More Details on Microsoft's VC-1 Ecosystem Emerge at IBC
Considerable attention at IBC was focused on Adobe's Flash ecosystem and the industry-standard H.264 and AAC codecs, but Microsoft gathered its ecosystem together for the VC-1 format, which resides side-by-side with H.264 on next-generation DVDs and broadcast systems.
Advances in the VC-1 Ecosystem
Releasing its VC-1 Encoder software development kit (SDK) at IBC, Microsoft followed the pattern of many in the broadcast space: announce the product at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in April in Las Vegas and then ship the product at IBC. Touting "substantial quality and performance improvements delivered through the new SDK," Microsoft is gearing it toward both the broadband and mobile content distribution segments, as well as IPTV deployments. For instance, Red Bee Media chose Anystream Inc.’s automated encoders to rapidly repurpose and streamline the delivery of high-quality, bandwidth-efficient video content for the BBC's innovative new iPlayer service.
"With its extensibility from mobile-based scenarios to the highest-quality HD optical discs," said Bob Johnson, chief technology officer at Red Bee Media, "the use of the Microsoft VC-1 Encoder provides us with the flexibility to deliver content to the BBC optimized for virtually any screen and know it's going to meet the BBC's high standards."
Microsoft also touted its partnership with Amazon.com, which recently announced a program for independent filmmakers that allows them to publish up to 1,000 HD DVD titles with no set-up fee through CreateSpace, using the new VC-1 Encoder technology to produce high-quality, on-demand optical media titles. Microsoft claims in its literature that "over 85 percent of all HD DVD titles available in the U.S. have been encoded using VC-1" and is pushing heavily forward with its Silverlight cross-browser, cross-platform plugin "Flash killer."
Two companies that Microsoft announced as part of its larger VC-1 ecosystem are ViewCast, which introduced its new Osprey 700 HD encoding card, and Tarari. The Encoder Accelerator for Windows Media is one of several hardware and software acceleration products that Tarari makes, with its specialized silicon designed to handle computing-intensive processes that are too difficult for general-purpose CPUs to process in a reasonable time frame. Tarari claims encoding speeds of 3 to 18 times faster than software alone.
Speaking of Tarari, the company announced over the weekend that it "has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by LSI for $85 million in cash." According to a release jointly published by Tarari and LSI, which is also known for key DSP, video, and specialized silicon, Tarari employees will become LSI employees and the team will remain in San Diego.
Dayport’s PUBLISH Delivering for Australia’s SKY NEWS
In the realm of content acquisition, workflow and media asset management, two companies at IBC stood out: Dayport and Thomson.
Dayport’s PUBLISH solution is used to enhance playout for broadcasters. A recent announcement at the show was that Dayport manages, publishes and distributes news clips for Australia News Channel's SKY NEWS website, podcast and mobile delivery. Dayport demoed the workflow, showing how previously non-connected systems such the news channel's Quantel production platform and news playout systems could be used as ingest points for the Dayport delivery system; in essence, Dayport allows the broadcaster to "do their own thing" and does the heavy lifting to publish the digital file-based workflow into a streaming format. Dayport also provides storage of the content at its data center; the company also noted it will provide a customized Flash video player and integrate it into the existing SKY NEWS website, giving the news channel full control over the design and functionality of the web video player to control the consumer experience.
Thomson Acquires SyncCast, Introduces MIDAS
Thomson, long a major player in the broadcast workflow and asset management space, announced a key acquisition of the SyncCast streaming media content delivery network (CDN) under its Technicolor services business. Technicolor, which in recent years has moved heavily into Digital Intermediate (DI) as an expansion of its coloration/print core business, has seen a marked shift to digital cinema in the last year. To address the shrinking revenues in the traditional business core, the company is moving into digital delivery of dailies to production sites as well as delivery of DI and digital cinema "prints" to theaters and CGI firms.
Thomson's goal with its acquisition of SyncCast is to continue "to improve time to market, reduce costs and reduce complexity by eliminating or reducing multiple vendors and platforms." Dubbed its Integrated Services Strategy, Thomson is hoping to leverage SyncCast's end-to-end solutions in the delivery of digital content over IP networks.
Besides the SyncCast acquisition, Thomson also announced MIDAS, a software and hardware platform integrating asset management systems, production/billing systems, workflow automation systems and production networks. SyncCast provides MIDAS with a secure global private network for rapid file delivery, streaming, and collaboration with key clients and between all Thomson's post-production locations.
Thomson was keen to point out that SyncCast is more than just a content delivery network. "Unlike traditional CDNs that only distribute content, SyncCast provides complete end-to-end solutions," the press release stated, "including content preparation and publishing; content delivery optimization; complex digital rights management (DRM); back-end integration with billing and payment platforms; and services for storing, managing, securing, and reporting the consumption of digital content. The company's solutions enable some of the largest digital video distribution services in the world.
And, to bring it all back around to Microsoft, SyncCast touted its work with Microsoft on delivering video for Microsoft's Xbox LIVE Marketplace. "SyncCast has been a trusted partner and helped Microsoft build the second largest video delivery service on the Internet, Xbox LIVE Marketplace, in a matter of months," said Blair Westlake, corporate vice president of the media and entertainment group at Microsoft. "Thomson's acquisition of SyncCast expands its strength in video technology, content management and distribution, offering Microsoft more ways to extend our relationship in these core areas."
Companies and Suppliers Mentioned