Matrox VS4-based Multi-channel Recording System


October 2015
Skehan Communications, a leading video production and transmission company provides multi-camera HD video production, webcasting, satellite uplinks and other unique services to broadcasters, Fortune 500 companies, professional associations and government agencies. Though based in the Washington-Baltimore region, their projects have taken them to many impressive locations from San Francisco to Boston.

Specializing in remote, multi-camera HD field production, the company covers all types of events and shows. Recent events include:

  • Horatio Alger Association Awards & Induction Dinner
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Holiday Lectures on Science
  • US Conference of Catholic Bishops Annual General Assembly
  • ESPN’s Baseball Tonight
  • History Makers & PBS: “An Evening With Gwen Ifill”
  • “Opera House Live: Dr. John Concert” for the Smithsonian Channel
  • “Interludes DC: Jill Scott” for the TV One network
  • OTAKON 2015 Convention of anime’ afficionados

The company prefers to own its equipment and facilities so seldom relies on outside sources. Its eight-camera mobile production truck, named “Kiwi”, is readily adaptable to any kind of HD television production requirement, thanks in part to its multi-camera recording system based on the Matrox VS4 quad HD-SDI capture card and the VS4Recorder Pro software.

The Drive for Change

Before integrating the Matrox-based system into their equipment arsenal, the production truck already had six disc-based media recorders. Then one client had a specific need to record eight camera feeds as well as two program feeds, increasing the requirement to ten recording channels. At a cost of approximately $3600 per recorder, adding the extra capacity with more of the same recorders was not an affordable solution and wouldn’t offer the desired operational flexibility and ease of retrieving and moving files around.

Mike Skehan, CEO of Skehan Communications was on the lookout for a capture card on which to base a multi-channel HD recording server. The solution had to be financially practical and at the same time not make the operational workflow overly complex.

Plus, Skehan saw the growing need for redundant recordings at varying bitrates using a variety of codecs. He wanted to get “the most versatility and efficiency for as small a cost as possible.” The company had already transitioned away from video tape recorders (VTRs) to file-based workflows for recording and playback. Now it was time to find a more efficient and affordable solution to meet clients’ needs.

Solution Discovered

After exploring several hard drive-based options, Skehan found a few custom recorders that suited the need, but at a cost of about $5000 per recording channel. Then he came across Matrox VS4. “The VS4, with its VS4Recorder Pro software and VS4Control feature, seemed to hold the promise of an affordable solution,” said Skehan. “It had everything needed to record HD video for multiple channels.”

When Skehan Communications tackles a show, there are often varying recording needs to be met. The most basic is to record a main program along with a program backup. However, many clients want their main camera, and perhaps others, recorded as isolated (ISO) feeds. This covers them in case of a misstep in the program switching. ISO recordings are also used in post-production to produce varying versions of the event. In the Skehan truck, all recorders have routable inputs, so the VS4 recording server’s four channels can be used for any source coming into, or generated by, the truck.

A necessity of recording is the ability to share a common time code across all the equipment. VS4Recorder Pro offers three options for master time code set up Embedded SDI, System Time, or Time of Day. The system Skehan built uses an external GPS-based time code generator to reference their server’s system clock, so every recording has exactly the same time code.

One of the larger shows Skehan Communications has covered is the annual Horatio Alger Awards & Induction Ceremonies dinner held at the DAR Constitution Hall to honor new members. This is an organization of philanthropic individuals whose mission is to promote and fund higher education for disadvantaged students. This remote production typically entails four days of work: two days of set up, a day of rehearsal, and the show day. In previous years, only a few selected feeds could be ISO recorded and that proved inadequate when it came time to edit after the event. This year, ten cameras including two robotics were used and all feeds were ISO recorded. In addition to the ISO recordings, two program recordings were done. VS4Recorder Pro made it easy to meet all the recording requirements synchronously so the show was covered in its entirety without missing anything.

