By: Ken Kerschbaumer, SVG Editorial Director
Friday, September 9, 2011 - 12:14 am
Harmonic’s IBC theme puts the focus squarely on the multiscreen experience, something the company says is an evolutionary trend that the company is looking to address with a wide variety of new technologies and services. Patrick Harshman, Harmonic president and CEO, says that the new multiscreen opportunity will, like the transitions from analog to digital, SD to HD, and tape-based workflows, be addressed by Harmonic’s Electra 9000.
“The Electra 9000, for the first time, merges the world of traditional broadcast and new media,” he says, adding that the product is the latest embodiment of a vision that was originally laid bare when Omneon and Harmonic were merged a little more than a year ago.
And while an evolutionary change may seem easier than revolutionary one, Harmonic’s Tom Lattie, VP of Product Marketing, says multiscreen is a unique challenge. In past transitions would occur with incrementally adding things like HD channels until one day staff would realize there were two massive infrastructures in the same facility, with duplicate infrastructure and operating expenses.
“And now they are beginning to dabble their feet into multiscreen, and they are waking up and realizing they may walk up in three years and have three completely different infrastrucutures,” he explains. “So they realize a different approach is needed.”
Making the migration even more complicated is “function collapse,” whereby consumer devices are adding more functions, requiring customers of Harmonic to make it possible to deliver a quality experience across all devices that is similar. And, to date, no company has introduced a broadcast encoder that can also handle multiscreen needs.
That is part of the reason for the Electra 9000, what the company believes is a transformative device that will seamlessly mesh with broadcast-quality, uncompressed workflows. It supports multi-codec and multi-format operations, making it suitable for terrestrial networks, cable networks, IP services, and satellite services.
“We believe this will be a game changer, particularly in the linear TV space,” says Lattie.
“The business benefits are substantial,” says Neil Brydon, senior group manager, compression products at Harmonic. “With mobile and web delivery, operators can reach a wider audience and increase the value proposition for subscribers by offering maximum video quality on a wide range of devices. The Electra 9000 also reduces expenses through its multi-function, high- density, and power efficient design, which supports multiple services on one platform.”
The Electra 9000 encoder delivers HD and SD video services using Harmonic’s MPEG- 4 AVC (H.264) and MPEG-2 compression algorithms, and combines the company’s market- leading broadcast capabilities with the ability to support emerging multiscreen applications. The Electra 9000 maximizes bandwidth efficiency and channel density by providing up to four audio/video processing modules per chassis. Each module supports flexible combinations of up to four SD/HD inputs, with up to eight broadcast output profiles and 32 multiscreen aligned output profiles.
The Electra 9000 supports both baseband and IP workflows, as well as three-pass encoding with hierarchical LookAhead technology, comprehensive pre-processing, and a high- performance up/downconverter and deinterlacer. The Electra platform also includes integrated statistical multiplexing with Harmonic’s DiviTrackMX and support for DiviTrackIP in LAN or distributed WAN environments. The new platform supports main and secondary outputs for SD or HD and a rich suite of audio processing options such as Junger Level Magic automatic audio leveling adjustment.
The Electra 9000 enhances serviceability and reliability through a dual power supply support option and field replaceable modules. Scalability is improved through a pay-as-you-grow architecture that allows for the upgrade of compression blades, I/O modules and formats with firmware licenses as business needs evolve.
The Electra 9000 is the latest element in Harmonic’s end-to-end multiscreen solution and can be combined with the company’s ProMedia Package carrier-grade adaptive streaming preparation system and ProMedia Origin HTTP and RTMP streaming video server to encapsulate and deliver video to a variety of target ecosystems, with support for Apple HTTP Live Streaming, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, Adobe RTMP and Adobe HTTP Dynamic Streaming.
Lattie says the coupled with the Harmoic ProMedia Packaged and ProMedia Origin technologies the system can also support multiple streaming video formats.
“It’s not simply how to get service to an iPad but also delivering high-res MPEG2 to the living room,” adds Lattie. “And our unique perspective sets us apart and will keep us moving forward.”