SSL Gravity Brings Media Asset Management To NNS; Sports Market A Prime Target

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Solid State Logic’s Gravity media asset management system is having some pull on major media organizations as Fox, CBS, and ABC in the U.S. have embraced the system for their joint Network News Service (NNS) facility in New York City. Expect Gravity to be installed next month, helping NNS handles incoming news feeds from stations, bureaus, and beyond.

“Gravity is an editing system,” says Jerry Berger, SSL vice president, sales for Media Production Systems. “It’s an asset management system. It’s an automation system. And while it’s not a video server it controls servers. And while it’s not an automation system it has machine control.”

Berger says Gravity is designed on an open standards-based Windows architecture that, thanks to scalable and user configurable GUI’s, allows it to be dropped into an existing plant and bring greater performance out of existing storage, editing, and other systems. User workstations, encoders, storage, transcoders, decoders, and servers, may grow from one to literally hundreds in single incremental units.

The core of Gravity is standards-based software that can transcode content into any format thanks to the use of .NET, SQL, XML, and MOS. Gravity makes incoming content available in multiple resolutions for producers and editors. And multiple formats complement the multiple resolutions as Gravity is able to support media formats such as; AVI, DV, WMV, ASF, MXF, DIVX, MP4, MOV, WAV, MP3, AAC, and more. In terms of codecs it supports VC-1, H.264, MPEG2, MPEG4, MPEG1, DV, HDV, XDCAM, XDCAM-HD, DVC-Pro, and Motion JPEG.

“Personnel today need to be concerned with what compression is used, what bit rates are used, whether it will be output to MPEG2 or h.264,” says Berger. “And then there are multiple databases and metadata everywhere. We want to change that.”

As content is pulled in through Gravity metadata related to content could be logged and updated, allowing producers to monitor multiple incoming feeds at once. Up to five independent and assignable video windows can display current live encoding or playback of other content in its original aspect ratio on one or more display monitors and up to 15 streams can be monitored via low-res proxy.

The low-bit proxy, which also involved a proprietary streaming protocol that is part of the system’s secret sauce, taps in the core of the system: a server with a database manager. That server can then exchange information and pointers with servers like Omneon’s MediaGrid.

Once the editing decisions have been made Gravity pumps out multiple versions for different delivery specs simultaneously and make use of WAN and LAN networks to bring workgroups and personnel together. And the use of proxy-based editing and production is a key enabler of realtime performance.

“If you need to continually see what is being encoded and transferred, proxy video allows a multi-image processor to show hundreds of images and allow for distributed monitoring on PCs or laptops,” explains Berger. “The user can set the bitrate to what they want to make sure it can be viewed over the available pipe.”

For example, NNS will have 25 user stations in New York along with 19 encoders and decoders to bring in incoming satellite news feeds and watch internal proxy video at 3 Mbps. The system allows 150 remote users across the United States to use a Web-based application to access proxy video encoded at 192 kbps. But when those remote users or internal users edit story packages the final product is delivered to TV stations across the U.S. at DV25.

“The system takes the bandwidth and compression requirements and turns those into CPU requirements and ensures there is enough processing power behind Gravity,” says Berger. “There is no upper-end limit to users as long as there is enough processing power behind it.”

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