Workflow and Benefits

Having four HD recording channels in a networked 4RU server chassis, the ability to record to multiple codecs, in varying bitrates, and the capability to record to a wide variety of storage devices - including to a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) - has made the production process a lot easier for Skehan Communications and its clients. The new workflow, with the redundancy offered by the RAID, provides an added measure of security and reliability, and thereby peace of mind, when compared to the earlier workflow where the portable media recorders saved the files to independent hard drives.

Many clients request file-based recording of their events and the codecs available in VS4Recorder Pro ensure Skehan Communications can deliver the formats they need. VS4Recorder Pro lets users capture video to industry-recognized codecs that can be used with leading editing applications without transcoding. The efficient, high-quality Matrox MPEG-2 I-frame codec at up to 300Mb/s is provided in an AVI wrapper. H.264 is provided in either MOV or MP4 wrappers. And DV/DVCAM, DVCPRO, DVCPRO50 and DVCPRO HD QuickTime files are provided in MOV wrappers. Global audio settings include audio codecs for .wav and .aac files with bit rate, bit depth and stereo/mono options.

Clients can easily edit these files with Adobe Premiere, Edius or any other popular NLE system. The synchronized files produced by VS4Recorder Pro facilitate clients’ multi-camera post-production process. Because VS4Recorder Pro records to standard H.264 files, video can also be played back immediately and without transcoding by any standard media player such as VLC and QuickTime. No special viewing software is needed.

When asked for his opinion on the ease of use of the VS4Recorder Pro software, Skehan said, “I think the user interface is pretty straightforward. It didn’t take me long to figure it out. I never even had to pull out the manual.”

Results

Commenting on the economical aspect of the VS4-based solution, Skehan says “I was able to build our four-channel HD recording server for a little more than the cost of a single-channel recorder. Video quality is just as high and we have the added benefit of perfectly synchronized files.”

Future Plans

The first Matrox VS4-based quad recorder has been such a success that Skehan is planning to build more, and will likely make them his primary recorders. Some will be transportable to be used with Skehan’s HD production switcher packages or in the production truck, as needed. By leveraging the VS4Control feature in the VS4Recorder Pro software, any number of systems can be easily controlled in a master/slave configuration, eliminating the need to develop a control system using a developer’s kit. For example, recordings can be started simultaneously across multiple VS4 systems with a single action. With this setup it is possible to have unlimited number of recording channels, all synchronized!

Tags: skehan communications | production truck | matrox | vs4 | multi-channel | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus

Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Matrox Monarch HD and VS4 at BVE 2014

