Volicon Debuts Review, Comply, and Monitor Applications for Observer® Media Intelligence Platform™ at the 2014 NAB Show

During the 2014 NAB Show, we will also feature the new Review, Comply, and Monitor applications within the company’s Observer® Media Intelligence Platform™. While the platform itself records a station’s media from ingest to playout, as well as multiple on-air broadcasts, these three applications provide powerful tools for evaluating and validating the content of advertising, promos, and programming; assuring the adherence of audio, video, and required metadata to applicable standards and regulations; and monitoring and maintaining the integrity of content and service delivery.

“The Review, Comply, and Monitor applications within the Observer Media Intelligence Platform capitalize on proven Volicon technology to address critical concerns within the broadcast enterprise,” said Russell Wise, vice president global sales at Volicon. “While the Review application provides convenient tools for assessing and improving the quality, substance, and timing of aired content, the Comply application supplies the combination of recorded content and metadata that is essential for effective demonstration of regulatory compliance. The Monitor application provides the robust toolset that has made our Observer systems the top choice of engineers at media facilities worldwide.”

Our Media Intelligence Platform boasts unique content-recording capabilities and an intuitive user interface that enables multiple users to stream, analyze, and review content from anywhere at any time. When equipped with the Volicon Review application, the platform gives broadcasters, networks, and playout service providers a fast and intuitive solution for reviewing on-air content, validating ad placement, and performing competitive analysis.

The Review application makes high-resolution live and historical broadcast content available locally and lower-resolution proxy versions available on any device. With immediate access to broadcast content, users working centrally and across geographically distributed sites can keep an eye on their own broadcasts, as well as those of their competitors, and the associated ratings data within a single GUI. Because the application interfaces with the playout automation system to provide as-run log data for comparison with the frame-accurate recording of the broadcast output, users can easily show advertisers what they’re getting for their money.

Our Comply application enables users to record, clip, and export their broadcasts to meet regulatory and licensing requirements. Addressing a complete array of regulations, ranging from decency to closed captioning to loudness, this scalable and highly reliable product allows users to respond quickly and unambiguously to compliance requests. Leveraging Our proven compliance monitoring technology, the Comply application lays critical A/V metadata over frame-accurate video to create a clear visual affidavit of compliance.

Built on our acclaimed digital video monitoring technology, the new Monitor application allows users to monitor video quality, respond to fault reports, and use a full recording of the on-air broadcast for instant review of errors and their impact. While continuously analyzing logged content for a variety of faults such as black or static screen, loss of video or closed captions, and incorrect audio levels, this application provides flexible, individually configurable alert thresholds, with notifications delivered via email or SNMP traps.

Quality measurement thresholds may be configured per channel to optimize performance and error reporting. To further simplify network monitoring and troubleshooting, the Monitor application provides an integrated multiviewer feature that enables Media Intelligence Platform users to use their standard displays as multiviewers or record the output of a traditional multiviewer. With multiple streams presented on a network wall, users can respond immediately to any issues, instantly grabbing the suspect stream via their desktop interfaces to begin resolving the problem.

We will demonstrate the Observer Media Intelligence Platform(tm), running the Review, Comply, and Monitor applications, at its booth (SU7121) during the 2014 NAB Show.

Stop by and see us!

Volicon Unveils ‘Capture’ and ‘Share’ Applications for New Observer® Media Intelligence Platform™ at 2014 NAB Show

 Volicon will showcase the new Capture and Share applications for the company’s Observer® Media Intelligence Platform™ at the 2014 NAB Show. Designed to help broadcasters capitalize on new opportunities to increase their ability to capture and distribute new content quickly, these applications build on the Media Intelligence Platform’s unique content-recording capabilities and intuitive user interface to speed and streamline multiplatform content creation and delivery.

The new Observer Media Intelligence Platform makes it easy and cost-effective for broadcasters to capture media from a variety of sources and quickly produce and deliver compelling content to viewers via on-air broadcast, as well as digital and social media platforms,” said Gary Learner, chief technology officer at Volicon. “Our Capture and Share applications for this innovative platform provide powerful, intuitive tools that simplify and accelerate this process.”

Serving as a cost-effective alternative to expensive dedicated capture stations, Volicon’s new Media Intelligence Platform allows broadcasters to capture media from any source at any time, ingesting media either according to a schedule, in real time, or via 24×7 recording. Equipped with the Capture application, the platform supports a fast, simple edit workflow by enabling the user to review content as it is captured, immediately clip high-value content, and push it directly to editing and media asset management systems without time-consuming transcoding steps. Because a low-resolution proxy is created along with the True HD (1080i 25/30, 720p 50/60) recording, both local and remote Observer Media Intelligence Platform users — remote staff, partners, consultants, outside talent, and reporters in the field — can quickly and easily collaborate to access, review, and clip content to create valuable footage for distribution.

Further enabling speed and agility in publishing content to a multitude of digital platforms, Volicon’s Observer Share application within the Media Intelligence Platform allows the broadcaster to repurpose existing content quickly and efficiently and subsequently push it to digital platforms and social media sites. One-button publishing profiles facilitate rapid processing of content to meet appropriate container and encoding requirements for an array of platforms, including target websites, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Observer Share also makes use of existing closed-captioning text to publish content that is compliant with government regulations.

Volicon will demonstrate the Media Intelligence Platform, equipped with both the Capture and Share applications, at its booth SU7121 during the 2014 NAB Show.

