IBC Offerings Expand Digital and Streaming Infrastructure for Broadcasters

If there’s a hint of Fall in the Amsterdam air, the trams are packed, and the RAI Congress Center is packed, it must mean that it’s September and time for IBC. The yearly confab, which occurs about six months after the annual NAB show, allows product manufacturers and service providers in the broadcast space to show off their wares, many of which were demoed in prototype or pre-release form at NAB.

Several infrastructure products of interest caught my eye during the pre-event briefings. These aren’t the sexy products that everyone’s talking about (and which will be covered in a second article), but these are the ones that can make a difference regardless of what type of broadcaster you are.

Hamlet Reel-Check
The first product of interest comes from a company named Hamlet, which has been in the broadcast test and measurement business for several years. Hamlet sells analog and digital scopes, but in a nod to the growing file-based delivery trend that broadcasters are using to deliver everything from ads to B-roll news packages out to air, the company is now offering a quality control file checker. Following in the footsteps of a company familiar to most StreamingMedia readers—Inlet Technologies—Hamlet’s Reel-Check is a video and audio offline test and measurement system. This software-based system, which runs only on Windows-based machines, provides, according to the company, "comprehensive quality automated monitoring tools, including video and audio error checking video and audio waveform monitoring, video and audio vectorscope and surround sound checking." The logging feature, along with a video monitor and measurement displays, allows those familiar with traditional tape-based error checking to monitor the progress, although the company also touts that the application can run unattended and flag anomalies in the log.

MultiDyne SDI Cards and Accessories
Another infrastructure area that’s seeing traction is the gain of SDI transport within the studio broadcast space. And it’s not just the big boys that are using SDI, a single-cable Serial Digital Interface that uses a BNC video connector but carries up to 270Mbps of data or enough to carry a fully uncompressed digital component video and 8 tracks of 24-bit 48kHz audio. The downside to SDI (and HD-SDI, its HD equivalent) is that everything runs on a single cable, so splitting out the audio from the video or recombining them back together takes additional hardware. Fortunately the price on these hardware pieces, called de-embedders and embedders, respectively, is dropping. If you only need to carry four channels of audio (or 2 stereo AES/SPDIF channels) a company called MultiDyne has released an embedder/de-embedder on a card (the DTV250) that slides into the company’s card cage (the UTIL-200). Additionally, the card option for the product is innovative, since multiple cards can be cascaded to support up to 16 audio channels per SDI stream.

Gefen USB-to-DVI- Graphics Adapter
For those who are doing rich media recording using products like SonicFoundry’s MediaSite or Accordent’s PresenterPro, but only have a laptop with a VGA output and don’t want to carry a separate splitter box, Gefen has a possible solution for you in its new USB to DVI Graphics Adapter product. The product allows a DVI or VGA display to be connected up to a USB 2.0 port for simultaneous video delivery through the laptop’s built-in graphics port as well as the USB port. Since output is delivered in DVI-I format, which sends both analog VGA and digital DVI signals, this allows for VGA or DVI output capability (and with the right splitter cable available from other companies, both VGA and DVI output). Screen resolutions of up to 1600x1200 can be used, but the product currently only supports Windows platforms (32-bit versions of Windows XP, Windows Vista 32 bit and Windows 2000, according to the company). Never a company to shirk from maxing out their product, Gefen also demonstrated the ability to use up to six USB to DVI Graphics Adapters connected to a desktop computer, with mirrored video being delivered to all six displays.

Orad and InLive Interactive
And, finally, if you’re pining to make virtual sets part of your reality—or are just a local video podcaster who wants to expand into live events with audience participation but can’t afford to rent a studio—Orad and InLive have a solution for you: Orad makes virtual sets, while InLive makes mass audience participation software. The combined partnership allows mass audience polling to be integrated into virtual sets, which means that the graphics portions for interactive voting, betting, shopping, quizzes and auctions will be integrated directly into the virtual set, shaving integration coding time from the process of broadcasting to a large audience. Fair warning, though, for smaller broadcasters: the pricing is a bit steep as it’s geared toward InLive’s typical customer base such as Sat1, RAI 1 and RTL. Still, it’s a large step beyond even what iChat Theater will offer in the upcoming OS X Leopard release.

All these products and solutions can be seen on the show floor at IBC through September 11.

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