Staking a Claim

Wilson helps Modulus Video tackle encoder market

Modulus Video may be the newest manufacturer of digital encoders, but new Chairman/CEO Bob Wilson should help the company gain traction. He spent the past seven years at Pinnacle Systems, one of the industry's top makers of graphics, editing, and server
gear. He discusses the move to Modulus Video, which he sees as a chance to join a small, well-funded team seeking a place in the MPEG-4/AVC (advanced video codec) market as broadcasters and distributors look for new ways to store and distribute content.

How will broadcasters use the Modulus Video encoder and MPEG-4?

When used with standard-definition video, MPEG-4 can distribute content at the same quality as MPEG-2 but with only half or a quarter of the bits. So anyone who has a cost related to transmission will have a much more efficient use of that spectrum. And, because it rides on the same transport stream as MPEG-2, they won't have to reinvest in the whole chain: They just change out the encoder. People we've spoken to see a payback in the four- to six-month range.

How about for HDTV?

When you get to HDTV, it's a dramatic advantage because you still get the same one-half to one-fourth amount of data. You dramatically change the equation for transmitting HD.

So this will solve the problem of getting HD news from the field back to the station?

This will solve that. It's not quite there yet, but the promise is that, in the next two or three years, you'll be able to send HD in the same amount of bits as MPEG-2 standard-definition today. MPEG-2 has been around for 20 years, and we're really at the end of the curve of how we can improve it. We're just at the beginning of this whole new technology, but it will make HD practical everywhere.

But this isn't for reaching the consumer, correct? This is for internal distribution.

Yes. But most consumers get their content over cable or satellite, and the set-top boxes are expected to go to some combination of AVC and even Windows Media 9 over the next two to four years. Meanwhile, this is designed for high-quality broadcasters who have to move content around for things like satellite newsgathering. It's a huge, $500 million market, and that's before it even gets to consumers. The pace of demand for more channels never changes. People want more and more repurposed content, and it has to move from one point to another. This is the most efficient way to do it.

What's the challenge for Modulus in terms of getting market traction?

Our biggest advantage is that we're focused on AVC. We aren't encumbered by the past or existing commitments to MPEG-2, and we can put all of our energy into AVC. And there's just a magic to having a group of people who are experts, well-funded, and focused. We just have to outrun everybody.