Finding a cost-effective solution for the backhaul of news feeds from the field has always been a challenge for broadcasters. News organizations have traditionally relied on expensive satellite or microwave-equipped ENG vans, but more recently, broadcast backpacks that aggregate the video stream over multiple cellular data networks have become a popular alternative.
With the release of Teradek's Cube video encoder, news organizations have a solution for streaming HD video back to the station over a single IP network connection. The camera-top, H.264 HD video encoder mounts easily to any camera using a 1/4-20 screw or hot shoe mount and streams HD video up to 1080p30 over IP. The unit is about the size of a deck of cards and uses only 3.5W of 9V-24V DC, so it doesn't impede in the mobility of even the smallest camera rigs. It features wired Ethernet plus USB and WiFi outputs, and buyers can choose either HD-SDI or HDMI inputs.
The encoder uses H.264 High Profile (Level 4.1) video compression and features a built-in scaler to convert from 1080 to 720 or 480 resolutions. Users can choose a resolution and target bit rate based on the availability of IP bandwidth.
Uploading video to and downloading it from the public Internet presents challenges, but this video encoder simplifies the process. The unit features RTSP announce to easily broadcast from behind firewalls, and on the receiving end, the station has several choices. One option is to simply host a computer with a public IP address and direct the video stream to it. Another option is to use the unit's native Livestream integration. Users with a Livestream account can simply log on to the unit's Web user interface and enter a user name and password to begin broadcasting via Livestream.com. Livestream users can choose between public webcasting and private, so the news can stream privately and discreetly back to the station for broadcast distribution.
The increasing implementation of 4G cellular data networks means that journalists can use a Sprint Overdrive, Verizon 4G LTE modem or similar 4G WiFi hot spot to bring along their own broadband WiFi access point. The ENG van was reduced to a backpack; now, it's been reduced again, and the data rates are high enough to provide Blu-ray-quality video over a single IP data connection.
The increase in mobility compared with a traditional ENG van means that, for the cost of a lift ticket, newscasters can report live from the summit of the local ski resort rather than the parking lot. One sportscaster has successfully tested a direct-to-Livestream connection from a large radio-controlled helicopter and plans to use the video encoder to broadcast aerial footage of professional surfing and automobile races when the 2011 season begins.
The low cost of the unit combined with the low cost of IP video over WiFi or 4G provides a significant cost savings over the ENG van using microwave or satellite. Compared with broadcasting backpacks, Cube is one-fifteenth the cost to acquire and uses one-fifth of the bandwidth. News organizations employing IP video solutions can have a competitive advantage in the market, with greater mobility, lower cost and the ability to put significantly more feet on the street within the same budget, or even for a profit. With pervasive WiFi coverage and 4G availability, IP is the future of backhaul.
Rod Clark is director of marketing for Teradek.
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