Philip J. Cianci /
06.01.2006 12:00 PM
Technology seminar: TM&M

As I searched the NAB show room floor for the latest in test, measurement and monitoring (TM&M) equipment, I was especially interested in equipment that applied IT technologies in the broadcast environment. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in this respect. However, there were plenty of new TM&M products to excite any video engineer.

Subjective analysis

Pushing the evaluation envelope, Snell & Wilcox introduced Hyperion, a content monitoring system that uses intuitive algorithms to mimic human intelligence and therefore provide dedicated audio, video and metadata monitoring for television content as it passes through a facility. A broadcaster determines and sets what “normal” looks like for a given content type. If the content does not match up to the expected behavior, the system alerts the operator.

Content can be stamped with either SMPTE UMIDs or in-house IDs during ingest and linked to the facility's automation system. At transmission, these unique content identifiers in the playout schedule can be cross-checked with the IDs that have been stamped in the content, at both local and remote monitoring points.

Hyperion functionality is embedded in all new Snell & Wilcox infrastructure products. The system can be integrated with the RollCall, RollMap and RollSNMP broadcast control and monitoring systems, as well as third-party systems.

Video-quality measurement

A new generation of MPEG video analysis systems can verify the validity of compressed files on servers. Tektronix's Cerify performs compliancy testing of file-based video and audio against the encoding standards of all video from QCIF to SD, 720p and 1080i and for MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, VC-1 and 3GPP for encoding errors. When a media file generates an alarm, Cerify reports the results and quarantines the file for further investigation. Video thumbnails allow the user to browse and drill down into content to determine the exact source of the errors.

It checks compliance and correctness to video and audio standards, video formats, resolutions, bit rates and video and audio quality. Users can prioritize the tests and base them on user-defined templates.

IT for broadcast

Notable for incorporation of IT technologies in broadcast equipment, JDSU Acterna continues to develop broadcast applications for its network test and monitoring systems. In particular, the QT-1100 digital video service monitor analyzes MPEG transport streams carried over IP GigE networks, as well as traditional ASI, QPSK, QAM, 8-VSB and COFDM broadcast formats. Status is reported via SNMP aggregated information from all probes.

IPTV is a hot topic, and naturally many TM&M vendors are offering new IPTV features. Pixelmetrix has just launched the DVStor-IP, a hard-disk-based system that allows nonstop simultaneous recording of multiple channels of transmitted IP video. DVStation-IP is a standalone MPEG-2 test and monitoring platform that displays all of the broadcast services within a single program transport stream IP connection in a single consolidated view.

Sencore now offers a complete MPEG-over-IP stimulus and analysis solution. By combining the MIP 1664, an MPEG-over-IP generator, with the MIP1860, an MPEG-over-IP cross layer analyzer, broadcasters can fully test and evaluate IP-based infrastructures and equipment.

SNMP

With the continued integration of IT network capabilities in broadcast equipment, finding an SNMP system that can monitor both IT and traditional broadcast equipment has been elusive. Harris, Miranda and Evertz have each enhanced the functionality of their facility monitoring applications. And two new vendors in this arena, ILC and FBBT, provide manager-of-managers systems that integrate SNMP, GPI and other health signaling protocols into their central monitoring station products.

MaxView from ILC can either monitor and control individual resources or accept data from SNMP or other monitoring systems. This can cover an entire facility from ingest to playout, coordinating alarms with root cause analysis.

FBBT's Matador SNMP system offers the usual hierarchical system topology view and a user-selectable “wiring” view that shows systems interconnects in a schematic fashion. Matador received a Broadcast Engineering Pick Hit Award this year.

Metadata analysis

As tape disappears, metadata is becoming the only way to manage content. Hence, the compliance of metadata with industry standards, such as AAF, MXF and V-ISAN, promotes interoperability between content management systems and helps ensure that you will find the content you need when you are looking for it.

Metaglue has taken a step in this direction with its MXFixer software, a tool that extracts the essence and metadata from an MXF file, examines the metadata, checks it against known requirements and reports “OK,” “Caution” or “Not passable.” The full descriptive and structural metadata, media objects, metadata tree and KLV structure can be displayed. Tests can be programmed by the user to check MXF files for integrity against specific requirements.

AC-3 and Dolby-E metadata analysis has been added to Wohler's AMP2-E8 Dolby E decoder and monitor. Dialnorm, dynamic range and other metadata are monitored, and the decoder sends this information over a network connection to a PC application for analysis.

