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Cloud Video Production Takes the Spotlight at NAB Conference

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The third great theme at NAB2011 aside from 3D and 4K imaging is that of cloud based content production and management.

A growing number of solutions are emerging from new players and traditional video developers taking advantage of aspects of cloud hosting.

[See related news: Microsoft Announced Partner Ecosystem to Lead Media and Entertainment Industry to the Cloud.]

Among them is a framework from Avid whose core business is editing systems. Fifteen years ago non-linear editing systems were packaged as turnkey products bundling software into expensive hardware processing platforms. At its height there were between 20 and 30 competing non-linear edit systems. A decade ago the software was liberated from bespoke hardware to run on standard PCs and prices were slashed leaving Avid, Apple and Adobe as the main vendors. That remains the case today, but Avid has begun to take the sector to its logical next step by freeing software from the PC all together.

At NAB, Avid has debuted Interplay Central, a web-based production portal for PCs, laptops, and mobile phones. Targeted first at mobile newsgathering it could also serve applications in fast turnaround genres such as sports or reality TV shows. It is also the first in a much wider plan by the company to offer products based on an IP framework.

Interplay Central is described as a web-based portal offering workflow tools for the creation, management, and distribution of media held locally or centrally. However the mobile app is released only for Blackberry phones initially -- not iPhone or iPad, which are owned by Avid's arch rival Apple.

"In the past, there were rigid tools for news production, but this breaks the mold and enables media professionals to access a single user interface on a laptop or mobile device and tap into newsroom systems," explained Christine Viera, Avid's vice president for product and segment marketing. "If a journalist in the field were using a mobile device they could browse and edit content directly and in real-time, whether in wireless range or not."

Although currently optimized for Avid's new production platform iNews and its asset management system Interplay, Interplay Central is open to links with third party systems, such as those from Quantel or Apple.

Technologies adapted from Maximum Throughput, a company acquired in July 2009, are also being deployed. Maximum Throughput assets included the Sledgehammer line of storage solutions and MaxEdit, a web-based editing platform.

"That technology is going to be central to our plans across the enterprise since it gives us a huge amount of flexibility in how we deploy client-web apps as well as supporting a mix of media formats," said Sam Bogoch, director of enterprise sales programs for Avid. "Cloud-based configurations are the future and a big part of the future for Avid."

Avid is not alone. Fellow post production company Quantel has devised QTube software, which it claims offers frame accurate cloud-based edit and review of video content.

QTube is aimed at creating a cloud-based global media workflow by allowing media assets to be accessed online. It is being shown with an open API so that anyone on any platform, including a tablet, could access full quality HD and SD content. "QTube needs to be compatible with all of the devices our customers use," said Quantel's Steve Owen.

Meanwhile, the Fordela Corporation, a start-up founded by employees of LucasArts, has come out with a cloud-based solution for managing stereo 3D content. Based on the firm's Ambassador platform and aimed at content producers, distributors, and publishers of 3D video, its 3D frame-packing and management in the cloud uses Microsoft Azure and Amazon EC2. Ambassador is also available to manufacturers of 3D hardware as an OEM/white-label solution.

"Our platform has brought together a powerful network of technologies from NVIDIA, Microsoft, Amazon, and Akamai, to provide a seamless way to manage and deliver 3D video," said Fordela's CEO Ron Spector. "3D video content can now be easily managed and delivered from the cloud to any connected 3D enabled device."

NAB is running a Content in the Cloud conference stream at which Marty Lafferty, CEO of the Distributed Computing Industry Association, said: "Cloud computing is an opportunity for content makers and distributors to reach new audiences and to make more money from their products. It truly is the next big thing and something everyone involved in broadcast needs to learn more about."

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