From Blue-ray To 3D Interactive Walk Throughs – The Daunting Number Of Distribution Technologies At NAB 2009

This will be one of the larger posts that I’ll do about NAB 2009 and it will focus on a daunting number of technologies relating to distribution that I saw on the show floor.

NTT Ultra-Low Latency IP Based HD video transmission system and Ultra-High-Speed Video Server System for High-Resolution Video

NTT Ultra-Low Latency IP Based HD Video Transmission System

NTT Ultra-Low Latency IP Based HD Video Transmission System

NTT’s technologies were able to transfer high-quality video through an IP network paving the way to an all IP broadcasting station. The HDTV-IP video server “XMS” is a PC-cluster-based ultra-high-speed video server. It can record and play back a number of high-quality video files, including  compressed HD, uncompressed HD, and uncompressed 4K-resolution and is able to do it through an IP network in real-time.The companies  HDTV-IP gateway “XG-2” is an ultra-low-latency video-transmission system through an IP network. It can convert an HD-SDI/SD-SDI signal from/to IP packets within one millisecond and transfer them through two gigabit-ethernet interfaces without compression.

NTT Ultra-High-Speed Video Server System

NTT Ultra-High-Speed Video Server System

It can record and play back video using legacy video equipment, such as an HD video camera and an HD monitor, and can transfer video as video files to/from PC based non-liner editing systems. The server can simultaneously record and play back up to 16 uncompressed HD videos. This performance is equivalent to about 200 HD-VCR quality videos or four uncompressed 4K-resolution videos.

Haivision Makito

Haivision Makito

Haivision Makito

We’ve been looking for a device that would deliver live H.264 at 1080p60 that is portable, compact and affordable. We needed it for our digital signage system so we were delighted to see the Haivision MAKITO which started shipping in the week prior to NAB. At under 10K it’s a fraction of the price of competing technology.

Digital Rapids – TouchStream

Digital Rapids TouchStream

Digital Rapids TouchStream

In the same area of distribution we took a quick peek at TouchStream appliances that are developed for on-location live streaming of events. The appliances offer a choice of formats — including AVC/H.264 (including Adobe® Flash® Player 9), VC-1 (Windows Media), On2 VP6 (Adobe Flash 8), 3GPP and MPEG-2. The devices can target audiences and platforms from Internet TV to mobile phones.


Pipeline HD Dual

Pipeline HD Dual

Telestream is another company that’s in the distribution and transcoding business. Of interest to me is Pipeline HD Dual which is a two-channel hardware encoder that captures HD video from SDI sources and encodes it in real time to HD editing formats. These formats  include Avid DNxHD, Apple ProRes 422 and Panasonic DVCPRO HD.

Episode Pro

Episode Pro

Telestream’s Episode multiformat encoders and transcoders allow for  cost-effective conversions of video and audio for on-demand delivery to the Web and portable media devices. New for NAB 2009 the Episode Desktop encoder is available for both Mac and PC. The software expands the types of transcodes Compressor can undertake on the Apple platform.

Telestream Wirecast

Telestream Wirecast

Wirecast ($495), is a unique product. It’s a real-time video production software product for Mac and PC users that allows users to capture live events and distribute content for real-time Web delivery.  They recently added built-in streaming service access to Mogulus and Ustream.

Livestream (formerly Mogulus)

Mogulis - Broadcast Live For Free

Mogulus is amazing. As they advertise its the most powerful online video broadcast solution available. In just minutes you can create broadcasts as polished as any multi-million dollar traditional television network — with full capability to easily broadcast Live, 24/7 Linear, and On-Demand content and best of all its absolutely FREE.

Adobe Flash For the Digital Home – Flash embedded in TV Setup box

ADOBEs Flash In TV Setop Box

ADOBE's Flash In TV Setop Box

It seems ADOBE’s plan is to get Flash in every computer and to every television screen. Adobe’s big announcement at NAB seemed to be centered around the integration of Flash into settop boxes and bringing Flash Video  into the livingroom. According to FreshDV they also were showing a concept software product called Adobe Story.

