AW: I’m interested in a general overview of Video over IP in its various flavors: NDI, bonded wireless, SMPTE 2110. I’m asking you here at Panasonic, because Panasonic doesn’t own of any of these — it doesn’t have any proprietary protocols involved — but Panasonic has fingers in all these pies. So Panasonic is well-placed to give us an overview of where we are as an industry as we transition away from traditional baseband connections, like SDI and HDMI, into an IP-based world. Can you give us some perspective on all this?
MB: We sort of see IP falling into two very distinct categories. One is the [higher-end] GigE, 10GigE, or more world. We were doing H.264 streaming to [Newtek’s] TriCaster back when NDI was a gleam in Andrew Cross’s eye. One of the cameras that was popular then was the AG-130. Once it started offering streaming out, we worked hand-in-glove with Newtek to get to the point where we could get streaming and control on the same wire. We’re seeing more and more, with our streaming and with NDI, and with where we’re going with wireless, there are enough protocols out there, published and available, that we’ve not found a need to make a new one, but to incorporate existing ones as needed into the products. For example, for ENG, we’re doing a version of one-channel cellular bonding though a 3G or 4G dongle, for news, as an alternative pathway.
The other big application is AV: conference rooms, education, small classes, government meeting rooms; this is exactly the space where our PTZ product line was, and so we were just all over there. It’s a natural fit. Many of these applications never even went to SDI; they had been running analog composite video or HDBaseT and they weren’t ready to do SDI. And then when streaming and NDI came along, that made perfect sense for them: the idea you could hook up a system with Cat6 cable, plug a couple of PTZs in, it made perfect sense for them, that’s something they’re willing to do.
And that runs in parallel with what’s happening in the broadcast world, where you’re starting to see not just the deployment of SMPTE 2110 but you’re beginning to see where the real gains are going to come in: it’s about how you can distribute the architecture of a system more easily. One example, something we’re showing here, is the Live Production Suite, a modular switcher platform which can be a 12G SDI switcher, an IP switcher, or any combination: you just switch out the gateways. And if you need more bandwidth because you’re going from HD to 4K, you add more bandwidth with the crosspoints or the M/E as needed.
(“MoIP”, Media over IP, is a generic term for SMPTE 2110 — people were saying Video over IP, but the “VoIP” acronym is already used for Voice over IP.)
When we look at that modular system, besides being able to switch what your inputs are, you can also distribute these modules across the plant. So if I’ve got ten cameras in one arena, and ten cameras in a different arena on the same campus, I can put the gateways and CCUs there in the arenas and just run the internal fiber connectivity back to my control room. And it’s not putting the video up on your full-on LAN, which scares your IT department.
Another thing that that does: if I’m using a 25 GB network for transport, and I decide to try 8K, it’ll just work: 25 Gig will transport 8K with no problem.
AW: NDI has its footprint in the corporate / industrial, houses of worship kinds of application, and ST 2110 in high-end broadcast. Is there a firm dividing line between these domains, or is there crossover?
MB: There is not a firm dividing line! NDI is kind of behaving like DV: it’s not staying where it was “supposed to be”, it’s not staying in its little box. You see a lot of small TV stations; they’re asking us a lot about, “when can I get NDI on this, when can I get NDI on that, because I want to go IP, but I don’t think putting in a lot of fiber is realistic for my tertiary market station”.
We’re also going to need to see some streamlining of the 2110 products, to get the cost down over time, but we’re going to see both of those, a big mish-mosh in the middle. And they do work together in places: Evertz will do both, Ross will do both. We don’t have both in the same product yet, but it won’t be long.
AW: What about 5G? How much of the hype is justified, and how much is just hype? Compare it to your existing bonded 4G types of products.
MB: In terms of transport for video, I don’t think 5G necessarily solves any of the issues you have with 4G. It has more to do with congestion management. The trouble is, if there’s news, there’s network traffic: they tend to follow each other. If you’re at the courthouse and someone’s walking out the door, and you try to light up your bonded backpack, and everyone else there is doing the same thing, guess what: your market’s going to saturate. It’s going to happen in 5G just like it does in 4G; I don’t think 5G solves that problem.
Where 5G does matter is that it’s going to create yet another delivery stream, so there will be yet another over-the-top delivery mechanism. The folks like Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime, they’ll be used even more on 5G, so their ascendancy will continue.
AW: But I bet that at least in the near term, we’ll see bonding solutions that let you plug in 3G, 4G, and 5G modems and split your transmission across all these channels…
MB: Sure: the more diversity, the better the redundancy.
What’s to Come?
AW: What else should we be looking for over the next couple of years, whether from Panasonic or others, that hasn’t really been talked about yet?
MB: There’s a pivot from trying to deliver a higher-quality picture to trying to deliver better overall production value. So, especially for the small screen, rather than more resolution, it’ll be more camera angles, and more sophisticated camera moves. You’re seeing some of that in our “smart studio” products, with more PTZ cameras and dolly tracks; I think that kind of technology is going to proliferate in the market. We’re going to get high-density sensors; they’re coming anyway. So now we can throw those pixels at all kinds of problems. Like with our 8K ROI system, we can get four HD pictures from one camera position, by using all those pixels that we have.
With the UE150, we can turn a 20x zoom into a 32x zoom. So there’s all sorts of problems that can be solved by more pixels that don’t involve us going to a higher transmission or display format.
Disclosure: Panasonic kindly made Mr. Bergeron available for an interview during NAB, but Panasonic did not suggest or dictate the topic of the conversation, nor has Panasonic edited or approved this post. There is no material connection between me and Panasonic.