Softel — Ed Humphrey, President Softel USA

Q. What kind of products or services does your company offer for broadcasters?

Ed Humphrey
Softel specializes in ancillary data, providing solutions for captioning and subtitling as well as ad insertion, we also have an audio-description solution allowing the visually impaired viewers to access video broadcasts, as well as an Interactive TV platform that helps broadcasters and MSOs bring innovative interactive applications to their networks. We are experts in captioning and subtitling, and over the years our Swift family of software has evolved into a complete end-to-end solution that performs a whole range of caption and subtitle processes.

The latest Softel Swift family of software provides solutions for creating captions and subtitles in SD, HD and 3D, and is capable of encoding them, repurposing them and transmitting them automatically.

Workflows are becoming increasingly complex — captions and subtitles are delivered in multiple languages, across multiple channels and over multiple platforms so our subtitling software is designed to simplify the workflow while enhancing reliability and reducing operation costs.

For many years we have also supported broadcasters and MSOs with their interactive TV applications with our unique and versatile MediaSphere interactive TV platform. It’s a cost effective solution supporting a multitude of formats such as EBIF, tru2way, OpenTV and MHEG and it provides multiple playout of interactive applications through a single box, while allowing developers to test and verify their applications at each stage of the development cycle.

Q. What’s new that you will showcase at the NAB Show and that TV broadcasters should look for there?
Over the last few years we have been introducing subtitling solutions for tapeless workflows, supporting HD, multi-platform, multi-language feeds and 3D, to meet the demands of next-generation broadcasting.

This year, we are focused on making caption and subtitle processing simpler, smarter, and more efficient. Our most recent subtitling and captioning software provides automation and enhanced monitoring, simplifying the workflow and increasing efficiency to deliver a reduction in operational costs and fast ROI.

We will be showcasing MultiText, a recent addition to the Softel subtitling software suite that allows broadcasters to simplify complex multi-language subtitle playout. MultiText also helps increase reliability and quality thanks to its automated in-built QC.

Additionally, our new ScheduleSmart product will debut at the NAB Show. ScheduleSmart is an innovative captioning and subtitling control centre that automatically determines when to bind subtitles to video content: early, late or live, and it really streamlines a complex captioning workflow.

We have recently partnered with Panvidea to deliver caption and subtitle processing “in the cloud”. We have integrated our Swift vTX caption and subtitle encoding/transcoding technology with Panvidea to extend video processing in the cloud. Our joint solution provides leading broadcasters and advertisers with a high speed, instantly scalable method for inserting captions and subtitles into broadcast video.

Q. How is your new product offering different from what’s available on the market?
We are fundamentally different in the approach we are taking to resolving our customers’ challenges and the way we are developing our solutions to satisfy their requirements.

We work closely with some of the most prestigious broadcasters around the world to understand what they are looking to deliver their customers in the future. They are the trend setters so we get involved right at the beginning and get a good understanding of future applications and features that will ultimately give them the edge on their competitors. We then assess with them the technical, operational and financial challenges they have to resolve to achieve their goal and we set out to develop our solutions accordingly.

That allows us to ensure our solutions are versatile and future-proof, addressing a wide range of fundamental workflow issues. For example, in the area of captioning, given the current constraints on budgets and increased complexity of workflows, we have seen customers trying to develop in-house solutions. They quickly realize that they need an expert, so they generally go for cheaper options and then, when hitting a complex issue, find out that these cheaper options are limited. They come to us and we are able to provide a solution because we have thoroughly developed our captioning software to be versatile, cost-effective and feature-rich.

Q. How has your company been affected by the current economic situation and what are you doing to get through it?
When the recession started, our customers were at various level of maturity with their workflows. Most were in the process of doing one of the following: transitioning to tapeless, upgrading to HD delivery, exploring multi-platform delivery, and rolling out multi-language feeds. Some are also focusing now on 3D, but all, without exception, face the key business challenges of generating new revenue streams, or reducing operating costs, or both.

So our focus became two-fold: to support our customers in delivering their technology advancements while reducing operational costs and making it possible to generate new revenues.

Our strategy is to continue the stream of innovations and provide products and technologies that are better, cheaper, faster and completely focused on what most concerns our customers: real, tangible business benefits and return on investment.

A key element of this strategy is to actively form partnership with other complementary businesses in order to offer the complete system our customers are looking for. Our aim is to ensure our common customers can promptly deliver their new services, shortening their time to market and enabling them to start generating revenue rapidly. A good example of this approach is our partnership with Pixel Power, allowing us to deliver a fully integrated solution to deliver 3D captioning.

Q. Where are you based, and how many employees do you have? Anything else we should know about your company?
Softel has 45 employees and is headquartered in the United Kingdom. Softel USA focuses entirely on the Americas from its metro New York location.

With development centers in both the United States and the United Kingdom, a network a global partners around the world and strong partnerships with leading industry specialists, we are able to develop subtitling and captioning software that fit local issues and global distribution.

Softel has been around for three decades and counts prestigious broadcasters around the world amongst our customers. We are proud of our reputation for reliable products and strong customer ethic and are looking forward to a strong 2011 NAB Show as the economy recovers and our customers get ready to deliver the next generation of broadcasting.