Mobile DTV

ATSC Mobile Devices

ATSC Mobile Devices

One of the big pushes from ATSC is the development of Mobile Digital Television (DTV) because it could represents a significant new revenue stream for the broadcasting industry as well as a new way to reach more customers. It can be achieved through transmission facility improvements and it will allow broadcasters to extend local programming to a vast audience of viewers with portable Mobile DTV devices.

To demonstrate the potential The Open Mobile Video Coalition had an area on the NAB floor where a number of mobile devices were shown picking up content from a nearby transmitter. The problem, none of the technology inthe area could be picked up (ie. it wasn’t mobile) and the nearby transmitter happened to be placed just above the booth. Nevertheless a number of technologies were displayed.

ATSC Mobile Device

ATSC Mobile Device

According to press releases 70 US stations in 28 markets have said they will be broadcasting in the format by the end of this year. The technology to broadcast in this format will cost each station about $100,000 and it  allows each station to broadcast up to eight simultaneous program streams.

Currently there are no devices available that can receive these signals, but there will be phones and other devices coming to market soon including Dell who has  announced it will make a laptop that could receive the broadcast signals. Another market will be viewers for cars.

ATSC Mobile Antennas On A PC

ATSC Mobile Antenna's On A PC

MobiTV’s mixTV is a new business concept that’s demonstrating a future delivery model for mobile television. It combines free Mobile DTV content with a subscription based 7-day window of on-demand programming. MixTV also supports interactivity, audience measurement and dynamic ad insertion.

More information can be found at the following links..

IBM Interactive Masters Golf Application

IBM Interactive Masters Golf Application

One of the more interesting content pieces I saw at NAB was the web based Masters Golf application that was made for the Masters Golf tournament by IBM Interactive. If technologies like Mobile DTV are going to become mainstream they are going to have to provide experiences that enhance traditional television in the same manner that this application did.

Along with providing the regular coverage that Broadcast TV viewers saw, the website offered more interactive and personalized features this year than it had in the past. Fans at the course were able to post messages online through a feedback application. Fans both on and off the course could track players through the Web site as well as watch on-demand videos of player highlights, course previews, and more. The site provided exclusive real-time scoring while a video console streamed footage of the championship game and allowed viewer to watch the 15th and 16th hole live at any time.

KDDI Viewpoint

KDDI Viewpoint

KDDI Viewpoint

This was another one of those technologies that’s 3D and interactive and I just didn’t know where to place it within my blog postings. Tokyo-based KDDI R&D Laboratories have developed and were showing a technology that makes it possible to distribute free viewpoint video through the web. Users could actually walk through a group of cheerleaders as they danced viewing the scene from various angles. The media is created when the video material is filmed with multiple cameras and future appliucations will allow viewers to “watch the action in a soccer game not only from a stadium/bird’s perspective” and from the position of the players.

In press reports KDDI says they will improve the system for use in on-demand television services over the web by 2013. The company will employ data compression systems to deliver their service to Japanese homes via the Internet with 300 mbps data transfer rates.

Matrox – CompressHD

We’ve now hit the Blu-ray area of my blog posts. If you’re a professional content creator delivering H.264 files for Blu-ray, the web, and mobile devices Matrox CompressHD is somethng you might want to look at.  Its an affordable H.264 accelerator card that plugs into a PC or MAC and accelerates the creation of H.264 files for resolutions ranging from iPod to HD, in faster than real time. One nice thing is that it works directly with Apple’s Compressor and multiple cards can be “farmed” together using Apples Q-Master render farm. Let’s hope it’ll work on live vide sources some day….

BluStreak Premaster

BluStreak Premaster was premiered at the FCPUG NAB 2009 SuperMeet. It allows the correct formatting of Blu-ray output from any authoring application when large-scale manufacturing or replication –including full AACS copy protection support– is required. Prior to its unveiling at NAB no simple software solution was available for the MAC to prepare Blu-ray disks for commercial replication. In a nutshell the software;

  • Formats Blu-ray output for commercial manufacturing
  • Straightforward, reliable operation
  • Accepts input from any authoring application
  • Supports AACS & dual-layer (BD-50) format
  • Automatic checksum generation to ensure data integrity

BluStreak Premaster is both easy to use and robust accepting Blu-ray authoring applications running on any platform, including Adobe Encore CS4, DVDIt Pro HD, Toast, and others.

