Sunday, April 21, 2013

Teradek goes upmarket

I've been waiting for a little free time to write about the new Teradek video encoders and decoders that I saw at NAB. Teradek has been known for very cost-effective camera-top video encoders and wireless broadband transmitters. They've scooped up a fair share of the field video acquisition market that was pioneered by companies like LiveU, TVU and Streambox--and those companies have responded with their own lower-priced encoder/decoder systems. Just before NAB, Teradek started shipping its $699 VidiU live streaming encoder to reviewers; the company may have already begun customer shipments as I write this post. The VidiU brings much of the functionality of Teradek's Cube and Bond to a "prosumer" encoder priced less than $1,000.

When I visited Teradek's booth, I expected that the VidiU would be the company's primary new product, but I was wrong. The VidiU was on display, of course, but Teradek announced several new products, all of which are aimed at broadcasters and cable networks. Note: Teradek hasn't announced pricing or availability dates for any of these products. Here's a brief summary:
  • The Bond Pro is an integrated encoder/cellular bonding system that's designed to attach to the Gold Mount and V-Mount battery plates used by professional ENG camcorders. It also includes an SD card proxy recorder, and has redesigned mounts for up to six 3G/4G/LTE wireless broadband modems that provide better protection from rough handling.
  • The Bond II is a Bond Pro that's designed for camera-top mounting. Unlike the Bond Pro, it has its own internal rechargeable battery.
  • The Edge is a Bond II in a 1U rackmount chassis, designed for permanent mounting in ENG trucks and mobile studios. Unlike the Bond Pro and Bond II, which use customer-supplied broadband modems, the Edge has six built-in 3G/4G/LTE modems as well as a WiFi hotspot. Up to 14 external antennas can be connected to the Edge for better cellular connectivity and WiFi range.
  • The Slice is a pair of 1U rackmounted H.264 encoders and decoders. The encoder has one HD-SDI input and two outputs, as well as a WiFi hotspot in the encoder and a USB connection, while the decoder has a HD-SDI output and both Ethernet and USB connections.
Teradek also announced three new and updated software products:
  • Sputnik 2.0 is the updated version of Teradek's Linux-based software for taking bitstreams from the multiple wireless broadband connections from the Bond, Bond II, Bond Pro and Edge, and bonding them back into a single H.264 video stream. It also enables tunneling of non-bonded point-to-point video streams from one network to another, supposedly eliminating the need to open firewall ports. Sputnik 2.0 has improved adaptive bit rate management that responds faster to changes in available bandwidth and bit rates from the encoder, as well as a new feature that reduces audio and video loss when a broadband modem drops its connection or is physically removed.
  • Core is a new application that enables control of all of a organization's Teradek encoders, cellular bonding systems and decoders from a single location. One encoder's output can be routed to multiple decoders, and all settings of all of the devices can be managed from the Core console, allowing teams in the field to focus on getting stories instead of configuring encoders.
  • Lokr is a new digital media and metadata management program that stores and logs all digital audio/visual media and metadata generated locally or remotely. It works directly with file-based cameras and existing VTR systems, and can mirror recorded files to a local RAID array or to a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox.
Even though these products are likely to be significantly more expensive than Teradek's previous products, it doesn't appear that Teradek is going after the high-end encoder market that companies such as Ateme, Elemental, Ericsson, Harmonic and many others compete in. Instead, Teradek continues to focus on mobile encoding products. Its Slice is a "toe in the water" for fixed-location encoding, but it rounds out Teradek's product line rather than strikes major new ground for the company.

In fact, all of the new products are aimed at offering a much more comprehensive product line: More professional encoders, rack-mounted devices, and software that enables centralized management of an entire network of Teradek devices, all make the product line much more appealing to major market broadcasters. Everyone from individuals streaming live webcasts from their living rooms to big-market broadcasters are now covered by Teradek products.
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