EGT Puts Encoders in One Basket

Houston -- EGT Thursday is expected to launch a family of MPEG encoders built on common hardware and software, which the company said will supplant its existing stand-alone product lines.

EGT’s VIPr -- pronounced “viper” -- is built on a digital-signal-processor engine and can encode both MPEG-4 and MPEG-2. The company initially will sell a one-rack-unit high MPEG-4 encoder, but it plans later this year to deliver chassis-based versions with pluggable modules.

The advantage of the consolidated VIPr (a portmanteau of “video processor”) architecture is that it is software-programmable, senior director of product management Chris Gordon said.

In theory, this should mean that the products can be more easily upgraded and adapted for new services than boxes that are essentially hardwired. “This lets you reconfigure video processors instead of replacing them,” he added.

VIPr will become the flagship MPEG encoder offering from EGT, and the company will begin to phase out the Encore, Quartet and Prelude encoder lines, according to Gordon.

The first baby in the new family to slither out is VIPr4-SDx MPEG-4 Encoder, a one-rack-unit-high system that will be released early in the second quarter.

The VIPr4-SDx features hot-swappable channel blades and fan trays and provides optional digital-program insertion, variable bit rate, Pro-MPEG forward-error correction and MPEG-2-to-MPEG-4 transcoding.

EGT is banking on its assumption that cable operators will eagerly adopt MPEG-4, which is about twice as efficient as MPEG-2, as direct-broadcast satellite operator DirecTV and other competitors turn up the pressure to add more HD programming.

“MPEG-4 is going to be an absolute necessity when you’re talking about 100 or 150 HD channels,” Gordon said.

The company claimed that its MPEG-4 encoding algorithms provide better performance than competitors’ products -- that is, superior quality given the same bit rate.

For example, according to Gordon, at a bit rate of 1 megabit per second, EGT’s MPEG-4 encoder showed a better than 2-decibel advantage over its nearest competitor on the Video Quality Experts Group signal-to-noise test. “Any human who isn’t blind can see the difference,” he added.

Gordon declined to name the competing vendor but said EGT benchmarked its system against all major MPEG-4 encoders.