Imagine, Sony Make A 4K Connection

In a move that will help producers of 4K video distribute content in the pixel-packed format, Imagine Communications said it is embracing a Sony-led initiative that will enable the delivery of baseband 4K signals over IP. 

Imagine is a member of a consortium of companies backing Sony’s Networked Media Interface, a new AV over IP interface that will provide low-latency transport of 4K video, audio, reference, metadata and control data. As part of that effort, Imagine will support a “slightly compressed” codec for 4K content that can be shipped over a 10-gig Ethernet IP distribution pipeline, Kerry Wheeles, CTO-networking at Imagine, explained.

The idea, he said, is to support an interface that supports high quality and low-enough latency to be applicable for video production environments, and provide a path from legacy SDI to IP-based network infrastructures. 

Sony introduced the effort last September, identifying several companies that were already backing the effort, including Imagine, Altera, Cisco Systems, Evertz, Juniper Networks, and Rohde & Schwartz, among others.

Imagine notes that today’s studio cameras use one HD-SDI cable to carry a single uncompressed baseband signal that could require up to 3 Gbps, meaning that the same systems would require four HD-SDI cables to handle the larger 4K payloads. “[R]eplicating this massive cabling increase throughout the network infrastructure presents nearly impossible logistical challenges,” Imagine said, adding that Sony’s new IP interface is made to resolve the issue.

While those uncompressed 4K signals could require up to 12 Gbps, Sony’s approach with “minimal compression” will enable them to be packed into common 10-gig transport.

Wheeles noted that there’s a competing standard under development, but notes that Imagine “will absolutely be supporting the Sony [initiative] at a minimum.”

He said Sony is expected to release the final spec this summer, noting that Imagine will be able to support it by linking Imagine’s existing gear to a new “daughter card.”

“This embrace of Sony’s new innovation is not a result of any single vendor’s unique efforts, but instead is a collaboration of the vendor community to ensure that our media and entertainment customers can transition to the next great leap in video quality enhancements and IP innovation,” added Steve Reynolds, CTO of Imagine, in a statement.