An interoperable future with IPMX

The IPMX standard was created with the purpose of ensuring interoperability for video-over-IP systems. Adrian Pennington finds out all you need to know.

Discussion of standards can send even the most ardent engineer to sleep. They’re an acronym soup which often succeed in masking the merits of the technology they seek to promote. And, of course, the AV industry is no stranger to a standard. There are dozens of them, usually proprietary, which seem designed to confuse the lay person and ultimately hinder rather than help installers. The fragmentary nature of the AV standards landscape has arguably held back the market from truly fulfilling its potential to connect technology with physical space and with content.

It’s why there’s hope that a new standard for transporting audio and video signals over internet networks can finally be the one to rule them all. In a nutshell, IPMX (Internet Protocol Media Experience) is a set of open standard-based protocols designed to ensure interoperability for video-over-IP systems in the media, entertainment, and pro-AV industries.

Crucially, it does not arrive out of nowhere. IPMX is based on the AV-over-IP standard ST 2110 ratified by SMPTE which has been pretty successful in unifying the once heavily proprietary broadcast equipment sector. Earlier this year, the Video Services Forum (VSF) published the initial drafts of its suite of Technical Recommendations (called TR-10) for IPMX. Using ST 2110 as a starting point, the VSF added elements applicable to the pro-AV and live production market. Both ST 2110 and IPMX are created and guided by the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) a non-profit industry consortium of broadcast and pro-AV engineers, technologists, vendors and business execs.

The aim is to move broadcast and media companies (broadly speaking, the professional video communications industry) from legacy proprietary hardwarebased systems to a more cost efficient and future-proofed internet-based environment. Rob Moodey, manager, strategic partnerships, Matrox Video describes IPMX as “the future of IP video” asserting, “The industry recognises the value of this new standard for AV production.” He continues: “It bridges networks of different bandwidths and acts as a gateway between technologies like HDBaseT, Dante, and NDI. It supports modern formats and gives users flexibility and choice, and a way out of the ‘proprietary’ trap.”

But what exactly is IPMX, and what impact is it likely to have on the ProAV industry? First, let’s tie-down the basic technical specifications of IPMX. IPMX can work on 1 Gbps to 100 Gbps networks and beyond, including wireless. This is made possible by the support of a standard compression scheme which enables ultra-low latency while maintaining quality. It can also support full uncompressed quality, making it ideal for live venues and stadiums where top quality is vital, as well as codecs including JPEG-XS. It can transport any resolution, including 8K and beyond, in 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 10-bit colour.

To keep up with the everchanging security landscape, IPMX has a growing security solution and supports HDCP 2.x for protected content support, which is essential in many pro-AV workflows. Standard APIs enable a single control application to manage multiple vendors’ equipment, while HDMI and source discovery interface EDID (extended display identification data) support allows for automatic display set-up and resolution support. “This set of open standards and specifications allows the command and control of AV content over an IP network – like taking the functionality of HDBaseT and extending it right across the network,” explains Moodey. “It’s the kind of standard that encourages people to build bridges, not fences. It’s very inclusive and very relaxed, so you can use any input or output format you choose, and continue to do things in your own way if you prefer. But the more you conform to the standard, the more benefits you get.”

ST 2110 and IPMX what’s the difference? The critical difference between ST 2110 and IPMX lies within the user experience. Steven Cogels, global director of business development, PlexusAV explains, “ST 2110 was designed for broadcast production workflows with very stringent rules. IPMX adapts ST 2110 timing, latency and quality but features enhancements to create a plugand-play solution for professional AV applications. As a result, IPMX can be used in high-end stadium events with tight timing requirements (like audio) and enable easy-to-use enterprise AV systems that offer a friendly user experience.”

To reinforce that point: ST 2110 requires PTP for precisely synchronised endpoints for instant switching between sources whereas IPMX does not. Furthermore, IPMX adds extra AV-friendly capabilities to the benefits of the ST 2110 standard – it enables EDID and HDCP and has a roadmap to higher compression formats. Perhaps the key factor in favour of IPMX and why there are strong hopes it will succeed is that it eliminates the traditional walled gardens by removing traditional restrictions around single-vendor solutions.

Rob Moodey, Matrox Video


“IPMX isn’t owned or developed by a single company,” says Cogels. “Its roadmap and design are a joined effort of bright minds in our industry. Therefore, instead of fighting the other technologies on the market, IPMX embraces and collaborates with them.” He acknowledges that the industry has been in a pickle with various standards and that it will be a long time before there’s any uniform standardisation. That’s why, he says, IPMX is designed to complement other protocols. “Although the percentage of AV-over-IP solutions in the market is growing fast, we are only at the tip of the iceberg. Currently, the majority of solutions are proprietary. The goal for IPMX is not to be the only one. Other technologies can be strong within their specific verticals or applications. Instead, the goal is to coexist with other technologies and bridge them in and out of IPMX networks. We've found technology vendors are receptive and open to this, while others are more reluctant.”

