What is SMPTE 2110 ? And What Does Distributed Production Mean for Broadcasters?
To some, the emergence of SMPTE ST 2110 (more commonly known as SMPTE 2110) is indicating the end of the “Wild West” of IP video broadcast production and the beginning of clear standards for broadcasters and vendors. But what is SMPTE 2110? And why is distributed production over IP important?
Following the the recent update of Haivision’s flagship video encoder, the Makito X4, which includes support for SMTPTE 2110 ingest, we’re going to give a high-level explanation of SMPTE 2110, and what distributed production over IP will mean for broadcasters.
What is SMPTE 2110?
SMPTE ST 2110, released by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, is a suite of standards for transporting media including digital video, audio and metadata over IP. These standards serve as a guideline for vendors, allowing them to develop new products that can be interconnected with other ST 2110 compliant products. The release of these standards is an important moment in video and broadcast production, as these standards not only indicate that the industry is fully embracing video over IP, but that the industry sees video streaming as the future for broadcast.
There are a number of parts to the SMPTE 2110 standard, from addressing how uncompressed video and audio streams are to be handled, to delivery timing, to mapping metadata. One of the unique aspects of SMPTE 2110, compared to previous video transport standards such as SDI or SMPTE 2022, is that it allows for distributed production workflows.
Distributed Production: An Essence-Based Approach vs a Bundled Approach
To help explain the essence-based approach of distributed production, we should first understand the bundled approach. SDI, SMPTE 2022, and NDI route streams as a package, bundling the video, audio, and metadata components into a single stream.
With SMPTE 2110, video, audio, and metadata elements or essence are managed separately, and can all be routed through different workflows. Individual media elements can be processed separately, by specialized production teams and equipment, while all ending up at the same destination. The ST 2110 approach is particularly helpful for broadcasters requiring a high degree of flexibility and uncompromised picture quality.
The End of SDI?
Not yet. In fact, SMPTE 2110 includes elements to ease the transition by incorporating certain components of SDI and many broadcasters are only gradually adopting ST 2110. For example, new OB trucks are deploying ST 2110 cameras and broadcast equipment while still working with older SDI-based OB trucks and production facilities. Where bandwidth is a concern, NDI which compresses the video and audio down to 100 Mbps is also playing an important role. ST 2110 requires IP networks capable of supporting 10Gbps or more of bandwidth and since it’s a multicast technology, it can’t be used over the internet.
SRT, an open-source transport protocol developed by Haivision, is also used for broadcast workflows in addition to SMPTE 2110. The bandwidth requirements of SMPTE 2110 (~2-3 Gbps for HD video depending on overhead, lossless compression, and other assets) means that it is not always suitable in situations such as remote production (REMI) over the internet where bitrates need to be much lower.
SRT is content-agnostic so it can transport compressed HEVC or H.264 streams to and from ST 2110 production workflows. Although SMPTE 2110 may replace SDI over time, there will still be a need for low latency and low bandwidth video streaming over the internet, especially when sending video from one part of the world to another or to cloud-based video production platforms.
More and more broadcasters are moving to embrace IP for its flexibility and efficiency, which is opening doors to new content creation opportunities. SMPTE 2110 along with NDI and SRT, are all helping those broadcasters who want to stay ahead of the content creation curve by embracing IP-based production workflows.