MediaGrid ContentStore 5840

In this first episode of VidTech InFocus, Keith Lissak, Product Marketing Director, takes an in-depth look at: Harmonic MediaGrid ContentStore 5840. During this video he interviews Carl Davidson, MediaGrid Engineering Manager, about the benefits of using a MediaGrid system, along with the raw storage capacity of the ContentStore 5840. By the end of this segment, you’ll learn why this scalable, cost-effective video storage solution might be right for your organization.

Learn more about video storage systems by downloading our Why Video Storage is Different ebook.

All IP Video Production Workflow

Harmonic_IP-VideoCOTS infrastructure for networking and storage now dominates media production workflows to the extent that the talk is of islands of video-specific functionality in a sea of IP, a complete reversal of the situation the broadcast industry was addressing only a few years ago. This trend shows every sign of accelerating now that the last bastion of broadcast, the video switch, shows every sign of succumbing to the inevitable shift towards IP!

So, what’s involved with the absorption of such a major workflow element into the realm of standard network media? Put simply, a lot of standardization and impetus towards a datacenter approach to further drive down CAPEX and OPEX, as well as further signal the demise of SDI. Cisco® presented a proof of concept at NAB this year showing frame accurate video switching during the VBI period.

This is no easy task  ­̶  moving video in an asynchronous, packet-switched environment strikes fear into the hearts of dyed in the wool broadcaster engineers only too aware of the cavalier attitude IP networks have to drop packets and retransmit later, a scenario totally alien to the real-time carriage of live media. First, let’s be clear about the level of COTS equipment we’re dealing with here, a high-end router!

No doubt the intention is to implement on more common IP switches in the fullness of time, but for now this is a glimpse at the way the industry is heading. For some infrastructure providers the move to a full IP workflow based on totally standard hardware is too much and there are already Trojan horse solutions purporting to be totally IP COTS friendly, which in fact are old school video hardware dressed up with IP interfaces. This isn’t a problem though, as the state of COTS based network hardware is somewhere between the two scenarios discussed.

I suspect that there’ll be plenty of IP based video specific products to enable the overall move towards a complete IP based workflow while the high throughput packet handling is switched synchronously according to newly crafted standards like SMPTE 2022. This will no doubt be a hot topic at IBC this year (Harmonic’s Booth, 1.B20) and it’ll be featured in the IP video ebook we’re working on for the show.

– Ian Trow, Sr. Director, Emerging Technology & Strategy, Harmonic

Centralized Video Storage System

The primary goal of virtually every file-based production or broadcast workflow is to improve efficiency. Advanced media storage solutions, now capable of supporting media workflows from end to-end, play a critical role in helping content producers and owners realize this goal.

Centralized storage, which provides a single shared resource available to every application, as opposed to the conventional model in which independent storage systems serve different applications, is especially appropriate for media workflows.

The centralized model not only eliminates the time-consuming transfer of media between discrete storage systems, but also facilitates workflows in which multiple applications can access media concurrently. While there are many network storage solutions in the market, most don’t effectively meet the demanding requirements of broadcast workflows due to insufficient performance and lack of key media-specific capabilities.

Harmonic MediaGrid is an Ethernet-based network storage solution specially designed to provide users of media applications with massive bandwidth and consistently low latency without interruption or bottlenecks. Possessing highly scalable bandwidth capabilities, this system accommodates a growing volume of large media files and supports a large number of concurrent users. Low latency ensures that content can be accessed quickly and simultaneously by applications such as nonlinear editors while maintaining the feel of local storage. MediaGrid is optimized specifically for quick-turn media workflows, such as news, and offers “active transfers,” allowing content to be accessed while it’s still being written to disk.

The MediaGrid centralized storage solution utilizes a distributed file system designed to scale capacity from a few terabytes to multiple petabytes, and bandwidth from one gigabyte per second to tens of gigabytes per second. MediaGrid presents a single name space to access a file system that spans many discrete hardware devices and contains two types of data: the actual file data and the metadata associated with the files (file name and location). File data stored on the system is further divided into slices ranging from 256 kb to 8 MB; slice size is configurable by file type at a folder level, or even as granular as a single file.

