HaiVision's High-Definition Play

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Montreal-based
HaiVision Network Video first made its mark in distance education and the telepresence
sector with high-performance encoders and a codec system, but in recent years
has made inroads into the broadcast and multichannel business with its
affordable encoders. Peter Maag, HaiVision's senior vice president of marketing
and business development, talked to HD
Update
contributor George Winslow about how the company's experience in
delivering high-definition video for such industries as health, education and the
military has helped it develop technologies for television. An edited
transcript follows.

MCN: How did the company get involved in
providing encoders and codecs for the delivery of high-definition video?

PM: We've been a
company for five and a half years, following an acquisition of a product line
from Miranda Technologies. We were founded on principles of performance
encoding following the acquisition of a product line from Miranda Technologies
about five and a half years ago.

Peter Maag, HaiVision

The first market to adopt that product was distance
education and it became the seed market for a lot of the stuff that we have
been doing. Over the years, we've navigated from MPEG-2 standard definition to
H.264 and then to high definition. It was about two years ago when we brought
in our Mako HD codec blade.

By providing affordable HD-encoding codec technology, we
have expanded quite rapidly and brought out some interesting technologies to
assist a number of enterprise verticals. One of our recent releases is the
Makito
[a compact H.264 encoder
priced at under $9,000 that is capable of delivering 1080p 60 frames per second]
and it is proving to be a pretty disruptive product at its performance and
price point.

[Our ] merger with Video Furnace [earlier this year] has also
allowed us to an deliver end to end IP video networking technology to the
market and today we really dominate performance communication.

MCN: Earlier this year, you worked with some
partners to demonstrate the delivery of very high quality 1080i video over the Internet.
How did that come about?

PM: Historically,
when our customers [in the telepresence sector] did video the easiest way is to
do that was limit it to the LAN [local area
network check] or they established very hot networks to do very low latency
collaboration.

But there are a lot of people who really want to broadcast
video over the public Internet and not have the high charges of these custom
networks. So, we partnered with some companies to enable that. We found that by
establishing simple buffering servers at either end you can actually groom the
traffic for a very high quality, high bandwidth transmission over public
internet style connections, which are very affordable.

This is very appealing to churches who want to establish
remote high-definition venues based on [digital subscriber line] connection, so
they can reduce their monthly service charges.

[We also] have a number of broadcasters and satellite
companies who are very interested in this.

MCN: So it could be
very useful on the contribution and distribution side where you are, for
example, doing a remote interview or delivering a feed from a venue?

PM: Absolutely. Our
products offer end-to-end 70-millisecond latency on a [local area network] and
90-millisecond latency over a hot network. But if you do it over satellite,
where you might have two hops, you might have 800-millisecond latency. So the
latency gains are actually quite dramatic when you come down to earth and reducing
the latency as much as possible is very important during, say, a live
interview.

[Besides latency], our products are much lower cost when compared
to traditional broadcast encoders. They allow a lot of people can get into the
business without the pain of a broadcast HD h.264 encoder.

We were just up for an innovation award at [the
International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam]
last week. A Czech Republic
broadcaster [TV Barrandov] was able to launch in HD using our technology,
because we were a lot more forgiving on the bandwidth requirements and because we
were a lot more affordable.

MCN: What are some of
the main industries that you've focused on for delivering video?

PM: Our
technology really shines is such areas as medical, where people want to
securely transmit video around a campus and collect that video for review or
rebroadcast or to live transmission to auditorium or venues across the nation.

The military segment is also very big for us. Our encoder
technology is used to blend video and data from unmanned airborn vehicles from
war zones back to the U.S.

In the education segment, our Video Furnace infrastructure
is really the premier product for replacing cable-TV distribution in
universities and it has been very widely adopted.

Very closely related to the broadcast market is the worship
market, where our technology is being deployed at a rapid pace to expand their
facilities.

Another segment that is becoming very important is stadiums.
In that market, delivering low-latency video between the field up to the press
boxes and private boxes and hallways is a big deal. You don't want the screens
in the hallways to be seven seconds behind the live action on the field, so we
are being deployed extensively at the stadium level.

MCN: The Video Furnace system has been
deployed by a number of universities to deliver educational video. Do you see
it also becoming an alternative way to deliver to cable television on campuses?

PM: I used to be
a bit shy about the redistribution of cable channels across a campus because I
thought the associated rights issues were a bit daunting. But it is actually
quite easy and it is certainly easier when you have an infrastructure that can
monitor all consumption on the network the way Video Furnace can.

The viewer has constant communication with the server so
from the central administration point of view, we know what people see and we can
control what they see and how they see it.

So yes, we are extensively deployed at top universities.
UCLA and Northwestern were early adopters and many of the other top
universities use it -- University of Chicago,
Rutgers, Dartmouth,
Harvard, etc. The list goes on and on.

[It is different from university to university] but one of
the first things people want to do with Furnace is replace the cable headend
because it can deliver video to anybody regardless of the platform. So we have
people bringing the media into the headend and distributing it from there.
There are tons of universities that have adopted it.

But one of the beauties of the Furnace technology is they
can use it for all sorts of things.

They can associate video-on-demand with course curriculum
and establish conditional access so only certain people can access the video.
We've even had people use comprehensive reporting tools to detect whether
people have watched certain video for training audit. It gives the
administrator, whether it is a campus administrator or a broadcaster, very
strong tools to monitor and control the consumption of video.

MCN: Has the economic
trauma affected the way people are approaching HD video?

PM: I can't say
we've been feeling the pain. During the recession, HaiVision as a company has
been exploding. Of course, some things fall of the table and in some cases
budgets are pushed back, but the end-to-end solution we offer has unmistakable
advantages.

We are also filling in the blanks for people who can't
afford much more expensive encoders, which is important in this climate. We had
a great show last week at IBC, more leads than we've ever generated in the history
of the company.

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