 

Proven Platform Simplifies Content Capture, Repurposing, and Publishing to Social Media

By Russell Wise, Vice President of Global Sales

Still operating in an environment that demands they do more with less, broadcasters must consider every new opportunity for to create compelling content, higher ratings, and new ad revenue.  To take advantage of this opportunity they must be able to capture media efficiently, make it readily available   into an edit workflow to create content and deliver it to broadcast, and web, cell, and social media platforms.

Broadcasters gain a competitive edge when they can create timely content not only for air, but also for live streaming via the Internet. The content may be a news promo or replay of a breaking news story, sports coverage such as a highlights reel, or a full replay of a live event. Whatever the subject matter, this capability gives the broadcaster a valuable chance to leverage valuable content more fully.

Key to this task is the use of a cost-effective solution to capture, share, review, and extract content from the aired broadcast and other sources. For this reason, content repurposing has become one of the most popular applications for Volicon’s Observer® video monitoring and logging technology in the broadcast realm. This is true in part because staff members already are familiar with the Observer’s operation, but also because the system allows frame-accurate content to be reviewed very quickly and easily. The difference today is that many broadcasters use the system and the high-quality aired content it captures to repurpose and provide timely content to viewers through alternative viewing platforms.

Seeing the “capture and create” trend explode across the Observer user base, Volicon has unveiled a product engineered to better facilitate the capture of content and multiplatform media delivery. At the 2014 NAB Show, Volicon is showcasing the new Create product, which provides a cost-effective alternative to expensive dedicated capture stations. With this solution, broadcasters can capture media from any source at any time, ingesting media either according to a schedule, in real time, and or 24×7 recording.

The Volicon product supports a fast, simple edit workflow by enabling the user to review content as it is captured, immediately clip high-value content, and push it directly to editing and MAM systems without time-consuming transcoding steps. Because a low-resolution proxy is created along with the True HD (1080i 25/30, 720p 50/60) recording, both local and remote Observer users — remote staff, partners, consultants, outside talent, and reporters in the field — can quickly and easily collaborate to access, review, and clip content to create valuable footage for distribution.

To simplify and accelerate publishing of this content, Volicon had introduced the Share product, which enables users to package and move content to Web, mobile, and social media platforms with speed and ease. One-button publishing profiles facilitate rapid processing of content to meet appropriate container and encoding requirements for an array of platforms, including target websites, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Using this new application to distribute timely content to a multitude of platforms and destinations quickly, broadcasters and networks can cost-effectively extend the utility and value of their content while establishing a meaningful presence across popular digital and social media platforms.

During the 2014 NAB Show, we will demonstrate how its flagship Observer product suite has evolved to support capture and publishing, along with compliance monitoring, ad verification, competitive analysis, and quality-of-service monitoring.  The company will show how these products can provide the intelligence, functionality, and intuitive operation required for broadcasters to be successful in delivering content to their target audiences on virtually any platform.

Stop by our  booth at the 2014 NAB Show (SU7121) for ongoing product demonstrations throughout the show.

 

 

Volicon Products and Applications at the 2014 NAB Show

STOP BY AND SEE WHAT’S NEW AT NAB - BOOTH SU7121

At the 2014 NAB Show, Volicon will unveil five powerful new applications within the company’s Observer® Media Intelligence Platform (MIP)™, an enterprise-wide solution that records a station’s media from ingest to playout, as well as multiple on-air broadcasts. In addition to enabling multiple users to stream, analyze, and review content from anywhere at any time, the platform supports a range of applications including compliance, quality assurance, competitive analysis, production, and repurposing for multiple platforms and social media outlets. With these tools, MIP users are equipped to capitalize on new opportunities to create compelling content, raise viewer ratings, and generate new ad revenue.

NEW Capture

Today’s broadcaster must capture media from a variety of sources to produce compelling content for viewers, whether delivered via on-air broadcast or a digital platform such as Web, mobile, streaming, and OTT services. Serving as a cost-effective alternative to expensive and cumbersome capture stations, Volicon’s new Capture application allows broadcasters to capture media from any source at any time, ingesting media either according to a schedule, in real time, and/or 24×7 recording. The application supports a fast, simple edit workflow by enabling the user to review content as it is captured, immediately clip high-value content, and push it directly to editing and MAM systems without time-consuming transcoding steps. Because a low-resolution proxy is created along with the True HD (1080i 25/30, 720p 50/60) recording, both local and remote Observer® Media Intelligence Platform (MIP)™ users — remote staff, partners, consultants, outside talent, and reporters in the field — can quickly and easily collaborate to access, review, and clip content to create valuable footage for distribution.

NEW Share

Broadcasters today need an agile way to publish exciting and compelling content to a multitude of digital platforms including the Web and social media outlets. This typically is a cumbersome and expensive process, but Volicon’s new Share application allows the broadcaster to repurpose existing content quickly and efficiently and subsequently push it to digital platforms and social media sites. One-button publishing profiles facilitate rapid processing of content to meet appropriate container and encoding requirements for an array of platforms, including target websites, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Share also makes use of existing closed captioning text to publish content that is compliant with government regulations.

NEW Review

The new Volicon Review application provides broadcasters, networks, and playout service providers with a fast and intuitive solution for reviewing on-air content, validating ad placement, and performing competitive analysis. This application facilitates rapid access to broadcast content for users working centrally and across geographically distributed sites, thus giving all key stakeholders the ability to keep an eye on their own broadcasts, as well as those of their competitors, and associated ratings data within a single GUI. Making high-resolution live and historical broadcast content available locally and lower-resolution proxy versions available on any device, the application gives users the ability to review and analyze their broadcasts at any time, from anywhere. The application interfaces with the playout automation system to provide as-run log data for comparison with the frame-accurate recording of the broadcast output, thus making it easy for users to show advertisers what they’re getting for their money.