MCE Technologies – Blu-ray Writer for Mac

MCE Mac Ready Blu-ray Writer

MCE Mac Ready Blu-ray Writer

For those one off Blu-ray jobs, MCE Technologies was  at NAB showing their latest Blu-ray writer that’s specifically designed for the Mac. They indicated that it was 400% faster than their previous offering and it comes completely pre-configured for easy installation. It writes 25GB single-layer and 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray at up to 8X speed and is compatible with all DVD and CD recordable media including DVD±R/RW + Dual/Double Layer, DVD-RAM, and CD-R and CD-RW. The drive has a 4MB buffer for writing Blu-ray Disc and DVD media as well as  built-in Buffer Underrun protection.

Network Appliance Blu-ray Burners

If you prefer to do your own Blu-ray runs of a larger scale, these network appliance Blu-ray Burner systems might be of help.

Rimage Network Appliance Blu-ray Burner

Rimage Network Appliance Blu-ray Burner

BravoPro (Blu-ray) Disc Publisher

BravoPro (Blu-ray) Disc Publisher

Brother Document Viewer Prototype

Brother Document Viewer Prototype

Brother Document Viewer Prototype

Don’t forget paper! Brother has joined recent announcements from iriver, Neolux, and Plastic Logic with its SV-100B Document Viewer. On display at NAB Brothers Document Viewer featured a 9.7-inch, 1200 x 825 display which is larger and twice the pixels of the Kindle 2. However, it’s market is not to be a Kindle-killer. Instead its aimed at business users who will employ Bluetooth with PCs to keep its microSD card filled with content. The content must be run through a converter app prior to display.  Its expected to ship in June.

TeamCast 8-VSB Modulator

TeamCast 8-VSB Modulator

TeamCast 8-VSB Modulator

After years of searching for an inexpensive 8-VSB transmitter I finally came accross TeamCasts MUS-1000/2000 8-VSB modulator. Its an integrated and cost effective 8-VSB modulator that can be adapted to transmit DTV over short distances. hehehe……

DVEO eyecatcher HDTV Modulator


DVEO eyeCatcher HDTV Modulator

DVEO eyeCatcher HDTV Modulator

We’ve been wondering for some time how we’re going to insert HDTV channels on our in-house cable TV systems inexpensivly. We had a chance to look at DVEO eYe Catcher system and it looks like it can do the job. The company’s new digital HDTV modulator takes live or recorded video streams, sending them to multiple HD monitors via RF over coax. It can even duplicate what the broadcasters are doing. One 8VSB RF channel can feed up to one HD and one SD stream or three SD streams.

Pico Macom DSP806

Pico Macom DSP806

Pico Macom DSP806

While on the topic of cable distribution, just in case I want to move channels the Pico Macom DSP806 should do the job. It’s a frequency agile, microprocessor-controlled, professional re-broadcast grade double-heterodyne channel processor that converts one 6MHz Digital (ATSC, 8VSB, 64 QAM) or Analog (NTSC) channel to a different frequency without need to demodulate and re-modulate the signal. Interface Interface

I came across this company at NAB because the were showing live video connectivity using WiMAX. The product they were selling was live news field production without microwave? It thurns out the company offers live connections in the field via;

  • 3G Networks
  • Wireless or Wired Broadband Networks
  • WiMAX (using Airspan products)

The interconnect is bi-directional transmitting and receiving NTSC, SDI, HD, Video and Audio. The technology also connects the field to station studio technologies such as IFB , Studio Intercom and Return Video. The service  also has a high speed data connection for studio workflow. The high speed connection can connect iNews and ENPS newsroom systems.

