Working with Fox Networks Engineering & Operations (Fox NE&O), Arista Networks has demonstrated the ability to deliver uncompressed HD-SDI video over an IP network at wire rate. Fox and Arista said they expect all video production and distribution companies will eventually choose to not compress video during file transfers.

Arista debuted the capability at this week’s SMPTE Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition, using its networking devices. The capability could be useful for sharing HD files with cable networks and other MVPDs.

There is considerable interest in the broadcast industry to migrate legacy digital video interfaces (SDI - Serial Digital Interface) to reliable transport over Ethernet and IP based networks, the two companies said.

The benefits include greatly simplified cabling plants, far greater efficiency, ease of signal routing and processing, and significant cost savings associated with migrating to Ethernet.

Arista director of sales Warren Belkin said in an e-mail that the transition would also remove transmission distance limitations associated with SDI networking, and provide “incredible flexibility” – for example, facilitating the migration to software defined networking (SDN) and eliminating the requirement for patch cables.

The applications for this technology are many, Belkin said, most notable among them:

  • Studio / broadcaster plants
  • Connection from content providers to affiliates, partners and distribution (cable & satellite)
  • Cable & satellite plants themselves

It would not be used at the consumer level, he said.

“The aspect of frame-accurate switching and other video processing is something that the industry must also address to make this evolution practical.  Once you have a packetized network carrying video, you need to be able to do the same types of functions (frame-accurate switching, logo insertion, special effects, fades, etc.) as you do with SDI,” Belkin said. Arista’s proof of concept with Fox was conducted to show a practical implementation of video processing within the network fabric itself, he added.

Two standards being developed for this purpose are IEEE Audio Video Bridging (AVB) and SMPTE 2022-6 HD-SDI over IP. (The Arista demo relied on SMPTE 2022-6).

“Fox NE&O believes that professional media networking is the future of the broadcast plant, including the networked transport of our uncompressed high-definition live video streams,” said Thomas Edwards vice president of engineering & development of Fox NE&O. “We believe that converging our video streams onto the Ethernet infrastructure will provide enhanced agility and flexibility to our business, and also it may potentially bring savings by allowing us to purchase more COTS hardware and thus benefit from economies of scale. The broadcast industry is at a very early point in this technological transition, so Fox NE&O greatly values Arista Networks’ contribution to this proof-of-concept to help test out some of the basic video processing requirements of professional media networks.”