The Streaming Toolbox: GrayMeta Iris Anywhere, Vimond VIA Live, and StreamClick
This issue, we're looking at a remote production tool for creating interactive content, a scheduling tool for delivering live and live linear programming, and a collaborative quality-control (QC) tool for source file analysis. While one application was very simple to master, the other two had a bit of a learning curve.
GrayMeta Iris Anywhere
GrayMeta's Iris Anywhere brings remote access to QC and validation of high-resolution assets located on prem, in the cloud, or using hybrid storage, without egress charges. This is a great tool for a geographically diverse workforce to review and collaborate at any point in the content supply chain from mastering to distribution.
This application works within a web browser to allow viewing of original files at their native frame rate, enabling frame-accurate playback of encoded and mastered content from anywhere. Playback is via VP9, and it's responsive, so users can click in the timeline and instantly go to a frame. This is a tool to dig deep into reviewing content for human viewers, as opposed to an automated process, in real time.
"What you're looking at is in fact the source media; we're not doing any trickery," says Scott Ralston, SVP and general manager for GrayMeta. "We have no need to create proxies. The compute quite literally is just there to play back the file [from wherever it's located]." The company supports most every audio and video codec used for broadcast or streaming.
Iris Anywhere's interface is pretty straightforward after some training (it's similar to the Iris desktop tool). Content metadata is displayed on the left with all of the basic information about the file you would expect, such as bitrate, frame size, audio bitrate, codec, content buffer errors, and dropped frames.
Below the metadata window is a meter for representing audio clipping. "We measure loudness against some of the major broadcast standards that are out there," says Gregory Cox, VP of business development for GrayMeta. Other audio capabilities include support for up to 64 inputs and the ability to mix down channels and output in mono, stereo, 5.1, and 7.1 configurations.
At the right top window are icons for various tools. These tools go deep on video and image analysis and offer full support for Dolby Vision content and High Dynamic Range (HDR) workflows. If you're not working on an HDR-capable monitor, Iris Anywhere can show you an HDR simulation.
"There is a secondary timeline [complete with clickable markers] to show all of the scene changes in the Dolby Vision metadata," says Cox. Users can check scene changes along with trim values. "The reason why this might be important to a user is because you want to make sure the Dolby Vision metadata lines up with the actual video," says Cox. There's also the ability to adjust frame offset.
The vectorscope shows information about hue and saturation for image conformity. The spectroscope shows that the image is within the color scope. There's also a waveform monitor for color measurement in nits, IRE, or percent of RGB.
While I could mostly understand the application after the demo was done for me, acquiring the skill to master it will take you much, much longer. Typical users are QC content operators and executives who are doing review and approval. GrayMeta does not provide public pricing, but you can access a 14-day trial at go2sm.com/iris.
Vimond VIA Live
Vimond's VIA Live provides a simple interface for broadcasters to manage the live and/or linear aspects of their OTT service by automating live and live-to-video-on-demand (VOD) workflows as well as metadata creation. This removes the duplicate work of entering feed details more than once. It is not a playout tool, but rather through the ingestion of metadata and the management of live sources, it enables scheduling of live events and VOD assets within a live linear broadcast for an OTT service.
Automate Content Organization
VIA Live helps OTT providers automate the manual task of live and linear content coordination. It can be used as a standalone tool with an application programming interface connection to another CMS or within the Vimond platform. "This allows the operator to create assets based on the metadata before the live event starts [when you don't yet know the encoder input]," says Stein Erik Sørhaug, VP of sales engineering for Vimond. "A lot of the broadcasters we're working with didn't have an easy way to manage the linear aspects of their OTT service." The big advantage? "You're not ingesting content a second time [for VOD assets] and are able to reduce the task time and the workload required for this," says Sørhaug.
Content information is either imported directly, such as a live stream from an encoder—complete with primary and secondary endpoints, username, and password—or can be grabbed in bulk from the electronic program guide. The metadata used includes ChannelID, CatchUp, Channel, ProgramID, Title, Description, StartDateTime, EndDateTime, Rating, Image, and Thumbnail.
Once in VIA Live, you can assign your content to a data center, where you can develop rules to use when multiple sources come from the same location. You can create channels as needed and assign content to one or more channels. Each channel has an asset ID, and you can also produce sub-assets for catch-up. In addition, you can define a licensing period, dependent on rights rules, to allow for either a catch-up asset or VOD playback.