Server Technology Inc – PDU’s

I came accross Server Technology’s rackmount power distribution units (PDU’s)  at NAB. These  PDU’s  provide per outlet power sensing which allows remote reboot via IP. One of the interesting features of theor product includes metered pdus for  power monitoring at the individual outlet level.

iBOOT – Remote Reboot via Web Browser



A competing product to Server Technology’s products on the reboot side is iBoot. Boot is a 10/100 Ethernet network attached, IP addressed, Web Controlled power switch. Using a web browser iBoot can perform power On, Off or Reboot. iBoot is password protected for security.

Other Products In This Category

HNTT Electronics VE9100 H264 AND MPEG II ENCODER

NTT Electronics VE9100 H264 AND MPEG II ENCODER

Cavium Networks - Low Latency Full-HD H.264 Micro-Module for Real-Time A/V Applications

Cavium Networks - Low Latency Full-HD H.264 Micro-Module for Real-Time A/V Applications


China Blue High-Definition Rolls Out Hardware

China Blue HD Players Revealed

China Blue HD Players Revealed

CBHD (China Blue High-Definition), formerly known as CH-DVD is a high definition optical disc format thatis  a joint venture between the DVD Forum and OMNERC.  According to Wikipedia CBHD’s developers claim the format contains more copy protection features and is part of a big push by China to fight piracy as well as cut down on royalty payments for foreign patents. In March 2009, Warner Bros announced that they are supporting the CBHD format, launching with titles that included the Harry Potter series.

To add further fuel to the fire, Engadget is now reporting that China Blue HD players have been unveiled. Let even more format wars begin…..


Rethinking Blu-ray Authoring

Blu-ray Authouring Station At Ryerson University In Toronto

Blu-ray Authoring Station At Ryerson University In Toronto

Ok, so Blu-ray is not new…. And a variety of programs can now create Blu-ray media…. I know, I know…. I discovered this when I recently had to work myself through the process of shooting at 24p on a Canon HV-20 with the idea of outputting it in 24p using a PlayStation 3. It got complicated on my Apple system. I first had to used Apple’s Compressor to transcode the 24p frames out of the HDV bitsetream, edit it using in Final Cut Pro, run it through Compressor again to create an H.264 stream and and finally write the 24p h.264 stream back to Blu-ray. Yuck!

I found it was much easier using Pinnacle’s Studio 12 (which saw the 24 p stream immediately) and after editing my material it appeared to write it back to Blu-ray as a 24 frame file. Well at least that’s what the Playstation 3 told me.

With that bevy of experience behind me a research project crossed my desk this month that required a Windows desktop system. Windows was required because the Blu-ray authoring software that was being used included a BD Live authoring component. The project gave me the chance to re-invent a Blu-ray authoring workstation from scratch so I thought what I’d do in this blog post and outline what we ended up doing here at Ryerson.

Hardware Goodies

Tiger Directs Bareboneasaurus

Tiger Direct's Bareboneasaurus

One thing I had learned from both Apple’s Compressor and Studio 12 software was that the rendering process was the slowest part of the process, so a good processor is a key element. Since the research included some BD Live authoring (a relatively new programming discipline I guessed) I felt it was best to stay on Intel’s processors for this project so there would be no second guessing around the hardware as this new “black art” was being learned.

In the end it was TigerDirect’s Bareboneasaurus promotion that caught my eye as the base technology for this project. We have people here on staff who love to build computers and when I spotted the 4 core Intel and 12 gigs of DDR 3 memory this had to be the Unit. Not only would the multicore processor decrease rendering time, but the amount of RAM associated with the Bareboneasaurus would be handy in the future for other development activities. The kit (in Tiger Direct speak) consisted of ASUS P6T Intel Socket LGA1366 Barebone Kit – Intel Core i7 920, 12GB Corsair DDR3-1333, 1TB SATA2, Clear Side ATX Mid-Tower, 650W. The price you see above is in Canadian dollars.

For a video card –again in Tiger Direct speak– we chose a XFX GeForce 9800 GTX + Video Card – 512MB DDR3, PCI Express 2.0, SLI Ready, (Dual Link) Dual DVI, HDTV, VGA Support.

For our first monitor we chose a Sceptre X23WG-1080p 23in Wide 8ms DVI LCD Monitor. Although its use would be primarily a VGA monitor, it’s 1080p capability meant it could also double as a 1080 display when checking HD Blu-ray material.

We had an internal LG 6X Super-Multi Blu Ray Writer (Model : GGW-H20L) mounted in a 5.25in Silver eSATA USB 2.0 to SATA Optical Drive Enclosure. The portable unit had found a lot of use in the department writing one off Blu-ray media for display so I ordered a  GGW-H20L specific for the workstation. It’s still not delivered, so they must be hard to come by and that’s why you see the external Blu-ray writer installed as part of the workstation below.

TigerDirect's Bareboneasaurus (Assembled), GGW-H20L) mounted in a Optical Drive Enclosure and a a Sceptre X23WG-1080p

To view Blu-ray media in 1080p and to act as a second production model we the second monitor a Sharp Aquos 32″ 1080p Flat-Panel LCD HDTV (model LC32D64U). We also chose a PlayStation 3 80GB as the Blu-ray player. The project needed an Internet connected Blu-ray player and we thought since SONY updates the software on its PlayStation’s we would be somewhat assured the hardware would work should BD Live firmware or software receive updates.

Sharp Aquos 32″ 1080p Flat-Panel, PlayStation 3 80GB Blu-ray player

Other additional items we obtained were four premium Blu-ray movie titles that BD Live content.

Blu-ray titles with BD Live Content

Blu-ray Titles with BD Live Content

One nice item we got with the PlayStation was the PlayStation Blu-ray remote control. After several botched attempts trying to access Blu-ray disks via the PlayStation 3 game controller the remote control actually  streamlines access to the disc features. In a way its funny that Bluetooth was chosen for PlayStation 3 but unlike standard infrared remotes, it can be used without having to point directly at the PlayStation system.

SONYs Bluetooth Remote Makes the BD Live Content Work

SONY's Bluetooth Remote Makes the BD Live Content Work

No Blu-ray blues with the hardware in this installation…..


Hitachi’s DZ-WR90. Blu-ray Burning without a PC.

The DZ-WR90 is a Blu-ray burner that can burn directly from your HD camcorder via an eSATA port. The drive also works with DVD-R discs, and can support double-sided media. Hitachi indicates a Blu-ray disc will fit approx 3 hours of 1920 × 1080 footage and burn it n about 1.5hrs.

Finally Clarified – 24p Blue Ray Recording For Indy Filmmakers!

This is my first detailed post in some weeks and my first detailed post since returning from NAB 2008. April and May has always been my busiest months of the year. In fact, with the exception of NAB I always feel at this time of year that I live a nearly a monk like existence. It’s the end of the school year and we’re planning what we can accomplish in my workplace for the fall startup of the Undergraduate classes so I’m very busy.

One of the things I went to NAB for was to look at Blu-ray and how it might be used as a 24p distribution medium by our Film Studies school and in the Radio and Television Arts program at Ryerson. My contention at Ryerson had been that this was not as easy –or as cheap– a proposition as some thought it might be. I’m quite happy to report that it turns our my assumption was incorrect.

Prior to NAB my hopes were raised that inexpensive 24p Blu-ray playback was practical when I discovered that;

  1. The Playstation 3 was indeed capable of playing back 24p Blu-ray discs in 24p.
  2. A number of consumer level LCD displays are capable of accepting and playing back 24p frame rates.

However, for a conference that billed itself at a place where “Content Comes To Life”, I have to admit that when it came to Blu-ray at 24p, there was little apparent information on it. My first stop was SONIC Solutions. There they continued to sell their industrial level software authoring packages that I had always considered costly. SONiC Solutions does create packages that are really designed for advanced authoring of big name and big budget DVD titles.

