IBC 2009: Harmonic Targets Multiple Formats, Platforms

IBC Amsterdam 2009: Complete Coverage of the IBC Show

Compression supplier Harmonic demonstrated at IBC new products for handling a variety of formats within a multichannel operator's traditional plant and for delivering programming to new platforms such as the Web or mobile phones.

The company's Agile Compression Engine (ACE), a new transcoding technology to be used with its existing ProStream 1000 Stream Processor, is designed to deliver "any-to-any" transcoding of any combination of MPEG-2, MPEG-4 AVC, HD, SD and numerous audio codecs, including HD to SD down-conversion.

Such transcoding capability would allow a cable operator to convert MPEG-4 HD program feeds to MPEG-2 SD for distribution to legacy set-tops, or an IPTV operator to convert MPEG-2 SD to MPEG-4 HD to serve HD boxes. ACE will also perform "any-to-many" encoding by creating multiple output streams from one input service, such as HD and SD versions or constant bit-rate formats for time-shifted TV. The product will also perform low-bit-rate AVC encoding, down to 256 kilobits per second, to serve Internet streaming or mobile video applications.

"It's the Swiss Army knife of core encoding," says Harmonic vice president David Price.

Harmonic says that the ProStream with ACE, which is available as software upgrade to existing ProStream 1000 units, also delivers the most dense transcoding platform in the industry, supporting MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) transcoding of up to 20 high definition (HD) or 80 standard definition (SD) video and audio channels in a one rack-unit (1 RU) chassis.

Harmonic also demonstrated a complete system for multiplatform delivery called the "MediaPrism Convergence Suite" that covers content ingest, preparation and transmission and is already being trialed by major operators for new mobile and Internet video services.

According to Harmonic director of broadcast and new media solutions Tom Lattie, MediaPrism is basically an "umbrella suite" comprised of both existing and new products that is designed to support a variety of mobile and Internet delivery formats, including Microsoft Silverlight, Apple adaptive HTTP Live Streaming and Adobe Flash. It will also support legacy mobile video formats, existing broadcast TV and video-on-demand (VOD) services; a Harmonic VOD server, for example, could be used deliver clips to an iPhone as well as HDTV set.

Key elements of the MediaPrism suite include content ingest from Harmonic's existing CLEARcut offline and LIVEcut real-time content preparation systems; transcoding from both the legacy ProStream 4000 live transcoder and the new ProStream 5000 file-based universal transcoder, which is based on Rhozet's Carbon Coder technology and is capable of transcoding up to 16 video assets simultaneously with automatic quality control; content delivery from the new line of StreamLiner 3000 video streaming servers; and content management from the new MediaPrism Workflow Manager software.

The MediaPrism Workflow Manager automates the flow of assets throughout the content ingest, transformation and delivery process and can control scheduling, recording and playout, in addition to other key functions such as ADI metadata processing and interfaces, EPG parsing and secure content delivery.

In keeping pace with new adaptive streaming technology, MediaPrism will also encode video in multiple bit-rates for each use case. The MediaPrism demonstration Harmonic was running in its IBC booth showed adaptive streaming delivery of streams encoded at bit-rates of 256, 512 and 800 kilobits; the Starz programming being used for the streaming demo was the same content being used to demonstrate MPEG-4 HD encoding on the other side of the booth.