Accessing the cloud for remote production
The Switch is a global business, providing connectivity and production facilities for broadcasters around the world. Its video distribution network, built on the Nimbra platform from Net Insight, offers more than 300 nodes in the US, Europe and Asia, with direct connectivity to more than 800 venues including all the major sports and entertainment venues as well as studio complexes.
The network is controlled from network operation centres in Los Angeles, New York and London. As well as providing connectivity, The Switch also offers production services, including its own studios and outside broadcast units. These services, including remote production, form an important source of growth for the company.
Layered onto this core network is MIMiC, its cloud-based production system. This seeks to address the key challenges facing sports broadcasters today:
- maximising revenue and brand awareness from tier 1 sports, including social media content and additional programming around events
- providing high production values for lower tier sports, enabling them to engage with audiences and enhance revenues
- developing coverage for niche sports, to build awareness through excellent live and halo coverage, without the high costs of traditional capital-based production technology.
The Switch addresses the challenges by moving to cloud
The MIMiC service delivers against all these challenges. Moving from legacy hardware production solutions to cloud-hosted software means that the costs shift wholesale from high capital expenditure (leading to infrastructures which are fixed and inflexible until the costs are amortised) to software as a service provision, by which users pick precisely the elements they need for each individual project.
Meeting the high encoding requirements of remote production
The core Nimbra network uses the JPEG2000 codec in an MPEG transport stream, as VSF TR-01. To provide the performance MIMiC requires, The Switch needed a higher compression ratio and a stable transport stream to connect the private network to the cloud. The solution was to use H.264 over SRT, the secure reliable transport protocol, which is designed to minimise the effects of jitter and bandwidth changes to deliver low latency content over the public internet.
“To complete the offering, we needed a bi-directional bridge between the JPEG2000 and H.264,” said Robert Szabo-Rowe, SVP product management at The Switch. “We need the bridge to offer high performance at low cost, and be capable of automated set-up and operation.”
“As we looked around, most options involved decoding back to SDI and re-encoding,” he added. “That doubles the amount of equipment and the number of processes, each of which further degrades the signal, as well as adding latency.”
Software solution for direct TR-01 JPEG2000 to H.264 SRT encoding
Leading software encoding specialist Comprimato provided the solution. Its Live Transcoder uses uniquely powerful software, employing massive parallel processing in GPUs, and is built explicitly for streaming applications such as this. It is designed to provide multiple transcoding paths, to and from all the common codecs and containers, at resolutions up to 4k Ultra HD.
It also provides a degree of signal processing, including audio shuffling and colour adjustments, as well as resizing and de-interlacing. Although it can convert to and from SDI, in many applications it will be transcoding between two IP streams, so could easily be installed in a data centre where there is no SDI infrastructure available. All functionality is software controlled, making it ideal for automated workflows and unattended operations. End-to-end latency is 400ms.
“It was ideal for us, to provide the bi-directional bridge between our Nimbra network and SRT for MIMiC in the cloud,” said Szabo-Rowe. “It gives us the flexibility we need, to transmit live to online, or to record back in the cloud. Most important, it is simple to use and to integrate into whatever workflows we need.“
“We see early uses for lower tier sports, helping them distribute content which they generate themselves on low-cost production facilities,” he continued. “Esports, which are natively produced in IP, also benefit from the simplicity of the MIMiC cloud production suite, and will also rely on the Comprimato bridge between our network and the cloud.”
Comprimato Live transcoder offers to reduce amount of equipment needed for live video production in the cloud
The Comprimato Live transcoder is a key component in a comprehensive software as a solution platform for live production (including replay and graphics) and multi-platform delivery in the cloud. It provides transcoding in a single pass in one appliance, occupying just 1U of rack space and at a cost-effective price point. The compact form factor reduces infrastructure and operational complexity for high resilience, and it saves machine room space, power consumption and demand for cooling.
The Switch has installed its first Comprimato Live transcoder at its Motor Avenue, Los Angeles NOC. Others will be added as the demand for the service grows.
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