    Matrox Monarch HD and VS4 at BVE 2014

  • Matrox at IBC 2014

    Matrox at IBC 2014

  • Matrox Capture Card at NAB 2014

    Matrox Capture Card at NAB 2014

  • New X.mio5 12G and Matrox X.mio5 Q25 Cards Showcased at IBC 2018

    New X.mio5 12G and Matrox X.mio5 Q25 Cards Showcased at IBC 2018

  • Matrox Unveils Monarch EDGE 4K Contribution Encoder at IBC 2018

    Matrox Unveils Monarch EDGE 4K Contribution Encoder at IBC 2018

  • Monarch LCS Radar from Matrox at NAB 2018

    Monarch LCS Radar from Matrox at NAB 2018

  • Matrox Monarch LCS Radar shown at BVE 2018

    Matrox Monarch LCS Radar shown at BVE 2018

  • Facebook and YouTube live integration with Monarch HD from Matrox at NAB 2017

    Facebook and YouTube live integration with Monarch HD from Matrox at NAB 2017

  • Uncompressed Video over IP from Matrox at NAB 2017

    Uncompressed Video over IP from Matrox at NAB 2017

  • Quad 4k Capture and Stream with Maevex from Matrox at NAB 2017

    Quad 4k Capture and Stream with Maevex from Matrox at NAB 2017

  • Matrox Monarch LCS at NAB 2016

    Matrox Monarch LCS at NAB 2016

  • Matrox X.mio3 at NAB 2016

    Matrox X.mio3 at NAB 2016

  • Matrox DSX Core at NAB 2016

    Matrox DSX Core at NAB 2016

  • Matrox at IBC 2015

    Matrox at IBC 2015

  • Matrox Monarch HD at NAB 2014

    Matrox Monarch HD at NAB 2014

  • Matrox Mojito at NAB 2014

    Matrox Mojito at NAB 2014

  • Matrox Maevex at IBC 2013

    Matrox Maevex at IBC 2013

  • Matrox Avio at IBC 2013

    Matrox Avio at IBC 2013

  • Matrox Video with Monarch HD at IBC 2013

    Matrox Video with Monarch HD at IBC 2013

  • Matrox at BVE 2013

    Matrox at BVE 2013

  • Matrox Video at IBC 2012

    Matrox Video at IBC 2012

  • Matrox Graphics at IBC 2012 Part Three

    Matrox Graphics at IBC 2012 Part Three

  • Matrox Graphics at IBC 2012 Part Two

    Matrox Graphics at IBC 2012 Part Two

  • Matrox Graphics at IBC 2012 Part One

    Matrox Graphics at IBC 2012 Part One

  • Matrox at BVE 2012

    Matrox at BVE 2012

  • Matrox at IBC2011

    Matrox at IBC2011

  • Pixel Power at IBC 2013

    Pixel Power at IBC 2013


Related Shows
  • BroadcastShow Christmas Special

    BroadcastShow Christmas Special


Articles
Trade shows and their role in the wired world
Richard Baker Historically trade shows afforded an opportunity to collect the latest brochures relevant to the visitor's chosen industry or career path. Today there seems little reason to store data of any kind, let alone paper brochures, when information is so easily accessible online. Brochure back-packing at exhibitions has become a rare sight, rarer still since the security clampdown on visitor luggage at exhibitions. Today's efficient show delegate need only carry a mobile phone and, in deference to tradition, a bundle of business cards. The phone doubles as a snapshot camera, video camera, dictaphone, email reader, internet browser, Skype communicator, and so on.
Tags: iss133 | finepoint | ibc | nab | kitplus show | bve | Richard Baker
Contributing Author Richard Baker Click to read or download PDF
The Biggest Toy Shop in the World
Emma Morrison When Nigel Woodford started his career at BBC Wood Norton in 1962, television was black and white and BBC Two had not yet been launched. In 2018 Nigel will retire, and Richmond Film Services, the pro-audio equipment rental company set up by Nigel in 1973, can count numerous contributions to iconic moments in British cultural, sporting and film history over this time.
Tags: iss133 | richmond film services | audio rental | auction | liquidity | go-dove | Emma Morrison
Contributing Author Emma Morrison Click to read or download PDF
What is next in OTT
Mary Kay Evans In the past year alone, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the amount of OTT content that’s being streamed. In the first quarter of 2018, there’s been a 114 percent year-over-year growth in streaming video hours, and those numbers are only expected to rise. With OTT revenue predicted to reach $16.6B in 2018, a 40% gain over last year, there’s no question that OTT is booming, and that there’s never been a more critical time to pay attention to the space.
Tags: iss133 | ott | verizon | cisco | Mary Kay Evans
Contributing Author Mary Kay Evans Click to read or download PDF
Ride along on the Tour de Tech at IBC
Lorna Garrett Finding your way through the halls and aisles of the massive IBC can feel a bit like attempting to complete all 21 stages of the Tour de France — but in far fewer days. But have no fear; your team at Garland is all geared up and ready to show you the best on show at this year's exhibition.
Tags: iss133 | garland | liveu | lu600 | media excel | teracue | wisi | broadcast wireless systems | bws | artel | ibc | Lorna Garrett
Contributing Author Lorna Garrett Click to read or download PDF
The Pace of Change
Dick Hobbs - new

The youngest human to stand on the moon (so far) was Charles Moss, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 16. Charlie had a wonderful claim: his father witnessed the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, and lived to see his son on the moon.

Does anything capture the speed of technological advance better than that? The whole of the history of powered flight in one lifetime.

Tags: iss133 | state of the nation | st2110 | st2110-10 | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF