SPRING IS A GOOD TIME TO PULL UP, LOOK
around, and regroup around the
boatload of interesting stuff that’s
happening in cable tech circles. In no
particular order, here’s my list, culled
from various batches of notes:
1. Fiber shortage? Hard to
imagine, given the fiber glut left
in the wake of the cratered competitive
local-exchange carrier business.
But that was a few years ago.
This is now, and fiber is selling like hotcakes, according
to the head of one of the larger glassmakers.
What’s going on? Cellular backhaul, broadband
stimulus funding and rural power companies
building out to “densities” as few as four homes
per mile. As a result, glassmakers are on allocation.
Translation: A 90- to 120-day wait from the
time you say “purchase order” to the time you get
those fiber reels. Go figure!
2. VOD DAI: Remember this one? It’s all about
digital ad insertion (that’s the DAI) into stored, ondemand
video content (that’s the VOD). Agencies
still snark on it — “nobody wants mid-roll ads” —
but a vibrant vendor community disagrees.
What’s going on? Think back to the earliest
days of VOD, when cable providers essentially
strong-armed the content community into giving
them VOD titles for free. Now, with DAI as a way
to monetize VOD content, on the fly, from the
edge of the network, without having to re-pitch assets,
that tune is changing.
Here’s evidence, from a recent batch of notes
on the subject: “MSOs are saying, ‘give us your
good stuff, we can’t monetize your dogs.’” Which
isn’t a very nice thing to say about dogs, but
nonetheless, anything that realistically points to
monetization usually gets funding.
3. Apple, you whippersnapper! Some content
providers are raising both eyebrows at Apple,
and any other content aggregators seeking
“native frame-rate” material, as opposed to the
impressively nerdy “mixed cadence.”
What’s going on? This is all kinda sorta like
the inverse-telecine activities of the analog days.
Remember? Film gets shot at 24 frames per second
(fps), and television at 30 fps. That created
a need to do things like telecine and inverse telecine,
to make film play on TV and vice versa.
Except that neither TV nor movies get shot
on film anymore. Digital reigns eternal! The new
way of talking about such matters involves “native
frame rate,” meaning, send “mezzanine”
(highest-grade) content as files are captured and
transmitted as they are.
The rub is that some networks use the “mixed
cadence” technique, meaning the smushing together
of the two different frame rates. This tends
to happen when capturing in one format and editing
in another, or when mixing in graphics. Not visible
to the human eye; easier to do on their end.
Now, though, Apple and others are requesting
an end to this 50-plus year reality in TV and
film production — away from mixed cadence,
and toward native frame. Which to the oldtimers
feels kind of like the grandkid telling the
grandparents what to do.
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