Other functionality includes the ability to assign thumbnail images and manage the program lifecycle for live, archived, and catch-up programming. VIA Live also allows padding for start and stop time for recording broadcast content. Additionally, the metadata channel can show when something airs, and you can manage it within the system as an asset that has a video associated with it, even if the video won't be available until it's locked, says Sørhaug.
VIA Live supports linear or live feeds. Most customers are currently supplying content from AWS, but Vimond supports other cloud environments. Content can have DRM if needed, and VIA Live offers DVR access, complete with business rules.
This software is used by live operators, live video engineers, live infrastructure managers, and others. The demo was done for me, and VIA Live looks very straightforward to use. There is no public pricing.
Megaphone TV StreamClick
StreamClick is a brand-new production tool for creating recorded content and live streams. It offers complete collaboration controls and the ability to incorporate interactive broadcasting features. "The broadcast industry right now is using a variety of tools to try to accomplish that task using Zoom, Skype, and duct tape and Popsicle sticks to stitch things together," says Colin Moock, chief product officer for Megaphone TV, which created StreamClick.
The Power of Collaboration
StreamClick allows anyone with producer rights to control each and every element of the production. It works with a web browser, using WebRTC, and has been in beta since March 2020. "We have about 10 very active early adopters that are creating TV content with this today," says Moock. Meredith Corp., 6W Entertainment, Diagonal Media, and Embassy Row are among the production companies using the product. The list of celebrities and politicians who have appeared in broadcasts via the tool is vast, including Mary J. Blige, William Shatner, Oprah Winfrey, Kamala Harris, Mariah Carey, Naomi Campbell, John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, Goo Goo Dolls, and Hillary Clinton. The application is easy enough to be used by both technical and non-technically oriented staff.
For producers and directors, everything is collaboratively controlled. Any producer could, for example, roll external recorded video or change camera shots. There's a virtual control room, which allows communication with talent, either via interruptible foldback communication or text. The real-time switcher allows you to queue up what's next, with excellent controls for presenting one or more cameras with X and Y axis on-screen grid location. The teleprompter has variable speed, location, and font-size control. There are two type of contributors: hosts/guests and audience (without audio) for use in a fan wall. There is also the ability to integrate social media content into the broadcast.
"On a powerful-enough computer, we can handle up to 50 producers, 20 guests, and hundreds of thousands of channel viewers," says Moock. Video input can be via professional camera, webcam, or mobile device.
Megaphone TV started out making polls, quizzes, and other interactive features for TV shows a number of years ago, and many of these types of elements are available within StreamClick. In order to experience these interactive features, which are done via an HTML5 overlay, content must be viewed on the StreamClick platform. The platform can be public or password-protected. At this time, there is no self-serve tool in the dashboard for customers to change the graphics/titles themselves, and, instead, StreamClick offers templates. There is an add-on fee if you want other graphics.
Without interactivity, video can be output as a Real-Time Messaging Protocol feed to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, or Twitch or to an owned-and-operated site as a single 1080p stream. You can create a watch party by bringing in a social platform feed, enhancing the streaming with interactive features, and then republishing to either social media or the StreamClick environment.
While the live broadcast is one use case, another is the creation of content for postproduction. Content from each camera is kept as an isolated recoding and can be imported to a postproduction workflow. Content is saved as a 1080p MP4, up to a 10Mbps local recording, or 4Mbps in the cloud.
I had the chance to see a demo and to play with StreamClick myself. I found it to be a very powerful and sophisticated tool, with a bit of a learning curve, but very much worth trying out. Pricing starts at $99 per month for 10 team members and goes to $999 per month for 50 team members—10 producers, 10 guests, and 30 channel viewers.
A trio of products and services tailor-made for today's work-from-home streaming producers and engineers, combining pro-quality live streams with cloud-based content management and multi-CDN edge delivery.
This issue, I'm focusing on products from the world of advertising. Push Live is used to deliver live broadcasts to multiple destinations while providing customized branding for monetization on different platforms or in different regions. MediaMelon's SmartSight for Ads delivers detailed analytics and QoE for ad-supported content. While both of these products respond to existing market needs, the last product—Ryff—sets out to create a whole new market altogether.
This installment of The Streaming Toolbox is all about remote control, for mobile devices, advertising, and network operations