Sencore: The Gateway to Better Video Delivery

Hi, I’m Aaron Doughten from Sencore. Today we’ll be talking about our openGear solutions. We’ll look at several different products in terms of ST 2110 converters, some receiver-decoders, and also some digital turnaround type products. We also have Seth VerMulm, our other presenter. We’ll be dividing and conquering conversation today, but we’re both product managers here at Sencore. You have our emails up there on the slide.

We’re going to start talking about the AG SCI2X and our receiver-decoder lineup — the AG6000, 5800, and 4400. Then dive into our digital turnaround products. These aren’t the receiver-decoder products, but definitely in the conversion and digital turnaround aspect, just taking compressed formats and converting them from, for example, RF to ASI or IP to ASI and all of those kinds of things. But we’ll get into more details as we start talking about those products and their individual sections.

openGear and Sencore have been working together for a long time — I would say at least 10 to 15 years, between the receiver-decoders, our digital turnaround products, then some of our new ST 2110-to-SDI converters as well. They’ve been a really important partner for us. Being able to offer a really dense, cost-competitive — in price per channel — offering, being able to put our hardware into openGear, partnering with either other vendors and kind of mixing and matching our functions with their functions, or offering a really dense solution even just for Sencore products has been huge. Enabling those 10-channel decodes in 2 RU, or even the 40 ST 2110 conversions in 2 RU — like I said, that’s the density that is hard to get in any other solution.

Then, of course, the redundancy genlock source and the switch management connectivity, it all makes it easier for customers. Obviously the switch management connectivity is a huge cost-saving and complexity-reducing feature, just allowing them to control pretty much all of our cards, either via DashBoard or via our web GUIs themselves. Accessing everything through a single ethernet port makes it a lot easier. Then there is hot-swappability for easy upgrades and maintenance.

Whether they’re upgrading to our latest receiver-decoders, customer can just slide the card out, slide a new card in, and all the functionality is there — in addition to doing the basic maintenance like maybe replacing fans, cleaning out dust, and other stuff that can accumulate in chassis that have been running over the years makes. It is super easy for everybody to do that.

The first product we’re going to be talking about here is a SMPTE ST 2110-to-SDI converter. I just did a pretty in-depth dive into 2110 in one of our own webinars last week. This is one of the products that is definitely enabling a lot of the workflows for 2110 into SDI systems. Really what we’re doing here is taking your really high-bandwidth, uncompressed IP 2110 signals and converting them to SDI or vice versa. This is a really dense solution, thanks to the openGear chassis being able to do 40 signal conversions in a 2RU. It allows a lot of customers to take essentially their entire channel lineup that would be in an SDI switching infrastructure and turn that right around into a 2110 system. Whether that’s in a remote production type situation, maybe a really big MPLS network or something like that, that is running a lot of uncompressed type streams. This allows them to do all of that top of rack conversion very, very easily, enabling a lot of those types of functions.

There is a little throwdown box version of this, not to get too far away from the openGear solutions, but just being able to do the 2110-to-HDMI conversion for those back-of-monitor conversions so that you can actually look at your 2110 streams on consumer televisions and broadcast monitors and things like that at a very, very cost-competitive price per channel. Really good solution there. Of course, full support for PTP synchronization, which is extremely important in 2110 systems. We’ve got that enabled, and then our road map’s got NMOS, IS-04 and IS-05 system registration and discovery, as well as a network management that is going to be added to this product as well. Active roadmap, really good successful product, very dense solution for a lot of our customers. All thanks to the openGear chassis. It’s been a good step into more of the production sense with the SDI 2X.

This is the AtlasGear receiver-decoder. These would be our ASIC-based openGear cards that are really based on the receiver-decoders that I think Sencore is very well-known for. The latest one that we have is the AG 6000. This is a fairly recent introduction over the last year or so, but it is essentially a brand new receiver-decoder. It actually leverages a lot of our current hardware architecture, but we just adopted a new ASIC chip in order to natively support HEVC and UHD decode in an openGear card. What this has allowed us to do is to get a very, very dense HEVC, H.264 MPEG 2 decode for up to 4 to 10 bit into our 2RU chassis.

Being able to do that 10-channel decode in an openGear chassis has been extremely successful over the last year, year and a half or so. We keep introducing more and more features, but definitely a dense HEVC decoder has been a huge play in the market.

Just to highlight a couple more features, eight channels of audio decode or pass-through per card. We have IP, ASI, satellite input, all of those kinds of things with the AG 6000, pretty much everything that was supported on our other MRD, and AG 5800 and 4400s, is essentially available here as well. Then of course, we’ve got options for DVD, VCI, and Vista scrambling.

