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IBC 2010: A Look Back

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[Editor's note: This is a two-part look at IBC 2010. Tim Siglin highlights some of the products and demos that are of most interest to our readers, while Joel Unickow takes a more personal survey of the event.)

The curtain's closed on the 2010 IBC show, held from September 9-14 in Amsterdam, but the buzz about a number of new and noteworthy solutions presented at the show continues to linger.

As mentioned in the pre-show article, 3D was a big part of the buzz, and not just on TV. As stereoscopic 3D (S3D) is beginning to grow toward maturity, the discussion of whether or not to stream live S3D on the web was partially answered by a technology demonstration.

A live S3D 4Mbps HD stream was encoded at a German television studio and then transmitted to the show floor at Elemental Technologies' Hall 13 stand. The technology demonstration, accomplished in a partnership between Elemental, Level 3, Microsoft, and TVN Group, demonstrated the feasibility of S3D as an online broadcast medium.

Microsoft showed off a number of products in the Topaz Lounge, including a Windows 7 mobile phone playing back Big Buck Bunny via SmoothStreaming and an iPhone receiving streams from a demonstration version of Microsoft's IIS Media Services 4, which we hope to review in fairly short order.

Portable Encoding
In the portable encoding space, two companies had product showcases of interest: Viewcast and miniCASTER.

Viewcast showed off its soon-to-be-released Niagara 4100 unit, an HD-SDI successor to the GoSurf. With anticipated pricing of $9,995, the portable product is expected to include the ability to encode and stream MPEG-4, H.264 for Flash and Silverlight as well as Apple's HTTP Live, although it's uncertain if the latter will be adaptive bitrate (ABR) or just a single stream.  

One of the benefits of the Niagara 4100 is its ability to ingest either standard-definition (SD) or HD video sources through its SDI input, as well as the ability to upscale standard-definition video to HD, so that a change in input signal does not cause an encoding session to grind to a halt. Audio input also comes in four options: audio embedded into SDI, AES/EBU via a mini AES 3-pin connector, and either balanced or unbalanced stereo audio inputs.

The device has the option to be run on an Anton-Bauer battery pack, and one of the two on-board USB ports can also power a few of the low-power Wi-Fi wireless access points on the market, making the solution truly portable, as long as profiles have been properly set prior to going into the field.

On the other end of the spectrum is the almost petite miniCASTER, which generated a significant amount of buzz at the show, given both its small size and the placement of the stand at the entrance to Hall 1.

While the product was shown as a "sneak peek" at Streaming Media East 2010 in New York, the IBC presence was the premiere of the product to the larger broadcast world.

miniCASTER is a mobile encoding device that packs a significant number of options into the size of a unit not much larger than the first-generation iPod. Using 3G, Wi-Fi, or Ethernet connections, the miniCASTER is designed to work in tandem with a service offered by the TV1.EU content delivery network.

TV1.EU's Livestreaming platform is a service of what its founders bill as the first independent CDN in Germany called TV1.EU.

"Using our own CDN is the big difference to our competitors," said Michael Westphal, CEO of TV1.EU.

While the device is showcased with 750Kbps at 1280x720 (an HD pixel size) the company says the product is for high-quality SD delivery. 

The concept of tying an encoder to a particular service provider is not new, as Visionary Solutions has been doing the same thing with Powerstream in the U.S. for the last few years; but the diminutive nature of the miniCASTER, coupled with an account on TV1.EU, allows for a time from setup to encode to be measured in single-digit seconds.

TiVo also showcased its integration of YouTube into the familiar TiVo user interface, at a suite at the Hotel Okura, a few minutes walk from the RAI Congress Centre.

Unlike the widget concept employed by most Internet-enable TVs, TiVo has chosen to allow direct access to YouTube via the company's familiar peanut-shaped remote control. A new version of the remote control also has a sliding interface that reveals a QWERTY keyboard.

"While we have a retail presence in the United States," a company spokesperson said, "our international focus is to work with service providers to place the TiVo software on their set-top box of choice. We have licensees in Taiwan, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Spain, plus we've just announced a UK presence powering a Virgin offering."

Next year's IBC will take place at the RAI Congress Centre from September 9-13, 2011.

—Tim Siglin

Click here for Joel Unickow's take on IBC 2010, and click here for Dom Robinson's look at IBC from the perspective of a first-timer.

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