NEW Comply

Volicon’s new Comply application enables users to record, clip, and export their broadcasts to meet regulatory and licensing requirements. Addressing a complete array of regulations, ranging from decency to closed captioning to loudness, this scalable and highly reliable application allows users to respond quickly and unambiguously to compliance requests. Leveraging Volicon’s proven compliance monitoring technology, Comply lays critical A/V metadata over frame-accurate video to create a clear visual affidavit of compliance.

NEW Monitor

Built on Volicon’s acclaimed digital video monitoring technology, the new Monitor application allows users to monitor video quality, respond to fault reports, and use a full recording of the on-air broadcast for instant review of errors and their impact. While continuously analyzing logged content for a variety of faults such as black or static screen, loss of video or closed captions, and incorrect audio levels, this application provides flexible, individually configurable alert thresholds, with notifications delivered via email or SNMP traps. Quality measurement thresholds may be configured per channel to optimize performance and error reporting. To further simplify network monitoring and troubleshooting, the application provides an integrated multiviewer feature that enables Observer® Media Intelligence Platform (MIP)™ users to use their standard displays as multiviewers or record the output of a traditional multiviewer. With multiple streams presented on a network wall, users can respond immediately to any issues, instantly grabbing the suspect stream via their desktop interfaces to begin resolving the problem.

Presentation: “How Advances in Remote Monitoring Benefit Even the Smallest Operations”

Gary Learner, chief technology officer at Volicon, has been selected to present a paper as part of the Broadcast Engineering Conference at the 2014 NAB Show. Learner’s presentation, titled “How Advances in Remote Monitoring Benefit Even the Smallest Operations,” will be held on April 8 at 5 p.m. in room S228 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Powerful New Applications of Monitoring Technology in News and Sports Broadcasting

 By Russell Wise, Vice President of Global Sales at Volicon

Digital video monitoring and logging solutions have been adopted worldwide for compliance and monitoring applications. Users often record the transport stream   to enable immediate review of aired content at the highest possible quality and then also maintain a lower resolution version of aired content for months or even years. Feeding as-run logs from automation to the monitoring system, media companies can very quickly and easily dial back and export a clip that demonstrates compliance with loudness, closed-captioning, and decency regulations, as well as with advertising contracts. While this capability is of enormous value, broadcasters have discovered that they can leverage this technology investment in even more important applications.

A number of leading broadcasters across the globe  are putting monitoring and logging system to work to improve news operations through review of aired content for ad verification and competitive review, and extend content delivery to a digitial platform consisting of web, cell, social media and fouth screen.”

In news operations, the system enables fast, easy review of recent newscasts. Thus, when working with news consultants to improve the on-air product, the network can simply provide browser-based access to a proxy version of content and export a high-quality transport stream for areas requiring closer attention. Because video can be viewed remotely with the functions typical of a DVR, it is easy for the network and its consultants to work collaboratively in enriching both production and news quality. This convenient capability is used on a daily basis.

Ad review has proved to be another valuable application supported by advanced monitoring and logging systems. The network’s stations often field questions about whether or not ads were delivered as required. With the ability to locate and extract clips from a browser-based GUI, authorized users at the desktop can offer proof of performance and more, quickly compiling and delivering to the client a sequence of clips that showcases a full ad campaign. The result is a powerful ad sales tool — particularly at the local level — that helps to persuade clients that their past, current, and future investment with the station is worthwhile.

Finally, the network is using its monitoring and logging system daily to drive content to other digital platforms including web, cell, social media and  fourth screen.  For example one leading TV stations uses their logging system to repurpose content to be viewed in taxi cabs.  Again using as-run logs from automation, the network can clip and export segments to which it has rights and publish it to the fourth screen system, complete with accurate captions.

The same technology has been implemented by a leading network’s news website to facilitate rapid content creation and sharing. Clips extracted from logged content is encoded at a high bit rate (720p 6Mbps) and delivered, complete with SMPTE-TT-compliant closed-captions, to the CDN for streaming to website visitors. Offering exceptionally fast access to aired content, as well as the captioning now required for Internet-delivered content, the monitoring and logging system supports timely mobile and Web publishing — within as few as seven seconds of the actual air time.

As staff members create the companion stories for the website, they can review a proxy version of the broadcast to write copy, check quotes, and identify still images for posting along with it. The solution also offers a convenient means of sharing content on social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Unencumbered by the need for clients or by complex access requirements, this approach provides a lightweight, cost-effective, and highly portable solution for cross-platform publishing.

Volicon’s Observer platform, already widely deployed in broadcast facilities around the world, offers a uniquely fast, simple, and economical solution for all of these applications. Combining media intelligence with video monitoring and logging technology, the solution provides functionality that is appropriate not only for engineering and operations, but also for production and promotions, new media, news, sales and traffic, media relations, and executive and legal departments. Observer users thus can leverage the video, audio, and data continuously being captured for compliance purposes and employ those resources in critical applications including content archiving, content repurposing for new media outlets, competitive analysis, producer and talent evaluation, media sales, and executive review of content.

Cost-Effective Monitoring With Enterprise-Grade Place-Shifting and Time-Shifting

By Andrew Sachs – VP Product Management

Because video operators are large, geographically diverse, and deliver complex services, the ability of the operator to check their QoE and view their service across their footprint is critical. Place-shifting is such a useful capability within operations that consumer-grade appliances, up until recently the only devices to offer this functionality, — have been deployed widely by networks and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). What was intended to serve as a consumer device for consumer placeshifting streaming became an important part of their operations, for better and worse.

