Digital Rapids' Transcode Manager 2.0

The rapid growth of multiscreen distribution opportunities and increasing volume of content to be processed are putting more operational pressures on broadcasters and media enterprises than ever before, and driving fundamental shifts in their content processing workflows. Striving to grow their operations and output capabilities while managing costs, large media organizations are seeking more efficient automation of their remaining manual processes, and ways to scale cost-effectively to meet new opportunities and peaks in demand.

Version 2.0 of the Digital Rapids Transcode Manager automated media transformation software was designed to directly address these challenges. Built on the new Kayak application platform, version 2.0 combines the software's established quality, format flexibility and performance benefits with new features including logic-driven workflow automation, dynamic deployment flexibility and elastic scalability. Like the earlier releases, version 2.0 is optimized for high-volume, multiformat workflows, supporting a distributed architecture with up to hundreds of transcoding nodes and dozens of compression and container formats for acquisition, production, archive, broadcast and multiscreen distribution applications.

Adaptive automation

A key goal in developing the software was to enable a new level of workflow automation intelligence that could squeeze even more manual effort out of the transcoding process, enabling faster turnaround, reduced errors, greater flexibility and lowered costs. The most basic level of this is the ability to automatically detect the characteristics of the source media — for example, its aspect ratio — and assign subsequent processing parameters accordingly. That “analyze-then-act” ability alone, however, only scratches the surface of what's possible, and has been historically achieved by tying together separate applications. Such approaches in which a separate workflow management layer passes media linearly between distinct applications for various processes (such as transcoding, image processing and quality control) can be inefficient for tasks in which ongoing interaction between each function is desirable or necessary.

The software was engineered to overcome these limitations, blending workflow management, analysis, logic branching and transformation functions all at the same application level. Users can visually define workflows combining video and audio manipulations, compression, visual monitoring, publishing and more. Different tasks or parameters can be applied based on the characteristics not only of the input source but also of previous processing results within the same ongoing task, enabling workflows to self-correct based upon the success of earlier efforts. Frame-by-frame, inline analysis and logic branching enable workflows to adapt to anomalies or changing attributes even within a single source file, thus reducing the number of exceptions that must be handled manually.

Elastic scalability

To address media organizations' needs for flexible scalability, version 2.0 of the software adds new cloud deployment dynamics. While cloud computing allows media processing deployments to move from capital expenditures into operating expenses, for premium media organizations, such a transition isn't going to be a wholesale change. For larger media enterprises with existing media processing infrastructure investments, the focus is on on-demand scalability within and beyond existing in-house capacity, particularly to meet peaks in demand.

With this in mind, the new version is designed to deliver the experience of an on-demand cloud processing system on-premises within a facility, with a seamless path for expansion into the external cloud. Lightweight transcoding engines can be instantiated as needed using available software licenses and program components checked out from a central pool. This allows customers to leverage cloud technologies on local systems, effectively combining virtualization with a new level of dynamics by elastically “spinning up” new software resources as needed using existing underutilized infrastructure. For customers who later expand their media processing to the external cloud, local transcoding engines and external cloud-based engines appear side-by-side in the software's dashboard for seamless hybrid deployments. (See Figure 1.)

A foundation for the future

All of these new features and benefits — from increased automation intelligence to dynamic deployments and elastic scalability — are enabled by the underlying Kayak application platform, a rich, multilanguage component-based development framework and toolset that can also be used by third-party developers wishing to integrate their technologies with the software. Combined with Transcode Manager's extensive format support and proven quality through optimized codec implementations, the new version offers a modular media processing architecture that can easily adapt to the changing requirements of the expanding media landscape.

Mike Nann is director of marketing and communications at Digital Rapids.