IP-Based Workflows – The Paradigm is Shifting, are You on Board?

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Since returning from IBC 2018, I have been thinking about IP-based workflows and the great discussions we had about this emerging trend at our booth. While IP-based workflows are seeing increased adoption and bringing new opportunities, there are also challenges ahead.

IP-based workflows aren’t exactly new, but adoption has greatly increased in the media space as of late. Global companies with far-reaching offices and branches that globally distribute content are starting to implement IP-based digital workflows, and it can make sense for a number of reasons.

Giving editors non-linear and random access to files for post-production is a clear advantage to having an IP-based workflow. But, another advantage to this emerging trend is that it removes the need to work with, and move, physical mediums. Be it sending content between editors, to another office, to a live event location, or even to archive - all of this content, whether on disk, film or tape, needs to be physically shipped to each location. The advantage is clear to editors when they can get the content delivered in a fraction of the time it takes to ship it via a courier. Furthermore, imagine the cost of shipping an entire archive to a new location, it certainly would cost money and take more time than moving it digitally. And of course, there are unplannable occurrences that may arise when shipping - from extra expenses to late deliveries or lost packages (Check out our case study with NBC Sports Group to see how we helped facilitate an "at home" production workflow).

While these advantages are alluring, IP-based workflows can still introduce other challenges to your workflow, and one of the most difficult challenges of using an IP-based workflow is efficiently moving content through each phase of it. This isn’t as challenging when leveraging IP in a single location, or a number of locations in close proximity to each other, but as a company’s branches become more dispersed, and as the actual recording location becomes more remote, the internet connection moving all of this content is detrimental to the success of the workflow, and the more the distance grows further apart, not to mention HDR 4K and 8K videos skyrocketing file sizes, the harder this challenge is to overcome.

When transferring files across the Wide Area Network (WAN) using the TCP protocol, which the internet is built on, packet loss and latency can cause transfers to move at a crawling pace. This is because of the serial nature of the protocol: TCP sends a packet of data, and can’t send another packet until it receives an acknowledgement that the last packet was sent. All of this waiting is what we call “latency.”

Advertisements and other shorter forms of content have been transferred digitally for some time, but the challenge of moving feature-length content is still very real. I used our trusty Bandwidth Calculator to calculate a 1 TB data transfer from New York to Los Angeles, which has approximately 72ms of latency. Even across a 1 Gbps connection, it may take up to 14 days, 6 hours and 23 minutes to complete. If an organization makes a substantial investment into their internet connection, only to gain 14 day long transfers, IP-based workflows still require a lot of consideration before jumping in.

There are, however, answers to this challenge available today. We had a lot of discussions at our IBC booth this year on the topic, and FileCatalyst is able to “supercharge” your IP-based workflow by using our patented UDP-based protocol. Our protocol is immune to the latency and packet loss mentioned above that shows down FTP/TCP. To complete the same 1 TB transfer from New York to Los Angeles using FileCatalyst, we can saturate the 1 Gbps connection you invested in and move that content in 2 hours, 29 minutes and 35 seconds.

With all of this increased adoption of IP-based workflows, where do you sit? Are you ready for the next paradigm shift in the Broadcast space, or are you taking a “wait and see” approach? Let us know, and maybe we can help you get there faster than you thought.