Lip-sync

In the digital facility, lip-sync has become such a significant concern that the ATSC has issued a guideline for synchronization of audio and video. Now, we have the first generation of lip-sync analyzers to help monitor the problem.

Pixel Instrument's LipTracker measures video errors by comparing selected sounds to mouth shapes. Analysis of these events produces a direct measurement of lip-sync errors. SMPTE 292/259 and SMPTE 276M audio inputs are supported.

DK-Technologies' solution is the PT8612 HD-SD test signal generator, a new option for the PT5300 HD-SD VariTime sync generator. It provides a test pattern to check lip-sync. The test pattern is based on the EBU Tech 3305 standard and extends to all common HD formats, including 1080 and 720 lines progressive, frame rates of 24Hz, 25Hz, 29.97Hz, 30Hz, 50Hz, 59.94Hz and 60Hz.

Besides the lip-sync test pattern, which contains moving elements to detect frozen pictures, the generator also provides common test signals, such as color bars, monitor test signals, PLUGE and SDI check field. The test signals may be superimposed with text for identification and contain an embedded audio signal.

Color legalization

Compositing graphics and conversion between HD and SD can sometimes create illegal colors that produce display and modulation problems. Using an automated correction system is a good way to prevent this from happening.

Harris introduced the DL-860 HD/SD serial digital legalizer. The DL-860 output format tracks the input format, and the signal can be legalized to HD, SD, RGB and/or encoded color space. CRC values are monitored and recalculated to ensure proper output values. The DL-860 has a selection to pass or blank all ancillary data without any alteration except CRC correction. All limits are variable, allowing for custom configurations to the HD clips, SD clips, encoded gamut and RGB gamut limits. All operational parameters are also supported via Ethernet using the embedded Web server interface. The DL-860 also supports the Leitch CCS Navigator control and monitoring software and the NUCLEUS user-customizable control panel.

Traditional monitoring

In traditional lines of TM&M equipment, I found several interesting solutions. RF is here to stay, so we better pay attention to the signal that goes out over the air. Burk Technology has enhanced its ARC transmitter remote control system with Lynx version 5.1 software and ARCPlus. Z Technology's DM1010 DTV measurement demodulator features a proprietary demodulator and measurement technology licensed by Tektronix.

Level Magic from Junger Audio implements an adaptive level control algorithm that can adjust multichannel surround-sound audio levels. The system helps maintain a consistent level for all format sources.

Triveni StreamScope introduced the MT-40 and RM-40 DTV real-time MPEG transport stream analyzers. The MT-40 is an end-to-end, MPEG-2/MPEG-4 transport stream monitoring and analysis system for DTV signals carried by broadcast, cable, satellite, IPTV or mobile networks. It supports QPSK, 64/256 QAM, ASI and GigE. It also handles video file inputs, has remote monitoring capabilities and analyzes IP routing. The RM-40 remotely monitors, measures, records and analyzes DTV streams to ensure their integrity, reliability and compliance with standards. Monitoring can be handled over SNMP.

The LV5800 multi-monitor platform from Leader auto detects and monitors HD and SD formats, including sampling and color formats. The system displays waveform, vector, five bar, picture and audio information. User settable error levels trigger alarms that make error log entries that are referenced to time code.

PC-based monitoring

NAB2006 saw the U.S. debut of the Hamlet HD and HDV VidScope-vx, test and measurement systems running entirely in software. They are supplied and run from a USB memory stick, so users can carry a complete monitoring suite in a pocket, giving any Windows computer with a suitable signal input port an automatic or objective monitoring device with waveform monitoring, vector scope and color gamut error logging and checking.

Versions are available for DV, HDV, SD and HD. The latter two are compatible with PC video capture cards. Because test results may be captured for later analysis, the VidScope-vx can be used to automatically process content, which arrives as a file over IP rather than as baseband video.

Camera calibration and alignment

In an effort to prevent garbage in and then garbage out, DSC Labs introduced two new camera alignment test charts. The Billups VF/X is designed for special effects and features an 11-step grayscale and gradient. It also includes vector color chips with skin tones, resolution columns and saturated angled RGYB. The Cam Align FiddleHeads chart simplifies backfocus adjustment via a double spiral test pattern.

Next steps

While IT vendors are increasing their presence at NAB, there is still a lack of genuine IT technology and system solutions at the show. Maybe NAB could take a proactive position and promote increased IT vendor participation. There is a need to see the demonstration of integrated system solutions on the show floor as well as have a dedicated conference track discussing real-world IT issues for broadcasters.


Philip J. Cianci has been in the TV business for 21 years and is currently writing a book about the transition to digital broadcasting.



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