May 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Dan Ochiva
Plug-and-play options for DIY IPTV.
What if it was cheap to distribute video yourself and easy to set up? As a potential business, it's a fast growing market. According to In-Stat Principal Analyst Gerry Kaufhold, professional video over Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) is expanding dramatically. “The market for IP video equipment will top $2.6 billion by 2009, just for the consumer segments,” Kaufhold says.
Besides the potential of video over the Internet, thousands of schools, businesses, and churches regularly use their own video networks internally.
But until recently, running video and audio over such a network was tough to pull off. Why? RF-modulated analog video, a common solution that's still in wide use, can be expensive to set up and technically challenging to maintain. It also suffers from limited, VHS-level resolution. And what about two-way interactivity? Forget it. Many such installations simply make use of another analog technology — a telephone line — to return audio.
But over the last decade, the introduction of MPEG-based hardware (MPEG-1 became a standard in 1992) slowly started to solve the problem of delivering good-quality video over closed networks that a business might use, for example, to deliver training. Buyers of MPEG-based systems, however, still faced outlays for gear including servers, encoders, and decoders to send video to computer screens and television sets.
NAB 2000 changed all that. “At the show, you saw the first practical, dedicated AV hardware that employed IP technology,” says Joe Mendonca, director for streaming and video over IP solutions at North Haven, Conn.-based HB Communications. “This dramatically changed the way we could move audio and video over a network, simplifying installation and making it easy for our customers to use.”
What changed? Although streaming video over the Internet was possible via a new generation of PC cards, the actual video and audio compression was still very compute intensive, making realtime use impractical and production-time-consuming. But by the end of the '90s, improved technology such as DSP chipsets had enabled realtime compression of video and audio signals.