IP Production Forum: When Facilities Move to IP, Engineering Jobs Change — and Remain the Same

The transition from baseband to IP affects not just the technological infrastructure of a production facility but the people running it as well. At SVG’s inaugural IP Production Forum in New York City last week, industry professionals discussed how embracing IP has affected traditional engineering, both in the ways those jobs are changing and in the ways they’re expected to stay the same.

Game Creek Video’s Keith Martin (left) and Lawo’s Jeffrey Stroessner

Game Creek Video’s Keith Martin (left) and Lawo’s Jeffrey Stroessner

Game Creek Video’s Keith Martin, engineering project manager, and Jason Taubman, VP of design and new technology, elaborated on their company’s approach to IP, particularly for the Encore truck, which was built around an Evertz EXE router to accommodate massive productions like the Super Bowl and U.S. Open golf for Fox Sports.

“Part of the goal of going IP in Encore was to scale the system,” said Martin. “But we wanted [the operators and production crew] to walk into something that felt familiar. On the engineering side, when everything is firing on all cylinders, it’s just a Game Creek truck; it’s exactly what you’re used to seeing. When things start to go sideways — and they go sideways in any facility — that’s when you have to start exposing some of the deeper-layer software-based control. The information is all there; everything that you need to know to diagnose a problem is there. There’s just more to sort of dig through to get to the root cause of the problem.”

Facility operators face a learning curve with traditional engineers, who may be hesitant to jump into new tools and workflows. In response, IP-technology vendors are taking cues from SDI predecessors to give engineers a degree of familiarity in IP-based facilities.

“I think there’s an understandable fear and reluctance to get deep into some of the platforms that are there,” said Frank Lavin, systems engineering lead, media and entertainment, Cisco Systems. “One of the things that we’re doing on the IP side of this transition at Cisco — and our competitors are as well — is trying to make the transition as seamless as possible. One of the key tenants of this migration is to ensure that the operators don’t have any change in their user experience: panels, pushbuttons, those things. We’re trying to stick as closely to that for the engineers and the technicians that are in the field.”

Newtek’s Dr. Andrew Cross (left) and Cisco Systems’ Frank Lavin

Newtek’s Dr. Andrew Cross (left) and Cisco Systems’ Frank Lavin

One way to do that, he continued, is through visualization: making IP production tools look, feel, and act like SDI tools, an idea echoed by the other panelists.

“[For] one of the projects we’ve done recently,” said Jeffrey Stroessner, director, global events, Lawo, “the video contribution of the EURO Championship in France, we pretty much had a fully IP-based system with remote locations across France. At a certain point, [we had to figure out] how to visualize that for users [who are] not IP specialists. How can we approach that system as an engineer or operator that comes from a [traditional broadcast background]? We used the VSM control, and we built panels that did really fancy stuff underneath. … For the operator, it didn’t really feel any different.”

NewTek President Dr. Andrew Cross raised a similar point by referencing the design of production switchers. Switchers don’t look the way they do because they are SDI, he pointed out; they look that way because they have evolved over time to suit production requirements. In the same way, new production tools — whether SDI or IP — will follow the same trajectory.

“The way that video products look and, in fact, that they continue to look the same as we move to IP is not that surprising at all,” said Cross. “I think that, as an industry, what has happened is, we have all learned over 50+ years the best way to do production. Just because we’re now talking about a different kind of cable — it’s really all we’re talking about — it doesn’t change the way we do production.”

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