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Almost Live from NAB: Elemental Partners With MSNBC and Red Bull

[Note: This sponsored interview was recorded at NAB 2015.]

The Elemental Technologies booth at the annual NAB conference is the best place to see tomorrow's technology first. At the 2015 show, Elemental demonstrated the results of some high-profile partnerships. Working with MSNBC, Elemental is powering Shift, an online news and lifestyle channel for young adults.

"We're powering MSNBC's Shift," explained Keith Wymbs, Elemental's chief marketing officer. "Shift is their digital channel. It’s an over-the-top service. It is not a TV Everywhere app so anyone has access to it. It's really for the demographic that's under 35. It's their way of saying, 'We're going to produce content for that demographic. We're going to deliver it to devices which is what they tend to look at.' They are not going through a traditional linear route, hooking into a cable line up."

Red Bull has created some of the most exciting moments in online video, so they're the perfect partner for Elemental's 60fps demonstrations, which make Red Bull's action shots look even better. At NAB, Elemental and Red Bull demonstrated live 4Kp60 encoding and streaming.

"Red Bull Media House is a really interesting provider of content. They do a lot of extreme sports…We did a demonstration actually of 4Kp60 real-time encoding with HEVC technologies," Wymbs said. "What we're doing is we're live encoding in Austria at what they call the Hangar. It is their production facility in Austria. We're live encoding it in 4Kp60 10-bit HEVC wrapped in MPEG-DASH and then it's delivered over the internet via Akamai to the show floor. Then it's decoded on a Samsung TV set on their native app for 4K."

To hear more about Elemental—and why offering services that are relevant to the consumer is the next big thing—watch the video that accompanies this article or read the transcript below.

Troy Dreier:  Hi everyone, this is Troy Dreier of StreamingMedia.com, coming to you from NAB 2015. We're talking with several of the news makers at the show. I'm very pleased to be joined here with Keith Wymbs, Chief Marketing Officer of Elemental Technologies. Always great to talk to you, Keith.

Keith Wymbs:          Thanks for having me Troy.

Troy Dreier:  You guys had some significant customer announcements at this show that I want to dive into.

Keith Wymbs:          Actually on Saturday, we had a press event where Jennifer Long from MSNBC came to talk to us and talk about their work with MSNBC shift. Shift is a new channel. It's a completely digital channel that is designed and targeted for the under 35 demographic. Obviously that has a lot of IP at stake. They're doing all the delivery via different devices so on PCs, tablets, smartphones; different devices like that. It's all powered by Elemental Live, Elemental Delta.

            Elemental Delta is a product line that we launched. It's a smart origin solution that we announced at IBC. It's been adopted by a number of the major operators as well as the programmers in the space. She was able to tell how they are using that to generate, basically live and VOD content for their application.

Troy Dreier:  I remember Delta is not that old either. I covered that.

Keith Wymbs:         Yeah, it’s only been six months in the market now. We launched at IBC with CNN Go as an application that's utilizing it. It's been disclosed that Microsoft Xbox uses Elemental Delta as well.

Troy Dreier:  Explain what Delta is.

Keith Wymbs:          Delta is an advanced origin solution. It does just in time packaging, just in time DRM so that you don't have to store all the different verses of content that you're going to utilize to get to all the devices out there. It does advanced advertising capabilities. It can customize advertising capabilities. Not necessarily on per user basis but on a particular profile of user. For the mom in the house if she's watching certain shows, or a kid who's into sports you're only going to deliver sports content for that app. As well as recommendation engines and what not.

Troy Dreier:  The MSNBC announcement was what exactly?

Keith Wymbs:          It was that we're powering MSNBC's Shift. Shift is their digital channel. It’s a over the top service. It is not a TV everywhere app so anyone has access to it. It's really for the demographic that's under 35. It's their way of saying we're going to produce content for that demographic. We're going to deliver it do devices which is what they tend to look at. They are not going through a traditional linear route, hooking into a cable line up. It's a streaming, complete streaming service.

Troy Dreier:  Is it a news channel?

Keith Wymbs:          It's news, it's somewhat entertainment as well. It's lifestyle, things like that. It's not just strictly news. It's a little bit more broader than that but it’s not sports per se.

Troy Dreier:  It's hard to believe that I'm over 35. Can I watch Shift? Is that okay?

Keith Wymbs:          (Laughs) Yeah, anyone can go to ... I don't remember the URL exactly, I'm going to guess it's MSNBC.com/shift to see an example of it.