To achieve connectivity between MediaGrid and the existing network, aggregated 1-GbE or 10-GbE links are used, and no special host adapters are required on any client device, as all access to the system is via standard Ethernet connectivity. This aspect of the system allows it to provide the connectivity and performance required, and to seamlessly integrate into existing environments. Communication between clients and the system (as well as inter-communication between its components) uses an IP-over-Ethernet network fabric. The main advantage of using Ethernet over other technologies is its widespread acceptance and availability, which results in lower hardware costs, lower operating costs via wider familiarity by operations and support personnel, and faster innovation in the application layers.

Learn more about this topic by clicking this link to download our new tech guide: Harmonic MediaGrid Shared System Overview

– Rene Varro, Communications Manager, Harmonic

Why Video Storage is Different

Harmonic_MediaGridVideo workflows are very different from the enterprise applications that IT organizations are accustomed to deploying and supporting. Large video files and demands for fast access and real-time performance result in requirements for highly scalable storage systems with enormous bandwidth, consistently low latency and the ability to effectively support highly specialized video applications.

IT organizations in the enterprise world may be accustomed to focusing on applications, such as CRM, ERP and email, and core elements such as databases and virtualization technologies. Though unstructured content is gaining in importance, in the enterprise world data is often block-oriented, and the relevant performance measure is frequently transactions per second.

Attempting to force-fit traditional enterprise storage into a video workflow introduces the risk that an IT organization will have dissatisfied users unable to work trouble-free with the tools of their trade. Further, IT may face support challenges resulting from attempting to deploy storage where it simply wasn’t designed to go.

Video is unlike other types of data. In the video world the focus is on workflows, where various specialized applications are utilized almost like stations of an assembly line to process and distribute video content. In such an environment, it’s critical to quickly access concurrently large video files between different systems in the workflow. Thus the key performance metrics are around latency and bandwidth, not transactions per second.

Previously, video workflows were based on analog media. Moving images were captured on film or analog videotape, and clips were physically spliced together to create new film or video materials in final form (e.g., TV shows, movies, commercials, etc.). Digital, film and video media production workflows have increasingly become file-based. As with many IT applications, the video processing infrastructure may initially use islands of direct attached storage (DAS).

However, with workflows requiring that video files be shared across different applications and by different users, the ideal approach is to have high-performance shared storage at the heart of file-based video workflows.

Learn more about this topic by clicking this link to view our new ebook: Why Video Storage is Different: An Introduction for IT Professionals.

– Rene Varro, Communications Manager, Harmonic

VidTech Insider: Live UHD Demo

In this episode of VidTech Insider, we learn how Harmonic and SES® joined forces to deliver three days of live and linear UHD broadcasts over a cable system via a full end-to-end 4K UHD transmission system. The demo showed the advantages of live all-IP in broadcast-quality mode. SES set up a UHD studio outside the Las Vegas Convention Center to capture live content during NAB. The demo used SES satellites and teleports with a team of technology partners.

Harmonic products in the demo included the Electra X3 advanced media processor for live, full-frame, full-GOP UHD (HEVC Main 10 profile) encoding, ProView integrated receiver-decoders for satellite reception,ProMedia Xpress high-performance transcoder managed by the Harmonic WFS file-based workflow system for the creation of the HEVC streams, ProMedia Package multiscreen stream packager for MPEG-DASH packaging, and NSG Exo distributed CCAP system for DOCSIS transmission.

Learn more about Harmonic’s real-world UHD solutions:

 Joel Marsden, Sr. Video Producer, Harmonic

Collaborative Post Production

Harmonic_Post-ProductionVideo highlights are an essential element in today’s live sports programming — for a live event or news telecast —and are often produced while the event is still being recorded.

Creating sports content and delivering it in a timely fashion depends upon the skills and talents of multiple collaborators within the various domains of post production, such as video editing, audio editing and visual effects creation.

