Lights, sound, a stage, a crowd: live events have existed for as long as people have performed, and they’ve been broadcast since the invention of the radio. And with the advent of smartphones and streaming, the boundary between live events and live broadcast begins to blur.
Live events have begun to take cues from broadcast by using IP networks for connectivity, but it’s still early in the game. For a peek at what’s next in the industry, here are five reasons that new technology developed for IP network connectivity is outpacing baseband to change the face of live events for the better.
1. Less equipment in less time
Any live event requires communication between different streams of information. Traditionally, data, intercom, video, and audio (DIVA) for a live event are delivered through multiple systems within or between venues. Audio and video might run through baseband infrastructure and coaxial cables with separate cables for each kind of connection—all of which take time and labor to deploy.
Even a simpler event like a conference or small concert can require multiple vision and screen switchers with HDMI and SDI matrices to connect them all together —and the more technology you use, the more opportunities there are for failure. And failure is expensive.
With an IP network, a single fiberoptic cable can handle multiple streams of information. With all of your signals on one redundant network you just need a way to switch between the different aspects of DIVA. This can now be handles by a single switcher with control surfaces that can exist anywhere on the DIVA network giving you much better flexibility and redundancy.
An IP-based platform like Panasonic’s Kairos takes in multiple streams of Video and Audio signals and sends them to their destinations: screens, projectors, speakers, or online streaming service. IP-based platforms make it possible to connect a conference in a single hotel ballroom with lots of breakouts, or a multinational sporting event held across multiple stadiums and fields.
2. Connect any venue of any size
An IP network’s flexibility goes beyond the types of signals it can handle: there’s also the matter of scale. Depending on what products an AV team uses, this process might range in complexity. Most IP networking connectivity software of this type is locked into hardware from a specific manufacturer. But one patent-pending solution is technology agnostic—and we expect more tech agnostic solutions to crop up in the live event space as the IP workflow matures.
3. Hackers beware
Any network has the potential to be cracked. But when a 2110 IP network is backed by secure communication in a control panel, user level authentication and management, control of media flows and device orchestration allowing network segmentation, and 2110 handoff security, there’s no need to worry.
4. Old connections welcome
When discussing live events, we'd be remiss not to mention SDI and HDMI technology—the technology that came before IP. Live events and broadcast alike have been built on baseband technology for decades. Though the conversion to IP is underway, baseband technology is still here and still used every day.
Before the industry fully converts to IP networks, we need a way to bridge the gap between the past, present and future. A well-designed system with IP at its core from the start has the advantage of taking in old baseband technology, converting the signal to work with the new. But when most IP networking technology is locked into the hardware of its manufacturer, it can be difficult to configure, with multiple parts at play.
5. But the future is here
At this point, it goes without saying that the pandemic dramatically shifted the face of the entertainment industry. It’s become common to host virtual events, and more standard for live events to include a virtual or hybrid element. Making events available to stream online is also an accessibility measure that ensures people in isolated places, people with limited mobility, and/or immunocompromised people can enjoy amazing performances in real time. And virtual events of all kinds are becoming a serious option for performers who can’t absorb the rising costs of a touring show.
Live event production has evolved to include VR technology, mixed reality, and other effects—none of which would be possible without IP networking as part of live event connectivity. Even before the pandemic, you may have heard about hologram tours of dearly departed musicians.
Augmented reality in the live events space is more than holograms—though IP technology makes them possible, too. Jaw-dropping visual effects are brought to life by using a game engine to render graphics in real time on an LED screen. It’s another example of the ways that broadcast, virtual production, and live events help each other evolve in a multidisciplinary ecosystem.
Beyond these exciting innovations, the fact of the matter is that broadcast and live event connectivity is transitioning away from baseband infrastructure. Though the benefits of IP are many, one issue is that the learning curve for IP network deployment is high. Not everyone is a network engineer well-versed in the intricacies of constructing and maintaining a 2110 IP network across complex AV systems.
Spotlight on TFC Flow, the future of IP in live events
It’s for all these reasons that NEP Group developed TFC Flow, an award-winning DIVA signal flow distribution and control network for broadcast and live events. It’s built on TFC, an application that connects to any kind of signal distribution hardware for complete control of devices and systems across any kind of production facility.
With TFC Flow, live event producers unlock the full benefits of a fully-IP system’s adaptability, scalability, security, and speed. For flexibility in range and scale, TFC Flow uses portable throwdown nodes to create a mesh network of any size, just about anywhere. Crucially, TFC Flow flattens the learning curve for network configuration: anyone can deploy a network within a venue simply by plugging in some fiber.
And because TFC Flow is built by and for IP networks, it’s future proof. Unlike the costly switch from HD to 4K to 8K—IP networks will adapt and adopt whatever resolution comes next without an update in hardware. When a system is technology agnostic like this one, it doesn’t just work with any equipment—it works across time.
We’re just on the horizon of some big developments in the way we produce, consume, and share live experiences. As technology evolves and the entire industry shifts to software-based models of connectivity, technologies based in IP from the start will stay ready for the future. When something just works, there’s more room for everyone to focus on creativity and connection across the board.