Insider Reporter


Insider Report

news and views on broadcast and professional video/audio sectors, worldwide

w/e June 29, 2008 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2008

INDEX

Technology News | Industry News | Company News |
Product News | People in the News | Research News

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

Forward Link Only Open Conditional Access (OpenCA) Specification

The FLO Forum, a body of more than 95 supporting global wireless industry leaders and dedicated to the open standardisation of FLOTM (Forward Link-Only) technology for mobile multimedia broadcast, has taken another step forward with the approval by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) of the Forward Link Only Open Conditional Access (OpenCA) Specification.

The completion of the OpenCA Specification, published as TIA-1146, creates a standards-based environment that enables multiple vendors to implement content security systems within the FLO architecture. The specification is the eighth FLO standard approved by the TIA, following the publication of TIA-1130 Forward Link Only Media Adaptation Layer Specification earlier this year.

The OpenCA specification provides a standard interface for conditional access (CA) systems to interoperate, ensuring that FLO network operators have the flexibility to use multiple CA solutions. Through the standard interface, they can replace an entire CA system seamlessly with another system, or run multiple systems concurrently in a "Simulcrypt" setting. This provides operators with greater control to respond to changing security demands or business model requirements. The framework also enables content providers to offer a wider choice of premium mobile content while reducing the risk of piracy, and thus helping to create a compelling end-user mobile TV experience

IPTV providers must push PPV and VOD

Although consumers are increasingly prepared to have some form of pay-TV in their household, getting more consumers to order and then regularly view pay per view (PPV) or video on demand (VOD) remains a key challenge for service providers, according to a recent survey by Gartner.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, Gartner surveyed 5,800 consumers, covering 18 countries and territories, and found that approximately three-quarters of all worldwide respondents had some form of pay-TV in their households, yet less than one-quarter of all respondents purchased either PPV or VOD content within the past year.

The research indicates that globally, the average consumer spends 22 hours per week viewing entertainment television; of which 16 hours per week is spent watching TV and six hours watching DVDs or videotapes. Furthermore, 39 percent of all survey respondents had downloaded some form of video content (moves, TV shows and video clips for example) in the past three months.

Gartner maintains that tapping into this established behavior and providing alternate solutions to satisfy demand is essential in earning incremental revenue for IPTV. "Consumers already value DVD and videotape purchases and rentals, so getting them to transfer this behaviour or habit over to IPTV subscriptions is a key strategy in developing revenue," said Amanda Sabia, principle research analyst at Gartner. "Providers need to ensure that ordering and navigation processes for PPV and VOD are easy to understand and user friendly. They should also offer competitive pricing, free trials and a wide range of titles, making sure they include various unique and most-recent versions." esman would not say which markets now have the capability.

GaAs Device Demand from Direct Broadcast Satellite Markets

Strategy Analytics’ latest forecast, “GaAs Device Demand from Direct Broadcast Satellite Markets 2007-2012,” projects healthy GaAs component demand through 2012, as direct broadcast satellite (DBS) platforms continue to implement digital video recorder capabilities that allow consumers to record content, pause live TV and skip advertisements. Demand will largely be derived from the LNB function where GaAs component volumes will increase at a CAAGR (compound annual average growth rate) of 12 percent through 2012.

The increasing popularity of personal video recorders (PVRs) / digital video recorders (DVRs) requires multiple tuners in the set-top box as well as multiple LNBs (low noise blocks) to deliver two or more content channels to the consumer and to implement functionality, such as the ability to record programs while viewing another channel.

“PVR/DVR functionality translates to multiple LNBs, thus GaAs will benefit from this trend as multiple components are used in LNBs,” observes Asif Anwar. “However, while volumes will increase, low ASPs will counter revenue growth with CAAGR limited to 6 percent through 2012.”

Stephen Entwistle, VP of the Strategic Technologies Practice added, “The same trends lead to multiple tuners in set-top boxes but silicon technologies dominate this market. We don’t envisage any major shift trends limiting overall GaAs demand from this market.”

Patent for Key Video Compression Technology

Broadcast International announced that the patent for a key video compression technology has been granted by the U.S. patent office. The technology is included in the company’s video compression software, CodecSys, which slashes bandwidth requirements for video transmitted over satellite, cable, IP, and wireless media. CodecSys allows, for example, up to twelve HDTV channels to be broadcast over the same media which currently support only two.

