From the edge of nowhere to the centre of everywhere

Joe Fulford TV-Bay Magazine
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by Joe Fulford
Issue 88 - April 2014

Getting your images back to a studio for broadcast can be done in many ways. Getting the tapes or cards back to the studio will take however long it takes a dispatch rider to get there, and sometimes its just not possible to get a motorcycle out to your location. You can transfer the files via FTP from another location with a computer. Having a shared remote server is cheap, easy and secure but you still need a decent internet connection and its just not quite the same as live. We live in a time where we can view a video of events unfolding on YouTube before its even been reported on TV.

In the past getting a signal back to base involved using terrestrial microwave links as a backhaul to the studio. This involved careful alignment and tuning of the antenna that was reserved for trained experts. Satellites have been used extensively in broadcast for years; however the setup of both the encoding and the physical pointing and configuration of the dish has always been a bit of a black art. Broadcasting a live event was a job for many hands and a very large, very expensive SNG truck.

IP distribution is based around the idea that the whole world is already connected and all you have to do is send the signal to the right place in exactly the same way that you send a letter in the mail, except you dont have to wait. Now its possible to transmit HD video live over the internet. H.264 is a very efficient codec thats not only fast to encode and decode but can give great results with very few visible artefacts at a very low bandwidth. Now you dont have to worry about line of sight or running a dedicated cable; you just check your connection speed and send your signal live to a location anywhere in the vast expanse of the internet, whether it be to a specific port in a building for storage and contribution or to a server where it will be transcoded and distributed to anyone who has the time to watch.

We at TNP broadcast are the distributors for miniCASTER IP video solutions. The range of miniCASTER products provide the entire end to end solution for video over IP; including wireless video transmission, hardware H.264 encoders, satellite uplinks, transcoding, content delivery, and decoding.

Their systems can be used for multicast (one to many) and unicast (one to one) which means the products will let you webcast a live production to your viewers computer, tablet and smart phone screens or transmit a single camera feed from the middle of nowhere to the MCR back at base. The miniCASTER encoder is easy to setup, via a web browser, from anywhere with an internet connection. That means you can adjust every aspect of the encoding and delivery from the office, preview the images and start the stream. The camera operator only has to plug in a cable, power the thing up and get the shots.

The miniCASTER decoder is a neat 1U device that gives you two HD-SDI outputs, a reference to lock to the rest of your MCR and the ability to forward your video streams to any other location in the world. The miniCASTER satellite hardware allows you to mount your dish on a car, truck or building or even carry it in a flight case to any location in Europe. The auto pointing system uses the GPS on a smart phone to automatically point the dish within minutes, so you can spend your time setting up the rest of your equipment. The NewsSpotter Flyaway unit is a robust and versatile setup that takes less than 5 minutes to point using a parking sensor style beep, so you can quickly find exactly where you need to be to get online. Connection speeds of 10Mb/s are guaranteed and uncontested; you never have to worry about busy cellular networks or dodgy landlines in the middle of nowhere. On top of all this the airtime costs a fraction of traditional uplink bandwidth.

With the right system, IP video/audio distribution is versatile, easy to use, reliable and affordable for webcasting and broadcasting applications.

Tags: iss088 | TNP | miniCASTER | Joe Fulford
Contributing Author Joe Fulford

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