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T-VIPS champions JPEG 2000 for future of program contribution

With content distributors faced with new competition virtually every day, T-VIPS, based in Oslo, is championing JPEG 2000 compression and IP delivery infrastructures as a way to help broadcasters efficiently and cost-effectively deliver content to multiple platforms. The company said its goal for the near term is to combine the two technologies and be a leader in JPEG 2000-over-IP networks.

For contribution networks and broadcasters alike, the first step is to begin with the highest-quality material on the contribution side, according to Janne T. Morstøl, T-VIPS COO and one of the founders of the company. She said that if you start with a good signal, it will benefit the various platforms all along the way to the consumer.

Wavelet-based JPEG 2000 compression is an increasingly popular choice for contribution due to its high video quality, low latency and its ability to stand up to the multiple encode and decode steps that often occur all along the contribution chain, due to advanced forward error correction capabilities. It can be used in two modes: visually lossless, providing high quality at 50Mb/s-1000Mb/s, and lossless, which uses less than half the bit rate of visually lossless schemes.

“We see lots of customers all around the world moving to JPEG 2000 on the professional side of the business because of its efficiency and ruggedness to stand up to supply-chain processing,” Morstøl said. “MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 will continue to be used for the ‘to-the-home’ part, due to legacy set-top boxes and infrastructures, but JPEG 2000 will clearly win out in the future.”

Production studios, such as Skywalker Sound in California, are using JPEG 2000 for approvals between two distant locations. Staring with a 1.5Gb/s signal, they can compress images down to as low as 50Mb/s and still get good-quality images. Broadcasters, however, send HD signals at 80Mb/s-150Mb/s to preserve image quality.

She said T-VIPS also feels that IP is the “proper protocol” for video transport; all new builds are based on IP. And, JPEG 2000 is recommended for live sports because its algorithms can reliably handle many fast-moving objects.

This trend happened in Europe first and is now taking hold in the United States. The migration to IP platforms is being driven by the lower cost of installation and the efficiencies it brings for file transfers. PBS stations WGBH, in Boston, and WNET, in New York, are both using T-VIPS IP encoders and other related equipment. The company’s TVG420 ASI-to-IP gateway enables the stations to cost-effectively transmit their locally produced programming over an IP network to the PBS Network Operations Center in Alexandria, VA. After encoding HD video to a 30Mb MPEG-2 ASI transport stream, the stations use the T-VIPS gateway to move the compressed digital video over a high-performance OC 3 IP network to Alexandria for HDTV broadcast nationwide.

“I think the move to IP is based on the fact that in Europe there was a lot of new infrastructures being deployed using fiber cabling and IP was the best way to send files over this type of distribution path,” Morstøl said. “It took longer in the U.S. because North America is a larger continent, so in order to make it available all over, it was more difficult.”

The last mile, from the core network to the TV station, has been the biggest challenges for U.S. broadcasters. But in many cases, it has been solved, Janne said, and IP infrastructures are being deployed everywhere.

“We’re even seeing wireless connections to the home, leveraging the efficiencies of IP,” she said. “However, we need to redefine new solutions for redundancy in the IP arena in order to get more people interested in sending their valuable content this way.”

At the upcoming NAB Show, in Booth SU7807, T-VIPS’ theme is “Making the Complex Simple.” To this end, it will demonstrate its existing portfolio of media gateways and a new multiplexer that leverages a Web interface to adjust date rate settings on the fly during a live production or for file transfers. The company will also show its new CP546 transport steam monitor, a system for monitoring transport streams, services, PIDs and PSI/SI/PSIP tables.

“We see customers caring more about system reliability and seamless switching technology,” Morstøl said. “If the main unit fails, it automatically switches over to a backup without the operator doing anything. It’s all done in the background, and you do not see it in the output stream.”

Morstøl predicts that this year’s NAB Show will be a good gathering because there is a lot of optimism in the industry and broadcasters are ready to continue to build their infrastructures. This year customers want to add on to what they already have in a cost-effective and nondisruptive way. As a manufacturer, the products have to enable them to expand without changing their existing technology. And, it has to be at the right price.

“The U.S. has taken longer to get out of the financial crisis, but I think the market is now picking up nicely, and there are more projects being started that were on hold for the last 18 months,” Morstøl said. “That’s promising for the upcoming NAB Show.”

T-VIPS has opened an office in the United States in Milburn, NJ, but most of its business is in Europe.