PixelPower

Ahead of the Pack at NAB 2016

At NAB this year we pulled off something that I think no-one else has ever done and we’d like to shout about it.

We presented a real, fully-featured, graphics-rich, channel playout from the cloud non stop on the booth. Honestly. It was “Live from NAB” and fully working, fully functional and although we use the term “virtualized” in our business this was anything but virtual, it was very real. As I said, I think this was unique and was regularly told so by clients.

When I say fully functional, I mean it looked and behaved exactly like a real television channel. This is because it was running on our proven StreamMaster playout software. We had preview and programme monitors on our NAB booth, fed from the cloud using Amazon Web Services. We controlled it not just from our playout software, but we had a manual control panel on the booth, talking to the cloud software, with the sort of minimal latency responsiveness that you would expect from any broadcast playout system.

The software in the cloud included a Clarity engine, so we were inserting the sort of 3D graphics you would expect from a playout suite. We included squeezebacks and secondary events.

The output of our channel talked to Wowza, which in turn talked to the Akamai CDN, which provided online delivery of the seamless, professional channel.

We had a lot of visitors to the booth. All the broadcasters that saw it, got it immediately. This is the perfect disaster recovery solution for premium channels, as well as giving tier two channels a route to high quality presentation at an affordable rate.

The demonstration was so instantly impressive that as soon as I got back to the office I had to start designing proof of concept proposals for several major broadcasters.

And here is the really impressive thing. For six days at NAB (we set the system up on Saturday so we were ready for the show opening on Monday) we spent just several hundred dollars on AWS (Amazon Web Services). And because it is the infinitely flexible cloud, now we are spending nothing at all on it.

That makes the disaster recovery situation particularly exciting. Broadcasters now have the option to build a disaster recovery site and equip it with a reduced spec version of the main playout centre. Or they can rent space and capacity in an alternative provider’s playout centre that can be turned on when needed. The first option is very expensive, the second has a continuing, not insignificant operational cost.

Or they can use AWS and spend a few hundred dollars per day should disaster strike. And much much less if disasters stay away.

That pretty much fits with the current industry vibe, which is very much about reducing costs and concentrating on revenues. Everyone knows that virtualisation and the public cloud is going to feature heavily in our future, but smart broadcasters recognise that they have no need to rush into it. Better to dip your toes in where it makes sense and work with vendors that have proven functionality right now to do those all-important proof of concepts.

This is where Pixel Power comes in, offering automated content creation and playout, on-premise, in a virtual data center or in the public cloud if you want it.

Proven at NAB; deliverable today. It is good to be ahead of the pack.

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