SMPTE: Something for Everyone

Advances in metadata among topics discussed
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Advances in metadata among topics discussed

PASADENA, CALIF.

Although imaging technology remains the central focus of SMPTE's annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, this year's show delved into distribution and metadata standards that promise to make video and audio content more ubiquitous and easier to manipulate.

High on the list of "here it is, make it so" mandates was the SMPTE Metadata Registry.

Oliver Morgan, president of Metaglue, a Lexington, Mass.-based company specializing in metadata applications and services, updated SMPTE members on the latest online version of the SMPTE Metadata Registry. The new service replaces a spreadsheet version that grew and became increasingly difficult to use.

The Metadata Registry allows creators of metadata to share the descriptions of their metadata with their users and suppliers, advancing the use of the descriptive codes in the television production industry.

"The registry allows companies, users and vendors to publicize what they're doing with metadata without revealing too many details," Morgan said. For example, BBC has entries on the registry that the company can allow to only be shared with its content providers and similar clients.

There are more than 2,000 entries in the new registry, which allows authorized users to search by keywords and similar fields. The online beta version of the registry launches this month; it will be reviewed by SMPTE in December.

"We want public availability [of the registry] as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of the year," Morgan said. Persons interested in testing the registry can contact Morgan at oliver@metaglue.com.

The conference focused on boosting efficiency in other areas as well.

ESPN's director of engineering and special projects, Ted Szypulski, shared his insights in planning and building the cable network's signature Digital Broadcast Center--120,000 square feet of technical space that includes three large production stages. Highlighted in his presentation were tests and solutions to intermix multiformat video--including 525 SD, 720p and 1080i HD--and a "novel and unique uninterrupted power supply system."

As noted in Szypulski's white paper, ESPN "provides for completely dual power feeds to any piece of broadcast equipment." As such, "no single failure can occur in ESPN's power system that results in a dual-powered broadcast device failing."

Distribution of power to subpanels goes overhead, leaving the underfloor area for low voltage signal cabling. Public utility-provided power, which comes from two different sources, can be switched to either or both of two separate 13.8KV feeds. ESPN's own generator can be switched on if either of the public power sources fail. And there are two completely identical yet physically isolated substation/UPS rooms.

Currently, BBC Technology (now Siemens Business Services) is working with ESPN to develop applications to improve the network's workflow, with Colledia for Sport and Colledia Control components to round out its media asset management and production systems. The new apps will replace legacy production systems. SBS is also developing a custom highlights screening app that lets screeners create logs during the ingestion of a game, to speed up

the process of producing highlight footage.

Christopher Purdy, MPEG Applications Engineer for Tektronix, claimed that the "secret of maintaining reliable, high-quality services over different distribution and transmission systems is to focus on critical factors that may compromise the integrity of the system."

To this end, Purdy described measurements that significantly aid in assessing these factors, namely Modulation Error Ratio and MPEG layer tests--specifically, H.264/AVC signaling and PCR measurements--to identify and help resolve jitter issues. He then went on to describe how to monitor these parameters down the distribution chain to achieve cost-effective results.

Pathfire's Co-CTO Joe Fabiano focused on delivery. To resolve the dilemma of high bandwidth, asset usage and labor costs versus declining revenues per spot (complicated by interoperability problems), Pathfire offers:

  • Networks from studios to stations that reduce bandwidth and asset usage;
  • "Always on" networks that eliminate dish pointing, scheduled feeds and re-feeds, which thus lessen labor requirements;
  • APIs and system solutions for "hands-free" workflow, which, again reduces man-hours;
  • Information technology and workflow integration tools, which reduce costs, improve quality and speed up the process.



Fabiano predicts increased usage of HDTV object creation, distribution, ingestion and preparation for air. He foresees browser-based interaction with a distribution and management system (access whenever and wherever), advanced codec usage in distribution and storage (cost-savings), and increased use of management systems to track and prioritize assets (improved efficiency).

Fabiano said that Pathfire supports AAF/MXF metadata and content conversion tools, and specifically makes MXF an optional output format; what's more, he said, the company finished lab testing an MXF product for a manufacturer a week before the conference began. He also noted that "our intention is not to use linear playback tools--we'll focus on file delivery."

CUSTOM CONTENT

Proving SMPTE has "something for everyone," Gotuit Media introduced its navigational indexing technology. By combining segment metadata with on-demand content, the technology lets viewers access the parts of programs that most interest them. According to Dana Burd, vice president, product management for the Andover, Mass.-based company, "there are no standards for this kind of metadata--we're using a proprietary XML." As for carriage, he said the app works on "every variant of SA [Scientific-Atlanta] for Time Warner and "one other MSO," and "on top of middleware" hosted by Motorola for Comcast.

As for the sticky question of who gets the feedback revenue from banner ads (i.e., content owners vs. distributors), Bard said, "we're the arms dealer in all this--we don't care who wins."