Sony puts the pieces together at NAB

With its cameras and production switchers firmly entrenched in broadcast and video production facilities around the world, at NAB Sony will unveil a new strategy that addresses the needs of large media organizations struggling with huge content archives and multiple production-related activities occurring simultaneously.

The idea is to penetrate the enterprise-level content management and resource allocation market with a new service-oriented architecture (SOA) initiative that leverages file-based workflows and automatically manages the required processes along the way. The platform can be used to receive raw files, log and digitize them into the system, generate a high-resolution master, perform QC and metadata essence related to those files, and then send the material to the appropriate users or to an archive for storage.

Sony’s Solution division will be responsible for installing and maintaining all types of system designs that will use the Media Backbone, including those configured for workflows ranging from SD and HD up to 3D and 4K resolutions, depending upon customer needs. Users can employ the platform as a stand-alone device or as part of an SOA-based operation, adding new firmware cards as necessary — including new ingest and transcoding (MPE-L1000) and transocde-only (MPE-T1000) modules.

The new Media Backbone platform is a collection of task-specific software modules and hardware products that address the entire production workflow — from ingest to archiving — while providing centralized network-based management of audio and video files and related metadata. It supports existing Sony products, such as: HDXchange, a collaborative editing software; SONAPS, a news production system; and the XDCART and PetaSite storage solutions. It also accommodates third-party solutions to give customers the choice to work with those applications and products they have grown to like.

“For Sony, the emphasis is now on open infrastructures, not individual pieces of proprietary gear,” said Alec Shapiro, senior vice president of sales and marketing, broadcast and production systems. “We certainly continue to market the many cameras and other products that we will show on the exhibit floor, but we think broadcasters are looking for a way to connect the pieces and make their facilities and staff as productive as possible. That includes providing a framework upon which third-party solutions can be added as necessary.”

With the transition to file-based production, broadcasters are now faced with a multitude of file types that need to be organized, converted and distributed in the most efficient way in order to facilitate easy retrieval and repurposing.

As part of this new initiative, Sony will introduce the Media Backbone Conductor, a platform designed to make workflows visible at the system level, so that they can be carried out more efficiently and treated as regular business processes; and Media Backbone Ensemble, a suite of software solutions designed specifically to provide efficient management of ingest and archive workflows, working in conjunction with the Media Backbone Conductor and platforms from other manufacturers.

The Media Backbone Conductor (MBC) is based on an SOA design successfully used by large organizations in the IT industry. SOAs facilitate integration among disparate systems and allow A/V files to be shared among users via a “Media Bus” network and storage system. Sony’s Media Bus Management functions enable the efficient management of content within the Media Bus.

An integral part of the Media Backbone architecture is “ELLCAMI,” a resolution-independent multiformat ingest and transcoding platform that’s based on Sony’s Cell processor technology. Providing the power of up to 128 cores per workstation supporting up to eight baseband I/O ports (four HD-SDI inputs, four HD-SDI outputs and dual-link), this cell technology is the same used for Sony’s PlayStation 3 console CPU. This high-speed processor can rapidly ingest video in a range of formats and resolutions (from 4K to proxy), process and convert video files without reducing quality, and output the results in a variety of formats.

The ELLCAMI system can also automatically detect dark frames and other file errors, reducing the time required for visual error checking. When used with multiclient software, multiple users can carry out ingest and transcoding work at the same time. ELLCAMI supports the following formats: DPX, OpenEXR, JPEG2000 (lossless and lossy), MPEG-2 long-GOP, VC-3, BMP, WAV, BWF. Additional formats will be supported in the future.

According to Peter Crithary, marketing manager for production in Sony’s Broadcast and Professional Systems Division, there will be options for 10Gb/s Ethernet and Fibre Channel connectivity.

This is about work that will actually flow,” said Crithary.