Consumer place-shifting devices were introduced in 2004 as a means of watching subscribed content when the consumer was not in their home. Using a small device located in the home, a single user could stream video over the Internet. By limiting the technology to a single user, the Consumer Electronics (CE) industry allayed the concerns of content licensors that the technology would lead to widespread violations of the time and place specific licenses granted to the broadcaster or MVPD.  This, combined with the relatively low penetration of Slingbox, allowed the company to avoid being in the litigation crosshairs and grow, albeit slowly however, for networks and MVPDs, the place-shifting devices flourished for the operational reasons above.

While the benefits were clear, the deployment of a consumer product in an enterprise setting presented a number of different challenges. The first of these challenges was maintaining the system. Because the device was designed for a single user, with a single username and password, video service providers had no way to control or limit logins — who logged in, from where, when, and for what purpose — and no means of controlling what happened to the devices. Without a central management system, the provider was forced to login to each device separately, and only upon login was there any indication of whether or not the device actually functioned.

Reliability issues also plagued MPVDs that took this approach. With any piece of equipment engineered for consumer use, there is a compromise between cost and reliability, and this became a significant problem with using consumer-grade place-shifting devices. Issues caused by technical hiccups such as set-top reboots also threatened continuous operation. When these devices were deployed remotely, accessing and fixing them was an expensive proposition as many offices were dark, unmanned facilities.  Whether repairing or replacing, each additional visit made this cheap solution expensive.

Many of the costs associated with this approach were hidden, but considered cumulatively, they added up not only in terms of actual purchasing and maintenance costs, but also in the price paid by not being able to troubleshoot an issue efficiently. Given other shortcomings with respect to limited access, control, management, and functionality, operators began looking at professional-grade alternatives that could facilitate both place- and time-shifting.

Professional Place- and Time-Shifting

To realize more flexible and reliable remote viewing and monitoring capabilities, MVPDs have turned to hardware-based single-channel systems built on components — the RAM, solid-state drive, processor, motherboard, and power supply — designed to be incorporated into an enterprise-grade device. Equipped to handle all common set-top box interfaces, this type of solution not only controls the set-top box channel setting and power through IR or IP link, but also provides from three to seven days of storage. With these features, the enterprise-grade solution overcomes the limitations of the consumer-grade device and far exceeds its performance.

Deployed as part of a larger system, the remotely positioned hardware unit can be centrally managed along with other tools used for monitoring and troubleshooting. Logging in just once through a central server, the user can view simultaneous streams from units in the field. Because this type of system can be deployed on a VPN rather than a less-secure Internet link, enterprises can eliminate concerns over access and security. Active directory integration enables enterprises not only to configure user groups and access privileges, but also to maintain a log of all use and activity on each remote unit. When used for both monitoring and troubleshooting, individual boxes can be set to deliver notifications —vie SNMP, email, or within the viewing interface — about issues with a particular channel.

Use Cases: Interactive Troubleshooting, Proactive Monitoring

To perform manual interactive troubleshooting within the browser-based system interface, the user can simply open up the live stream from a specific unit and pull up the virtual remote control, on which control functions are mapped much as they are one a common handheld remote. Along with these controls are buttons that may be configured to trigger commonly used command combinations.

In addition to providing control over the live stream, the virtual remote control gives the user access to recorded content. This combination of place-shifting and time-shifting capabilities, enabled by built-in solid-state storage, offers significant benefits to the enterprise. If, for example, the provider performed a test the day before at a specific time, a staff member working at the desktop interface can use the virtual remote to dial back the clock and watch the live broadcast from that time.

With the remote, the user can fast-forward, pause, and rewind video. For applications such as the troubleshooting of ad insertion or to determine the timing of specific ads, the user can employ an integrated frame counter to move forward and backward at the frame level. This tool allows users to get down to the point of counting black frames between ad insertion events. A tool for marking in and out points not only allows the user to define a problem area, but also to create and export clips for further review.

Key data, such as time code or loudness measurements, can be burned into the video frame-accurately to provide a more comprehensive picture of the problem. The resulting file, which can be played on the desktop or emailed for further review, helps to speed the troubleshooting and resolution process. Because streamed video is full-frame-rate video, the recipient gets all the detail necessary for effective visual evaluation.

Because the user can watch live or recorded streams from multiple boxes at once, he or she can evaluate multiple synchronized streams of previously aired content to determine if a problem affecting one channel in fact affected others, as well. Likewise, the user can monitor a single channel that is distributed across multiple geographic areas. In this way, identification of issues introduced at the local level becomes much simpler.

When manual mode isn’t required for close evaluation and/or troubleshooting, proactive monitoring provides continual scanning of live broadcasts. The system dials each channel in the lineup, spending a few seconds on each to check for issues such as static or black screen. The rotation across channels can include linear channels, as well as on-demand and interactive services.

To enable monitoring of interactive services, the system dials into menus and navigates applications in the same way the home viewer might use the remote control. In this manner, the service provider can proactively and automatically test provisioning, the deployment of software on the set-top boxes, the availability of interactive applications or video-on-demand, and other interactive elements.

Advanced Use Cases

The enterprise-grade place- and time-shifting system can serve as the foundation for numerous advanced use cases, thus providing value beyond interactive troubleshooting and proactive monitoring.

Scheduled recording allows the user to record a particular channel on a particular date and time. In this case, the system scans the channel lineup up until that event, stays on the specified channel to record the event in full, and then returns to scanning the full lineup. This is a very useful tool for looking at high-value events such as sports events or presidential debates. It also makes it easy for the provider to perform the 24 hours of scheduled recording now required for a spot check procedure.

