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.
Senior Broadcast Project Manager
Advanced Systems Group
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.
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…