NAB 2016

SVG@NAB Perspectives: EMC’s Burns on Uncompressed 4K Workflows and the IP Migration

At NAB, EMC announced a variety of workflow enhancements for sports broadcasters, including advances in uncompressed 4K workflows, IP and cloud technologies, and collaborative editing.

EMC, Pixspan, Aspera, and NVIDIA demoed uncompressed 4K workflows within an IT infrastructure at the show in an effort to advance digital media workflows with full resolution content over standard 10GbE networks. According to EMC, customers can achieve savings and performance increases of 50-80% in storage and bandwidth throughout the entire workflow – from on-set through post to final assets. Content can be stored on EMC’s Isilon scale-out NAS for shared collaborative access to project data in the data center, around the world, or to the cloud.

EMC and Imagine Communications also demoed live channel playout with the Versio solution in an offering with EMC’s converged VCE Vblock system and EMC’s Isilon scale-out NAS storage system. EMC’s technology and Imagine’s Versio cloud-capable channel playout solution help to enable broadcasters to securely fulfill channel play-out across geographically dispersed network operations to help engage customers with content tailored to their respective operations.

Other demos included remote and collaborative editing with MXFserver software and Isilon scale-out NAS and a cloud-based multi-platform CloudDVR content delivery service with Anevia.

SVG sat down with Tom Burns, CTO of Media and Entertainment Division at EMC, to discuss the uncompressed 4K and live channel playout demos, as well as how major sporting events like the Olympics (EMC announced NBC Olympics had chosen its Isilon NAS for its production in Rio) are driving the entire video-production industry forward.  

What is EMC highlighting here at the show in relation to 4K?
We’re working with a company called Pixspan because they have an interesting technique that they call Bit Exact Round Trip. Even JPEG 2000 is not as perfect as you would like. You can round trip a JPEG 2000 and then [compare] against the original source image and you still have a few little pixel differences. Whereas if you do the same thing with an image that’s been round tripped through the Pixspan technology and you [compare it] against the source, it’s perfect. That allows us to talk to our customers about workflow. We can literally do 8K workflows in a 4K infrastructure because of this Bit Exact compression.

For instance, when Weta Digital is working with Lightstorm Entertainment on the Avatar films, they’re sending tons and tons of data, and that link costs them $18,000 a month. So if they can cut down either the size of the link or they can get it sent faster, that’s money in their pocket. The same kind of efficiency is happening on the archival side. If you can compress these files before you archive them then you use less storage and it makes file based archiving cost competitive with tape.

How is EMC trying to expose the M&E market to its technology platforms beyond Isilon storage?
For us, M&E has always been about Isilon. And one of the real focuses of this show is to highlight a range of EMC products. With the SDI to IP transition, cloud-based or virtual-playout servers are a big thing for broadcasters for cloud DVR applications, master control applications, and so on.

We’re showing a demo with Imagine Communications highlighting their playout server on EMC VCE converged infrastructure. VCE family incorporates Isilon, so that in one rack we’ve got VCE for the Imagine Communications demo [and] a three-node Isilon cluster for the Pixspan demo. The same Isilon is running the MXF server demo and the Anevia demo. So we are now seeing the full suite of EMC products for M&E instead of just thinking exclusively of Isilon.

That speaks to a larger trend in the industry. We’re seeing that for cost reasons or for efficiency reasons or because of the huge consolidation in the M&E business. M&E has always been about best of breed where [a company] builds its own systems. But you get these rollups where a number of companies are all rolled up to keep the share price high in the face of declining growth. And the first thing the CFO does after one of these rollups is demand a common technology platform. And so, in general, we’re supporting this trend of enterprise IT infrastructure and workflow being applied to the media and entertainment space because we’ve got a ton of experience in the telco space.

How is EMC enabling cloud-based workflows for M&E operations?
You have to have three things for this dream of the software-defined media in the cloud: software-defined networking, software-defined storage, and server virtualization. You’ve got to have server virtualization, and not only are we all over that with VMWare, but we’re into phase two of server virtualization with containerization. Software-defined networking, we get through a lot of our partners. For software-defined storage, there are software-defined versions of every single one of the EMC product family now and, with our 1FS version 8, the Isilon IsilonSD Edge having software-defined versions of Isilon completes that having software-defined versions of all of our storage products. And once you have those, that’s an enterprise IT [operation]. Whether you’re a broadcaster; an OTT streaming provider; a VFX and animation person; or a collaborative, creative, editorial, people want those efficiencies of scale and common technology platform due to cost pressures coming down from the CFO.

We also support Virtustream, which is a cloud provider that EMC owns and operates. It’s primarily for very, very mission-critical enterprise workloads like SAP, for instance. But the cool thing about Virtustream is that they’ve got the highest security rating there is, even better than Amazon or Azure. So for media companies who are still skittish about doing collaborative production in the public cloud, Virtustream is starting to become interesting as an option for them.

EMC will play in NBC Olympics’ production in Rio this summer. How do major sporting events like the Olympics help to push technology forward?
In general, when technology is in transition, which is really the theme of this NAB, we have business models, technology, culture, and operational models all changing at the same time. I don’t want to call it a perfect storm, but it does tend to leave people reeling with the shock. A major global sporting event gets a lot of resources thrown at it and a lot of bugs get worked out, so people start to trust this technology after it has become proven at an event like that. That’s so wonderful for the industry, because you get people developing the skills and proving the technology. So it advances the whole industry when you have a high-profile event where people spend a lot of time and money working it out. And then, the cultural change happens once you get the trust, which is a good thing because the cultural change is the hardest. M&E tends to be very conservative industry and we do things the same way because it worked last time and don’t want to change it, so a major sporting event provides that initial building block that everything else can then build on top of.