VidyoCast, the ‘Google’ of Video Coding, Offers Cloud-Based Solution

Referred to by clients as the Google of video encoding and decoding, VidyoCast made quite a splash at IBC 2010. A cloud-based solution that uses an IP network to transfer and manage video feeds, VidyoCast already counts Fox Sports Pan America as a client and currently has several more sports negotiations in the works.

“We are the first company to develop commercialized, scalable video coding using the H.264 standard,” says Eyal Hillman, VP of business development for VidyoCast, SVG’s newest sponsor. “We can manage contribution feeds coming from the field, remote studio, or stadium into the control room and going back to the satellite trucks for monitoring and net return. We can do point-to-point, point-to-multipoint transport, and backup as well.”

Easy-Open, Foolproof Interface
The VidyoCast solution is particularly applicable to off-site contributors. The workflow is extremely straightforward: an e-mail is sent to the user with an embedded link, and all the user has to do is click.

“That link opens a window with a large-screen feed of what I’m sending back to him from the studio camera,” Hillman explains. “On the bottom left side, he’ll see himself, so now he can see what’s happening in the show.”

Because the interface runs over the Internet, it requires no dedicated fiber lines and can be accessed anywhere the contributor plugs in a laptop. Even the camera positioning and audio levels can be controlled off-site, using robotics.

“There are no buttons, so it’s idiot-proof,” Hillman smiles. “You don’t have to tell him to turn up his audio. I can change the bitrate, resolution, audio levels, everything in the studio. There is also a mix-minus built into it, so now I can have multiple guests coming into the studio simultaneously to create a virtual panel.”

Hillman does not expect broadcasters to change their workflow to accommodate the VidyoCast system, so it seamlessly integrates into existing infrastructures.

“Newsgathering crews go around the country with a laptop, camera, and a Firewire connection,” he says. “With our system, using that same equipment, the video goes over our network, while a decoder sits in the studio control room. The video feeds directly into a router and pops up as another feed in your switcher. We also tied the IFB intercom system into it, so that they can still use the intercom and talk through their computer to anyone else.”

Video at Audio Speed
At the heart of the VidyoCast cloud-based solution is an IP network — public, private, or leased — which uses a scalable video codec to optimize the picture quality at all times.

“It will squeeze the best available quality out of any given network connection on the encode and decode,” Hillman says. “But, unlike some of the adaptive-bitrate technology, which jumps between multiple streams, it’s a single stream that has multiple layers and qualities within it. That allowed us to do some interesting stuff that’s not available in the market right now, such as very low latency, scalable video coding, and high quality.”

The latency is so low, he adds, that, at 200 milliseconds, even at HD quality, latency is a little bit faster than the audio delay experienced on a cellphone.

“Usually on satellite interviews, you see a question, then an awkward pause,” Hillman says. “We worked with NBC on the Jimmy Fallon Show when they had a guest in London. You saw them laughing back and forth, and it was really natural.”

One Stream, Repurposed
On the quality side, VidyoCast offers the ability to stream in 1080i, 1080p, or 720p, all at 60 frames per second, in PAL or NTSC and can upscale, downscale, upconvert, or downconvert.

“It’s very flexible,” Hillman says. “Single-class encode allows you serve the same video to multiple affiliates using the same stream. Some can take the 1080i feed, some 720p, some SD; you don’t have to send separate streams for everyone. But we also have very simplified zoning or local control, so you can do local inserts of advertising.”

Hillman does not expect broadcasters to shift completely to using the VidyoCast system as a master control, but, if clients do want a backup or if master control goes down, the system is a viable option.

Faster Returns
VidyoCast also offers a net return, so that broadcasters no longer have to wait 7-8 seconds to see the return feed, complete with graphics.

“In a truck at the stadium, the feed has to go back to the studio, graphics are added, it is sent to master control and goes out to the cable affiliates,” Hillman explains. “If they want to take the return feed over the air or satellite, it’s a 7- to 8-second delay. With us, they can see it immediately after they add the graphics, so they’re cutting about 4-5 seconds off of that time. That allows them to get a very quick look into how the graphic appears, so, if they have to make adjustments, they can do it very quickly.”