Snell & Wilcox unveils next-generation file conversion system

At NAB2006, Snell & Wilcox will demonstrate a new software-based signal conversion platform called Helios, that brings the company's' expertise in compression, conversion, and signal processing to the IT-centric, file-based domain. Helios will be available in a series of software applications that individually address different parts of the content creation and distribution chain.

Allowing a user to work with any type of analog or digital video file, Helios automates many of the processes traditionally performed in hardware, such as encoding, standards conversion and adds the ability to reformat content for different displays. Combing Snell's Ph.C motion estimation and Format Fusion technologies, the new modular suite of task-specific tools enables customers to create a file once and distribute to many platforms simultaneously and virtually hands free.

Running on dual-processing Windows (and eventually Linux) operating systems, Helios also provides seamless interoperability between different manufacturers' video servers. In its NAB exhibit booth, Snell will demonstrate the automatic conversion of a file on a Pinnacle Systems server being recognized and controlled by an Omneon Video Networks server. Currently you have to bring a file from the Pinnacle server out to baseband video, then re-encode it on the Omneon server. This labor-intensive process is streamlined with Helios, and avoids cascading artifacts often associated with this procedure.

Another application of Helios offers the ability of the software to process content for multiple distribution platforms. Called Mobile Content Processor, a master file is wrapped with metadata, via MXF, and from this several different versions of that files can be extracted and sent simultaneously. To demonstrate this, at NAB Snell will show its Kahuna production switcher outputting a video signal to a cell phone and an iPod, live.

Snell's experience with motion estimation and MPEG-4 encoding (in software) helps format the content for small screens. Baseband or MPEG-2 video is encoded to a H.264 file. Windows Media files can also be accommodated. Full resolution video is provided at 1.4Mb/s.

Mobile Content Processor takes a piece of baseband video (30fps) and converts the frame rate from 30- to 15fps (64Kb/s) for cell phone display. Using Phase Correlation technology, it also automatically tracks the area of interest in the image and reframes the picture to zoom in on it. This allows sporting events shot in widescreen to be viewed on a small screen.

It also efficiently separates the foreground from the background, using Motion Compensation, to blur the background while highlighting the main subject. This way the encoder is being used in the most efficient way. The Helios platform's intraframe processing enables Snell to produce high quality images at lower bit rates than most products currently on market

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