The spot check is a new requirement for loudness compliance in the United States, and it tasks cable operators with performing periodic checks on uncertified channels to verify loudness. The test itself specifies a 24-hour period of loudness measurement. Leveraging the recording capabilities of the enterprise-grade place- and time-shifting system, as well as optional loudness measurement capabilities, the operator can very simply fulfill this requirement. Across the 24-hour recording, the user can navigate to particular points, look at loudness levels, determine if there is a violation, and see if a commercial spot is the content responsible for that violation. If a violation is identified, the user can create and export a clip that not only offers audio and video, but also the loudness measurements associated with the content. As loudness requirements continue to evolve, the system software updates can assure support for the latest loudness standards and measurement techniques.

When an API supports the running of scripts on the unit, a variety of functions can be triggered over IP, with SMNP, or via HTTP messages. As a result, the enterprise can integrate the monitoring system with other systems to achieve even greater visibility into the video delivered to customers. Integration with transport stream analyzers enables the user to look at the visual record of errors; integration with ad servers supports the logging of one or more specific ad insertion events; and integration with emergency alert or caller ID systems could be used to verify those applications.

Summary

Until the introduction of an enterprise-grade place- and time-shifting solution, operators were forced to deploy consumer-grade remote video troubleshooting solutions that left them limited not only by stringent user and network restrictions, but also by a lack of features, reliability, and management capabilities. Today, however, flexible time-shifting and place-shifting technology is available in low-cost, professional-grade alternatives that enable operators to reduce the time and cost associated with chronic network troubleshooting. Going beyond standard monitoring, this technology can be leveraged to support a variety of other valuable applications, such as loudness monitoring for compliance, spot check, ad monitoring, and interactive testing or applications.

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Volicon Hosting Three Webinars Addressing Monitoring in Evolving Delivery and Regulatory Environment

Volicon will host three webinars in the coming month that target critical topics in A/V monitoring. Led by Andrew Sachs, vice president of product management at Volicon, each one-hour session offers participants expert insight into challenges and solutions for monitoring OTT/Web content; establishing flexible, highly automated monitoring and ad verification; and maintaining compliance with the latest recommended practices for loudness monitoring.

“Ensuring OTT and Web Streaming Services: How to Compete in a New Nonlinear World” is scheduled for Thursday, May 30, at 11 a.m. EDT. Topics will include:

  • The evolution and delivery of A/V content
  • The challenges of OTT monitoring, content streaming, and handling authenticated content
  • Advertising, encoding, delivery mechanisms, and target devices across OTT services
  • Regulatory shifts applying to OTT streamed content

Learn more or register at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/731520432

“Throwing Away the Sling: Enterprise Replacement and a Whole Lot More” will be held Thursday, June 6, at 11 a.m. EDT. The presentation will include a discussion of how Volicon provides an affordable time-shifting, place-shifting, and continuous-monitoring solution for enterprise-wide use. The webinar will also touch on:

  • Automating testing rather than just doing it manually by tweaking the remote
  • Uniting continuous monitoring and troubleshooting on one platform
  • Improving the workflow for validating local and targeted advertising insertion
  • Validating STB configuration and channel plans
  • Leveraging additional platform features such as user management and multiuser access

Learn more or register at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/888563977

“Assuring Compliance With the Revised ATSC A/85 and the SCTE 197 Spot Check Loudness RPs” will take place on Thursday, June 20, at 11 a.m. EDT. The webinar will address key challenges presented by evolving loudness standards and conclude with a Q&A. Topics will include:

  • Key changes in the ATSC A/85 Recommended Practice, including 5.1 downmix and BS-1770-3 measurement
  • How to perform simultaneous 5.1 and 5.1 downmix measurements, and how to select the new BS.1770-3 standard
  • SCTE’s Spot Check Recommended Practice, Spot Check applicability, and best practices for execution
  • How to integrate with the programmer’s automation as-run log to measure every asset precisely for the Spot Check requirement
  • How to provide unambiguous proof of (non)compliance
  • Hierarchical responsibilities in the broadcast chain
  • Best practices for ensuring compliance in specific regions and markets

Learn more or register at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/128265817

Volicon Observer® 7.0 Assures Compliance With Support for Latest Loudness Recommendations

The Observer® digital video monitoring and logging systems are fully compliant with the industry’s latest loudness recommendations and regulations: the newly released SCTE “spot check” (SCTE 197) loudness measurement recommendation and the FCC’s newly revised ATSC A/85 recommended practice. With simultaneous 5.1 and 5.1 downmix measurements, BS.1770-3 compatibility, program log integration, dialog (anchor element) detection and loudness measurement, as well as integrated measurement A/V burn-in, the Observer allows the operator to perform spot checks easily and ensures full compliance with the new ATSC A/85 RP.

The Observer’s frame-accurate loudness monitoring fully integrates the test procedure, data analysis, and commercial identification sections from the spot check process. The choice of A/V recording and loudness analysis from the IP, ASI, QAM, or postSTB (s/pdif) interfaces allows the operator to perform the spot check process at any point in the chain quickly, accurately, and unambiguously. Additionally, by performing 5.1 and 5.1 stereo downmix loudness measurements simultaneously, the operator can ensure full compatibility with ATSC A/85. By monitoring the work of key standards and regulatory bodies and adapting continually to proposed changes, Volicon is well-positioned to incorporate essential loudness monitoring functionality into new and existing Observer systems. With this simple software upgrade to 7.0, we deliver on our future-proof promise to existing and new loudness customers.

