GeoVideos heavy-fiber diet

New Viosk delivery system supports data-transfer rates up to 622 Mb/s

Download a two-hour movie in two minutes at DVD quality? That's a concept Lucent Technologies spinoff GeoVideo Networks is pursuing with the Viosk, a new fiber-optic delivery system that supports data rates up to 622 Mb/s.

The company will formally introduce it at NAB 2001 in Las Vegas in April.

New York-based GeoVideo has been promoting the idea of a turnkey professional video-distribution service since last spring. The company, owned by Lucent's New Ventures Group in conjunction with several venture-capital firms, is buying dark fiber from Metromedia Fiber Networks. It has also forged a point-of-presence deal with CSRG Digital LLC, a consortium of 28 public television stations that have agreed to serve as local hubs to the network and market GeoVideo's service to production companies, post houses, news organizations and corporations in exchange for a share in the profits.

In July, GeoVideo created its first fiber-optic path across the U.S., linking noncommercial stations KCET(TV) Los Angeles and WNET(TV) New York with an asynchronous-transfer-mode-based (ATM) connection that supports data rates up to 100 Mb/s and includes an Internet-based browser for desktop access to video. The company hopes to be in seven major markets-including Dallas, Philadelphia and Chicago-by the end of second quarter 2001.

The Viosk service will target such applications as viewing film dailies, high-end animation, digital cinema distribution, or possibly high-definition post-production. Viosk's rates will range from 45 Mb/s, the DS-3 rate that has become the benchmark for broadcast contribution feeds, to 622 Mb/s, also known as OC-12. The service includes CyberStorage System terabit servers that use Lucent's OptiStar video card and removable hard drives that can write data at 15,400 rpm. The system can support a variety of output formats, including D-1 video and DVD, and will link to existing nonlinear editors.

"You'll have the ability to shoot dailies back and forth," says GeoVideo Co-CEO Cliff Schorer. "That ability, coupled with the browser on the distribution side, is what we expect will hit the most pay dirt." But Schorer also expects to market the service to commercial producers and news organizations for faster-than-real-time transfer of video.

Through a joint development agreement with GeoVideo, Bell Labs' Emerging Media Applications Group has been working on the Viosk for six months. Earlier this month, GeoVideo demonstrated it to industry executives at Bell Labs headquarters in Murray Hill, N.J., sending the movie Air Force One
over 12.6 km of OC-12 cable in two minutes and storing it on a single removable hard drive. The movie, which has a running time of 124 Mb/s, was initially encoded at a DVD-quality 6 Mb/s.

Supporting such data rates on a cross-country fiber link is "not out of the question," says Bell Labs Systems Engineer Mike Robins. The Viosk system transferred video at 32 to 33 Mb/s for the demo, he points out: "It's a matter of cost and availability."

Dan Kraus, director of products for Montreal-based 3-D-animation firm Kaydara, believes the GeoVideo Viosk may be an ideal way for large studios like Disney and Warner Bros. to manage work across multiple production locations without having to resort to overnight delivery.

"One of the biggest problems is sign-off," says Kraus. "Getting everybody to sign off is a nightmare. You can't sign off looking at a RealNetworks or Windows Media [streaming] picture."

Although GeoVideo isn't talking about a price structure yet, Kraus says the hardware itself is expensive, estimating its cost at $250,000 for a local hub. And whether GeoVideo charges a monthly fee for transport or charges based on usage is also undecided. Still, Kraus predicts big studios will snap it up.

Tim Spitzer, director of high-definition and data services for Tape House Advanced Imaging Center in New York, notes that the means for moving "massive amounts of information at very good speeds" would be useful in Tape House's digital cinema work. Although satellites have been discussed as a likely distribution method for digital cinema, he suggests that fiber's speed could serve well for special applications, such as preview screenings.

Spitzer notes that the Viosk would have come in handy on a recent set of Coke spots for which Tape House transferred film to large data files, dubbed it to a tape backup and shipped it to an effects house in France, where the images then had to be read back off the tapes. "It would have been much faster going to a drive basis and high speeds."

He isn't sure, though, whether there will be much immediate use for Viosk in high-definition production, except for special cases like effects work in the uncompressed domain that needs to be transported between facilities. "It's a solution," he quips, "but where's the problem?"