Broadcasting UHD content is about more than just picture quality says Steam Labs CMO Anna Danilova.
The number of HD and UHD channels is increasing every day. Now, the figure stands in excess of hundreds of HD channels and dozens of UHD.
This is the reality and a lot of companies all over the world are constantly getting involved with it. Moreover, many operators are already widely using HEVC (H.265) which, for UHD channels, is the only way to handle broadcasting via satellite.
However, for SD and HD channels, it also allows to significantly save the uplink bandwidth capacity. The presence of UHD channels is an additional opportunity for an operator to stand out from their rivals and emphasise that they are always moving forward.
For this reason there is an increased attention to the quality of broadcasting of UHD content, and therefore monitoring is a necessary solution. Accordingly, attention to the quality of these channels is increased. The viewer expects ultra-quality from the UHD channel.
Freezing, pixelation, blocking and other problems that decrease the quality of the audience perception are totally unacceptable. Everything should be perfect, which means that it needs to be monitored and not only the parameters of the transport stream and network QoS, but also the quality of the viewers’ experience (QoE). All this imposes a significant additional burden on monitoring systems.
Stream Labs has been developing software and hardware solutions for monitoring the quality of broadcasting and compliance recording of TV and radio signals for more than 10 years.
Stream MultiScreen solution has enough flexibility to create monitoring systems of varying complexity and from low-cost to rather expensive, all with top functionality, to companies that provide content delivery from the broadcaster to the end user as well as large broadcasters which are interested in controlling the quality of the final product.
The second task is not so obvious and does not clearly relate to the viewer, but it’s no less important or relevant: compliance recording. It has at least two functions, and helps users to avoid:
- Controversial technical issues (e.g. whose side the problem was on and who is responsible for an outage on air)
- Issues with regulatory authorities (almost all countries have laws that require air quality control recordings to be kept it for 1 to 3 months).
To meet these challenges, Stream Labs products have a deep integration of the Stream MultiScreen quality monitoring system and the Stream MultiRec compliance recording system.
Alarm events database of MultiScreen monitoring system is integrated with the storage of the compliance record and allows users to instantly access the desired fragments of the archive.
Also, it is possible to create tasks for automatic uploading of recorded content to network storage. Automatic downloading can be performed either according to the schedule, made by the operator or uploaded from the external system, either based on the specified list of alarms detected by the monitoring system.
A list of alarms and thresholds for triggering the downloading of a fragment from the archive to the operator’s workstation can also be set individually.
The compliance recording system can operate in automatic mode by Error detection in MultiScreen application (with adjustable delay before and after the event), which allows to significantly save the disk space.
Since the main customers of the company are satellite, cable and IPTV operators with a large number of channels, optimisation of the disk space for the compliance recording is very topical. And with growing number of HD and UHD channels it becomes truly critical.
Undoubtedly for the purposes of compliance, recording channels can be scaled and stored in quarters to original, or even smaller. But how does it look inside the system? This means decoding, image scaling, “burning” additional information and after that - encoding with storing in the archive.
And all these processes must be completed by the system in real-time with a large number of channels at the same time. There is also a requirement to provide users with the ability to work with the storage including the searching and viewing. High performance is required.
While working with some of the largest satellite operators, Stream Labs has faced the tasks of monitoring UHD channels several years ago.
Initially, it was about providing visual and instrumental control of 3-4 channels. But in the meantime, customers’ needs increased to 8-10 and more UHD channels and several dozens of HD channels in HEVC format. The decoding and analysis of such a number of channels by traditional methods proved to be ineffective. Using even very powerful and expensive CPU does not provide the necessary system performance. Integration of the CUDA technology from nVidia in Stream Multiscreen software has allowed us to significantly increase system performance in the field of decoding and processing of HD and UHD channels.
However, the Stream Labs system is optimised to use inexpensive graphics cards. One graphic card provides processing of 4 UHD or 16 HD channels. A combination of three graphic cards and the CPU allows to process up to 14 UHD or 40 HD channels on one platform. Professional graphic cards with CUDA technology provide even higher performance.
This technology also expands the possibilities of using the Stream MultiScreen monitoring system on laptops with an appropriate built-in GPU from nVidia. Such performance seemed to be unattainable in the past, but now it really works.
Importantly, this also allows for the optimization of both the capital and operating costs on the hardware, rack placement, maintenance and others.
These solutions are already used by such companies as Babcock Communications and Metropolitan Police Service (UK), DdishTV (Mongolia), Singapore Teleport, NOORSAT (Cyprus), PT Harmoni Yogia (Indonesia), GlobeCast (France), AdValem Technologies (France), Infrasat (Angola), Beximco Communications Limited (Bangladesh), Dialog Axiata (Sri Lanka), RTRN (Russia), Tricolor TV (Russia), Kazteleradio (Kazakhstan), Caspio HD (Kazakhstan), IDC (Moldova), Beltelecom (Belarus) and many others.
Stream Labs will be exhibiting at IBC2017 in Amsterdam on stand 7.G47.