Distributing a video feed to multiple recipients comes with many technical challenges, but it also offers many opportunities. While control rooms for distribution get a lot of attention for the monitoring and management of distributed feeds, the core concerns are essential to effective systems. Whether sending video to ten recipients or one thousand, scalability, compression, bandwidth, and security concerns demand critical attention. A methodology and infrastructure that address these challenges can increase opportunities for content delivery and communication.

IP-based Methods

To manage any reasonable distribution of video to more than just a handful of recipients, IP-based methods allow for the greatest flexibility and scalability. Content distribution networks provide the opportunity to send feeds locally, across a campus, or over the Internet to remote locations. In nearly all cases, the devices receiving the feed can range from mobile technologies operating over WiFi and cellular networks to hardwired decoders and video-wall processors. Managing video streams with bandwidths ranging from as low as 1 to 5 Mbps up to 10+ Gbps necessitates that IP-based video streams be used in order to create not only a one-to-many distribution, but also to enable reception via many different endpoint types.

Not only does a video distribution network allow for this type of flexibility and scalability, it also provides opportunity for creative innovations. An example of this is the inclusion of near real-time streaming that can be integrated into digital signage with the RGB Spectrum Zio family of encoders and decoders. Typically, digital signage is a form of digital content distribution, but it can tend to be less time critical than a live video feed, for example. But if it is useful to include a live image in near real-time to enhance the digital signage, the Zio products can provide this. 

“By sending real time streaming video content from Zio encoders in parallel to data visualization information from a signage network, both landing on Zio decoders for simultaneous display, a complete operating picture of a factory line can be distributed company wide, quickly and easily,” said Bob Ehlers, vice president of business development for RGB Spectrum.

The Security Priority

One to many, near real-time distribution of video feeds also requires attention to security concerns. While the industry has not converged on standards, there are a variety of protocols that can be implemented by knowledgeable IT experts to keep visual information away from prying eyes. This is less difficult in a closed system that doesn’t require the interoperations of devices from different manufacturers. The natural evolution, however, does appear to favor interoperability and should converge on specific standards of protection.

Planning for a content distribution network and gearing it for the future means giving attention to the size and scalability of the intended network, the different bandwidth requirements of the receiving devices, and exploring manufacturers that are attentive to the rapidly changing security concerns of our evolving AV landscape.

Justin O'Connor, AV Technology magazine's Technical Advisor, has spent nearly 20 years as a product manager, bringing many hit products to the professional audio world. Over that time he has served the proAV, professional sound reinforcement, permanent install, and music instrument retail markets with passion. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music Engineering Technology from the Frost School of Music at The University of Miami. Follow him at @JOCAudioPro.