Snell & Wilcox continues to improve the small-screen experience with Protus

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Snell & Wilcox continues to drive technology innovation for the small-screen experience, introducing products designed to ensure the small screen mobile or broadband video experience is a memorable one.

The latest innovation? Protus Ph.C, a new video image conditioning system that allows providers of mobile TV services to dramatically increase picture quality and/or reduce bandwidth requirements for delivering content to wireless, Internet, and Web delivery platforms.

The new $25,000 system is in Beta and will be available at NAB. Snell & Wilcox is claiming double-digit percentage bandwidth savings, allowing more bandwidth to be used to deliver higher quality images to consumers or to free up bandwidth for the delivery of extra revenue-producing video channels.

The system works by applying a series of sophisticated image conditioning tools to video content prior to its compression and distribution over any type of platform. Derived from high-end broadcast and digital cinema applications, these tools include noise reduction and motion-compensated de-interlacing and scaling, which convert video to the correct scanning format, picture size, and aspect ratio required by mobile devices and computer screens. It also ensures audio is properly synced with the video.

In a typical content chain Protus Ph.C would sit in front of an encoder. Joe Zaller, vice president of marketing at Snell & Wilcox says, “In this sense, it’s similar to our current line-up of Prefix compression pre-processing that sit in front of compression encoders at lots of cable and satellite head-ends today.”

Zaller adds that, like Prefix, Protus Ph.C incorporates powerful noise reduction (because noise and motion are both random and an encoder can’t easily distinguish between the two, clean images compress more efficiently than images with noise in them). But Protus Ph.C has a lot more in it than noise reduction.

“One of the most important things is motion compensated de-interlacing and scaling, using our Ph.C technology,” he says. “We’ve talked to dozens of broadcasters, aggregators, content owners, CDNs, mobile phone operators and big web portals, and they all say that de-interlacing and scaling is a huge issue.”

De-interlacing is even more important given that virtually every non-traditional (CRT) display is progressive. And the de-interlacing process also can’t introduce artifacts or lower the resolution.

“Artifacts are random events that have to be encoded and use up bits,” says Zaller. “And we’re talking about applications where bandwidth is already limited so every bit counts.”

For example, one common artifact on the streamed output is blurred and juddery motion due to dropped/repeated frames in the encoder.

“We’ve done tests with a broadcaster who is streaming sports content onto the web at about 225 kbit/sec and without Protus Ph.C they drop/repeat five frames out of every 10,” says Zaller. “With Protus Ph.C they did not drop any.”

Sportscasters looking to repurpose the same content for multiple platforms don’t necessarily need multiple Protus Ph.C boxes and can instead use the Snell & Wilcox iCR content repurposing workstation which uses Protus Ph.C as its “front-end” and then creates multiple outputs for multiple platforms concurrently using the Helios platform. Zaller adds that Protus Ph.C and Helios can work together or as stand-alone units.

“The unifying system is the iCR workstation which can use Protus Ph.C as its front end and Helios as its back-end,” he explains. “But it’s important to note that Protus Ph.C can be deployed as a stand-alone unit that can make any encoder perform better.

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