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SDI is dead – long live SDI (and can you help me ingest some?)

SDI is dead – long live SDI (and can you help me ingest some?)

SDI is dead – long live SDI (and can you help me ingest some?)
Posted: Tuesday, March 04, 2014

SDI Is Dead EnterpriseIn the last 2 weeks, I have been asked to sit on panels in front of audiences as the leader of the fictitious “Campaign for the continued existence of SDI”. I suspect, given my outspoken views that interlace and fractional frame rates should be killed off, that I am a surprising choice for the role and therefore good entertainment for the audience:

The fact that I spend my day job helping customers get out of the SDI world into the IP, file based world as quickly as possible. Those of you who read the IABM journal will recognise some of my text below. I hope it causes you to stop and think, or maybe (if you are in the UK) turn up at the Wednesday meeting of the RTS and tell me that I’m wrong!

It’s easy to look into the past and say Old is Bad, and look into the future and say New is Good. Getting rid of SDI is more than just history though, it’s like flies. No-one really likes flies. I don’t know anyone who goes into their garden and rejoices that flies are buzzing over the barbeque. I do know, however, that flies are a vital part of the food chain and although they have many downsides, getting rid of them would break our existing way of growing, cultivating and managing food.

SDI is similar. Getting rid of SDI will mean completely redefining the whole value chain of the media industry. Without SDI, most of what we know today as television would have to be redefined. At almost every point in the chain where we have to be real time, you will still find SDI. SDI may seem old and lack the scalability of IP, but it is also comparatively simple and secure. I know that a live feed from a camera, going through a router, into a desk and then out to a transmitter is going to stay up. Internal and external redundant working practises and engineering policies have matured over decades to make it that way. The systems are engineered so that during the live match, staff can concentrate as much as possible on delivering entertaining content rather than requiring an IT super-hero to dynamically reconfigure the Name Server because it’s under a DDOS attack from bad people.

In today’s IT / IP based world we are seeing new ways for data to be mined and hacked by criminals. Zero-day exploits are traded in the criminal underground internet and many of those exploits can be used to attack an IP based media value chain. After all, media is just data. Ok, it’s data that’s a lot bigger than your name, address and credit card details, but at the end of the day, it’s just data. In a big IT infrastructure, you often don’t know that your data is being copied illicitly until it’s too late. I am not aware of hackers getting into an SDI based plant and siphoning off content or denying access to the infrastructure by maliciously overloading it.

SDI is a known and understood way of working. With the advent of file based practises for off-line, batch based workflows and non-linear editing, SDI has already been eliminated from certain parts of the media food-chain. In the domain of linear television where customers still seem to enjoy the experience of having a knowledgeable curator of content decide their viewing schedule, SDI is still going strong. The predicted death of SDI “glue” and module business seems as far away today as it was 5 years ago.

Should SDI die? I don’t think it’s a technical decision – it’s a business risk decision. There are few technical barriers left to killing off SDI, but like killing off all the flies – if we kill SDI before we have thought about the whole media food chain – there could be some Media Enterprises facing an unforeseen and prolonged famine.

If you have lots of SDI and need to work in files (not flies), then why not check out our range ofingest products and read our white paper on enterprise transcoding so that you can make all the files you need both economically and quickly.

I’m off for a bike ride and risk those flies. See you at the RTS event.

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Posted by Bruce Devlin

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