One of the new product introductions that we’ve had with this particular product has been a 2110 output. We essentially yanked off all of the SDI connections and circuitry and stuff like that, and replaced that with 2110 output. This has two 10 gigabit SFP plus ports that allow us to do the 2110 output. This has hitless switching with PTP sync. Anything that you would be familiar with in a 2110 system, this card natively supports being able to decode and then output 2110 in a 2RU openGear chassis. Yet again, another very competitive solution for 2110 decode.

I’m going to hand it over to Seth.

Seth VerMulm:
Thank you, Aaron. I’ll cover the other decoder openGear modules that Sencore offers here. Like Aaron said, we’ve been with openGear since almost the beginning, offering what Sencore is famous for in our professional IRDs that previously were always a 1RU rack-mount chassis. Now we can really get that density in decoding using the openGear platform and obviously also interact with the other openGear modules that are out there.

One of Sencore’s most popular decoders is the AG 5800. This is our contribution receiver-decoder. This is where you’re pushing into 4:2:2 and 10-bit video, H.264, MPEG 2, decoding up to 1080p 50/60 outputs in HD resolution, or SD, of course. The other really strong point in this product is the 16 channels of audio, making it great for services with a lot of audio.

The variety of different input cards that are available for this is something that makes this product strong and very easy to use for customers needing to decode those 4:2:2 10-bit inputs. We like to advertise this as being able to decode almost any stream you put at it. Then the other decoder card, our AG 4400, is the distribution receiver-decoder, and you’ve got the 4:2:0 to 8-bit capabilities, 8 channels of audio, HD, SD, and all the same kind of input modules and descrambling capabilities that are on the other modules. Plus you’ve got the dual SDI ports in the HDMI out and audio ports as well.

Speaking of those cards, the connector details, just looking at all the options that are available for the 4400 and the 5800, there’s an ASI-only version where you’re taking in the signal via ASI and outputting it as decoded video and audio. There is the RF version for terrestrial cable satellite so you can have dual DVB-S2 inputs, AVSB QAM, and ISD VT. A lot of different standards that are supported in terms of tuners. This one also includes optional descrambling modules and different output types as well. Then the final input option is a gigabit ethernet. Input via ethernet and then decode to those SDI or HDMI outputs.

Any of the versions of cards, the 4400, the 5800, are available in any of these different formats with different tuners and different input types, making the whole thing very flexible, and you can mix and match even within a given chassis. Great products for that kind of density and flexibility.

Here are the three main decoder cards that we offer and what they’re for and what their advantages are. The AG 6000 is our newest offering that Aaron talked about, and it adds in HEVC and UHD support. The contribution version, the AG 5800, has the 4:2:2 10-bit and the 16 channels of audio. AG 4400 is still a great platform for many systems today.

I’ll highlight a few of the advanced features that our decoders have. Our 1RU decoders have the same features that our openGear decoder modules have, so lots of flexibility in terms of ancillary data with caption, subtitles, teletext overlay pass-through. Some really powerful SCTE-35 to SCTE-104 conversion, similar to the ESAM CableLabs standard and being able to pass that. MPE encapsulations data streams, PID filtering, input redundancy, and failover, all make this a very powerful and flexible line for any customer. We pride ourselves in being able to decode any stream you throw at us and work compatibility-wise with anybody else in the industry. That’s Sencore’s strength there.

The final product to talk about is our AG 2600, our digital turnaround platform. This is able to take in all those kinds of input types and do simple turnaround and output as ASI or IP. This becomes a very nice dense solution for up to 10 of these turnarounds in a 2RU openGear chassis. Coming in RF again either SS2X or USB QAM or all the DVB, or ISDB standards there. Then an optional descrambling module and then ASI and IP out. Lots of flexibility in terms of RF to IP or ASI turnaround. Then also a very simple version for ASI to IP.

Great capabilities and features and powerful interfaces and redundancy options and all of that. Look at Sencore’s line there. Aaron, you have anything to share? Any chat questions for us?

Aaron Doughten:
Someone asked about the SDI to 2110 converter, did it support SMPTE 2022-7 for people with redundant routers. The answer is yes. There is a two-part answer, just to make sure everybody has a good understanding of that. We do support redundant output on both the SDI 2X. That’s the SDI to 2110 converter. That definitely has 2022-7 hitless switching in addition to the AG 6000 with a SD 2110 output that also has hitless switching. Really anything with 2110 having to do with Sencore definitely has the hitless switching ability. That’s an integral part of that technology and keeping those systems redundant and all of that.

