Getting Agency Video Solutions 'In Tune' With Viewers

Viewers expect video on whichever platform they use
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Government broadcasters are increasing turning to streaming video to reach their constituents who are quickly considering other forms of communication less desirable, compelling or credible than video, according to providers of video transport solutions.

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Xilinx’s Virtex-6 FPGA Broadcast Connectivity Kit

Streaming video is becoming a necessity on many levels among government broadcasters for it is providing greater accessibility and transparency for government meetings and processes, or it could be educating the public on new initiatives, said Mike Nann, Digital Rapids’ director of marketing. Once the decision has been made to use video streaming, there are significant factors—including constituents’ expectations and production operations— that the government broadcaster must consider, he said.

Users of devices such as the iPhone and iPad and services such as TV Everywhere have led to an expectation that video will be available on whatever platform they want to watch on, Nann said. The availability of high-quality online content has raised viewers’ expectations for streaming video quality, he said adding, what was acceptable for video quality online a few years ago is much less acceptable today. Therefore, government officials or agencies that communicate with the public via video should aim to meet those expectations, or risk being viewed as dated or “less in tune” with constituents, he said.

DIGITAL RAPIDS

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Digital Rapids’ TouchStream

To help meet those expectations, Digital Rapids offers its TouchStream live encoding and streaming appliance. TouchStream encodes live sources for either immediate live streaming, or into files for later on-demand distribution, according to Nann. Digital Rapids took the same core technology from its high-end media and entertainment encoding products and put it into an appliance form factor with a touch-screen interface that novices can “master within a few minutes,” he said. TouchStream also supports the output format flexibility that Digital Rapids has been known for, and will create web streams for Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight while simultaneously creating iPhone and iPad outputs, he said.

STREAMBOX

Streambox Inc. is focused on evaluating any video over IP solutions, and to consider where the video is originating and what type of IP network will be used to transmit the video stream, says Ryan Davis, the company’s director of marketing. “If the video is being captured where only low-bandwidth connections are available, such as a remote location, reliability of the video transport stream is of higher priority than the video quality,” he said. However, if the video is being captured in a location with an ideal network connection, video quality and latency is of utmost importance for a solution.

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Streambox Inc’s Avenir

“At Streambox, we believe the guiding principle for video transport products is an efficient codec that can transport high quality video over low data rate networks,” Davis said, adding, “Our platform of products is based on ACT-L3 Codec that utilizes innovative coding methods to incorporate more efficient algorithms and new techniques to compress and playout video.”

To meet those demands, Streambox offers Avenir, a specialized HD and SD mobile broadcasting device designed for video contribution and streaming for non-technical users to quickly send live and file-based video from remote locations over bonded wireless 3G/4G networks and the Internet, Davis said. Because Avenir offers the performance and reliability that challenging environments demand, it can be used for a variety of applications, including emergency response, law enforcement, and mobile command centers for the armed forces. Avenir provides users with flexibility in terms of mobility without sacrificing performance, reliability and quality, he said, adding it is compact enough to fit into a small backpack or satchel, and the mobile encoder can be set up to start transmitting high quality video within minutes.

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VBrick’s H.264 Distributed MediaEngine

VBRICK

Focusing on the target audience, and the types of devices are they using and what is the desired format they want video deliver in is important information, said Greg Zweig, VBrick’s corporate marketing director. The reality is the device type matters because different devices support different formats, and the broadcaster needs to be sure that the video being put out on the network, supports those end points.

To transport that video, VBrick offers the H.264 Distributed Media Engine (DME). “This product is designed for redistribution of video at regional points in your network,” Zweig said. The DME’s key functions include media redistribution that is mirrors or reflects a single stream to many users. “It can convert from unicast to multicast, which is a very efficient way of redistributing,” he said.

The DME also can do is media transformation; it can take a single stream in and convert it from one format type to another. “We can take a single RPT stream in and convert that from unicast to multicast, or Flash, or transport stream. So it can take one stream in and provide lots of formats going out,” Zweig said.

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XILINX

Rob Green of Xilinx says video transport “boils down to transporting uncompressed video” over IP networks or on an Ethernet link, but there is a need for the video to be “of really high quality.” The limits that impact quality is bandwidth, he said. If the video is uncompressed, then for full HD type of video, 1.5 gigabits per second or 3 gigabits per second. That requires a dedicated network for those transmissions to work properly, it cannot be just sent over a normal Internet link, he said.

To facilitate that, Xilinx offers the Virtex-6 FPGA Broadcast Connectivity Kit. “It’s a kit that has hardware in it a PCB platform that is dedicated to broadcast applications,” Green said. The user can put in multiple SDI feeds, it has Internet capability, and all of the video processing is on this board, he said adding it is ideal for these type of transport applications because it acts as a bridge the user can develop on. “The IP we provide as part of this kit allows you to almost plug and play,” he said.

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