Mobile Video in the Spotlight at IBC 2006

At this year’s International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), held in Amsterdam from September 8-12, two areas of interest for show producers and attendees alike were the maturation of digital cinema and the introduction of standards-based products for broadcasting to mobile phones.

Digital cinema provided perhaps the biggest news, with the introduction of 4K cameras and projectors. On the opposite end of the spectrum, and of more interest to, the streaming of TV and video-on-demand content to mobile handsets also generated a significant amount of interest. The DVB-H, or Digital Video Broadcasting–Handheld, specification is being championed by The DVB Project. IBC dedicated an entire day of conference proceedings to mobile broadcasting, as well as a heavily-visited Mobile Zone. Companies such as Envivio showcased products that take advantage of DVB-H’s inclusion of IP-based video transmission to the mobile handset, a market that has traditionally used non-IP data networks that presented a challenge for smooth broadcasting to mobile phones. Envivio’s product, for instance, introduces statistical rate control, allowing bit rates on streaming content for mobile handset to change rather than relying on the older constant bit-rate methods such as statistical multiplexing. What this means in the real world is that mobile service providers can potentially squeeze more channels of video into their limited data pipes, in much the same way that cable TV headends use bit rate control to add additional channels to a local cable TV service.

Another company that garnered attention in the mobile broadcasting space was CreateCNA. This Spanish company demonstrated a proof-of-concept last year that allowed consumers to become video cameramen for traditional broadcast news outlets. This year, with the product shipping, CreateCNA won the first IBC Innovation Award, beating out several larger names with its Mobile Studio. The Mobile Studio allows a handset on a 3G network to transmit video from the mobile’s built-in video camera to the broadcast station, which can then be immediately broadcast. While the image is small, and requires a graphic background to fill the rest of the frame, the advent of higher-quality mobile cameras and faster data services such as EVDO or UMTS means that quality can only increase. The Mobile Studio also has the ability to allow video transmitted from a laptop via a UMTS PC card to be broadcast, meaning that reporters in the field can use the higher quality built-in cameras that are now part of Apple and Sony’s laptop product lines.

To better explain the benefits of DVB-H, Didier Quillot, CEO of Orange France, described a typical scenario of a mobile user on a new DVB-H/3G network. "If a mobile user is traveling by train while watching video on a mobile handset capable of receiving a DVB-H transmission, the user does not want to miss content to receive a call," says Quillot. "DVB-H allows for full-time-shifting of TV viewing—including pause, rewind, and resume—keeping viewers from missing any content, even when they take a call, travel through a tunnel, or just choose take a quick break."

To handle the broadcaster’s need to repurpose or reformat content for mobile handsets, Telestream announced enhancements to its FlipFactory product line of media transcoders. In addition, the company showcased the rapid integration of Popwire’s well-known Compression Master and Compression Engine tools into the Telestream portfolio of products. A mere 40 days after acquisition, the Popwire products form the core of Telestream’s desktop transcoding tools, and the Popwire team—known for codec expertise for the mobile market—has been tasked with codec optimization for the growing mobile broadcast market."We feel the Popwire acquisition joins two companies with similar cultures," says David Heppe, president of Telestream. "Not only do our products complement one another, but the technical expertise of both teams allow us to provide value to existing and potential customers throughout emerging mobile delivery workflows."

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