The Volicon Observer product line is engineered to record aired A/V content (full frame rate) 24 hours a day, along with metadata and loudness measurements. Combining a compliance logger with loudness measurement enables Observer systems to serve as powerful tools for quickly identifying and resolving issues; preventing chronic issues; and, especially with measurement burn-in, providing a clear affidavit of compliance for regulators.

Reducing the spot check’s complicated and laborious data collection and analysis requirements from days to just minutes, the Observer’s loudness monitoring module allows users to speed through the process and quickly provide the requisite proof of compliance or violations. With the program log loudness measurement, the most granular (100 milliseconds) integration time, and incorporation of data analysis, providing proof of compliance or violation is as simple asdata.

By implementing BS-1770-1/2/3, dialog level metering, and simultaneous 5.1 and 5.1 downmix loudness measurements, Volicon software for Observer enables media companies to adapt quickly, smoothly, and cost-effectively to this change in FCC-mandated loudness measurement specifications.

Opportunities and Challenges to TV Anytime, Anywhere

Opportunities and Challenges to TV Anytime, Anywhere
Gary Learner, CTO

TV Reimagined

Long gone the days where the consumer is confined to watch TV in their living room on a television set, viewing one the programs packaged by the content aggregator.

In April 2012 the New York Times reported that prime-time live and same day viewing rates for the 18 to 49 year-old audience reached all-time dramatic lows. The decrease in viewership was observed on both broadcast and cable networks as well as on English and Spanish channels. While much of this change may be explained by DVR and online usage, the advances in technology and availability of online video content that let us watch our television programs anytime and almost anywhere is also a major contributor.

According to the survey, conducted by Accenture, approximately half of consumers in U.S. now view over-the-top (OTT) video through broadband connections on their TVs, in addition to the content they traditionally watch via cable or satellite. Consumers are also viewing content on mobile devices, creating video playlists, posting videos on social media, and learning about new TV programs and video offerings through social networks.

The survey found that younger viewers are leading the way in using these new technologies to view video content.  Domestically, 82% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 watch some OTT video, with 60% watching at least a quarter of their video over-the-top compared to 32% of U.S. consumers overall.

Today, 49% of consumers between the United States and the United Kingdom subscribe to a range of video delivery services, indicating that OTT video consumption has grown at a remarkable rate since last measured by Accenture in March 2011 at 8%.

TV Anytime Anywhere

The continuing evolution of telecommunications networks and IP-based connectivity has lead us to a dramatic increase in freedom for the consumer to gain access to material, irrespective of the physical or geographical location of either the user or the material.  This evolution opens up many more exciting possibilities for viewing and/or retrieving broadcast services and program content, unconstrained by the locations from which they are broadcasted or viewed.

The process of selection and fulfillment would be initiated either by direct user selection or by use of a search agent. Content may be selected through a link on a web page, bookmarked favorite location or through mobile App.

 Home Broadcast from Hotel

A viewer on business trip wishes to watch a home TV channel for an important event.  To do so, the user selects a service, for example through a link on a web page or via a bookmarked favorite and an IP connection is made from the either a PC or mobile device to the home service provider.  It may well be necessary to select among a number of possible services and to establish identity and/or location, in some way to gain access to the selected service. The establishment of user identity may require user authentication as well as protection of user privacy.

Foreign Broadcast from Home

A viewer at home may wish to watch TV services originating from far-distant networks. Motives may include the scheduling of special events at the user’s place of birth, special events connected to the user’s interests, etc.  Accessing foreign broadcasts also enables people to venture out of their normal TV environment, participating in programs that are not available in their demographic local area, or to visit new regions through native TV programs.

Consumers may view the content in real time, or capture content on local storage. The viewing equipment can be a digital TV receiver, a PC or mobile device.

The access, QoS and content format issues are challenges associated with this viewing scenario.

Material intended for this type of access may be designed with auxiliary languages to encourage viewers who do not speak the language of the content.

 Mobile Access

With the advent of wireless communication systems and capabilities of mobile devices it is now conceivable that video content (broadcast and non-broadcast) be accessible from any location. In other words, content can be retrieved and viewed as the receiving unit moves dynamically from location to location. A user of a may wish to view their favored broadcast program while travelling to and from work or while on vacation. This would mean the broadcast content should be accessible via independent wireless networks.  If the traveler ventures beyond the reaches of one wireless network the content should be seamlessly accessible from another wireless network.  An example of this would be similar to cellular telephone networks.

 Augmented TV

While broadcast TV still generates much more ad revenue per program than Internet TV, access to content on three screens (TV set, PC and mobile phone) will likely increase viewing time, providing more opportunities for augmenting programs with related content and advertisements.

As the new screens (PC and mobile) become more popular as TV viewing venues, the content programmers have new ways to take advantage of the additional TV real estate. At the core of reinventing the TV experience would have to be interacting with what we are watching in new ways. Not all consumers and not all TV shows lend themselves to a passive watching experience. Sports and reality TV shows are two genres that can be extremely interactive. People who watch these shows want to react to what is happening in real time. Because of that there are new opportunities for content programmers and creators to deliver experiences where the consumer can use the viewing devices in conjunction with what they’re watching. Consumers would have the ability to customize the apps and/or data services that showed up alongside whatever they’re watching. Watching TV is becoming personal, yet social. New technologies that combine these elements in creative ways will lead to tremendous opportunities for broadcasters and advertisers.

