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NewTek and Wowza Release MediaDS

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First announced at IBC in Amsterdam last September, the NewTek/Wowza Media Systems MediaDS (Media Distribution System) is now available for immediate purchase. The MediaDS unit comes in a one rack-unit (1RU) form factor and is priced at $11,995.

Powered by the video ingest technologies NewTek is famous for, including advanced color correction demonstrated in the TalkShow100 product we covered last year, the MediaDS can act as a multi-stream distribution system for content generated by the NewTek TriCaster video mixer product line.

Like most encoders with an integrated streaming server, the MediaDS offers a 3G serial digital interface (SDI) input that allows 1080p 59.94 (or 1080p50 in non-U.S. markets) to be captured and encoded into an RTMP stream. While there’s been lots of talk about the death of RTMP, the NewTek team has championed its continued use for live streaming to a variety of social media platforms, including Facebook Live, Microsoft Azure, and even the Wowza CDN service offered by Wowza for live event streaming from its Wowza Streaming Engine media server software.

The MediaDS adds a nice touch for multiple ingest points, offering four 3G-SDI inputs, each one encoded as an RTMP stream with up to four channels of embedded audio (two stereo pairs) via NewTek’s integrated encoding software. In addition, the company offers waveforms and vector scopes to monitor and modify the incoming SDI signal, allowing the encoder to adhere to broadcast specifications for white levels as well as color gamut.

On the audio front, there are two other ways to ingest audio.

The first is via the Dante audio networking protocol, licensed by Audinate to a number of sound card and audio mixing board manufacturers, meaning that audio can be inserted into a stream from a multi-channel mixing board in real-time. Dante and other audio networking protocols operate at the single-clock-cycle level, typically around 2-3 milliseconds delay, and transport audio across local area networks via Ethernet.

The second way to insert audio is via a proprietary technology that NewTek has been championing over the past two IBC and NAB shows: NDI. The audio and video transport protocol, formally known as the Network Device Interface technology, is an innovative UDP/TCP combination that streams high-resolution, frame-accurate content via specifically assigned TCP ports. (See this technical document for more on NDI.)

The benefit for the MediaDS user, especially one who already has a TriCaster on the local network, is the ability to pull real-time video delivery from a TriCaster or 3Play and audio from a separate audio mixer, both via NDI, and then merge the two together at the encoder prior to RTMP encoding. Because NDI operates at the 20-35 millisecond range, the merging of separate NDI audio and video can be accomplished in less than the time it takes to display a single frame of video.

The ingest side of the MediaDS is tied to an equally powerful media server, a device-specific version of the Wowza Streaming Engine. The benefit of combining a media server in the same multi-input encoder is key to expanding the reach of streams generated by the MediaDS.

While a TriCaster is capable of streaming via RTMP, the Wowza Streaming Engine in the MediaDS can vary the bitrates (i.e., transrate) or even the output codecs (i.e., transcode) to allow for delivery via the iOS-focused Apple HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) or even the industry-standard MPEG-DASH delivery protocol, both of which use thousands of small files (segments) to deliver live or on-demand video content over HTTP to Android, iOS, and desktop operating systems.

Streaming targets can also be independently configured per video stream, but the number of independent output streams is limited to four total, with the ability to simultaneously archive the streaming files for later on-demand use.

The limitation of stream outputs may be due in part to the amount of processing required for the video and audio pre-processing. Processing on the MediaDS is handled via a customized FPGA with video processed at YCbCr +A 4:4:4:4 and audio processed at 48 kHz.

Given the ability for Wowza to transcode and transrate, though, this means that a MediaDS can be dropped into a standard broadcaster configuration but output video at a wide range of resolutions while audio can be downsampled to 44.1 kHz or even 22 kHz for legacy end user devices.

As for physical form factor, the MDS1 is 16.75" deep, which is slightly deeper than the typical AV gear but shallower than the typical 1RU computer server. The MDS1 comes with two gigabit NIC ports and a single 180W power supply.

We look forward to doing a hands-on review of the MDS1 in the near future.

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