Compression products at NAB2004

At this year's NAB show, there were companies, big and small, showing off tools of the trade using compression. MPEG is clearly the standard of choice
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This year’s NAB show was interesting not so much for what was there as for what was not there. In years past, compression was the technology of the day. Every company had a new type of codec or a new software tool to control the process.

At this year’s show, nary a mention was made of compression. It’s not that such products weren’t there — they were there in a big way — but the technology was hardly mentioned. This just follows the general rule that, when a technology has reached general acceptance and approval, you no longer celebrate the technology, but rather the tools that it spawns. Everywhere on the floor were companies, big and small, showing off tools of the trade using compression. From JVC’s wonderful small HD cameras to Scopus’ H.264 encoders, compression was everywhere.

MPEG is clearly the standard of choice for digital video. Whatever the MPEG incarnation, the digital video world is MPEG. Now, with the ratification of the MPEG-4 standard, a new, scalable coding technique has hit the market. MPEG-4 AVC represents a major improvement in compression technology from MPEG-2 and has been approved for adoption as a mandatory codec for the new HD DVD specification. MPEG-4 AVC and MPEG-4 AAF HE (another standard based on the same compression techniques) were evident in products all over the NAB floor.

KDDI R&D Laboratories

KDDI introduced several interesting H.264/MPEG-4 AVC products for the professional and prosumer markets.

MP-Factory is a software development kit for MPEG-1, -2, -4 and MPEG-4 AVC featuring real-time encoding/decoding/transcoding, frame-accurate editing, audio/video bit-rate conversion and content-based audio/video indexing. The functional APIs are available on multiple operating systems.

MPEG Edit Studio Pro is a nonlinear MPEG-4, HDTV MPEG-2, and high-definition video (HDV) editing tool. The LE version of this program is bundled with JVC’s consumer high-definition camcorder, the GR-HD1, and with its professional high-definition camcorder, the JY-HD10. The program provides nearly lossless, frame-accurate, MPEG-4/MPEG-2/HDV editing. It features logo insertion, scene indexing, a variety of media-conversion capabilities and a software-based HDTV player with a jog/shuttle controller.

Another interesting product from KDDI is the Highlight Creator, an automatic summarization software. Based on content-analysis technology, it summarizes input video in two forms, Skimming and Highlights, and converts summarized video into various formats for streaming and mobile use. Skimming is an outline version of the original content with preferred duration, while Highlights is a series of exciting events. Highlight Creator supports MPEG-7-based metadata description.

Interestingly, KDDI also had a JPEG2000 Hardware HDTV codec, the DHS-2000, which enables low-delay, high-quality transmission (50- to 100Mb/s) of HDTV programs.

Envivio
Envivio introduced the 4Forum Lite, an MPEG-4 webcasting system. This small, portable appliance enables a networked conference room to broadcast live and on-demand MPEG-4 presentations with synchronized video and the presenter’s PC screen over IP networks. 4Forum Lite uses MPEG-4 to deliver interactive and synchronized webcasts with a subsecond latency and the ability to scale delivery to thousands of viewers. Just plug the VGA cable into your laptop and you can be broadcasting in seconds.

Another Envivio product, 4Front MPEG-4 IPTV, is middleware for network operators. The 4Front middleware creates a client-user interface and fills it with metadata and business rules defined by the network operator. 4Front allows a network operator to offer a complete set of digital TV services.

DG2L Technologies

DG2L Technologies says that its Neuron can deliver high-definition and standard-definition interactive broadcast and IP streams over DVB-S, DVB-C, DVB-T and IP networks. The Neuron STB also offers advanced digital services, including video on demand (VOD), pay per view (PPV), personal video recording (PVR) and MPEG-4 systems-layer interactive program guides.

SkyStream Networks
SkyStream Networks showed the real-time, broadcast-quality MPEG-4 AVC encoding capability of its Mediaplex-20 video delivery platform. The delivery platform provides reliable IP video delivery with forward error correction (FEC), transrating and video-stream replication to different platforms simultaneously, along with bandwidth-rate reduction and MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 encoding and transcoding, all in the same high-density, multichannel chassis.

Ahead Software

Now, even Ahead Software has jumped into the compression fray with an update to Nero Digital. The company’s AAC developers have created optimizations to Nero Digital’s HE AAC core codec that include a downsampled HE AAC mode to provide higher-quality playback for AAC devices.

Apple

Apple showed off an updated QuickTime that incorporates an HD AVC video codec. The newest QuickTime AVC codec is scalable, allowing content creators to write their content for 3G phones, HD and everything in between. At the show, there were dozens of announcements and demonstrations of AVC, everywhere except in the Microsoft booth. Microsoft has its own proprietary format for this medium.

Other players

Microsoft was wooing media moguls with Windows Media 9 HD, mainly announcing integration partners for WM9.

Rainbow DBS' satellite service, VOOM, will use Windows Media 9 as one of the compression technologies when it expands its available satellite capacity for HD.

Akimbo Systems will launch an Internet video-on-demand service for television using Windows Media Video 9 and Windows Media DRM.

U.S. Digital Television will deliver 12 channels in SD using the technology.

