Anystream Agility Workgroup: Encoding Warrior
Multi-format, multi-bit-rate encoding and delivery can be a nightmare of near-escapes from such predators as the Video Capture Leviathan, the Mutating Preprocessing Dragon, the Vendor Codec Upgrade Deviant, the Phantom of New Hire Requisitions, the N-headed Streaming Format Serpent, too many Bit Rate Gargoyles to count, and some punk named Murphy.
Agility Workgroup 1.5 is a scaled down version of the Agility Enterprise capability (used by CNN, the NFL and others), designed for video producers. Although Agility Workgroup 1.5 is a software package, it is only available as part of a pre-configured hardware/software combination designed to make short work of tall encoding tasks. But can it vanquish monsters?
To help us find out for ourselves, Anystream provided us with a full blown video production cabinet including an Avid workstation, an Anystream Agility Workgroup 1.5 system (dual-Pentium III computer running Windows NT and Agility Workgroup software), a Sony Beta deck, a Mac client, and various switches and cables to hook it all together.
Agility Workgroup 1.5 (AW) has a client/server architecture. The server software runs on Windows NT/2000 only, though the client is custom software for both Win32 and the Mac OS. Any AW client can submit a job to any AW server on the same network. AW servers can be added to handle increased workloads, in the same way that more printers can be added to a network to handle greater printing demand.
Understanding AW comes down to grasping three AW-specific concepts: job, profile and job log. A job is a definition of input media, output file name, and output metadata (title, description, etc.). If the job is a File Job, then the input media is a file or set of files. The other job type is a Tape Job, for which the input media can be a live capture, a read from a deck, or VTR emulation. VTR emulation causes the AW to act as a VTR for interfacing with an external system, such as an Avid non-linear editor, which should be able to output edited content directly into AW for encoding and delivery. Whether the job is File or Tape, a single pair of in and out points can be specified.
A profile is a set of definitions specifying preprocessing parameters, one or more encoders, and one or more distributions. An encoder is a definition of the encoding parameters to use for an encoding session, including bit rate(s). There are five types of encoders: Real, Microsoft, QuickTime, MPEG and MP3. A distribution is a definition of which types of files to copy and/or ftp (Real, Microsoft, QuickTime, QT Ref, MPEG and MP3), the destination(s) of distributed files, optional templatized renaming of output files as they are delivered, and optional e-mailing of links. There is a 25-item limit on encoders plus distributions added together in a profile.
The Job Log is a queue. Once a job is added to Job Log, a profile can be associated with it and that combination (job plus profile) can be run. <>
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