In August of 2007, a patent was granted for the core CodecSys video compression technology, which enables multiple expert codecs (used in the compression of video signals for transmission) to be used to minimize the bandwidth required to transmit video over bandwidth-constrained networks such as the Internet. The new patent broadly covers a technique for intelligently switching among the internal settings of a single codec to maintain a target data rate, while ensuring video quality.

According to Rod Tiede, CEO of Broadcast International, “The two patents together protect the core capabilities that make our video compression capability a true breakthrough. With the new patent, Broadcast International is the only vendor that can use multiple codecs -- or intelligent switching on a single codec -- to compress video down to a fraction of current rates. With our technology, including that covered by this patent, we can compress typical HD 720p video below 3Mbps. This level of compression will usher in a new era of video, making applications such as live, streaming video over the Internet and to cell phones a reality instead of a promise.”

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INDUSTRY NEWS

AT&T Offers Dual HD Recording

AT&T's U-Verse service is now allowing subscribers to record two different High-Definition programs at the same time.

Most TV providers have enabled their subscribers to record two different HD programs at the same time for a few years, as well as watch a third show while the first two are being recorded.

But until now, AT&T, which uses the Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) technology to provide video signals, has had difficulty delivering multiple HD signals at the same time to the home.

The missing feature has been one of the many obstacles slowing down the telco's TV subscriber totals. U-Verse badly trails fellow telco Verizon in overall TV subscribers and is far behind DIRECTV and Dish Network.

“We've begun rolling out the ability to watch or record two HD programs simultaneously,” an AT&T spokesperson said.

Comcast Goes Digital For HDTV

Comcast is expected to order up to six million digital converter boxes this year in an effort to create more space for High-Definition channels. That's according to an article by Multichannel News.

The publication reports that Comcast will use the digital converter boxes to eliminate the need to transmit analog signals. The converter boxes will be issued to customers who now own analog sets and, therefore, still require analog signals.

With the converter boxes, the digital signals, which require less system space, can be displayed on the analog sets. With fewer analog channels, Comcast will have more space for services in greater demand, such as High-Definition TV. (High-def channels take up as much seven times the amount of space as an analog channel.)

Multichannel News reports that Comcast hopes to switch over 20 percent of its entire subscriber base to all-digital in 2008. Next year, the cable operator will likely order another 12 million converter boxes to continue its phasing out of analog signals.

Like other cable operators, Comcast is desperately seeking more system space to add more High-Definition channels to keep pace with satcasters DIRECTV and Dish Network. In some Comcast markets, the satcasters offer three times as many national HD channels, putting the cable operator at a major disadvantage.

Multichannel News writes that Comcast's analog reclamation project might indicate that it's leaning to using it to create more system space rather than resorting to a new technology called Switched Digital Video.

Comcast COO Steve Burke said recently that the cable operator wants to eliminate analog channels to “clear more capacity for high-def...Right now even though we say we have 1,000 high-def options on demand, the fact that DIRECTV can say, ‘We have 100 HD channels and no one else does’ -- that’s not a place we want to stay in,” Burke said.

Telcos face both ways on net neutrality?

US telcos gathered at NxtComm in Las Vegas have focussed on the bandwidth challenge of media services as the main issue facing the industry, but at the same time have called on the FCC to sanction cableco Comcast for ‘bandwidth shaping’ to alleviate the problems caused by heavy p2p traffic.

AT&T and Verizon urged the regulator to take action against Comcast for slowing down peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic to free up bandwidth. Tom Tauke, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for Verizon, said: "It's in the best interest of the industry for the FCC to make a judgment against ComCast in the BitTorrent (p2p) case. None of us want to be in a world where there is a sense nobody is watching what is going on. We have the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission, which have authority to enforce some policies in this area. And if they do their jobs properly, they can make positive contributions on how the internet develops."

Jim Cicconi, senior executive and vice president for legislative affairs for AT&T, agreed "The Comcast case has brought the debate over net neutrality into specifics".

Meanwhile, CTOs of the same US phone companies say dealing with growing Internet traffic is a key challenge, as they work on preventing services like video downloading from bogging down the network. They said the popularity of bandwidth-heavy services, including movie downloads and video chat, was contributing to exponential growth in online traffic.

