Video Clarity Executives: Evolving Satellite Markets Need Evolved Signal Monitoring

[Satellite News 05-18-12] Content originators operating in the modern broadcast market face deep challenges in creating, producing and transporting the highest quality video and audio signals as compressed streams. Broadcast technology manufacturer Video Clarity established its business in 2005 with a mission to provide solutions to quantifiably analyze and monitor audio and video quality.

   “To maintain quality as compression standards change, everyone along the chain needs to constantly measure the performance of the compression engines on which day-to-day operations depend,” Video Clarity stated in its corporate mission.
   To accomplish this for operations of all sizes, the company created two product lines – the Real-Time Monitoring (RTM) audio, video, delay, and data quality monitoring solution and the ClearView Video Analysis product to analyze audio and video quality either using quantitative and repeatable measurements in addition to, or in substitution of human eyes and ears.
   Video Clarity President and Founder Blake Homan and Vice President Adam Schadle gave Satellite News a demonstration its products, which place several video streams side-by-side for comparison and immediately flags signal quality controls. Homan and Schadle also talked about how these solutions have become a critical tool in an international broadcast market that is constant evolving the methods it uses to deliver content. 
Satellite News: How important have over-the-top networks become to the video content provider, and what role do your RTM and ClearView products play in
advancing OTT?
Schadle: It’s very important. You can’t really understate it. Leading the way is live and up-to-the-minute sports programming. A lot of companies are using CDMs or an originator partner to roll out these types of OTT services. For example, Major League Baseball’s was really a pioneer in delivering OTT sports to the mass market. They were also in on the concept of being a service provider to other entities like ESPN sports very early on in the OTT timeline. MLB has been employing this service provider model for years, all the way back to the days of industrial television.
   But, for all content providers trying to advance the OTT offering, the key message the needs to convey to subscribers is ‘the content is there and you need to have it.’ The OTT presence is also over satellite as part of the data flow on the network. We see the need for satellite and broadcasting companies to know, empirically, what kind of quality can be achieved with these services and it’s just a matter of the content provider figuring out how they approach the delivery of the feed.
Homan: OTT has to be pretty valuable to the market because everybody is doing it. Every originator has some sort of approach to OTT delivery and every hardware manufacturer that we’ve been working with over the years is making some sort of lower-resolution encoder or option on an encoder for OTT streaming. Our products are used for testing on those devices.
Satellite News: How are Video Clarity products used in the satellite uplink architecture?
Schadle: Our products are used in any environment that requires the assessment of audio and video quality and lip-sync, whether it’s satellite or cable or IP-based. Manufacturers who are building encoders and decoders that are going up and down to satellites are able to use our products not only to assess the original or intended quality of their products, but also to monitor the transmission path for quality over a constant period of time.
Homan: In the satellite architecture, Video Clarity products like RTM and ClearView can compare the quality of the original outbound signal before encode and statistical multiplex against the monitored delivery of the satellite return. The RTM works automatically, instead of having someone in a control room constantly looking at the signal and comparing audio and video quality with a human set of eyes and ears. The equipment can also be set specifically for certain quality levels and then also for continuous monitoring of quality service for impairments at any time. ClearView then captures and documents those impairments, which adds another layer to the manpower that is usually employed with signal monitoring. It essentially saves the satellite operator a lot of time and money.
Satellite News: Does the increasing number of hybrid satellite/IP networks make monitoring solutions even more important in the current video environment?
Schadle: Yes, and there are a lot of elements involved in that environment. Going back to OTT, sometimes a content originator doesn’t have a lot of control over what happens in that environment where a signal is passing through satellite and then fiber and so on. The satellite business is used to having the ability to at least know more about what’s happening to your signal along the chain.
Homan: With service providers now providing an IP link instead of a satellite link, the broadcaster doesn’t necessarily get access to the compressed layer or transmission layer of the audio and video signal. You can’t necessarily get inside AT&T’s network with your own network monitoring gear. They are simply providing you with a service to deliver your content from one continent to another. That said, we designed our products to provide a way that broadcaster can monitor the signal at the baseband level, which is an extremely important capability in this environment.
Satellite News: You recently completed an RTM/Clearview deal with Sky Brasil. Could you talk about that and other opportunities in Latin America?
Schadle: Latin America has provided us with a good variety of business. Sky Brasil adopted our RTM system as a combination with our Clearview solution in early 2010. TV Globo has been using Clearview since early 2009. We see a lot of activity in Latin America, specifically in the middle of the chain. Not only are the originators in the region trying to be proactive about signal quality, DTH, IPTV and cable operators also are making quality monitoring a top concern and are looking for solutions like the ones we provide.
Homan: Broadcasters in Latin America are highly proactive about both the quality and efficiency of their networks. New network build-outs are putting new business into the market. Sky Brasil was very engaged with the RTM product and the combination with Clearview gave them a lot of benefits. They were able to monitor high quality and highly required uptime on certain assets or channels and then monitor areas where they knew they were having problems. RTM gave them really the only solution to do these things effectively and they recently bought a second system from us. TV Globo will be seeking out some new equipment from us in the future, as well as a group of IPTV and cable companies. Overall, the Latin American market is going to be a major focus for us moving forward.
Satellite News: Have you expanded your business with satellite companies to other regions? 
Schadle: We’re based on the U.S. West Coast, but a healthy chunk of our business extends to the international markets. Our solutions will be used during the upcoming Olympic Games in London and we’ve sold equipment and maintained business with Tata Sky and Airtel DTH in India and Sky Italy and BSkyB in Europe. Recently, Sky Italy adopted the RTM system and BSkyB is just receiving their Clearview shuttle system, which they will use as a monitoring solution from a management standpoint for internal quality measurement. Clearview is not just a tool for video quality, but also a business tool for a broadcaster to communicate internally about the problems that are being found in their signal delivery. Sky Italy is using our RTM solution not only for real-time monitoring, but also for testing purposes after an incident has occurred.
Homan: A lot of our success in India has stemmed from the fact that we, as a company, have focused on encoder and decoder manufacturers that use the product to develop their own products in their own test labs. That was a big part of how we entered the Indian market. Our manufacturing clientele recommended us as a secondary check step for the customer. We’re seeing that this market wants to use the same equipment as the complexities and fact-finding requirements evolve at the operator level. 

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