Back in the 1950s, New York City's WOR-TV had its own model of ubiquitous content: the “Million Dollar Movie.” The station broadcast its movie of the week three times a day, every day.
Today's new media world promises Million Dollar Movie availability. But unlike 50 years ago, instead of just one movie broadcast in one way and to one device, there's an enormous content “cloud” carried over a variety of conduits to a myriad of devices.
One way to deal with it is not to — until you have to, that is, on the fly. That's the strategy promoted by Montreal-based Vantrix. Its media processing gateway lets operators transcode and stream multimedia and video content "just in time," optimizing dynamically for the device and network conditions.
"The same software platform can enable all those services," said Vantrix chief marketing officer Patrick Lopez. "We can enable a single point of management for all these services, and that has capex and opex advantages for operators. If they had to buy each solution separately, the business case would be hard."
The company is a spinoff of two Canadian multimedia processing pioneers, Sipro Lab Telecom and VoiceAge. Hardware agnostic and Linux based, Vantrix Mediadvance is in its eighth generation. "It captures, optimizes and delivers any content from any source — linear, cable, analog, digital, wireless networks, Web content," Lopez said.
"The media processing engine decodes and re-encodes it across a variety of channels. We can take content not formatted originally for distribution across TV, PC and mobile and automatically reformat it. We can perform up to 35,000 format transcodings. We have built a database with over 14,000 device profiles, each over 400 parameters, so we know what content can be supported from one endpoint to another," he said.
The key is Vantrix's dynamic bit rate adaptation technology for detecting network conditions and adapting content as it is being delivered. "In mobile TV, this means detecting network conditions throughout session and adapting the amount of data going through the network in real time for the best possible viewing experience,” Lopez said. “We change the parameters without degrading the ultimate, perceived user experience."
"Throughout the connection when you're watching TV, there is feedback on the network quality. The engine collects that feedback. Our algorithms extrapolate whether the connection is getting better or worse, so it adapts the quality of the output — bit rate, format, even codec — frame by frame," he said.
It's not without challenges. "The transition has to be smooth," Lopez said. "You can't go from 300kb/s to 50kb/s. it's very difficult to manage a smooth transitions, and you do get network transitions that big."
Where does this lead? Here's Lopez's answer to WOR's Million Dollar Movie.
"You're at home watching a pay-per-view show. It's live and you don't want to miss it, but you have to leave for the airport. You jump in a cab and continue to watch the show on your mobile phone. At the airport, you can resume on your netbook. It's all transparent; simply press 'resume,' and there you are."