What's Up: Interesting Tech Stuff Roundup

Spring is a good time to pull up, look around, and regroup around the boatload of interesting stuff that’s happening in cable tech circles. In no particular order, here’s my list, culled from various batches of notes:

1. Fiber shortage? Hard to imagine, given the fiber glut left in the wake of the cratered competitive local-exchange carrier business. But that was a few years ago. This is now, and fiber is selling like hotcakes, according to the head of one of the larger glassmakers.

What’s going on? Cellular backhaul, broadband stimulus funding and rural power companies building out to “densities” as few as four homes per mile. As a result, glassmakers are on allocation. Translation: A 90- to 120-day wait from the time you say “purchase order” to the time you get those fiber reels. Go figure!

2. VOD DAI: Remember this one? It’s all about digital ad insertion (that’s the DAI) into stored, ondemand video content (that’s the VOD). Agencies still snark on it - “nobody wants mid-roll ads” - but a vibrant vendor community disagrees.

What’s going on? Think back to the earliest days of VOD, when cable providers essentially strong-armed the content community into giving them VOD titles for free. Now, with DAI as a way to monetize VOD content, on the fly, from the edge of the network, without having to re-pitch assets, that tune is changing.

Here’s evidence, from a recent batch of notes on the subject: “MSOs are saying, ‘give us your good stuff, we can’t monetize your dogs.’” Which isn’t a very nice thing to say about dogs, but nonetheless, anything that realistically points to monetization usually gets funding.

3. Apple, you whippersnapper! Some content providers are raising both eyebrows at Apple, and any other content aggregators seeking “native frame-rate” material, as opposed to the impressively nerdy “mixed cadence.”

What’s going on? This is all kinda sorta like the inverse-telecine activities of the analog days. Remember? Film gets shot at 24 frames per second (fps), and television at 30 fps. That created a need to do things like telecine and inverse telecine, to make film play on TV and vice versa.

Except that neither TV nor movies get shot on film anymore. Digital reigns eternal! The new way of talking about such matters involves “native frame rate,” meaning, send “mezzanine” (highest-grade) content as files are captured and transmitted as they are.

The rub is that some networks use the “mixed cadence” technique, meaning the smushing together of the two different frame rates. This tends to happen when capturing in one format and editing in another, or when mixing in graphics. Not visible to the human eye; easier to do on their end.

Now, though, Apple and others are requesting an end to this 50-plus year reality in TV and film production - away from mixed cadence, and toward native frame. Which to the oldtimers feels kind of like the grandkid telling the grandparents what to do.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at translationplease.com or multichannel.com/blog.