Skip to main content

Snell & Wilcox's iCR

Consumers are rapidly embracing the personalized and often portable media experience, and this trend gives content owners, distributors and service providers the opportunity to monetize their media assets across multiple distribution platforms and target devices. For companies in these categories, the challenge is to enable the creation of high-quality masters that can be repurposed for various platforms, such as VOD, mobile phones, portable media viewers and Web publishing, in an automated, scalable, efficient and cost-effective way.

Traditional repurposing has relied on separate encoding and transcoding processing steps. But this slow and operator-intensive approach limits the amount of media that can be repurposed because of the cost involved and the time required.

Integrated repurposing

To address this challenge, Snell & Wilcox has developed iCR, an automated content mastering and repurposing workstation that integrates a unique mix of image conditioning, content mastering, quality control and content repurposing functionalities into one workflow. (See Figure 1.)

The system performs all encoding and transcoding processing steps concurrently. And once the master-encode process is under way, it allows you to complete mastering and repurposing tasks in about the same time it would take to perform a single encode/transcode operation using a conventional system. The system also provides tools that dramatically reduce the costs associated with manual QC processes.

iCR features a complete range of SD and HD preprocessing and signal conditioning capabilities, including de-interlacing, frame-rate standards conversion, image resizing, aspect ratio conversion, multichannel audio handling and MXF metadata wrapping on the fly. Because noise, grain and other signal artifacts can cause visible blockiness and mosquito noise when pictures are compressed, the system uses sophisticated image preprocessing. Scene-change detection and 3-D wavelet-based noise reduction produce clean, artifact-free images for all distribution platforms.

Intuitive encoding

Because mobile phones, portable media players and computer screens feature progressive displays instead of the interlaced scanning used for TV broadcast, content delivered to these devices must have the interlace structure removed during the encoding and repurposing process. The system addresses this task with 3:2 cadence handling and de-interlacing capabilities to create various frame-rate SD and HD progressive masters and deliverables. It also automatically distinguishes between film and video-originated material and handles each in the most appropriate manner, allowing the user to create masters and deliverables from programs that feature mixed film and video content.

Quality control

Because the encode process is performed only once, and unlimited transcode processes can be achieved in parallel, it becomes much easier to repurpose content for multiple output formats. Automated QC monitoring is integrated at each step of the mastering and repurposing process to help streamline manual QC and allow you to focus on problematic areas rapidly.

Beyond just monitoring the technical characteristics of the video, the QC functionality also evaluates the quality and makeup of the video, audio and metadata content within the signal, both in the baseband and file domains. This allows the system to automatically provide an analyzed response as to whether each element of the program meets satisfactory viewing quality standards, as well as the legal and contractual requirements necessary to generate revenue.

Scalability

iCR's open, scalable architecture can be configured to meet specific needs, from simple encoding to the full functionality of the entire system. Over time, it is possible to add support for new consumer devices and distribution platforms.

Likewise, system throughput can be easily increased by adding extra workstations or by upgrading systems to the latest processor technology. The system supports many standard interface types, including SNMP, VDCP and XML, and can integrate seamlessly with existing asset management or control and monitoring systems.

Instead of performing all these processes manually and individually, it is now possible to integrate them into a single-pass, automated process that a single operator can control. Fast throughput allows the user to continue working and move from task to task without delay, instead of waiting for system processing functions to complete. In the course of the working day, this can add up to significant time savings. And by combining this concurrent processing with automated QC, iCR provides a low cost per deliverable while ensuring high-quality results, whatever the target platform. BE

Joe Zaller is vice president of marketing for Snell & Wilcox.