"There will always be a need for some sort of rational network management," Verizon CTO Mark Wegleitner said. He said the company has not yet had to block or control traffic like video streaming or online file sharing, but may eventually need to find a way to prevent congestion.

For now, Verizon is focusing on upgrading its network to enable faster Internet speeds. It announced on Wednesday that it will boost download speeds to up to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) from a previous 30 Mbps for premium FiOS subscribers.

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COMPANY NEWS

Matsushita Changes Name to Panasonic Corporation

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. announced that its shareholders have approved a proposal to change the company's name to "Panasonic Corporation", at the 101st Annual Shareholders' Meeting held today. The change will become effective from Oct. 1, 2008, and will also apply to some of the group companies currently using the names Matsushita or National. The shareholders of each of these companies approved the change, effective from Oct. 1, 2008. In addition, Matsushita announced its ticker symbol will change on the New York Stock Exchange from "MC" to "PC" as of Oct. 1, 2008.

The brand changeover from National to Panasonic will be phased in across Japan commencing Oct. 1, 2008 and is expected to complete within the fiscal year ending March 2010. Currently, the National brand is used for home appliances and housing equipment in Japan.

When it was first established in 1918 the company was known as Matsushita Electric Housewares Manufacturing Works, which was subsequently changed to Matsushita Electric Manufacturing Works in 1929. The company has been using the name Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. since its incorporation as a joint stock corporation in 1935. While the company has used the National and Panasonic brand names over a long period, it decided in 2003 to unify its global brand to Panasonic with the brand slogan "Panasonic ideas for life." With this company name change and brand unification, the Panasonic Corporation will celebrate its 90th anniversary this year. The company will bring the achievements accumulated through the three different names of Matsushita, National, and Panasonic under the single umbrella name of Panasonic.

The new Panasonic Corporation has renewed its group-wide commitment to putting the company's management philosophies into practice throughout the world — to enhance its brand value and strive to become a globally excellent company.

Autodesk Acquires Kynogon

Autodesk has entered into an agreement to acquire Kynogon SA, the maker of Kynapse artificial intelligence middleware. Kynapse has been used to develop more than 65 AAA game titles, including Alone in the Dark 5, Crackdown, Fable 2 and The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. The tool gives characters spatial awareness, enabling them to realistically navigate digital environments.

"The future of videogames is about sophisticated game play, with more believable characters and environments," says Marc Petit, senior VP of Autodesk Media & Entertainment. "Our goal is to simplify videogame development by providing cutting-edge tools to create, animate and integrate 3D assets into game engines. The acquisition of Kynogon is a key component in reaching this goal."

In related news, Autodesk has reduced pricing for its Maya Unlimited 3D modeling, animation and rendering software, and introduced Maya 2008 Extension 2 software, which provides enhanced creative control over polygon modeling and UV texturing, as well as adds improvements to the Maya Muscle toolset.

Autodesk Maya Unlimited/standalone is now $4,995, while Maya Unlimited/network has been reduced to $6,245. The reduced price makes the toolset more accessible to new users and existing facilities that want to expand their Maya-based pipelines, notes Petit.

Maya Unlimited contains everything offered in Maya Complete software, along with tools such Fluid Effects, nCloth, Hair, Fur, and Live. Pricing for Autodesk Maya Complete remains unchanged. Maya Complete 2008 customers can now cross-grade to Maya Unlimited 2008 at the reduced price of $2,995.

Maya 2008 Extension 2 software is expected to be available for download to Maya Complete 2008 and Maya Unlimited 2008 Autodesk Subscription customers with Gold support in March 2008. The Extension 2 is not sold separately. Key features for the release include new selection management features that offer modelers a fast workflow for controlling large amounts of complex geometry and new and enhanced UV workflow tools that provide artists with more control over their texturing. New features and enhanced workflows for Maya Muscle extend the ability to precisely direct muscle and skin behavior

Optibase Requests the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to Delist Its Shares

Optibase Ltd. announced that its board of directors resolved on June 25, 2008 to delist the Company's ordinary shares from trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Accordingly, the Company requested the TASE to delist its ordinary shares from trading on the TASE. Under applicable Israeli law, the delisting of the Company's ordinary shares from trading on the TASE will become effective within at least three months from the date hereof, during such time the Company's ordinary shares will continue to trade on the TASE. The Company will announce the exact date for delisting following the TASE's decision on the Company's aforementioned request. Following the delisting of the Company's ordinary shares from the TASE, the Company shall no longer be subject to any reporting requirements in Israel, under the Israeli securities law.