Troy Dreier:  Go to Google. Go to Google and find it.

Keith Wymbs:          Yeah, if you go to Google you'll find it.

Troy Dreier:  You had another youth oriented announcement, with Red Bull this time.

Keith Wymbs:          Yeah! Red bull Media House is a really interesting provider of content. They do a lot of extreme sports. It's a lot of very cool, creative artistic. I view it as it’s not just media, it's true art, completely artistic based. We did the demonstration actually of 4KP60 real time encoding with HEVC technologies, so that's the next generation of codec, as you know. There have been a lot of demonstrations over the last year or so, I would say of real time encoding.

            In this particular instance for the show, what we're doing is we're live encoding in Austria at what they call the Hangar. It is their production facility in Austria. We're live encoding it in 4KP60 10 bit HEVC wrapped in Mpeg dash and then it's delivered over the internet via Akamai to the show floor. Then it's decoded on a Samsung TV set on their native app for 4K.

Troy Dreier:  Are you showing this at your booth?

Keith Wymbs:          They're showing this at the booth and at the Akamai booth. It's fun to sit over at the Akamai booth. During the times when they weren't live content we were playing out, replays of their amazing content as well. It wasn't live all the time because of the time zone difference.

Troy Dreier:  You were telling me you were able to do this live encoding with less equipment?

Keith Wymbs:          Over the course of the last two years we've been innovating very much in terms of our 4K HEVC processing. We started out doing a frame rate of 30 frames a second, we increased it to 60 frames a second. To do that originally we had to bond two encoders together. For us it was two rack units that would sit in a rack, they were bonded together. That's okay, it's good for demonstrations.

            It's good for proof of concept trials but we've now gotten to the point we're we've optimized our software. We can fit it in a single rack unit. It's a single appliance. There's no connection between those units. It's a lot, it’s peace of mind type of thing for the industry and it can reduce the overall cost structure for 4K processing.

Troy Dreier:  Nobody else is doing this with a single unit?

Keith Wymbs:          No, what we see out there is typically when we're competing there are not many that our real time 4K HEVC P60 encoders. If they are out there, they are upwards of seven rack units. It's a lot more space, a lot more power. We are the first to get there in a single rack unit.

Troy Dreier:  A lot less cost, right?

Keith Wymbs:          Yeah, it's still expensive. (Laughing) 4K is definitely expensive but obviously if you are reducing equipment you have additional flexibility on the cost side.

Troy Dreier:  What was the content they were streaming?

Keith Wymbs:          The content that they were streaming when I was looking at it, was a bar scene.

Troy Dreier:  An extreme bar? (Laughing)

Keith Wymbs:          Well, it had a lot of Red Bull in it. It was two women that were making cocktails, in a very well lit environment. There was a lot of glass. It was a cool bar scene, essentially at that time.

Troy Dreier:  Elemental, I always think of pushing the envelope. You are always doing next years, next five years technology today. What do you see coming from your vantage point? What is next?

Keith Wymbs:          I think the real thing that I'm seeing is more consumer behavior oriented. This idea that I think traditional video delivery is dominated by live linear content, by broadcast essentially. A lot of the new work that is going around subscription, VOD, and the experience Netflix is obviously driving. I think the fusion of those two things, the fusion and unification of live content maybe in sports content, maybe it’s news with on demand, whether it's clips or past highlights. Making it very relevant to that user is where the industry is going, particularly, in an app delivered video environment. That's what consumers want and it's starting to drive the infrastructure consolidation, live linear with on demand. How do you do that the most cost effectively, very efficiently and something that is most relevant to that consumer. That is where I see it going.

Troy Dreier:  It's time to really put the consumer first and provide the better experience.

Keith Wymbs:          I think so. I think we've gotten through all the technology. Will the technology work? Will it scale? I think we've gotten through that. I think we're basically at that point. The question is who is going to compete now for the consumer's time. It's precious. Bringing together the environment where as you're are watching something live if you are interested what are all the on demand types of elements. How do you enhance that experience for the user?

Troy Dreier:  In a way that is enhancing, not cluttering.

Keith Wymbs:          Exactly. Keeping it simple is very important.

Troy Dreier:  I can't wait. That sounds like a good future and good goals for the industry. Thank you very much for joining me Keith. This is Troy Dreier signing off from the National Association of broadcasters, NAB 2015.

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