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NAB Perspectives: The Switch’s Richard Wolf Showcases 4K Demo, Univision At-Home Production

April 15th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Jason Dachman

At its booth, the Switch (SU3724) is demonstrating video delivery over its Inter-City On Demand (ICOD) fiber network regarding two of the biggest themes at NAB 2015: 4K UHD and “at-home” production.

The Switch EVP Richard Wolf at the Univision at-home-production demo

The Switch EVP Richard Wolf at the Univision at-home-production demo

The 4K demo builds on the demo The Switch successfully deployed out of its New York City facility earlier this year. The Switch is delivering 4K content over 16,500 miles of its fiber network and into the LVCC. The Switch is splitting the 12GBps 4K stream into four 3GBps streams each fed to a separate Net Insight J2K engine at 200Mbps.

The Switch has been contracted by Univision to provide the fiber infrastructure to produce 39 MLS games this season using the an at-home-production model. At the Viernes de Futbol remotes, Univision home-runs 12 cameras discreetly via fiber back to its Miami facility, where the show is produced out of a central control room. At its booth, The Switch is displaying this workflow in action.

The Switch EVP Richard Wolf took some time with SVG on the showfloor to break down the two demos and discuss the future of 4K delivery, at-home production, and where he sees the sports market headed.

Can tell me a bit about the 4K demo you have at this year’s booth?
We are doing live 4K transmission right from the booth. We are originating 4K content from a 4K player, feeding it through the network, looping it back to the booth and presenting it on a [Samsung] monitor. So it is an unimpaired video signal travelling 16,500 miles of network fiber and 23 switched network node points with less than 100 milliseconds of latency and the quality really holds up.

We are using our Net Insight J2K engine. We take the native data rate of 12GBps, divide that into quad split 3GBps signals and feed each of those into a separate J2K encoder – each at 200Mbps. The total aggregate data rate travelling the network is 800 MBps. It get reassembled and decoded and presented here. We have done this demo in a controlled lab environment, but this is a remote location. For us, this proves that a remote 4K telecast can be achieved.

Do you see this quad-split-3GBps approach continuing for 4K contribution and delivery for the foreseeable future?
Net Insight can handle it with the J2K engine, so we can be more dynamic regarding the data rate. We can fit 4K content in a single GB, which is accessible in the local loop world. We are using an 800MB payload, so if you can fit into those on-ramps and off-ramps that’s powerful. We are trying to make sure we have ways to transport 4K within the existing infrastructure that is available. We see this [model] is a really good interim step.

What are the biggest hurdles still facing 4K delivery in your view?
To me, this [demo] shows we are ready from a transport perspective and the remaining technology is coming along. From a content perspective, I think the production and postproduction side needs to catch up. The technology infrastructure is essentially ready, but the creative and production process needs to catch up.

Because our infrastructure is common. We have our 5-9’s infrastructure at over 120 sports venues and our bandwidth configuration at the majority of our stadiums are 10GB wavelengths doubled for redundancy. We have built the backbone to make sure that 4K can fit into the network with J2K compression.

Have you seen interest growing in 4K transmission from your sports clients?
Early adoption continues to come more from the Over-the-top players because they have less bottlenecks for delivery. We have key OTT customers in that space that are already expressing interest in 4K. We all know that 4K production with super-zoom and slow-mo are already part of the production cycle. We know it’s going to take some time for that side of the business because they need to reinvest in their infrastructure.

How are you highlighting the ‘at-home’ production workflows you have rolled out with Univision here at the booth?
We have a transmission trailer at these venues, so instead of doing production at the remote we can now centralize production at Univision’s [broadcast center] in Miami. It’s been very well received because it delivers high quality and high availability and low latency. When you combine those three things, you mitigate risk so that the centralized production model makes more sense. This is real and it’s happening now. It is a legitimate driver in 2015.

How do you see the trend of more at-home productions like those Univision, ESPN, Pac-12 Networks, and others are doing changing the live-sports-production landscape?
I want to see more television and if you lower your cost for production, you are going to see more television produced. Media companies don’t want to buy hotel rooms and flights, they want to produce TV. If we could lower the cost in that model, it is going to allow these companies to [distribute] more sports television to the home. We see the significant savings created by this [workflow] feeding back to the industry to make these productions better in the end.