Industry POV: Open Standards Unlock Potential For Commercial AV

Data, Open Standards

Live-performance-based attractions require low-latency solutions.

Sometimes, there is confusion about what an open standard is versus what a tightly coupled, easy-to-install, high-performance AV-over-IP (AVoIP) solution is. Most brands being marketed today focus on the latter. But whether you buy Brand A, Brand B or Brand C, all AVoIP solutions are designed to deliver the following things: ease of deployment, ease of configuration, robust live operations, high reliability, extremely low latency and support for full 4K workflows (full 4Kp60 4:4:4, end to end).

Not all solutions are built on open standards, though. The main reason is that open standards are only now emerging as a strong trend in the commercial AV industry.

No Room For Lag

When it’s necessary to see and hear a performer both onstage and on a jumbo videowall located right behind the performer, there is no room for lag. Within a venue, there is demand for higher-bandwidth AVoIP products because subframe—indeed, some solutions are now claiming microsecond—latencies are the top requirement.

When it comes to open standards in this area, the first serious proposal in circulation is IP Media Experience (IPMX) from the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS). IPMX is based on the group of standards that has evolved over many years, drawing from hundreds of stakeholder organizations, for the broadcast industry. That group, collectively referred to as the SMPTE ST 2110 suite of standards, deals with the transport side of the AVoIP-standards equation. Additionally, IPMX uses the Networked Media Open Specifications (NMOS) to allow for the standardization of discovery and registration of devices and the routing of their AV (and even metadata) signals. IPMX essentially adds together all the ingredients to make this suite of standards work for commercial AV workflows.

Although IPMX is effectively still a “proposed” standard, manufacturers are already creating products compatible with this suite.

Remote Audiences

Once AVoIP applications leave the facility and have to travel over noisy and bandwidth-limited networks, everything changes. These cases require open-standards-based solutions that are designed to sustain maximum quality at the lowest possible latencies, even while maintaining bandwidth levels that are a tiny fraction of the solutions previously discussed.

A range of experiences is available, depending on the size of the audience and depending on how universally the devices tuning in to the experience have to be supported. Some protocols are designed for one-to-many workflows, but they can handle tremendously large audiences. These days, though, commercial AV experiences— even those occurring over the internet—must be able to deliver interactivity and performance across many-to-one and many-to-many setups, too. For example, think about “bringing” an entire audience to a stand-up comic who is delivering a show during pandemic-related lockdowns.

There are multiple open-standard protocols and multiple open-standard codecs that make these experiences possible. And this is just at the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Why Open Standards?

If you’re wondering why open standards represent the inevitable landing zone for the situations described, it’s because commercial AV is ultimately about delivering experiences.

Devices’ processing power keeps increasing, and workflows that are ever more exciting and useful continuously emerge the more that hardware and software products can play nicely with each other. In many cases, they can even all be controlled and routed under a single software or application.

People have grown to trust IP to do banking and share confidential corporate information; likewise, people are growing to realize that it’s no longer only alphanumeric data and live, two-way audio communications that can be delivered securely over IP. Video-over-IP can also now be delivered with encryption, while maintaining performance.

I’ll conclude by listing some of the main benefits of open standards:

  • With them, roadmaps evolve with an extremely large number of stakeholders, including end users, manufacturers and service providers.
  • With them, all aspects of reach, performance, control and security are balanced. The best practices derived from all stakeholders, spanning multiple industries, contribute to solving challenges. What’s more, they still apply value-add to the individual stakeholder.
  • They protect end users’ investments by avoiding costly lock-ins with proprietary solutions or sole-source technologies that represent themselves as “de-facto” standards.
  • The biggest benefit: They facilitate ecosystems that are more useful, helping to drive new performance-media applications over IP securely by drawing from the best of innovation from each stakeholder.

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