The ordinary shares of Optibase will continue to be listed on the Nasdaq Global Market.

Amir Philips, CFO of Optibase, said, "as most trading in the Company's ordinary shares is made on Nasdaq, local trading volume in Optibase's ordinary shares remained minimal since their listing for trade on the TASE in August 2007. The majority of Optibase's investors are operating in the US market. Accordingly, we concluded that it is in the interest of the Company to delist its ordinary shares from the TASE and focus its efforts on the US market."

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PRODUCT NEWS

Avid Upgrades Family of On-Air Graphics

Avid Technology unveiled Avid® Deko® 5.0, PostDeko 8.0.1 and DekoCast™ 4.1.2, an upgraded suite of real-time on-air graphics systems designed to increase productivity and enhance creative output throughout broadcast graphics operations. Unlike competitive graphics products, Avid claims their suite of on-air graphics solutions reduces the need for additional staff training and costly specialized expertise by providing easy-to-use design tools and templates that enable customers to get productions to air, quickly.

“Deko 5.0 is saving us a lot of time in the graphics creation process and helping us get programs to air more quickly because it does not require an additional team of trained experts to operate. As a result, the viewer experience is more rewarding,” said Ian Kennedy, CTO at Fontastics, an L.A.-based production house that specializes in broadcast graphics and opens for high-profile live events. “We’ve always liked the ease with which we can create and edit motion effects in Deko, and the new animation UI continues to give us everything we need for our live, high-profile broadcast environments. We also bring in a lot of elements into the Deko system as QuickTime Movies, which eliminates the requirement for external DDRs for complex multi-layered animations.”

Avid Deko 5.0, Avid PostDeko 8.0.1 and Avid DekoCast 4.1.2 are available now through the Avid Website at www.avid.com/downloadcenter. For more information about the Avid On-Air Graphics family, Deko 5.0, PostDeko 8.0.1 and DekoCast 4.1.2 visit www.avid.com/deko.

AVCHD Editing

Video editors can now more easily deal with AVCHD files thanks to AVCHD UpShift, a new software release from NewBlue and VASST (Video, Audio, Software, Support, Training), that converts the files into the HDV format.

AVCHD UpShift converts AVCHD (.mts) files into high quality HDV (.m2t) files that are compatible with HD enabled video editors on the PC platform. Additionally, users can batch convert AVCHD files directly from the MSPD, CF, SDHC, CF cards, or DVD/HDD-based camcorder storage. UpShift files are not constrained by storage system limitations. A higher bitrate file may be generated, assuring high-quality throughput and recompression in the editing suite. In addition, AVCHD Upshift offers user-selectable bitrate and the ability to convert single files. Files may be converted for best speed, best quality, or a combination of both and stored files may be converted for best editing speed/workflow and re-converted later (from original AVCHD files) for higher quality output.

Pricing for AVCHD UpShift is just $49.95 and it is available immediately from either company's Website.

Celco Delivers 4K Digital Archive Recorder

Celco is now shipping its CineSafe 4K digital archive recorder, which is designed to output color separations on to black & white film stocks at the highest speed and resolution. When stored properly, black & white film can last in excess of 500 years, making it a suitable medium for deep archive image storage.

Celco positions the CineSafe 4K as a solution for digital image data archiving with the ability to image to fine grain black & white color separation, intermediate and high contrast stocks. The unit can image a high resolution 4K frame in two seconds, which is twice the speed of some laser recorders.

CineSafe 4K is powered by Celco’s new Linux host computer and film recorder driver software. It includes FilmOut Pro, an intuitive GUI that controls the film recorder and imaging tools for sharpening, degrain, image formatting, resizing and color management

Autodesk Smoke system added by Sight Entertainment

Visual effects studio Sight Entertainment recently added an Autodesk Smoke system to its editing and effects pipeline. The studio already had two Autodesk Combustion seats in house and added Smoke HD earlier this year, with plans to upgrade to 2K in the near future.

According to Yuzaburo Saito, one of the founders at Sight Entertainment, the Smoke system is being used for compositing of 2D and 3D elements, as well as for finishing and conforms.

