google. The NVIDIA generative AI presentation was fascinating and really stood out for me. In addition to the panels, having an exhibit hall there was a little taste of NAB before NAB. 

“Another highlight for me was listening to Steve Wozniak talk about his early work with Steve Jobs, and getting the opportunity to have Steve Wozniak talk with students directly. About 40 students attended from various schools in the Bay Area, but especially with De Anza College, which is Steve’s alma mater. That was just fantastic.

“I’d sincerely like to thank Marty Porter for putting this together. And many thanks to Pat Griffis, SMPTE Past President and VP Technology, Dolby for his efforts in bringing Steve Wozniak to the event. Also, thanks to the entire SMPTE team for all their support for the summit. Lastly, I’m grateful to Amy Lounsbury at ASG for all of her support with pre-event logistics, promotions, and information sessions leading up to the show.” 

John Shike was acknowledged, along with Pat Griffis, by the SMPTE organization as an integral SVVS team member in their recent blog on the success of the event. 

The full day of SVVS sessions are now available online, if you weren’t able to attend or would like to re-watch a particular session. Silicon Valley Video will also hold a weekly series of virtual Q&A sessions with moderators and panelists from the Summit, starting March 2nd at 12:30 PST. 

The SVVS audience included broadcast and video engineers, producers and technologists working in corporate video production. It was produced by SVG in partnership with the SMPTE SF Chapter, and FMC Training. ASG and B&H were title sponsors of the event. 

The Importance of Interoperability as We Head to the Cloud – Part Two

By Dave Van Hoy, President, Advanced Systems Group, LLC
Systems Contractor News – February 2023

A Look to the Future and the Best Path for Standards Acceptance

To recap where we left off last month in “Cloud Power,” On the topic of vendor interoperability in the cloud and the challenges of building ecosystems with different ISV (Independent Software Vendor) products that “talk” to one another. Media technology companies innovate first, engineering products before there are standards that facilitate creating ecosystems with those products. 

As a systems integrator, we look to create homogeneous systems with multiple vendors’ products in the cloud in the same way we use SDI or ST-2110 for on-premises installs. While not designed initially as an Internet protocol, NDI (Network Device Interface) is currently the most prevalent interface between different vendors for use in the public cloud. 

There are a multitude of considerations when determining the proper protocols for a system in the cloud, including the type of transport to the cloud and output destination (CDN, private network, terrestrial); processing system; complex switched production versus simple distribution; etc. 

We’re still in the early days, but I think we’ll see public cloud hyperscaler-oriented standards within the next few years. If we look at Google as an example, they’ve always been a champion of open standards and have the financial and technical ability to drive them forward. Just take a look at Google’s purchase of On2 Technologies for $124.6 million in 2010 and then they open sourced the code for its VP8 video codec to create VP91

The problem we have with standards in this arena today is the time it takes for organizations to adopt them can take years of negotiation between vendors. With the speed of development typical in the internet industry, that glacial pace won’t cut it when standardizing protocols for the cloud. 

We’ve been grappling with questions around this. First – can standards bodies adapt and publish a standard in months not years? Second – how did a commercially successful standard like NDI become so widely used when it was never sanctioned by any standards organization? 

Another approach is illustrated by NDI. NewTek created, published, and offered NDI free to everyone, and encouraged other vendors to use it. The intent is to generate more sales for NewTek since their NDI-supported line would be interoperable with more products. 

That’s one methodology, but it can be a long shot because only one company has skin in the game. And the competitive companies you want to be involved with as part of the ecosystem likely won’t jump to adopt the other company’s tech. The case of NDI’s adoption is unusual because the technology was so compelling, and customers were asking for its implementation. When customers ask vendors, “This NDI interface is great. Why aren’t you supporting it?” that will speed implementation pretty damn fast. 

That was the case with Grass Valley’s AMPP (Agile Media Processing Platform) cloud-native live production system. NDI is a key component in ASG’s VPCR (Virtual Production Control Room) ecosystem. We asked Grass Valley to add NDI support to AMPP so it would talk to other products within VPCR. They came back with NDI support in a matter of weeks. It’s been the same pattern when we asked other vendors for NDI support. 

In discussions with hyperscaler and vendor execs about how to speed protocol standardization, we’ve concluded that the best way to achieve that goal would be through an industry association. 

Case in point, the HDMI standard is owned by the HDMI Association. The association is open, any company can join. Most consumer displays have an HDMI port in the back. Interoperability is guaranteed because it is in the TV manufacturer and provider’s best interest to be interoperable with each other. Imagine if you needed a different set-top box for a Sony TV versus an LG TV versus a Samsung, etc.? What would that do to the marketplace? It wouldn’t exist. Industry associations can move at the speed they decide is commercially important to react. 