To package sports highlights, feeds from cameras in the sporting venue or from the house video network are ingested into a video server, and are active-transferred to a shared storage system, like the Harmonic MediaGrid. Transfer operations are initiated from the server and target the appropriate project file structure in the central storage system.

Once in shared storage, multiple editors can access the content simultaneously through their nonlinear editing system (NLE) GUI to begin cutting assorted packages. For instance, if the event is a baseball game, one editor might highlight a player at bat, while another edits a package of great defensive plays made by both teams. In either instance, the editor uses the NLE to edit the growing materials and create a timeline.

After finalizing the content, the editor exports a self-contained video file to the playout server or distribution watch folder. The exported content may be played out from the playout server under the control of the house automation system. For sports content syndication, live-event recordings are also adapted to the formats required for this type of distribution during post production.

To learn more, please click this link to download our Collaborative Post Production white paper.

– Rene Varro, Communications Manager, Harmonic

HDR for Only HD Services?

SMPTE’s “Bits or Bucks” panel discussion on HDR/WCG for HD or 4K UHD took the concepts discussed in last week’s Harmonic blog entry: “Just How bright will your next TV be?” to a whole new dimension. As is the way in video, we’re working on the next big thing in advance of completing the existing roll out of HD services. Inevitably that leads to discussions about whether HDR/WCG are applied to new 4K UHD or existing HD services. A further complication being that an increase in resolution from HD to UHD at typical access bit rates doesn’t deliver the jump in video quality expected from a new format.

How will 4K/UHD emerge from such a scenario and should HD or UHD be the initial target for HDR and WCG advancements? Beyond telco infrastructure providers, like Ericsson®, belief in using 4K/UHD screens is very strong. Right or wrong, early adopters believe they’re future-proofing by buying 4K/UHD screens instead of HD and with annual sales of screens approaching 100 million in 2018, according to informitv®, who can argue?  Within the production community, belief in 4K/UHD is very strong, with many at NAB 2015 predicting the demise of HD in favor of 4K/UHD acquisition equipment in the short-term. This may be too bullish, another example of the industry getting too far ahead of itself, but 4K/UHD production is well beyond the acceptance stage and now the mastering format of choice for those producing premium content.

Why are there heated debates over how HDR and WCG advancements will be applied? 

The answer lies in the significant traction behind HD, availability of bandwidth and the drip feeding of features on new 4K UHD screens. How will this all unravel? To start, even the latest UHD screens are based on HD color space and lack HDR, WCG and HFR features currently being discussed. The screen manufacturers are well informed and truly guilty of “short changing” the buying public by promoting a new format on resolution alone! At typical bandwidths available for DTH or OTT services this was never going to work. The best it’ll get with this scenario is a 4K UHD acquisition, down-convert to HD and leave it to the screen to up-convert back again to 4K UHD. So, given that most of the 4K UHD screens are based on HD color space this all implies Ericsson will have a point in advocating HDR/WCG for HD.

WRONG, viewing demographics are favoring VOD consumption for 4K UHD, alleviating the live-to-air bandwidth problem initially. When live-to-air distribution becomes a reality for premium sports, HEVC compression will have matured, bringing the bitrates down to more manageable bandwidths. Limiting the future to HD is ignoring the fact that video is now shown in a multiscreen environment, consisting of a myriad of profiles and access bitrates used to deliver content to a vast array of displays.

HD was the last video format that could be rolled out using dedicated infrastructure and associated standards. Even to cater for 4K UHD distribution we have a significant legacy and backwards compatibility issue that can only be successfully tackled by addressing the needs of both HD and UHD formats, in addition to the raft of OTT delivery profiles for multiscreen. Hence the arrival of the Video Usability Indicator (VUI) and Supplemental Enhancement Information (SEI) additions to HEVC, delivering the necessary metadata to facilitate the implementation of HDR and WCG across any display that supports these features, regardless of whether they are HD or UHD.