Broadcasters can extend consumer engagement with TV show by offering background information about plots, characters and production. Additional video clips may include out-takes, short features, and alternate endings. This is analogous to the extras found on most DVDs.

While viewers perceive the program information and additional details as a benefit, the challenge for the content creators and producers is to avoid overwhelming and distracting the viewer, making “enhanced TV” into “cluttered TV”. Too much of augmentation will push viewers searching for alternate venues to view the desired content without distraction.

Personalized TV

Ability to augment the primary viewing content enables many potential applications for personalization of content.  Such customization could include adaptations based on specific attributes of the viewer, whether personal, geographic or viewing device specific.

A consumer device has its IP address or another locality attribute (GPS location), person watching.  Content with embedded alternative elements can be broadcasted in multiple versions on one or more program stream and the local consumer device is instructed to select those elements marked for the local attribute of the consumer device.  At the proper time, the locally customized element substitutes for the generally available element in the broadcast stream.  The capability could customize advertisements (e.g., to provide the local phone number of the nearest vendor of the product) or permit local or regional news highlight inserts (e.g., high school news coverage). Program inserts might provide altered program ratings or ads customized to the gender, age or other preferences of person’s watching.

Over the Top Video

Despite the reported increase in “cable cutters”, the majority of consumers still receive TV and broadband Internet services from an MVPD (multichannel video programming distributor), such as cable, fiber optics, or satellite TV operator. Each operator negotiates deals with content providers and assembles packages of channels into digital streams. Each digital stream contains multiple TV channels and the set-top box selects a channel to decode from hundreds or thousands of TV channels available using a remote control unit.

Video streams carried in public Internet traffic are called Over the Top video (OTT video). This term originated from the higher frequency allocation on cable for internet communication, on top or lower frequency reserved for TV programs. This term may no longer reflect the present technology that includes digital encoding of the TV channels.

The term OTT video now means video delivered outside the package of channel lineups offered by the MVPD. This has serious implications for the business model of these operators. Customers can find some of their favorite shows free on the Internet by paying the operator only for Internet access and not for TV service.

Among the changes that should concern MVPDs is the introduction of internet-ready TVs that offer direct access to digital streams. Access to Internet video streams will have to be limited to a pre-defined set of programs, based on consumer’s personal, geographic and copyright constraints:

  • Personal: Many countries restrict distribution of material by person’s age. OTT Video requires means of authenticating the viewer, the provider, and maybe also the geographic location of end points or communication routes to enforce applicable regulations.
  • Geographic: In some countries, viewers pay for the right to receive content and the content owners then restrict distribution to within country and to the licensed users.  If such users are now in a different geographic territory, one can ask whether their original right to receive the content supersedes or is subordinate to the geographic distribution limitations of the content owner.  An example is content that contains geographically distinct advertisements, possibly providing a commercial offer that is valid only in a limited territory.  If such material is not permitted to be distributed outside this territory then either content must be customized for distribution or some access authorization mechanism is required.
  • Copyright: Film distribution worldwide is conventionally timed differently at different locations.  If such material were now available via Internet TV, one must ask if the home (native) location of the person applies, or the viewing location, or the location of the distributor.  Whatever the answer, means for determining the relevant location would be required or some current contractual distribution obligations would require revision.

OTT-Video technologies

In the past few years over-the-top OTT-TV has advanced from a mere concept to an established venue that video content is delivered and viewed. There are several technological enablers that contributed to the success in adopting the OTT for video delivery.

Broadband Networks

In home networking, broadband constitutes any form of high-speed Internet access using this transmission technique. Both DSL and cable modem are common broadband Internet technologies. So-called broadband routers and broadband modems are network devices that support both DSL and cable. Other forms of home broadband include fiber (FTTH) and fixed wireless.

In 2000, 3% of the US adult population had access to a broadband connection at home. This increased to 66% in 2010.

Even though information signals generally travel nearly the speed of light in the medium no matter what the bit rate, higher rate services are often marketed as “faster” or “higher speeds”. Consumers are targeted by advertisements for peak transmission rates, while actual end-to-end rates observed in practice can be lower due to other factors.

Broadband in analog video distribution is traditionally used to refer to systems such as cable television, where the individual channels are modulated on carriers at fixed frequencies. In this context, baseband is the term’s antonym, referring to a single channel of analog video, typically in composite form with separate baseband audio. The act of demodulating converts broadband video to baseband video.

However, broadband video in the context of streaming Internet video has come to mean video files that have bitrates high enough to require broadband Internet access for viewing. Broadband video is also sometimes used to describe IPTV Video on demand.

H.264

H.264/MPEG-4 Part 10 or AVC (Advanced Video Coding) is a standard for video compression, and is currently one of the most commonly used formats for the recording, compression, and distribution of high definition video.

H.264 is perhaps best known as being one of the codec standards for Blu-ray Discs; all Blu-ray Disc players must be able to decode H.264. It is also widely used by streaming internet sources and also various HDTV broadcasts over terrestrial (ATSC, ISDB-T, DVB-T or DVB-T2), cable (DVB-C) and satellite (DVB-S and DVB-S2).

The intent of the H.264/AVC project was to create a standard capable of providing good video quality at substantially lower bit rates than previous standards, without increasing the complexity of design. An additional goal was to provide enough flexibility to allow the standard to be applied to a wide variety of applications on a wide variety of networks and systems.

Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

Adaptive Streaming on a PCs and mobile devices provides a guaranteed level of service, both in standard and high-definition, in an open Internet environment, even if the broadband line is congested or unstable. Adaptive bitrate streaming is a technique used in streaming multimedia over computer networks. While in the past most video streaming technologies utilized streaming protocols such RTP with RTSP, today’s adaptive streaming technologies are almost exclusively based on HTTP and designed to work efficiently over large distributed HTTP networks such as the Internet.

