Sony’s New Media Backbone Family Coordinates Production Workflow

Sony’s big NAB booth will feature an idea to match. Sony will introduce the Media Backbone family, a range of software and hardware products that take advantage of service-oriented architecture (SOA) to link various devices and systems used throughout a production workflow.

“Where, traditionally, Sony has focused on providing standalone devices to this market, we are now offering solutions that will provide a framework for connecting devices and services,” says Steve Stubelt, director of Sony Electronics’ Systems Solutions Group.

The Media Backbone is intended to support the file-based operating needs of customers in the content-creation market. Most important, SOA, a Web-based design approach used in the IT field, does not differentiate among products from other manufacturers; rather, it is designed to present solutions to meet customer needs on all types of products and systems.

“The key is the openness of the platform,” says Peter Crithary, marketing manager for production in Sony’s Broadcast and Professional Systems Division. “It supports not only Sony products but products from companies like Avid, Harris, Quantel, Cisco, Omneon, and more.”

As part of this initiative, Sony will demonstrate two new software products, the Media Backbone Conductor (MBC) and Media Backbone Ensemble (MBE), and a new platform, called ELLCAMI.

ELLCAMI is notable because it is the first Sony broadcast product to take full advantage of the Cell processor technology behind the Sony PS3 gaming console. The resolution-independent multiformat ingest and transcoding platform has up to 128 cores per workstation, and each system can be customized. It supports DPX, OpenEXR, JPEG 2000 (Lossless and Lossy), MPEG-2 Long GOP, VC-3, BMP, WAV, BWF; additional formats will be supported via future software upgrades

“We took the Cell-based technology and have it working with Intel chipset for even more processing power,” says Crithary. PCI boards give the system expansion capability.

MBC is designed to make workflows visible at the system level, so that they can be carried out more efficiently and treated as regular business processes. The high-speed MPE-L1000 ingest processor can rapidly ingest video in a range of formats and resolutions (from 4K to proxy), can process and convert this video without reducing quality, and can output the results in a variety of ways.

Content is ingested/output through up to eight baseband I/O ports (four HD-SDI inputs, four HD-SDI outputs, and support for dual-link). The MPE-L1000 can also automatically detect dark frames and other file errors, reducing the time required for visual error checking. And when it is used with multi-client software, multiple users can carry out ingest and transcoding work at the same time (the MPE-T1000 is the transcoding module).

MBE, designed specifically to provide efficient management of ingest and archive workflows, works in conjunction with the MBC and platforms from other manufacturers.

It coordinates relevant services on the network for centralized management of file updates (in the database), final versions, and archiving. Different video systems support different sets of codecs and formats, and differences occur at the editing stage, where many NLE applications are currently in use (including Avid, Quantel, Apple, etc.) and each uses its own methods for storing metadata.

MBE implements database management of high-res AV files, low-res AV files generated from high-res files, and metadata, and it moves data into and out of a tape library (high-capacity digital-tape storage device). A search engine that can search archived assets is also available so that users at NLE terminals can use MBE to search for online and archived material, to preview low-res AV files, and to view metadata.

MBE also automatically transmits found video in accordance with transmission directives. For example, it can find a high-res AV file in the tape library and send that file to an editor working at an NLE terminal. In general, MBE enables efficient archiving operations.

“The goal,” says Crithary, “is to use the SOA behind the scenes for workflow orchestration, tying together ingest, production, playout, distribution, and archiving.”