October 25, 2017 by Kirsten Nelson
It turns out, AV networking is a lot like motorcycle racing. Except it’s even faster and more precise. In motorcycle racing, winning laps are measured in milliseconds. In networked AV, synchronization is analyzed by degrees of sub-microseconds. For a signal to look and sound good after a trip through the turns, straightaways and chicanes of a network, it has to move with absolute precision. Recently, networking protocols and standards across industries have made significant improvements in making sure that signal has a clear path.

Kevin Gross
Kevin Gross
Kevin Gross is like a motorcycle racer. He can see the most efficient lines of travel for packets of data, speeding them along for lower latency and better image and sound quality. Now the boss of AVA Networks, he’s a fan favorite because he helped to bring CobraNet and QSC’s Q-SYS into being and then championed the development of the AES67 standard for AV-over-IP interoperability. 

Chatting with Gross about how tiny fragments of time rule audio and video, I learned how a little thing called IEEE-1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) is what connects our world with IT and broadcast in a beautiful kind of synchronicity. 

Following the recent approval of the first standards within the new SMPTE ST 2110 Professional Media Over Managed IP Networks suite, we’ve got even more in common with our broadcast colleagues. Now that we’ve all aligned with IT at the pace of PTP, we’re able to exist in a true IP infrastructure. 

Migration from SDI to IP Switching/Routing
Over here in the AV world, we’ve been trading in our central audio routers for high-performance Ethernet switches. In tandem, those new SMPTE ST 2110 standards move the industry away from SDI routers toward more all-IP intra-facility broadcast traffic in a true networking setup. This, SMPTE says, means “organizations can rely on one common data-center infrastructure rather than two separate facilities for SDI and IP switching/routing.”

It’s a beautiful thing, even though all those fans of SDI rack wiring beauty shots will be disappointed. 

Networking Cable RackUncompressed Video is the Key to Low Latency, High Quality Audiovisual Experience
“It’s uncompressed video,” Gross explained, which will move video over IP into a new realm, and further align AV and broadcast in their ideals. “Especially for broadcast applications, they want uncompressed video. And we wanted uncompressed audio networking for the same reasons — low latency and high quality. When you’re doing broadcast or audio production, you don’t want any compression in your way.”

And that’s when I knew. I could see it clearly for the first time. AES67 and SMPTE ST2110 aren’t rival data racers from two different teams, they’re aligned in the most precise way possible. They both rely on the same IEEE 1588 standard for synchronization. And they are both all about less compression, more satisfaction — that is, an engaging experience. 

About Kirsten Nelson

Kirsten Nelson has written about audio, video and experience design in all its permutations for more than 20 years. As a writer and content developer for AVIXA, Kirsten connects stories, people and technology through a variety of media. She also directs program content for the TIDE Conference and Technology Innovation Stage at InfoComm. For three years, she also created conversations around emerging media and experiential design at InfoComm's Center Stage. Prior to that, Kirsten was the editor of SCN magazine for 17 years.