Sight Entertainment has completed effects and compositing on a number of commercials recently, including jobs for Ford, Minute Maid, Asahi Beer, Reebok, NASCAR, and Pepsi. The studio has also contributed to music videos for the likes of Common, featuring Lily Allen (Drivin' Me Wild), Leona Lewis (Bleeding Love), and Birdman & Lil' Wayne (100 Million Dollars).

One recent project - an effects-heavy spot for Japanese soft drink company Suntory - required a green screen shot to be combined with an completely CG background. The shoot took place in Japan, though Sight completed the VFX work in Santa Monica.

Softimage Build XSI Community Online

In an effort to grown its XSI user community, Softimage has launched Softimage|net a new Website for 3D artists and enthusiasts who are currently using or learning the professional 3D modeling, animation, character creation and rendering software.

The site’s goal is to engage and connect the worldwide community of XSI artists, technical directors and students with an interactive forum and framework that can help them succeed in their 3D education path or professional career. Softimage|net is debuting as a public beta release so that it can grow through input and feedback from the existing XSI community.

The site launches with a number of features and forums. A user gallery allows for the sharing of 3D artwork and animations. There is also a content exchange for XSI scripts, add-ons, plug-ins and presets. The job forum and talent banks can help artists and employers find each other. And message forums will offer help, as well as opportunities to network with other XSI users, Softimage staff and developers.

According to Marc Stevens, GM of Softimage and VP of Avid, all members registered with the site will get access to training materials and connections to studios looking for 3D artists. The site will be moderated by selected members of the global XSI community, as well as product managers, developers, engineers, designers and technical staff from Softimage.

Softimage|net is free for anyone to join. To register, visit http://community.softimage.com.

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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

New EVP / GM at Avid's Pro Video Unit

Kirk Arnold has joined Avid as executive vice president and general manager of the company’s professional video business unit. She will be responsible for all of Avid's products and services for the professional video market, including broadcast television, post production and media enterprises.

Arnold brings to Avid more than 25 years of management experience, leading both multi-national corporations and ground-floor start-ups. Prior to joining Avid, she served as vice chairman and CEO of Keane, a provider of business transformation and outsourcing services. Before that, she was executive VP of product development and management for Fidelity Investments. She has also served as president and CEO of NerveWire, Inc. Arnold started her career at IBM, where she served in a variety of sales and sales management positions.

Ex Sony Manager to Vicon

Brian Rausch, a former senior manager at Sony Computer Entertainment of America, has joined Vicon , the developer of motion capture systems. He brings over 10 years of motion capture pipeline and animation production experience to his new position as VP of production for Vicon and Vicon House of Moves.

At SCEA, Rausch most recently served as senior manager of the visual arts services group, where he oversaw 50 employees and managed the digital models group, motion capture, video services and cinematics teams. He spent seven years at SCEA, first as a technical supervisor and later as the manager of motion capture and scanning.

Rausch developed his motion capture background while working in the Philippines as a CG supervisor for an animated television episodic The Ramayana. After spending three years on the production, he joined motion capture service bureau Spectrum Studios as a performance animation supervisor. He spent one year there prior to joining SCEA

89 Edit Hires New Exec. Producer

The bicoastal 89 Edit has hired veteran executive producer Gail Butler, who will work out of their Santa Monica office. Most recently a senior producer at The Whitehouse in Santa Monica, Butler brings with her more than a decade of experience in the post field.

Butler began her career at Red Car Hollywood and subsequently moved through the ranks of the organization to producer before leaving in 2004. While at The Whitehouse, she represented editors in four major markets, working with brands that included Nike, Coke, Miller, Motorola, Land Rover, Visa, Nissan, Dunkin Donuts, Lexus, NASCAR and UPS.

In addition to spot work, Butler has post produced several music videos for various artists, including Audioslave, Kanye West, Gnarls Barkley and My Chemical Romance. She is also a board member for the Los Angeles chapter of AICE.

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RESEARCH NEWS

SCRI RESEARCH NEWS

  • Broadcast/Pro Video Product Sales Top $10 billion -- read more

  • 2008 - 2009 Broadcast/Pro Video Product Reports
  • 2008-09 Broadcast/Pro Video Macro Industry Overview Report
  • 2008-09 Broadcast/Pro Video Micro Quantitative Product Data Report
  • HDTV / Digital Trends Report
  • IPTV / Mobile TV Report

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