Omneon Gives MediaGrid a Mind of its Own

2007 is the year Omneon endowed its servers with sentience.

The muscle-bound MediaGrid can now use its brawn for more than storage thanks to new transcoding software dubbed “ProXchange.”

Geoff Stedman explained the technology at The Palms Resort during the April NAB event in Las Vegas. “Many applications need those files in a different format,” Stedman said. “When you move a file into MediaGrid, it’s automatically converted into every format you need.”

ProXchange handles formats and wrappers from DV and MPEG-2 types to H.264 and QuickTime. It can be configured via a “rules” engine to transcode an I-frame file simultaneously into long-GOP and H.264, for example.

There are other transcoders, but Stedman said ProXchange could take them in a dead heat.

“Flat out, it’s fast,” he said. “It transcodes up to 10 times faster than real time.”

ProXchange gets its juice from the MediaGrid architecture, which comprises multiple central processing units in each of its componential storage elements. These many CPUs were integrated so that various layers of MediaGrid could communicate, but they’re not always chatting. ProXchange draws its power from that CPU downtime, kind of like a small-scale SETI@home within the server itself.


If ProXchange represents a brain, then MediaDeck could be the hands.

By itself, MediaDeck is essentially a miniature Spectrum, with six SD, 50 Mbps I/Os and 4 TB of storage in a 2-rackunit box that goes for $36,000. It also has two I/O module bays for adding HD capability.

As an edge server, MediaDeck can perform ingest and play-out for MediaGrid, which lacks those capabilities — capabilities customers wanted, Stedman said.

Khalid Naseem was once such customer. Naseem is the head of broadcast engineering at TVNZ, New Zealand’s national public-service broadcaster. In its transition to do away with tape, TVNZ installed an Omneon Spectrum last year. A 34 TB MediaGrid with three MediaDecks will be added this year to accommodate two new channels.

When he heard about Omneon’s new ingest-storage-play-out setup, Naseem said, “A company had actually realized my vision.”

The final appendages of Omneon rollout are akin to opposable thumbs. The latest addition to the MediaPort line, the 5000 series, represents the company’s entry into HD encoding. Previous MediaPort generations handle SD material. The two types can be combined for multiformat encoding; something future versions are expected to do.

The 5000 Series is “designed to choose the right codec for the job,” Stedman said, be it hardware- or software-based.

The series also has more processing power to support features like audio scrub, enhances slo-mo and jog/shuttle, on material coming directly from a Spectrum.

The first of the new MediaPort models, the 5300, uses a codec licensed from Sony. Sony, in turn, is integrating Spectrum servers into its SONAPS news production system.

Toshihiko Ohnishi, deputy senior general manager of the Sony B&P Business Group, said the broadcast gear giant tapped Omneon because of its position in the server market, and its “commitment to MPEG-2.”

All three new Omneon products are expected to be out in the market by June.