Digital Rapids - Brick Eksten

(click thumbnail)Brick EkstenQ. What kind of products or services does your company offer for broadcasters?

A. We develop professional hardware and software solutions for the ingest, encoding, transcoding, protection, streaming, playout and delivery of content — with particular emphasis on the rapidly evolving range of content platforms that are defining the future of digital video. Combining top encoding quality with powerful integration and automation features, these solutions are designed to support our customers' business models while easing the transition between broadcast and IT technologies – not just technically, but also bridging knowledge, process and cultural divides. Scalable from individual applications to global workflows, our products can boost productivity and throughput, increase output qualityand lower overall costs for everyone from national broadcasters to local affiliates and independent stations looking to expand the reach of their content through new platforms.

Q. What’s new that you will show at NAB2007 and that broadcasters should look for there?

A. We’ll be featuring an array of extensions to our product lines that increase our customers’ throughput, quality and reliability in encoding, transcoding and media delivery. For our StreamZ and StreamZHD media encoding servers, new H.264 (AVC) studio encoding options based on technology from ATEME extend our existing H.264 support with enhanced output capabilities and quality for both file-based and live streaming applications including VOD and IPTV. We’ll also have news related to our StreamZ CP encoding systems with forensic video watermarking for content protection.

Our Stream Transcode Manager software, which we previewed last year, provides enterprise-level workflow management for transcoding high volumes of media files to multiple output formats with an exceptional level of load balancing intelligence for throughput optimization. For live applications, Stream Broadcast Manager provides scalable, centralized control, status monitoring and failure recovery for multiple live streaming encoders.

The latest version of our Copper global data-delivery software transfers media and data files securely and reliably with a tremendous speed advantage over standard TCP-based technologies like FTP over long distances (which increase network latency and packet loss), and with outstanding resilience to challenging network conditions. Copper benefits most applications for which broadcasters would typically use FTP, such as receiving advertising content from external facilities as digital media files, or providing original content, such as local news and sports clips, to content aggregators and syndicators.

Q. How is your new product offering different from what’s available on the market?

A. Each product has many specific differentiators, like the load-balancing intelligence and resulting productivity gains of Stream Transcode Manager; the extension of H.264 to full VOD compliance with support for closed captioning including EIA-708 and 608 in our new AVC studio encoding options; and the remarkable robustness of Copper under even extremely poor network conditions. Collectively, there are also common threads throughout.

Many encoding and transcoding products focus on format conversion in production workflows within a station or facility. This primarily solves logistical issues, however – for example, connecting disparate acquisition, editing and broadcast server formats – rather than empowering new content distribution opportunities. While our products support such conversions, we emphasize media publishing for multiple delivery platforms, and the points of content interchange in and out of facilities (such as the transfer of contributed content and advertising, syndication of original content for multiple platforms, etc.). Simply converting content to multiple formats isn’t enough; optimizing the presentation quality of the content for the target platforms and distributors is critical. Even the best content can fall flat unless delivered at the quality today’s viewers demand on their desired viewing device.

While our products stand tall on their own merits, I should mention our price advantages. As software-driven products running on common computing platforms, we can offer our solutions much more affordably than “traditional” broadcast pricing models.

Q. Where are you based, and how many employees do you have? Anything else we should know about your company?

A. Our headquarters are just a few minutes north of Toronto, Ontario and we have offices in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. We currently have about 50 employees and are steadily growing. Our size and unwavering focus enable us to be nimble and react quickly to dynamically changing media distribution models, with the flexibility to tackle unique customer requirements and workflows. Our R&D team has an exceptional pedigree in digital video, with many core members having worked together for more than 15 years and a track record that includes award-winning, revolutionary products and technologies in the broadcast, video and digital media domains. Our technologies leverage this experience into new solutions developed specifically for the demands of the new generation of digital media distribution.