There is no doubt that High Dynamic Range (HDR) will dominate discussions at NAB, while virtualization, IP interfacing and rationalized workflows will continue to quietly change from bespoke hardware to Software as a Service (SaaS) or Apps and be absorbed by the show noise.
This isn’t to decry the importance of HDR but highlight the dilemma facing many attendees, who now more than ever are searching for technology to improve the bottom line, but still want to believe that video is a technology led business. The end goal is clear for many where there is a clear distinction between server-based processing and software-based applications. In the mid-term, those commissioning video technology solutions are split between, appliances, software, or outsourced services, reflecting that no one solution fits the myriad of applications making up the complex production and distribution scenarios. At first glance this industry shift appears to compel solutions providers to operate in two ways, to sustain legacy hardware while at the same time deliver software or appliances. While undoubtedly there is some duplication of effort, in reality it is increasingly common to have software ported to different applications and servers, featured as part of a cloud-based service. This has certainly dictated thinking at Harmonic in recent years, where development efforts are now being driven towards software solutions within the virtualized VOS family, or as appliances like the Electra X range. IP is now dominant within professional broadcast workflows but I expect many companies to update their NAB 2016 products by reworking existing broadcast products with Ethernet connectivity. This might feel like progress to some, but stops well short of the ideal where there is a true separation of underlying hardware from video specific applications. The real area of interest for me will be the proof of concept demos showing demanding video processing on COTs platforms. Like many, I’m prepared to compromise on density if performance can be demonstrated! One thing is certain though, once an area as demanding as video switching is mastered on COTs infrastructure, scaling such a solution to match comparative density targets is a given. Related to the shift towards IP and software solutions is the subtle change in the application of standards. Workflows of old were defined by specific products and interfaces which drove the standardization process to ensure interoperability. This is now being eroded where systems providers are increasingly expanding their solution footprint and only relying on standards for ingest, emission or monitoring. No surprise then that this has acted to define current standards activity as a reworking of existing broadcast techniques in an IP domain. However, the real IPR is preserved to gain technical supremacy and expand, in order to drive complete solutions from sole vendors. This is music to the ears of those integrators who’ve latched on to the fact that turnkey solutions from a single vendor for many broadcast and production challenges, are the key to keeping ahead in a world seeking services rather than distinct products. Other areas of interest are compression optimized for streaming, surely the key to making OTT scale, harmonized targeted advertising solutions and the advancement of compression to enable the usage of lightly compressed Mezzanine formats for IP encapsulation in the production arena. As ever I’ll be on the Harmonic booth presenting, this time on production workflows with an emphasis on that sure fire crowd pleaser, HDR! Join us at NAB2016 on Booth SU1210. – Ian Trow, Sr. Director, Emerging Technology & Strategy, Harmonic