SONIC Solutions

When I asked at SONIC how I might be able to burn 24p discs on a modest budget I was directed to a consumer package that they did not have in their booth. Since getting back from NAB and getting a chance to look at their site this evening I discovered that their Roxio’s DVDit® Pro HD package indeed encodes at 1080p, or 720 @ 24P. You can watch the flash video that clearly shows the author selecting 24p as part of the authoring process. That link is at


Sony was a little more difficult to understand because they have a high end product called Blu-print and at NAB they announced Blu Ray authoring capability in a couple of their products.

SONY’s Blu-print is their “high end” authoring tool that was designed for “Hollywood” to authour the first and next generation Blu-ray discs. According to SONY’s site, some of the key features of Blu-print are the following;

  • Blu-print supports the entire range of the BDMV specifications, allowing you to fully author BD discs with up to 999 movie objects, 9 video angles, over 2000 playlists.
  • Blu-print is fully compatible with all three HD codecs approved by the Blu-ray Association, which are AVC/H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2.
  • Blu-print handles all integration of a BDJO (Blu-ray Disc Java Object) project so you can easily integrate your BD-J JAR (Java Archive) files and associate them with the BDJO. (Java is used to implement interactive menus on Blu-ray Discs)
  • Blu-print allows for full HD audio using the newest available audio codecs, including DD+ (Dolby Digital), DTS-HD (Digital Theatre Sound), Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital, DTS and LPCM (Linear Pulse Code Modulation) audio files.
  • Blu-print provides full support for subtitle streams for both image and text-based subtitles.

These Blu-print features go beyond the authoring abilities of SONY’s other Blu-ray authoring products and since there is no pricing for it on SONY Creative’s website I gather this is an industrial level (and priced) package.

SONY Vegas

According to SONY Creative, SONY’s editing package Vegas has “for Blu-ray Disc burning allows you to create a disc similar to a “single movie” DVD—the movie has no titles, menus, or buttons. Blu-ray Disc burning in Vegas Pro 8 software provides an alternate distribution option for high-definition content, rather than traditional file-based hard disk or streaming media formats. You can also use the Blu-ray Disc burning feature to create high-definition discs that can playback on a set-top Blu-ray Disc player or on a Sony PS3 gaming system.”

I can’t find the exact specification of the Blu-ray on the website so –for now– I’m working on the assumption that Vegas will support 1080p or 720p at 24fps. Assuming the frame rate is available his was and is the basic functionality that we we’re looking for. So reading this was good news.

DVD Architect™ Studio

It was announced at NAB that SONY’s DVD Architect™ Studio, which is a DVD authoring software package in the same vein as APPLE’s DVD Studio Pro 4, would also author Blu-ray disks. However in checking SONY Creative’s site it’s again not clear what Blu-ray formats the software outputs.

What about Final Cut Pro?

Nothing yet from APPLE and Final Cut Pro but it appears if you have and INTEL Mac, Adobe Encore CS3 –that includes Adobe Premiere® Pro CS3– would be your choice for Blu-ray authoring.

More soon….


Avoiding Silos and How the Single Killer Application Does Not Exist

I think Dan Tynan got it right…. His recently published column titled “Ten technology combos that are changing how we work and live” really gets to the heart of the change process that is occurring across many professions today. It’s been my experience that no matter how hard one works to master all of the elements of a single discipline, to really be on top of a profession one simply can’t operate in a silo anymore. This means for both a corporation and an individual there is no single “killer app” that one can hold onto on which to base a career. For someone like myself who based a career on media technology, it is actually the combinations of technologies that create real change. And in todays climate they are to be watched daily.

The reason I like Tynan’s column is it looks at ten such combinations of technology. It allows one to consider the effect of all of these technologies in tandem and never mentions a single “killer app”. He notes “Disruption is rarely the result of a single gadget or innovation, however. It’s typically when two or more technologies converge that the real changes start to happen.” For the most part, Mr. Tynan’s list matches technology with distribution as the disruptive combination(s). It’s clear he understands that a single killer application does not exist and the relationship between technology being paired with distribution.

