How we developed the software broadcast grid
For more than a year now, we have been using Upipe as the foundation of our new functions. Upipe made possible the advanced features in the record functions (thumbnails, hints), and the transcoding in the remux function. But our latest set of functions pushed the limits of our imagination.
We have developed the concept of the software broadcast grid. In a typical television control room, playouts and inputs are connected to a central grid, and the signal goes to and back from a number of processing equipments (overlay, watermarking), and finally to encoders. The connections inside the grid are configured from a front-panel, or, for modern grids, from a web interface.
Upipe enabled us to build the logical equivalent. The inputs of our grid currently are:
- decoded elementary streams from UDP or RTP streams
- Blackmagic Decklink SDI inputs
- JPEG files
The outputs currently are encoded elementary streams to UDP or RTP streams. We plan on adding support for more input and output formats in the future.
The intermediate connections, that would be “inside” the hardware grid, are implemented with “dup” pipes in the Upipe pipeline. Their inputs and outputs are raw video or audio. UDP or RTP inputs (resp. outputs) must therefore be decoded (resp. encoded) before entering (resp. leaving) the grid. All other operations using raw inputs and outputs can directly be connected to the grid.
The major feature of our software grid, and where it diverges from its hardware counterpart, is that video and audio can be switched independently. We therefore used that feature to perform the automatic switching of 3 radio channels between a number of studios.
In the future we intend to add more functions dealing with raw video and audio, such as logo or timecode insertion, watermarking, or more advanced forms of overlay.
The Challenge of IPTV
1 – Be able to please the Digital Native
The abundance of screens in our daily lives speeds up the television’s destiny. Challenges are required in order to fit the new consumer’s behaviors. The “Digital Native” is the first generation born with new technologies and the first to develop addictions regarding those devices.
We know that the Digital native craves to have everything, quickly, in unlimited quantity. An acronym was even created to illustrate the pattern of this generation’s behavior: ATAWAD – Any Time, Anywhere, Any Device. As a matter of fact, Internet reaches almost perfectly those goals: an access to everything, more and more quickly in virtually unlimited quantities.
All around the world, marketers predict an increased time spent with mobile and digital devices by consumers. Owing to those predictions, a radical change needs to be made in order to communicate with consumers.
2 – From TV to Digital TV
The term “TV” has lost its meaning. If you watch a TV Show on your computer, how do you call it? TV or Digital? The Digital age causes confusion: the term “media” can mean a type of content but also refers to the broadcast or to a type of device.
As a consequence of this evolution, the number of programs proposed will grow. TV over IP will increase the competition between broadcast actors. The price proposed to customers ought to vary according to contents, choice of channels (bundles) and new services for the consumers.
Hence the question: Will the decrease in broadcast costs benefit the end-user? Well, this is the new challenge for the entire broadcast Industry.
3 – A worldwide battle
Watching TV over Internet becomes usual and some US players are already getting ready for the evolution. The last 4th of March, the second-largest American satellite provider – Dish Network – has obtained a wide-ranging distribution agreement of Disney’s channels. And this will only be broadcast… on the Internet! This is a premiere for the American television industry. This agreement between these two American giants sealed the new trend of video services outside traditional TV subscription.
According to a report from Digital TV Research, the global market of digital television will reach 97,9% of households by the end of 2020. Forecasts are based on data from 138 countries. The study also specifies that 124 countries will have at least 90% digital penetration by 2020.
Determined to not let Netflix alone on the web, Dish Network could continue to develop partnerships with other contents providers. In the meantime, Dish TV’s major competitor, DirecTV, was just acquired by AT&T, one of the most important American multinational telecommunications corporations. Clearly the battle is engaged. Who’s Next to hit?