Jan Eveleens is CEO of Axon Digital Designs.

Opinion: Axon launches the missing link between IP and SDI

By Jan Eveleens

It now seems inevitable that the broadcast industry will move into the IP domain, even if the barriers for doing so currently outweigh the opportunities.

At present, IP is more expensive and less reliable than SDI, but there is no doubt that it will eventually become the backbone of our industry because, with protocol enhancements, it will be more convenient, more flexible and eventually cheaper.

But right now, how do broadcasters start to plan the move from SDI to IP? How do they navigate their way through this tangled and confusing maze?

Axon believes the answer lies in accepting a hybrid world where SDI and Ethernet live side by side for the foreseeable future. As a customer-focused company, we are committed to delivering solutions that bridge the gap between these two technologies, which is why we have launched the Synapse NIO440, an Ethernet/SDI bridge that helps broadcasters negotiate the transition from SDI to IP. This product was inspired by conversations with key customers who wanted a workable link from 3G/HD-SDI to uncompressed Ethernet video transport and decentralised routing.

This flexible eight-channel bidirectional unit can handle AVB/TSN, S2022 and the upcoming standard S2110 (TR03). It also supports S2059 (PTP) for synchronisaton and timing. Any future standards are also within its capability, and compatibility will be achieved by future firmware upgrades.

Synapse NIO440 is based on Axon’s in-house-developed Neuron core, which handles all conversions between Ethernet/IP and SDI. The Neuron core can easily be extended with new formats and standards and therefore offers unchallenged flexibility to the user. A key differentiator of the NIO440 is that it allows the use of multiple video formats and Ethernet/IP standards at the same time in any combination. It even allows easy conversion between the different Ethernet/IP standards. The Neuron core will also be the heart of all new and upcoming Ethernet/IP-related products from Axon, which includes a powerful Ultra HD (UHD) and IP-capable modular multiviewing solution.

In practical terms, the Synapse NIO440 provides a four-in, four-out gateway into a distributed switching network, plus a 1GigE connection to a shared data network. Routing between inputs and outputs is achieved through a Layer-2 network based on a ‘star’ topology. Individual switches can be linked by one or more 40Gbps connections and all connections are made using fibre-optic cables.

Establishing a connection between NIO440 cards is simply a matter of entering information about the source into the card you wish to route the signal to. A source can be routed to as many destinations as the network infrastructure allows. A route can be manually set up using the modules’ lower-level interface. By using a Control System (such as Axon’s Cerebrum control and monitoring solution) to detect, name and provide user-friendly interfaces, routing can be as simple as using a traditional cross-point router.

A Control System interfaces to the cards through the Synapse SFR frame rack’s Ethernet port, which also provides status monitoring and control of other card parameters such as audio embedding and de-embedding.

Synapse NIO440 can be used as a point-to-point video/audio/data connection (using standard fibre-optic cables or SMPTE camera cables, avoiding CWDM infrastructures and cost) and a point to multi-point routing and distribution solution using IT switches.

Broadcasters requiring fixed building-to-building links between their main base and their remote studios can use Synapse NIO440 for a range of connections such as camera feed to the production control room, prompt and return video to the studio, two-way communication, control and corporate networks and on-air lights.

Similar connections can be made between outside broadcast vehicles and remote commentary and camera positions, especially when they are located some distance from the production vehicle.

Synapse NIO440 is also ideal for metropolitan area video switching, where broadcasters use different buildings spread across a city and require real-time video signal connections between them. They may also need to extend access to their video network to local companies offering support services. With the widespread installation of dark-fibre, it is now possible for a user to “self-provide” a switched video network. The use of Ethernet allows the broadcaster’s core router to move to a distributed system, extended between buildings and third-party premises, linked together by point-to-point fibre. The same connections used for video signals can also be used for the exchange of IP traffic such as files, e-mails, and so on.

The launch of Synapse NIO440 represents Axon’s strategy to remain both customer-focused and pragmatic. We are committed to delivering products and hybrid solutions that the industry needs as it moves from SDI to IP, providing control for these products with our latest NMOS-ready Cerebrum software platform. In addition, Axon remains agnostic, working on the next generation of products where Ethernet is the default interface and SDI is finally put to rest with the respect it deserves.