In his article Dan Tynan identified the following combinations of technologies as significant;

  1. Cell Phones + Wireless Internet Access
  2. The Web + The Graphical Browser
  3. Broadband + Wireless Networks
  4. Cloud Computing + Always-On Devices
  5. Cheap Storage + Portable Memory
  6. Blogs + Google Ads
  7. MP3 + Napster
  8. Open Source + Web Tools
  9. YouTube + Cheap Digital Cameras and Camcorders
  10. DVRs + Entertainment on Demand

Recently Michael Geist delivered a talk at Osgoode Hall in Toronto. Geist is a lawyer and has focused his efforts of late on impending Copyright legislation in Canada. His talk was titled Facing Up to Facebook: The Fight for Fair Copyright in Canada. It was based on an experience that he had when he appeared on a TV Ontario show called The Agenda hosted by Steve Paikin. When Geist was asked by Pakin why Canadians care about copyright reform, he found it difficult to verbalize. His difficulty came from the short period of time that an interview program can provide in the television medium. Geist’s could not explain the complex combination of factors around why so many Canadians care about copyright reform in the “sound byte” style television demands.

Whether we realize it or not we’re all living an era where the combination of digitization technology and networking has changed many aspects of the way we work and live. The result of digitization in the broadcast and media industry where I work has been dramatic. Digitization first changed the production process with new technology and later the distribution process changed as networking became more predominant. The upheaval has created fundamental changes to our associated professions as a result. My personal opinion is that the effect of networks, primarily the internet, remains central to this massive paradigm shift towards the democratization of Media. As it spreads it has really put pressure on both individuals and corporations who want to develop and operate in silos.

This month’s WIRED magazine is timely because it puts yet another spin on this. In an odd sort of way the magazine celebrates this phenomenon with an article titled Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. The article cites Stewart Brand’s astute observation from a 1984 hacker conference:Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive … That tension will not go away.

Businesses and corporations operating primarily by finding profitable niche areas to serve in areas of information technology. They actually can actually provide value and they often promote their services like singular “killer apps”. However when these same companies then they try to create walled gardens and silo their thinking they can run into trouble. The trouble can happen quickly and it’s especially prevalent in todays networked environment. Corporations and individulas forget that in a world that’s interconnected by ideas, people can often communicate cheaper and more functional alternatives to simple problems.

SONY is a company that has a culture of creating technological silos. And my experience has been where they’ve found a nice they’ve been very good company. I grew up watching their Trinitron television sets and listening to their Walkman technology on old style audio cassette. For much of my professional editing career I used their U-Matic and Betacam videotape recording technologies and I found them to be excellent products. They were all great niche products…

However SONY’s focus on optical disc technology has been puzzling to me. While I understand their push into the Compact Disc market in the 1980’s I never truly understood what followed. Having built a predominant brand in personal music appliances with their Walkman products, they should have seized todays market of MP3 players. The late 1980’s would have been the ideal time to relaunch the Walkman that should have employed MP3’s and recoded on flash media. Instead they stuck with optical MiniDisc and pushed Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding (ATRAC). ATRAC was a family of proprietary audio compression algorithms that they developed and I think a lot of consumers, who just wanted to listen to their MP3’s. SONY wanted to control both the technology and distribution with technology that did not suit the market. SONY’s failure to adopt the MP3 format forced consumers like myself to purchase other manufacturers MP3 players and left the door wide open for Apple to launch the iPod almost a decade later. The rest is history.

Following the demise of HD DVD it looks like SONY’s Blu-ray will find a niche. Blu-ray looks like a medium that will be useful for the distribution of games and for consumers who want to physically rent or purchase movies. Blu-ray is central to their PS3 and the sale of those game units has put a lot of players into the marketplace. However if SONY tries to create a walled garden around Blu-ray to maximize profit Blu-ray could remain just remain a niche product.

With a walled garden SONY could run into a corporate culture that slows its development and creates compatibility issues between various stages of Blu-rays development. SONY has already announced Profile 2 Blu-ray machines at this years CES. Are there incompatibility issues?

