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HD Gets MPEG-4 Shot in the Arm

At the dawn of HD a decade
ago, cable networks nailed up their signals
in MPEG-2. At the time, MPEG-4 encoders
— which are twice as bandwidth-efficient
— weren’t as mature. Plus, all digital cable
set-tops used MPEG-2, which is still largely
the case.

Now, video-equipment vendors are offering
programmers more tools to help them cut over
to space-saving MPEG-4 satellite distribution by
letting their MSO affiliates auto-transcode the
video into MPEG-2.

Motorola Mobility is bowing a new family of
integrated receiver/decoders (IRDs) that can
handle up to four 1080p high-definition MPEG-
4 channels in one box — to deliver “full HD” video
— along with MPEG-2 transcoding.

Discovery Communications is among the
first customers to deploy the new Motorola
IRDs, as part of an eight-month project to migrate
its five MPEG-2 HDs to MPEG-4.

The programmer will convert its five MPEG-
2 HD channels — Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal
Planet, Science Channel and Planet Green
— to MPEG-4 in two phases. Discovery is distributing
Motorola Mobility’s DSR-6401 (singlechannel)
and DSR-6402
(dual-channel) IRDs for
the transition, for no extra
cost to affiliates that
already carry the legacy

“We’ve gotten to a
place with our capacity
where we’re interested
in increasing the efficiency
of our [satellite]
transponders,” Glenn
Oakley, executive vice
president of Discovery’s
Media Technology, Production
and Operations
group, said.

Starting April 9, Discovery launched MPEG-
4 HD feeds of Animal Planet and Science, while
keeping the MPEG-2 versions on the existing
transponder. As of July 1, the programmer will
stop distributing the two MPEG-2 HDs.

In the second phase, starting Sept. 1, Discovery
plans to light up MPEG-4 feeds of Discovery
Channel HD, TLC HD and Planet Green
HD (which will be rebranded “Destination
America” on May 28). Those MPEG-2 HDs will
be retired Dec. 31.

Motorola’s DSR-6400 provides four different
configurations, with support for one, two, three
or four channels.

For 1080i HD services, the DSR-6404 can
statmux four HDs into
one 256-QAM channel
at a multiplex bit-rate
of 38.8 Mbps for delivery
over digital cable
— without any loss of
quality, Motorola said.

To date, cable networks
in North America
and Latin America, including
have launched more
than 100 HD MPEG-4
channels over satellite
via the Motorola IRDs.

Meanwhile, Harmonic
is jumping into
the transcoder IRD category
after trailing competitors including Motorola
and Cisco Systems, which have offered
transcoding IRDs for several years.

At the National Association of Broadcasters
convention in Las Vegas this week, Harmonic
will debut its first IRD that can descramble
and transcode up to four MPEG-4 AVC video
streams into MPEG-2 in a single rack unit. Harmonic
is also pitching the IRD as letting operators
deploy an all-IP headend in combination
with the vendor’s Flex decoder.


Products set to launch at the 2012 NAB Show:

Motorola Mobility will show the next-generation DSR-
6400 family of integrated receiver/decoders, aimed at
facilitating programmers’ move to MPEG-4.

Harmonic’s ProView 7100 IRD supports up to four
MPEG-4 channels with auto-transcoding to MPEG-2.

Ericsson will launch AVP, a multi-codec, multifunction
video compression and processing platform for broadcasters
and TV service providers.

Brightcove, an online video-publishing provider, is
introducing the Video Paywall Solution Framework, to
provide subscription management, payment processing
and content protection technologies.

Broadcast International
is debuting a “TV Anywhere”
solution with the software-based CodecSys Media
Server for streaming video to multiple clients and
devices, including smart TVs.

SOURCE:Multichannel News research