There’s still a lot to fit in place to achieve display independence, but even so broadcasters are becoming more content focused and contemplating the use of Mezzanine Compression for primary distribution. It’s high time the video industry unshackled itself from restrictive display formats to adopt display meta-data allowing efficient distribution infrastructure to support true multiscreen viewing!

– Ian Trow, Sr. Director, Emerging Technology & Strategy, Harmonic

How Bright will Your Next TV Be?

Harmonic_HDRThe last few blog entries I’ve written have made the case for HDR assuming that viewer accessible screens will be launched soon. Begs the question, how safe an assumption is this and what luminance performance can we expect?

The current crop of screens is restricted to 100 nits (a nit being the unit of measurement for luminance) and 120 nits if you really remove all of the stops! Compared to the cinema this is great, where luma is restricted to 48 nits typically within the confines of specifications that allow it to reach 55 nits.

But cinema regains all this lost luma by having you watch in darkness and films have vastly improved chroma performance compared to TV. So, how come TV screens have been available with extended dynamic range and wider color range for some time even though the specs have been revised since the 1930s when phosphors in cathode ray tubes were state-of-the-art?

The answer is screens with improved brightness have been with us for some time, after all the original Trinitron screens were developed so Americans could watch TV poolside in the glare of the sun. Herein lies where most of the effort on improved luminance and chrominance handling was featured to counteract the effects of high ambient light levels in the case of luminance and make certain content really zing with color. The problem with this approach is that what looks good on certain content (like that used in TV showrooms) looks gaudy and oddly saturated on more representative content.

This brings us back to specifications and restricting performance to achieve wider dynamic range and gamut in a defined and repeatable manner, so all content looks impressive. Whether you buy a UHD or HD screen you will still be restricted to HD color space, Rec.709 to the techies. UHD color space is on the way in the form of BT 2020 but only currently available in high-end production monitors used for grading. Consumer screens are on their way later in 2015, but I only know of 4 models that will be very high end and expensive. Ok, so let’s tackle this another way then! Even within the confines of the costs that can be borne in screens destined for the consumer market extending the dynamic range is possible.

The extended Rec.709 proposals (there are three to my knowledge: BBC, Philips and Technicolor) all rely on being able to extend the Dynamic Range within what can be sustained in a backwards compatible manner with Rec.709. Without going into too much detail in a blog, luminance can be extended to nearly 3,000 nits. This well exceeds what’s practical on screens destined for the consumer at CES 1,000 to 1,200 nits matched the top-show flow HDR capability with it slightly extended to 1,500 nits for private demo room showings. Sure there are very impressive screens that can achieve truly impressive HDR performance, up to 4,000 to 6,000 nits but they’re professional monitors, both expensive and resembling power sub-stations rather than the latest slick screen viewed as an asset to the living room!

So, in conclusion I see Rec.2020 making its way into the market for professional mastering and production purposes, with the latest HEVC VUI and SEI signaling to down-sample both luma and chroma to extended Rec. 709 constraints being signaled to screens via HDMI2.0a! Simple, so now all that remains is to see this working in practice….roll on IBC!

Stay tuned for my new Harmonic Whitepaper on HDR due for completion this summer!

– Ian Trow, Sr. Director, Emerging Technology & Strategy, Harmonic

Gearing Up for ANGA COM 2015

Harmonic_ANGAThis year at ANGA COM 2015, Harmonic will showcase a comprehensive range of solutions designed to bring increased operational efficiencies and cost savings to service providers and operators in the broadband, cable and satellite industries.

Through an integrated Harmonic solution that includes edgeQAM, CCAP and distributed CCAP systems as well as HEVC, enhanced AVC compression efficiency and virtualized media processing technologies, service providers can successfully migrate to an all-IP infrastructure while ensuring superior video quality — up to Ultra HD/4K — on any screen.