With a single company controlling Blu-ray’s development, will it be slowed by a corporate culture that wants to to maximize profitability? Advances in Solid State Disk will ultimately create an attractive alternative to optical media. In addition networked based delivery will eat away at movie and software distribution in a physical form. Given the nature of todays network world SONY needs to keep in mind that Blu-ray is not “the killer app” for everything. It needs to focus it in areas where it makes sense to consumers and develop a community with those consumers.

However this methodology might be tough for them. Just this weekend SONY’s historic corporate culture resurfaced in another very public gaffe. Following Infoworld, and Engadget posts on Good Friday about SONY’s $50 “Fresh Start” option, SONY found itself in a position where it had to retract the service. Apparently this “Fresh Start” option was a service charge that SONY applied to VAIO computer purchasers to remove software that SONY put on the hard drive prior to its sale. In reaction to the multitude of blog posts, WIRED posted a breaking story that said; “Responding to a tidal wave of outrage, Sony has reversed a plan to charge $50 to remove all the pre-installed applications

This incident all occurred in one day but it demonstrates a hiccup that surfaces from time to time in their corporate culture. Since one would assume this is not something SONY would set out to do, one can only speculate that this situation was brought about through some sort of “siloization” inside a company that’s large and inherently bureaucratic. Or in perhaps its simpler than that. Maybe SONY found itself caught in the tension that Stewart Brand’s observed: “Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive … That tension will not go away.”

This entire episode demonstrates how several of the technology combinations that Dan Tynan identified come into play. It’s really great in this day and age we have the technology to share what we’re learning so we no longer have to operate in a vacuum. We need to keep in mind that other people’s insights are valuable to our collective learning and development process. And today, with the internet in place, the same principle applies to individuals as it does to corporations. I’d encourage everyone who reads this post to tear down those silos and to continue to share what you learn.


More On Blu-Ray, HD-DVD and Solid State Drives

Why Blu-Ray May Not Be All That Great

In Larry Jordan’s latest Final Cut Pro Newsletter he notes the sudden shift toward Blu-Ray DVDs. He notes that “while Blu-Ray may be good for Hollywood, it won’t be good for small independent producers“. He notes that this is due to the hidden fees tacked on to replicating a Blu-Ray DVD. It appears his comments originate from a discussion on the Digital Buzz podcast of January 31, 2008.

Blu-Ray Prices And Specifications…. Watch Out!

With the demise of HD-DVD both Gizmodo and Engadget are reporting higher Bul-Ray prices. In their post “Blu-ray Prices Higher Than Ever” they note that “data collected by, Blu-ray players have hit a high average of $400 per unit for the year—about the same price they were at this time last year”. They have since updated their posting noting that it’s the “off season” which normally lacks selling incentives that could account for the prices. Engadget is a little less forgiving in their post “Lack of competition sends Blu-ray player prices upward“.

Blu-Ray Profiles

Consumers need to be aware of the differing Blu-Ray Player profile. Given that SONY has already announced the BDP-S350 and S550 (SONY’s First Full 2.0 Spec Blu-ray Players), it’s important to know the differences if your planning to purchase a unit, information can be found at

Microsoft Admits Planning Blu-Ray Support

While Microsoft had always been thought to be in the HD-DVD camp, the company has moved quickly to adopt Blu-Ray At MIX08 Steve Balmer was quoted to say, “We’ve already been working on, for example, in Windows, device driver support for Blu-ray drives and the like, and I think the world moves on… Toshiba has moved on. We’ve moved on, and we’ll support Blu-ray in ways that make sense.” more here…

Toshiba’s Plan for Life After HD-DVD

In a interview for the Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive Atsutoshi Nishida of Toshiba announced that his firm will target consumers with TVs, PCs and Standard Disc Players following the collapse of HD DVD. The demise of HD DVD is a huge blow to Toshiba, which is a huge company that makes semiconductors, appliances and nuclear reactors.

Solid State Drives

As posted on an earlier date Solid State Drives are an alternative to Blu-Ray for those who want a non DRM medium. A great place to learn about this space is by looking at the tagged posts on Cnet tech news blog. In addition I found this post about Imation geting into the solid state drive game.