Digital Rapids' encoding

Internet Broadcasting publishes local news online for 79 TV stations of several major U.S. broadcasters, including Cox Television, Hearst-Argyle, Meredith Broadcasting, NBC, Post-Newsweek, Scripps Howard and The McGraw Hill Companies. Effectively bringing local news content to today's expanding range of new distribution platforms represents branding and commercial opportunities for TV stations. The challenge is integrating these new technologies with existing infrastructures.

We selected Digital Rapids' DRC-Stream hardware and StreamPro software to take our company and its partner TV stations to the next level of quality and reliability in both VOD and live streaming video. The hardware and software are flexible enough to work with the wide range of technology and infrastructure available at all of our partners' stations. Speed, efficiency and ease of use were also extremely important, as the systems must be usable by nontechnical editorial staff in a high-pressure, breaking news environment.

Integration and workflow

Internet Broadcasting has deployed approximately 40 systems with DRC-1500 cards. The cards' inputs include:

  • SDI and IEEE-1394;
  • analog composite, component and Y/C video;
  • balanced and unbalanced analog audio; and
  • AES/EBU digital audio.

One of the biggest challenges was dealing with the radically different technologies and resources available at all the TV stations we support. The DRC-Stream workstations allow us to integrate into virtually every environment. Some of the workstations have a single SDI feed with embedded audio; others are attached to an analog router feed (composite video and balanced audio), a DVCAM deck (via the DV input), a PVR (component video and unbalanced audio) and a VCR (S-Video and unbalanced audio) all at once. We have employed virtually every possible combination of inputs across our network to meet the requirements at each station.

On the software side, we have integrated the systems into NLE environments by dropping files directly from editing booths over the network onto the workstations, where the StreamPro software transcodes them into multiple formats for a variety of target devices. The software's automated FTP features allow us to name and transport the resulting encoded files for hands-free importation into our content management system. Installation, configuration and integration have been seamless.

Reaping the benefits

We chose the cards and software because of the quality of the video, the reliability of the card, the wide and ongoing format support, and the flexibility of both the hardware and the software. The onboard processing makes the cards stand out in terms of quality. The hardware-based preprocessing and deinterlacing are phenomenal, and the ability to capture several different streams simultaneously with almost no CPU overhead is incredibly useful.

The systems' extensible codec flexibility allows us to expand those workstations as new video format requirements (such as podcasting and Flash video) arise, letting the company leverage its existing investments as the field progresses. We can make use of a broad range of input and output formats, including AVI, Flash, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, QuickTime and Windows Media 9 (Microsoft's implementation of SMPTE VC-1). Most recently, Internet Broadcasting added the On2 VP6 (Flash 8) plugin to its format lineup.

Operationally, we have benefited both in ease of use and turnaround time. Largely nontechnical editorial staff perform video capture and transcoding, and the software makes the often-tricky transitions between inputs, capturing and transcoding easy. The simplicity and speed of the multiple-format transcoding process is essential for the workflow; the company operates in a breaking news environment where speed and ease of use are paramount.

The DRC-Stream cards and StreamPro software have enabled Internet Broadcasting to expand the reach of its partner TV stations into new distribution avenues, including the Web and podcasts. In addition, they have provided the company with the ability to create high-quality streaming media quickly and easily with existing editorial staff. The parallel transcoding saves critical time during breaking news, and the quality of the video matches the high expectations of our broadcasting partners.

TJ Kudalis is the senior multimedia engineer for Internet Broadcasting.