Snell & Wilcox Introduces Helios Software-Based Conversion Platform

Snell & Wilcox announced Helios, a revolutionary software-based conversion platform that eliminates the boundaries between video formats, global standards, and new media display devices. Helios ensures that all digital media, including live video, will perform optimally on any platform, anywhere—whether it be broadcast television, Web sites, iPods, mobile telephones, IPTV, video-on-demand, broadband, or a new service yet to be conceived.

Helios brings Snell & Wilcox's conversion, compression, and signal processing expertise to the file-based domain. Combining the company's Ph.C motion estimation and FormatFusion technologies, Helios finally makes possible the long-held dream of content owners and broadcasters to "master once, distribute anywhere."

Running on generic, open-standards IT hardware, Helios transcends simple transcoding by encompassing a complete automated solution that can convert—under user control—video, audio, and metadata to the required format in a single "anytime" pass. "Anytime" means Helios' intelligent job manager will dynamically scale processing throughput simply by applying the appropriate amount of CPU power required for an individual task.

The Helios platform family incorporates functionality for every aspect of the IT file-based workflow. Included in the suite are software modules for conversion, interoperability, and distribution.

The Helios conversion module includes the world's first software-based implementation of standards conversion with Ph.C phase correlation motion estimation. Ph.C, an Emmy Award-winning Snell & Wilcox technology, is the world's most powerful and accurate form of motion estimation. An interoperability module enables users to move files seamlessly between otherwise incompatible IT hardware such as servers and editing systems. A distribution module enables users to repurpose content seamlessly and automatically to the appropriate format for distribution to platforms such as broadcast television, VOD, IPTV, mobile video, and iPods.

Helios can be used in both the stream- and file-based domains, and its capabilities include the resizing, reformatting, and reshaping of images to deliver maximum emotional impact for each viewer. Along with delivering superb picture quality, it will also enable the remapping of multiple multilanguage audio tracks as well as provide comprehensive support of MXF metadata.

Unlike traditional transcoders that simply convert images, Helios harnesses Ph.C and FormatFusion to analyze the component parts that make up the video picture, ensuring that users of mobile devices get an equally satisfying viewing experience to that produced on conventional television displays. The result is pristine, artifact-free pictures on any viewing platform.

"Helios is our next major initiative to support our customers' businesses as they evolve to file-based workflows and capitalize on new forms of distribution," said Joe Zaller, Snell & Wilcox's vice president of marketing. "Helios is designed to dissolve the traditional barriers between incompatible video technologies. It enables content creators to distribute their work to any format, any platform, and any viewing device anywhere in the world. At the same time, we've moved past conventional transcoding to bring uncompromised image quality to each and every target device."

At NAB2006, Snell & Wilcox will exhibit the Helios platform in a stand-alone configuration, as well as in the company's live production and playout demonstrations. In each demonstration, the company will show how the Helios platform creates system interoperability and enables content to be distributed across multiple delivery platforms such as iPods and mobile phones.

In the live production arena, demonstrations will include Helios integration with the Snell & Wilcox multi-award-winning Kahuna production switcher. The Kahuna-Helios duo creates the first no-compromise, end-to-end broadcast solution that can simultaneously deliver live television programming direct from a production switcher to multiple real-time formats, in multiple resolutions, to a wide range of platforms and devices anywhere on the planet.

"The swift industry acceptance of Kahuna changed the way both customers and vendors evaluate production switchers," said Zaller. "At NAB2006, with the integration of Kahuna and Helios, we are again taking the state of the art in live production workflows to the next level."

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