Vistacast and WBT Systems will encode curricula in the compression format for datacasting to distance-learning students.

Harmonic demonstrated the DiviCom MV 100 encoding platform running the Windows Media Video 9 Advanced Profile (4:2:0, eight-bit), producing standard-definition digital video for IPTV applications.

Pathfire announced that it is adopting the technology for use in its new Point-to-Point newsgathering system.

Stradis announced that it is adopting Windows Media 9 and will support it on all its future video decoding and encoding products.

PRODUCT JACKPOT

A/V SYNCHRONIZER

TANDBERG Television demonstrated the EN5920 real-time hardware encoder, a dedicated hardware encoding platform for Windows Media 9 Advanced Profile that is currently shipping.

Digital Rapids demonstrated a real-time, software-based, WM9 HD encoder with its multiformat HD capture card, which features extensive A/V preprocessing and the Stream Pro encoding application.

Inlet Technologies demonstrated HD Workbench, an application that streamlines professional encoding from AVI, MPEG-2 and other formats into high-quality, WM9 HD content. Other features include batch-mode encoding, StreamRepair for reliable two-pass encoding, and controls for frame-accurate encoding from a file or tape.

Again, as in the past, compression is playing a large part in the digital revolution. But, this year, it is hidden behind a cloak of great products.

HD SIGNAL ERROR HEADROOM METER

Steven M. Blumenfeld is president ofStudioBroadcast.com

Fortel DTV FS-516
800-530-5542;
www.forteldtv.com

AUDIO NETWORKING SYSTEM

Transcode, synchronize and process a variety of source types: NTSC, PAL or SDI with analog, AES, embedded or Dolby audio; create SDI with embedded or AES audio out.

4sight HRM-1500
408-559-0255;
www.4sightproducts.com

HD/SD MULTIFORMAT ROUTER

Portable handheld device that quickly displays the spectral health of an HD signal; has an easy-to-read LED gauge; LCD display gives detailed energy readings on the total spectrum, fundamental and harmonic bands.

Calrec Hydra
+44 1422 842159;
www.calrec.com

CONSOLE

Provides a network for the sharing of I/O resources and control data between Calrec digital mixing consoles; Gigabit Ethernet fabric; features high bandwidth and a scalable, flexible architecture; includes remote I/O units with up to 96 analog or digital inputs or outputs; units may be connected onto the same network.

Quartz Xenon
888-638-8745;
www.quartzus.com

CARDIOID LAVALIER MICROPHONE

Available in two frame sizes; has signal processing technology modules on input and output cards; features optional dual internal controllers for deterministic switching; dual hot-swappable fans and power supplies; all active modules may be hot swapped from the front of the frame.

Wheatstone Bridge Router
252-638-7000;
www.wheatstone.com

DIGITAL MATRIX INTERCOM

Design consists of 7-inch rack-mount digital routing cages; handles 512 simultaneous audio channels on its backplane; features bidirectional fiber-optic or CAT-5 interlocation connectivity, all-digital domain AES switching, analog/digital I/O, and serial control and display with Wheatstone consoles.

Audio-Technica AT898
330-688-3752;
www.audio-technica.com

MULTICHANNEL AUDIO MONITORING SYSTEM

Subminiature cardioid condenser microphone offers high-quality, low-profile operation for lecturers, stage and TV talent, and houses of worship; 5mm diameter; operates on battery or phantom power.

Telex Cronus
952-884-4051;
www.telex.com

PROGRAM-INSERTION MONITORING SOFTWARE

32-port in 2RU; a maximum of four units can be linked to form a single 128-port matrix; allows two, three or four matrices to be combined by adding coaxial cable; USB ports for programming available on front and rear panels; fully compatible with all existing RTS matrix products; able to connect via an interface card to existing ADAM matrices.

Genelec 1029.LSE Powerpak
508-652-0900;
www.genelecusa.com

DIGITAL MEDIA DELIVERY SOLUTION

Consists of five 1029A two-way, biamplified active monitors, one 7060A LSE series active subwoofer and an acousti/tape frequency/wavelength measuring tape; includes a setup guide for accurate speaker placement, wiring and fine-tuning.

Pixelmetrix DPI Auditor
954-472-5445; +65 6547 4935;
www.pixelmetrix.com

INTEGRATED MEDIA PLATFORM

Allows broadcasters to monitor and audit the accuracy of digital program insertion; built-in function for the DVStation and DPI Auditor; separate DPI analysis application with enhanced features.

Telestream ClipMail Pro
877-257-6245;
www.telestream.net

PLUG-INS

Transmits MPEG signal to Telestream appliances or FTP servers anywhere; choose the transmission speed and video quality desired; send and receive approval to master quality video; deliver over any global IP network connection.

HP Digital Media Platform
650-857-1501;
www.hp.com

Simplifies and reduces the cost of content production, distribution and consumption; links production and post-production processes in a workflow-based system; enables shared use of a common set of media assets for rendering, editing, workflow, archiving and restoration.

VDS Synapse
631-249-4399;
www.videodesignsoftware.com

Features three new plug-in bundles for Quantel's generationQ range; supports After Effects plug-ins within the Quantel user interface.