When it comes to video, more data translates to better quality. However, the large size of a typical video file in today's HD world also translates into transcode and transfer bottlenecks for broadcasters and production houses. It often becomes a trade-off between preserving quality and resolution versus limiting file sizes or bit rates to meet workflow deadlines.
For example, a master file for just one and a half hours of 1080p video could be as large as 540GB. This large file would require many hours to transcode into various formats for editing, broadcasting and archiving purposes. And at 540GB, this digital file would take longer to transfer from one facility to another over the Internet than it would take to ship a physical hard drive across the country overnight. With every project, the workflow comes to a halt as the team waits for files to be transcoded into different formats and then transferred between systems.
Brevity, a start-up based in New York City with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver, WA, is taking a new approach to video transport and transcoding that streamlines the workflow and eliminates the bottlenecks, yet preserves or even improves on quality by avoiding cumulative loss in production and distribution workflows. The Brevity system relies on a combination of licensed software per location and Brevity or third-party certified hardware that has the necessary teraflops of graphical processing power.
The service relies on unique algorithms that model and compress information, breaking down a video file into a much smaller “blueprint,” or set of instructions, for rebuilding the file into any format. This computationally intensive GPU-based approach is integrated into Brevity's enterprise video management tool, V3, which provides automated workflows with simultaneous transcode and transfer over a network.
How it works
To use the service, specialized rack-mounted hardware is installed at targeted destination points — for example, at New York and Los Angeles facilities. When a transfer is initiated, the algorithm uses specialized video router hardware to apply teraflops of compute power to break down the video into a blueprint-like set of instructions for transmitting and rebuilding the video while in process over the network. This approach of modeling the file into a set of instructions allows the system to reduce the amount of data that is sent over the network to as little as 1/30th the size of the original file.
Using the system, that one-and-a-half-hour 1080p video at 540GB can now be transferred over a 40Mb/s Internet line in as little as two hours (as opposed to 33 hours through WAN optimization alone).
Aside from reducing the transfer time, this approach also eliminates the need to transcode files after transferring them. Once the blueprint instructions have been transferred, the receiving client's unit will rebuild the file into any supported video format. In one step, the system compresses the source file, transfers it to one or multiple recipients, and rebuilds the file in the desired format. Essentially, the system offers simultaneous multipoint transcode and multipoint transfer.
For example, a user is finishing up a project in Avid, working in a DNxHD 220 format. The user now needs to hand off the video to another department. Using Brevity, it is possible to specify the recipients, select the DNxHD 200 file to send and then start the transfer. The recipient specifies the format he or she would like to receive the video in, so it could arrive in H.264, ProRes, MPEG-2 or many other formats. The system supports an extensive list of industry-standard and vendor-specific formats. New formats are added for all clients under license at no additional cost.
Maintaining high quality
While the system supports leading industry formats at ingest and output, it uses its own unique transfer mezzanine format called Image Warp to gain its simultaneous accelerated transport and transcode capabilities. Image Warp, a patent-pending algorithm tuned to the human visual and perceptual systems, has been tested in HD and cinema applications to be visually lossless. It is designed to support all content types, including those used in most high-end production and post-production workflows. In direct-to-edit workflows, Image Warp exceeds editing codecs in both objective and subjective tests at a fraction of the size, while also being able to encode in submillisecond-per-frame speeds. For example, in peak signal-to-noise tests, the system performs consistently at about 60dB.
The system's other algorithm, Data Warp, moves files in a bit-for-bit lossless manner, ensuring that the file quality is mathematically identical to the original source. Just like with Image Warp, users choosing Data Warp for lossless quality can simultaneously transfer and transcode while transmitting over the network.
In addition to transfer and transcode, the system also provides transformations such as frame rate conversion, aspect ratio conversion, letterboxing and others, simultaneously during transmission.
Brevity has built its service with simplicity in mind. The hardware, which includes GPUs, CPUs and SSD arrays, plugs into a network like a standard blade. If more processing capacity is needed, it is possible to simply add more blades. The additional capacity will dynamically cluster, providing scalable multiteraflop processing power. This additional processing capacity could be used to handle large files like 2K or 4K cinema files, or multiple, concurrent send and receive activities.
The system also includes a project paradigm to accommodate multiple workflow and collaboration features used across organizations and partners. A permission-based workflow grants access to files and other rules to protect access and how files are used. For example, it is possible to specify that high-resolution files never leave the internal network. An enterprise asset management structure organizes files into a single view, even when they reside on different servers located in different offices. Finally, Brevity offers a full set of Web services APIs to integrate into existing tools and applications.
The hardware acts like a video router, remaining invisible to the user. Clients access and manage files virtually through storage, clouds or SANs via an enterprise Web interface. A user signs in and then sets up a profile, specifying preferences such as formats to support for key tasks (DNxHD, ProRes, YUV, etc.). The V3 software then handles the rest. As a user selects the files needed from a virtual media asset management file approach, the system ensures that the requested files arrive at their proper destination in the required format.
Through its technology, Brevity is offering the broadcast industry a way to address bottlenecks and workflow workarounds with an integrated system that combines accelerated transfer with transcoding in a single, simultaneous process.
Jacob Bronstein is CEO of Brevity, and Timothy O'Brien is president of Brevity.
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