Harmonic products and technologies on display at ANGA COM 2015:

NSG™ Exo Distributed CCAP System

Harmonic will demonstrate Ultra HD (UHD) delivery over cable with a NSG Exo distributed CCAP system. NSG Exo is a high-performance cable edge device for the delivery of video, data and voice services over coax. Compact and cost-effective, NSG Exo moves a service provider’s RF requirements out of the headend or hub and places them deep in the fiber network, simplifying headend design and operation to resolve space and power constraints, lower capital and operational expenses and provide service flexibility.

Electra™ X Advanced Media Processor Family

As the world’s first encoder family to support graphics, branding, and playout functionalities, as well as industry-leading video quality and full-frame UHD/4K live encoding, Electra X advanced media processing products revolutionize video delivery. Electra X products offer content and service providers market-leading video quality, unparalleled function integration and increased operational flexibility in a cost-effective appliance. Two models will be shown: the Electra X2, ideal for all SD and HD media processing applications, and the Electra X3, designed specifically for UHD encoding.

IP Video to All Screens

Harmonic’s IP Video to All Screens solution, recipient of the 2015 TV Connect Award, gives operators the ability to provide amazing TV experiences on any device utilizing a single, multicast-enabled, HTTP adaptive bitrate (ABR) delivery architecture. By providing operators with a unified approach to IP video for all screens, Harmonic’s solution eliminates the need to operate a multicast IP or QAM broadcaster headend for first screens and a separate unicast headend for delivery to second screens.

ProMedia® X Origin Multiscreen Media Server

The software-based ProMedia X Origin system features a wide range of advanced tools for streaming video to all IP devices, including smart TVs, set-top boxes, PCs, tablets and smartphones. ProMedia X Origin supports all major streaming protocol standards in use today and offers the flexibility of integrated, on-the-fly packaging to different formats from a single H.264 or H.265 source. This capability enables easy migration to new formats as they emerge, simplifies integration to multiple DRMs, optimizes storage, and helps reduce CDN expenditures.

Learn more about Harmonic products and solutions by visiting stand 10.1/S10 during ANGA COM.

 Sarah Kavanagh, Sr. Public Relations Manager, Harmonic

Next Stop, Singapore…BCA 2015

Harmonic_BCAAt BroadcastAsia2015, stand 5C3-01, Harmonic will showcase market-leading products that enable efficient and cost-effective delivery of high-quality video experiences. Our Spectrum™ X next-generation media server system will make its Asian debut at the show, and we’ll also feature the latest release in the innovative Electra™ family of encoders.

With our ProView integrated receiver-decoders (IRD) and Ellipse® 3000 contribution encoders, we’ll demonstrate an end-to-end contribution and distribution solution optimized for live events and news coverage.

Spectrum X Next-Generation Media Server System

Designed for all production and playout applications, the Spectrum X media server system combines file, baseband and transport stream ingest with comprehensive integrated channel playout capabilities, including graphics and branding, DVE, master control switching and audio mixing. The software-based system supports a broad range of  SD and HD formats, and is software-upgradeable to UHD). It also eases the transition to IP broadcast workflows by integrating SDI and IP I/O on the same chassis.

NEW Electra X Advanced Media Processor Family

Featuring real-time SD, HD and UHD encoding, integrated high-quality branding and graphics, and reliable transport stream playout, Electra X offers content and service providers market-leading video quality, unparalleled function integration and increased operational flexibility in a cost-effective appliance. On display at the show will be Electra X3, which delivers full-frame 2160p60 video (no partitions, no slices) in 2 RU.

ProView IRDs and Ellipse Encoders

Our end-to-end contribution and distribution solution for live events and news coverage will be shown at our stand. The ProView 7100 now supports HEVC 4:2:0 10-bit decoding of 1080p60 content, while ProView 8100 offers broadcast-quality video reception over the open Internet. The Ellipse 3202 encoder includes an integrated broadcast satellite modulator with DVB-S/S2/S2X and DVB-CID support on top of NIT-CID, and IF and L-band interfaces on the same board.

Learn more about Harmonic products and solutions by visiting our stand (5C3-01) during BCA.

 Sarah Kavanagh, Sr. Public Relations Manager, Harmonic