If the HDMI association comes out with HDMI 1.3 but that standard doesn’t have enough bandwidth for UHD, which is what TV manufacturers need to create market churn with new 4K TVs, it’s in everyone’s commercial interest to collaborate on HDMI 1.4. Then, come the holiday season, you can sell HDMI and new UHD TVs that interface to a set-top box with HDMI 1.4. I believe this is the methodology under which we’re going to see standards evolve for internet and hyperscaler-based production. Industry associations put their money and energy into creating standards on which interoperable products can be based. And they can move at a speed in the best business interest of all involved.

Interoperability is crucial for both hyperscalers and vendors. The hyperscalers have two competitors: each other and on-premises installations. If there’s a way to make things work on-premises that you can’t in the cloud, your customers are not going to buy your cloud services. And if you’re an ISV and must write different code to run in Google versus AWS versus Azure to make things communicate, hyperscalers have created a disadvantage for themselves. The ISV will select just one company for cloud services. Vendors have discovered the same need to be interoperable with one another’s technology. 

Does anyone out there remember the Panasonic MII format war against the third-party-supported Sony Betacam? Getting a small piece of something is always better than a big piece of nothing.

“Google Goes Open Source With WebM, VP8 Codec,” RCP Magazine, May 20, 2010.
The Importance of Interoperability as We Head to the Cloud - Part One

By Dave Van Hoy, President, Advanced Systems Group, LLC

As with any early phase of technology, manufacturer interoperability is always a big challenge. Companies innovate, engineering products before there are standards that facilitate creating ecosystems of those products. This has been true all the way back to the early days of film and eventually arriving at the very first film sprocket standard, which beget the organization today known as SMPTE. That occurred long before there was such a thing as television. And today we find ourselves facing the same challenge in a similar early development phase – building ecosystems of cloud products that “talk” to one another.

This is particularly challenging because as we have discussed in previous columns, media requires very deterministic communication, meaning exact timing. And when we run applications in public cloud, where everything is about virtualizing hardware and sharing resources, deterministic communication is not a consideration. 

We correct for this by using specialized protocols that carry deterministic timestamps from one part of the process to the other to provide a correct audio and video output. Therein lies our “failure to communicate.” If one product is speaking in one protocol and another doesn’t know that protocol, there is no way for them to communicate. 

An example of this would be with some of the early cloud production infrastructure products. They used their own internal protocols to control the deterministic need for communication, using external standard protocols for ingest and play out. An open-source standard protocol like SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) can bring in your signals from a remote source. But once they come into an environment such as Grass Valley’s AMPP (Agile Media Processing Platform) they are converted to proprietary protocols that were created to allow inter process communication in a deterministic fashion. On output, those signals must be converted back to a transport standard. Protocol conversion is always tricky and can be error prone. 

We like to standardize protocols within a given ecosystem. Today, the most prevalent interface between different vendors products for use in public cloud is Vizrt’s NDI (Network Device Interface). NDI was not designed initially to be an Internet protocol. However, because it was designed to work on point-to-point private networks, it is optimized for use within a hyperscaler’s virtualized environment. 

This is how we have built out standard systems. We work closely with our vendor partners and ask them to either help us or to implement NDI communications. We look to create homogeneous systems with multiple vendors’ products in the same way we use SDI or ST-2110 for on-premise installs today. 

This will be one of the biggest considerations for integrators as they design systems for their clients: What protocols do I use to transport my signals to the cloud? What protocols do I use within my processing system? In the cloud? Is it a simple distribution process or a complex switched production process? 

On the output side, what protocols do I use to transport to my destinations? Am I going to a traditional terrestrial transmitter? Am I going to a CDN or am I going to a specific destination like a private venue? Each of these today requires a different protocol to get the optimal result.

Secondarily, the other challenge is how do we create control systems that work across multiple vendors? Again, this challenge looks just like on premise. As a system integrator part of your responsibility is to recommend products to your client that you know will work with each other. If you need a control system, for instance, you need to make sure that control system speaks whatever common protocol you’ve chosen for that purpose. And you must ensure that protocol is supported in public cloud in these non-deterministic, non-multicast environments. 

I know all of this can sound quite daunting. But in truth, it’s no different than what you have been doing with your vendors, for your clients, all along. You look for ecosystems and products that work together to create the best experience for your client. Sometimes the standards are better developed than others. Who has not experienced an HDMI signal that should have worked from one device to the other that didn’t, and you find yourself troubleshooting until you finally get a handshake?

The best thing you can do is work with products that are proven to work together already. Work with vendors to ensure that they have tested their products with other partner vendors that you’re using in your ecosystem. And if they have not, allow yourself the time and cost to facilitate that testing in your own environment. If you can do that, you are guaranteed a positive outcome for your customer now and in the future.