Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001

Imagine Comms & Sony Work Toward Broadcast Transition to UHD/4K

Imagine Communications and Sony have started an initiative supporting transitions to UHD/4K, and from legacy SDI to IP-based network infrastructures, through adoption of the Sony Networked Media Interface. They are aiming specifically to resolve the issue of managing the distribution of UHD/4K signals in the network infrastructure. Imagine Communications is one of 10 broadcast vendors who announced at IBC 2014 that they are working together with Sony on efforts to provide UHD/4K baseband signals over IP.


Modern studio cameras use one HD-SDI cable to carry a single uncompressed baseband signal that may require up to 3 Gb/s. To accommodate the greater image quality in UHD video compared to HD, the increased bandwidth would normally require four HD-SDI cables, but replicating this cabling increase throughout the existing network infrastructure presents a heavy logistical challenge.  To overcome the difficulties, Imagine Communications supports Sony’s Networked Media Interface, a new AV over IP interface for IP-based networking designed for low latency transport of UHD/4K video, audio, reference, metadata and control data.

Tetsuya Iwamoto, General Manager of the System Solution Business Division at Sony, said that the company had committed itself to standardizing future architectures that are based on IP, open standards and interoperability, and wanted to work with other companies like Imagine on their products as a catalyst for the change. “Sony is committed to being a key driver of this important evolution in our industry,” he said.

The Networked Media Interface combines IP network systems with a current SDI standard interface to support any resolution of video transmission. While conventional systems require several different types of cabling to carry the different signal types - video, audio, reference, metadata and control data - the Networked Media Interface requires only one standard network cable passing through conventional network switches.


Sony’s approach is to combine new methods with established standards to achieve reliable, scalable and stable transmission. Their new system supports direct connection of numerous types of production devices onto the IP network via an existing Layer-3 IP switch infrastructure. It also enables simultaneous transmission to multiple points and real time noise-free source switching, handling SD, HD and 4K video resolutions together.

The Sony IP Live Production system, NXL-IP55, has been designed to be flexible and scalable, because users have the ability to migrate to greater numbers of devices and higher video resolutions including HD to 4K over time. As an IP production unit, this system aims to simplify multi-camera live production by avoiding complex cabling requirements and instead utilizes IP connectivity between two locations. It uses built-in genlock used to synchronize the essential broadcast signals over an IP network, and to transmit full-HD video and audio with very low latency. 

Sony’s Networked Media Interface is built to supply a virtually lossless UHD/4K compressed stream over IP signal.  Although such a signal in some cases may require up to 12 Gb/s, the interface uses minimal compression of the signal so that it can be carried in packet form over common 10 GBEs fibre or twisted pair cabling.  

Imagine Communications said they feel the logistical issues associated with the bandwidth increase needed for UHD/4K demand migration to an IP-centric network environment. They are confident that developments like Sony’s Networked Media Interface and new capabilities such as 10 GBEs and 40 GBE IP switching can enable a gradual transition to UHD/4K.     

Their own product, for example, Magellan SDN Orchestrator uses dynamic signal-flow connections, managing signal mappings, addressing and translations between legacy protocols and IP.  This hybrid approach allows the entire bit flow to be software-defined, creating scope for managed workflows that support the coexistence of IP streams, files and baseband signals.  

In this way, media companies can now use familiar workflow processes and controls while also managing on-ramps and off-ramps for baseband over IP via a software control layer, improving the way video is managed within a broadcast facility. This system also employs existing data center-grade switching that allows media companies to balance cost and performance in order to avoid the expense of installing proprietary IP switching for the sole purpose of routing baseband over IP.