To meet special demands
The focus will be on studio production, network origination
By Karen Anderson Prikios -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/24/2002 7:00:00 PM
|·||Advances in interoperability|
Over the years, HBO has been trying to reduce the focus of NAB as a place to make purchasing decisions and use the show more as an informational forum.
"I think the day is gone when the people in engineering group deferred buying decisions until NAB," says HBO Senior Vice President, Technical Operations, Bob Zitter. "We are in regular contact with manufacturers, always talking to them about our needs."
By the time NAB comes around, a team from HBO can scour the show floor to seek out new players and emerging technologies. "We always look for new ideas and companies that will be there next year," Zitter says.
This year at NAB, HBO's focus will be on studio production and network origination. Taking a step closer to the tapeless environment, HBO plans to institute a server-based origination system interfacing with an automation system, but finding the right system is proving to be quite a challenge.
"Some manufacturers' servers may interface with some automation systems but not others," he says. "All the pieces aren't designed to interface with each other."
With a growing library of programming, storage is another important area. "We have our people touching base to see what things are out there that we ought to know about," Zitter says. "We want to move to network storage to manage it. That's something that we are not going to implement overnight."
HBO is also looking to add an asset-management system to allow producers easier access to this expanding library, but interoperability has been a challenge.
"If we move from videotape to server for our 28 network feeds, all equipment has to be interfacing as one system, and we will need one asset-management system," Zitter says. "Not one of [the available systems] does everything that we need. We'll be talking to manufacturers about what they have that will be interoperable."
Zitter says he has no "reason to be optimistic or pessimistic" about finding improvements in interoperability. "I and everyone else have been telling manufacturers that this is necessary. If manufacturers are going to want to sell anything, they are going to have to meet this need."
With HBO's growing distribution channels, Zitter also will be looking at equipment to enable the network to modify data rates of program content. This would allow it to archive programming at one data rate, use another for transmission to affiliates, and use a higher data rate for full-quality broadcast programming and a lower rate for Web streaming.
"This is something that everyone is going to need in the future," Zitter says. "We wouldn't want to limit ourselves to any specific manufacturers. If someone has a product and it's proven, we will be happy to look at it."
The problem, he adds, is that many people say they can modify data rates but HBO hasn't seen anything it's pleased with yet.
HBO On Demand, the network's new video-on-demand service being tested in several markets, will also be a focus.
"We had been outsourcing work in terms of encoding and transmitting fields," Zitter explains. "We're moving that in-house this year."
Gearing up to expand HBO On Demand, he plans to seek out file servers and storage encoders. A device the network dubs a "pitcher system" will encode files to be transmitted via satellite in IP format. This will enable HBO to transmit programs as a file at faster-than-real-time speeds.
In addition to seeking out new technologies, Zitter is looking forward to meeting with colleagues from around the world. "It's a time when a lot of the people from the different technology operations from HBO's worldwide [networks] get together and compare notes."
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