Adaptive streaming works by detecting consumer’s bandwidth and CPU capacity in real time and adjusting the quality of a video stream accordingly. It requires the use of an encoder which can encode a single source video at multiple bit rates. The player client switches between streaming the different encodings depending on available resources. “The result: very little buffering, fast start time and a good experience for both high-end and low-end connections.” The streaming client is made aware of the available streams at differing bit rates, and segments of the streams by a manifest file. When starting the client requests the segments from the lowest bit rate stream. If the client finds the download speed is greater than the bit rate of the segment downloaded, then it will request the next higher bit rate segments. Later, if the client finds the download speed for a segment is lower than the bit rate for the segment, and therefore the network throughput has deteriorated, then it will request a lower bit rate segment.

MPEG-DASH is the only adaptive bit-rate HTTP-based streaming solution that is an international standard. Standardizing an adaptive streaming solution is meant to provide confidence to the market that the solution can be adopted for universal deployment, compared to similar but more vendor-centric solutions such as HLS by Apple, Smooth Streaming by Microsoft, or HDS by Adobe.

CDN

A content delivery network (CDN) is a large distributed system of servers deployed in multiple data centers in the Internet. The goal of a CDN is to serve content to end-users with high availability and high performance. CDNs serve a large fraction of the Internet content today, including live and on-demand streaming media.

A CDN operator gets paid by content providers for delivering their content to their audience of end-users. In turn, a CDN pays ISPs, carriers, and network operators for hosting its servers in their data centers. Besides better performance and availability, CDNs also offload the traffic served directly from the content provider’s origin infrastructure, resulting in cost savings for the content provider. While most early CDNs served content using dedicated servers owned and operated by the CDN, there is a recent trend to use a hybrid model that uses P2P technology. In the hybrid model, content is served using both dedicated servers and other peer-user-owned computers as applicable. Requests for content are typically algorithmically directed to nodes that are optimal in some way.  Web caches store popular content on servers that have the greatest demand for the content requested. These shared network appliances reduce bandwidth requirements, reduce server load, and improve the client response times for content stored in the cache.

Conclusion

As TV Anytime Anywhere continues to gain popularity, content creators and producers will continue to balance the opportunities against the challenges. Facilitating delivery of personalized user’s experience alongside with video content poses a significant QoS/QoE (Quality of Service / Quality of Experience) challenge. The push to deliver the best QoS/QoE for each viewer lays out highly competitive landscape not just for content creators, but delivery networks as well. The points of failure in the traditional broadcast chain are well known and covered by the current monitoring solutions. However, OTT monitoring solutions are still formulating. Monitoring vendors are tasked with developing more capable, scalable and adaptable monitoring solutions to answer the challenge of assuring delivery of highly valuable personalized content monitoring. These monitoring solutions are used by both content owners as well as content delivery providers to both evaluate the service as well as demonstrate the value of their service.

 

References

[1]     Wikipedia, “Broadband Networks”

[2]     Wikipedia, “H.264”

[3]     Wikipedia, “Adaptive Bitrate Streaming”

[4]     Wikipedia, “CDN”

[5]     Bob Kovacs, “OTT Video Demands New Test Techniques” , http://www.tvtechnology.com/article/ott-video-demands-new-test-techniques/214396

[6]     Peter Suciu, TechNewsWorld, http://www.technewsworld.com/story/76357.html

[7]     Nikhil Arora, The Financial Express, http://www.financialexpress.com/news/live-tv-anytime-anywhere/926767

[8]     James Robinson, The Observer, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/may/13/digitalmedia.broadcasting

[9]     Jeremy Kaplan, PCMAG.COM, http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,1911894,00.asp

[10] Ben Bajarin, Time Tech, http://techland.time.com/2011/11/14/tv-needs-to-be-reinvented/

 

Heading Into NAB: Observer OTT

Volicon today announced that, at the 2013 NAB Show, the company will showcase Observer® OTT, a new solution for logging (recording) and monitoring the over-the-top (OTT) A/V services that stream content to computers, tablets, and smartphones. Bringing to bear the extensive and powerful capabilities of Volicon’s acclaimed Observer video logging and monitoring product line, Observer OTT offers the broadcaster, network, or video service provider a complete, cost-effective quality monitoring and/or compliance logging solution for multiplatform media delivery.

BOOTH SU8518

“OTT video is not a land grab — services must deliver on viewers’ expectations of quality and availability,” said Andrew Sachs, vice president of product management at Volicon. “The multitude of apps, target devices, and delivery mechanisms makes it difficult for the content provider to ensure delivery of quality A/V services, and it’s simply not feasible to dedicate a staff person to checking each screen. Content providers need an automated solution, and that’s what Observer OTT provides.”

Advertising, encoding, delivery mechanisms, and target devices differ across OTT services, making it important that providers have the means to log and monitor all of their outputs. Observer OTT offers a valuable look at how the consumer experiences streamed content, as well as rich data about the quality of that content. In addition to providing a true recording of services, the new system also facilitates remote streaming and review, as well as the ability to analyze both unencrypted and encrypted content.

Because content and data from the Observer OTT can be viewed via the same user interface/central server used for standard Observer systems, content providers enjoy side-by-side visibility from content ingest through production to final delivery. Like other Observer systems, Observer OTT supports an ever-expanding series of use cases including monitoring for closed captioning, ad verification, executive review, loudness monitoring, and metadata verification.