Standards tend to give users a much wider choice of suppliers, without being locked into inflated prices, licence purchases, or outdated feature sets. “Standardisation should lead to better security, since it’s said that “variability leads to vulnerability’,” says Moodey. “And when technical specifications can be taken as read, buyers can focus on those qualities that don’t appear on the spec sheet but are ultimately more important to the business, such as quality, usability, reliability and stability.” NDI competitor The chief rival to IPMX’s goal is NDI (Network Device Interface) first developed by NewTek in 2015, made publicly available, and since 2019 under the stewardship of Vizrt. “It’s not a question of which is better or worse, it’s a question of requirements,” says Moodey. “NDI embodies a collection of applications around a productioncentric workflow, spearheaded by one manufacturer. IPMX represents a standards-based approach with the potential for easier integration with diverse systems, and with a focus on routing primarily for live distribution or monitoring to a larger scale.”

Vendors such as Plexus AV have announced gateways between IPMX and NDI suggesting these are complementary technologies, not alternatives. “If we are looking for differences, NDI uses only codecs designed to suit a 1Gbps network,” says Moodey. “NDI uses 1 GB streams no matter the network bandwidth – a larger pipe can be used to carry more 1 GB streams. IPMX can carry multiple streams but can also use 10Gbps and 25Gbps networks to carry better-quality video in higher bitrate streams. “IPMX devices can apply to prevailing networks in either camp – opening the way to connection between the different networks without media conversion to/from baseband (e.g., HDMI/SDI).”

There are currently no conversations between AIMS and Vizrt about a more formal union of IPMX and NDI but Tonia Maffeo, head of marketing, NDI says the company is always open to discussing initiatives that can increase interoperability within and between ecosystems. “NDI is already used in conjunction with other video-overIP technologies and protocols, and we believe this will remain so,” she says. “NDI has been designed from the ground up with three principles in mind: interoperability, high efficiency, and ease of use. The fact that our company provides free software and has been adopted by hundreds of independent software vendors further enhances these three principles. It’s too early to evaluate IPMX’s performance and usability.”

Momentum builds Although she can’t divulge specific numbers, Maffeo says several hundred ISVs and OEMs already offer NDI enabled products, “with hundreds more gearing up to launch new products in the coming months and into 2024.” By contrast, at InfoComm this year IPMX was shown on at least 24 booths — ten more than at ISE 2023. “There will be more than that at ISE 2024 and more still by InfoComm 2024 – including big names that haven’t ‘broken cover’ yet,” says Moodey.


Steven Cogels, PlexusAV 


Most of the companies working on IPMX products have signed confidentiality agreements with VSF but Cogels indicates that multiple companies have IPMX implementations and products in the works. “Amongst these companies there are a good number that provide technology to OEM manufacturers, which means that there are many more companies that are working on IPMX projects or have it on their near-term road map. From our perspective, enthusiasm and uptake are as high as we could have imagined or hoped for. The speed with which the industry will adopt IPMX has more to do with when the standard is fully complete. The core standards are in draft form and undergoing the validation and testing, which means we will see more products touting ‘IPMX Ready’ within the next six months.”

Already announced is Macnica’s new M2S SDK, an interface for real-time multi-platform streaming suitable for both ST 2110 and IPMX systems. This is debuting at IBC in a sign of how close the broadcast and AV industries are becoming – and of how AIMS-backed IP standards are accelerating convergence. Andrew Starks, director of product management for Macnica, says the timing is right as the thirst for stronger interoperability is reaching a new peak as IBC approaches. “Those who walk onto the Macnica stand will walk away with a greater understanding of how multi-vendor, multi-platform and even multi-gig workflows seamlessly work together when powered through our core IP transport technologies. Our SMPTE 2110 and IPMX solutions interact with HDMI and SDI sources, condensing entire broadcast and production facilities.”

With the broadcast industry making a hard shift to ST 2110 and NMOS-based systems, Cogels says IPMX makes for an easier transition. “In many cases, an IPMX-based system would offer everything an ST 2110 system can, but with a better, more integrated user experience,” he says. “It takes a huge burden off broadcast engineers to operate a ST 2110 based system while helping the AV industry adopt a technology that can help grow the industry.” Near future aims The primary goal of AIMS and its members is to ensure that IPMX attains the same level of adoption and widespread implementation in the pro-AV industry as ST 2110 has in broadcasting.

As the final stages of standardisation are completed, a surge of IPMX-certified products is expected to hit the market, marking a new era of AV-over-IP deployments. “While we started our IPMX journey believing in the benefits of enabling crossover between the broadcast and pro AV industries, we under appreciated the intense need to enable crossover between live production and presentation systems within industries,” says Starks. Enabling that kind of interoperability between vendors, workflows, and industries is an impressive feat of engineering and design. In today's world, it's exactly what is needed by professionals everywhere and we are excited to bring it to reality with IPMX."

top image: G-Stock Studio/
lower image: Gorodenkoff/

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