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Harmonic to Showcase its Role in the Cloud & UHD at NAB Show

LAS VEGAS—For attendees exhibiting or attending the NAB Show, the industry has changed so much in such a short time as technologies, platforms and consumer habits evolve on a pace never before seen.

Jean Macher, director of market development, broadcast for Harmonic
“There are so many transformations in our industry for our customers, content producers, broadcasters, and distributors,” says Jean Macher, director of market development, broadcast, at Harmonic in San Jose, Calif. “We are trying to help them transform their operations.”

One of the most important transformations is the ongoing transition to move video operations to the cloud. This has become a given for most operations, although the change is happening at varying speeds, depending on the region and the type of customer, according to Macher.

Last year, Harmonic introduced the VOS Cloud comprehensive software solution, and VOS 360 dedicated end-to-end video cloud service. Both of these pure native cloud solutions run on public or private clouds, and Harmonic focused initially on workflow for OTT-in-the-cloud.

“This year we’ll show new features like time shift, ingest, and new workflows,” Macher said. “Our goal is to progressively bring all our technology, expertise, and intellectual property to these cloud solutions.”

Two new workflows take VOS beyond the OTT space: playout in the cloud, where the company is bringing all the expertise it has developed through its established Spectrum playout solution to VOS Cloud and VOS 360; and a second new workflow called “Distribution 2.0.” This is the ability to take video signals from a site or premises to the cloud, then distribute it back to another site over the public internet.

“This is a managed way for moving content, either from point A to point B or from many sources to many endpoints using VOS Cloud and VOS 360,” Macher said. “In a way you can see this as replacing or complementing some of the distribution being done by satellite with the cloud and public internet.”

With the spectrum auction completed, broadcasters are starting the repack process while also considering whether or not to deploy ATSC 3.0. Broadcasters may have less spectrum after the auction and repack, but they still need to find room for all of their existing MPEG-2 channels, while making room for ATSC 3.0 signals.

The answer is better MPEG-2 compression. “This is where we come in with our Electra X2, which is our full-software encoding appliance with PURE codec and FlexStream stat mux,” Macher said. “This is how we can optimize all the MPEG-2 channels and reduce the bandwidth needed to run them… it’s about making room, freeing up capacity for ATSC 3.0.”

OTT delivery has become as important as broadcast delivery for many customers, according to Macher, and the Harmonic booth will feature new innovations with specific demos.

One demo will involves EyeQ, a booster for Harmonic’s codec that increases compression efficiency by as much as 50 percent by modelling and leveraging the human visual system. On the booth, expect to see a constant bit rate image on one screen, and a variable bit rate image on a second screen driven by EyeQ’s human eye modelling that steals bits where they aren’t noticed to provide what Macher says is a “better picture at half the bit rate.”

Also promised are a series of QoE demos on various devices, some with IQ and some without.

Harmonic will also have dedicate a portion of its booth to UHDTV. “We’re starting to see a shift from proofs-of-concept to real deployments,” Macher said. The booth will feature an end-to-end workflow for UHD, with master control, contribution, ingest, playout, automation and graphics, and broadcast and OTT encoding.

Macher added that a currently unnamed customer operating a new UHD (with HDR) OTT channel will be a booth highlight.

He thinks a fair number of UHD channels might launch this year, but big events such as the 2018 Winter Olympics from South Korea and the 2020 Summer Olympics from Tokyo are obvious near-term drivers.

Beyond UHD, the booth will also feature a virtual reality demo, showing how tiling can be used to improve the immersive experience.

Harmonic will be in booth SU1210.