Please share a bit more about your 2110 systems. You talked earlier about PTP and some of the other changes and challenges we’re seeing in the industry. What are some of the biggest challenges you’re seeing around people moving to a hybrid or complete IP or 2110 system?

Aaron Doughten:
I think a lot of it is a complete disconnect from doing your physical SDI cables and SDI switchers and relays, and all the things that I think are related to SDI, and going to a completely IP-based environment. Just the technology itself is an interesting uphill battle, trying to learn all the different standards and stuff like that.

ST 2110 isn’t just a single technology. It’s a string of technologies and standards that are all working together to help make the whole thing work. If you don’t necessarily have a good understanding of all of them and how they work together, that can be a challenge, especially with the PTP synchronization.

For anybody that doesn’t know, PTP sync is essentially the replacement in 2110 of a genlock and timecode in the 2110 world. Those two things being frequency lock and phase locked for video frames and synchronizing the audio and metadata and all that stuff that goes along with all of those streams. That has been a challenge, not only for Sencore, but the systems that Sencore has deployed our products into. Just making sure everybody plays nice and is synchronized all on the same clock. Especially if you have geo diverse locations, like when you’re doing remote production and stuff like that, making sure that both of the locations are actually PTP-synced to the exact same clock. It’s a whole presentation by itself, but that’s definitely a huge thing.

Then the other big part is more of a corporate culture thing. I think a lot of the broadcast industry in general, or just the industry that openGear serves, not just the broadcast part of it, but the production and all of that. A lot of us, I think, come from RF and SDI and don’t necessarily have that kind of IT infrastructure or IT mindset. You have to step away from what was and literally throw yourself into crazy high-bandwidth, IP-type worlds. That’s more of the uphill battle of learning new technologies and how to implement them in a way that makes the most sense. I would say those are the biggest challenges for 2110.

You touched a little bit on your gigabit ethernet on your receiver-decoders, and that sounds pretty interesting. I know there’s a lot of talk around gigabit ethernet and systems. Could you expand a little more on what types of facilities are moving that direction and what you’re seeing there?

Seth VerMulm:
Ethernet as a transport has been around for quite a while, and we’ve continued to see movement away from ASI and other inner facility protocols. Multicasts on ethernet are a very typical input or output type to any of our decoders, your IRDs, your turnaround devices. Unicast, multicast typically are used within a facility or even some kind of fiber circuit between facilities, or even across the country. It’s a very well-used and well-supported standard, and we’ve got it in our decoders with lots of different options for FEC and other redundancy measures around that.

When we met, I think at IBC, you were telling me about how your systems usually have a lot of Sencore gear in the openGear frames. Do you find that you end up mixing together with some of the other partners and putting a system together, or how does that work for you in terms of that type of collaboration?

Aaron Doughten:
Honestly, it’s kind of a mix. Obviously with our receiver-decoder and turnaround platforms and things like that, customers are looking for a very, very dense, easy-to-deploy, maintainable solution. In a lot of cases, our products tend to live in openGear chassis as just Sencore products, which is, I think, a little bit different than what most of the people might see, or the other vendors here on the webinar today. But that’s not saying that doesn’t happen.

There are all kinds of things, especially with remote production, with the SDI 2X that I was talking about. You’re going to have audio mixers and more and more video productio0- type things, tally and scheduling and all those kinds of things that are more functions of the production workflow than just a receiver-decoder or something like that. It depends on the application. I would say it’s all over the map, but Sencore has had a lot of success utilizing the openGear chassis to be a dense platform for the cards that we have. That might be a little more unique on the Sencore side than some of the other vendors.

Referring to Sencore’s section in the Ultimate openGear Applications Guide: You’ve got the digital video turnaround and decoding system in there. Would you say that sort of system, where you’ve got a whole mix of signals with HEVC and a 2110 ASI all combined, is that typical where you end up putting a bunch of signals together? Just wondering why you chose that as your ultimate application for the guide?

Aaron Doughten:
That’s our bread and butter and is essentially really dense receiver-decoder applications. The ability to take in, whether it’s MPEG over IP or satellite, are probably the two biggest hitters from an input standpoint, and then doing a decode for re-encode. Anybody that has a lot of different content providers sending them stuff that they need to decode and then re-encode in their mezzanine format for the rest of their channels. Or extremely dense monitoring applications. This is like confidence monitoring. Between those two applications paired with our receiver-decoders, whether it’s the AG 6000 or AG 1500 or 4400, that’s the thing we see the most by far.

Seth VerMulm:
One of our strengths is being able to work with anybody and decode anything and our resiliency. We tend to get put in those situations where there are signals coming from everywhere.