February 8, 2024

swXtch.io and Cinnafilm: How We’re Reimagining Broadcast Quality Live Standards Conversion in the Cloud

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For broadcasters, delivering high-quality live content across the globe is no small feat. Each region has its own set of standards, and shifting from traditional setups to the vast world of cloud-based IP broadcast production brings a whole new set of challenges. Picture quality now wrestles with the realities of bandwidth limits, compressed signals, and pesky latency issues. It's a balancing act – maintaining quality while juggling the technical complexities of modern broadcasting.

In this blog, we’ll explore how recent advancements have transformed video standards conversion, spotlighting swXtch.io’s first-of-its-kind cloudSwXtch solution that includes Cinnafilm’s TachyonTM LIVE for delivering live standards conversion for hybrid and cloud broadcast networks. cloudSwXtch brings a virtual overlay network to establish connections across network endpoints, with bare metal performance and without code changes. Together with Cinnafilm’s Tachyon LIVE, we provide an unmatched solution for high-quality live standards conversion for broadcasters who need to adapt their content for various global standards in hybrid and cloud environments effortlessly.

How Standards Conversions Evolved

Standards conversion has always required a lot of computational power, and as advancements in processing and virtualization capabilities improved, so did the industry. In the beginning, video standards conversion heavily depended on hardware like Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) and Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs). Unlike software systems, however, this specialized hardware wasn’t widely used by software developers because they were so complex and niche.

Then, Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) came along and changed everything. GPUs, already popular for graphics, attracted a big community of developers who were familiar with their programming methods, making them a more ubiquitous solution. This made them a game-changer for the industry by enabling faster and more flexible solutions for applications like standards conversion. This was especially meaningful for live broadcasting, where converting content as fast as possible is key.

Live standards conversions could now be performed anywhere with access to a GPU, including cloud datacenters. With GPUs available in the clouds, we moved towards less specialized hardware, making workflows more efficient by offloading tasks from CPUs to the GPUs. This meant it was no longer necessary to depend on specialized equipment, simplifying the process significantly.

The Pain Points in Broadcast Conversion

Though we've improved technology for better broadcast quality over the years, broadcasters still face a big challenge: delivering content that meets diverse international video standards while ensuring it looks great on large HDR TVs at home. This task involves eye-wateringly complicated processes like deinterlacing, scaling, motion-compensated frame rate conversions, and pixel manipulation. Additionally, an important aspect of this conversion process is ensuring high-quality output, since different conversion methods can yield varying results.

As technology evolved, new players like Cinnafilm emerged, specializing in conversion for cinematic applications. Cinnafilm's expertise in cinema-quality conversions brought a new quality standard to the industry, showing how advanced techniques can significantly improve how content is adapted for different formats globally.

cloudSwXtch X Tachyon LIVE: Changing Broadcasting Workflows

swXtch.io’s cloudSwXtch, a virtual overlay network, is transforming how broadcasters adapt to cloud-based operations. Our partnership integrates Cinnafilm’s Tachyon LIVE, a software-based standards conversion tool, directly with cloudSwXtch. Acting as the backbone, cloudSwXtch enables various types of network traffic to easily traverse from anywhere in the network to Tachyon LIVE in the cloud, ensuring seamless, efficient data flow and accurate real-time standards conversion in live broadcast.

Cinnafilm, initially focused on cinema, has led in broadcast and streaming conversion for over ten years with their Tachyon for file, trusted by over 400 facilities worldwide. This experience enriches our partnership, enhancing our standards conversion with their proven algorithms. Their algorithms are effective in handling the nuances of image processing and getting the details right. swXtch.io’s partnership with Cinnafilm allows us to provide high-quality content adaptation and editing in the cloud, better tailored to broadcaster’s needs, for clear and accurate live video standards conversion.

Enhancing Broadcast Flexibility with IPX Code

To expand on our hybrid solution a little more, the integration of IPX Code into cloudSwXtch and Tachyon LIVE introduces groundbreaking capabilities for broadcasters. IPX Code's support for a variety of input and output protocols, including NDI, SRT, and SMPTE 2110, enables a flexible, multi-format approach to live broadcast workflows. This versatility allows for the conversion and distribution of content across multiple formats simultaneously, addressing the industry's need for efficient, high-quality standards conversion. By facilitating the fan-out of multiple formats from a single source, IPX Code combined with Tachyon LIVE offers a step forward in tackling one of broadcasting’s biggest challenges, making our approach even more vital for broadcasters around the world.

The Versatility of a Hybrid Approach

cloudSwXtch's ability to handle diverse network protocols, combined with Tachyon LIVE's media format conversions, forms a comprehensive, cloud-agnostic solution for global event broadcasting.

Together, they are designed to ensure high-quality videos are delivered smoothly and correctly, whether they're using popular network systems like NDI and SRT, or more specialized ones like SMPTE ST 2110, both for local setups and online streaming. This makes it easier to send videos around the world in the right format, facilitating the global distribution of properly converted signals.

The partnership's combined power satisfies both on-premises and cloud-based needs, with flexibility crucial for premium live events (think the Olympics or the World Cup), where broadcasting requirements vary by country.

On-Prem Deployment: A Novel, Standalone Solution for Broadcast Networks

So far, we’ve focused on our how our partnership with Cinnafilm addresses the nuances of cloud and hybrid environments, but it’s also crucial to highlight the on-prem capabilities of the cloudSwXtch and Tachyon LIVE solution. When Tachyon LIVE is integrated with cloudSwXtch working as the networking mechanism, it acts as a single program that works right inside broadcasters' own systems. Broadcasters can easily improve their video quality, deploying cinematic quality standards conversion on their live streams, no matter how big their operations.

This approach also gives customers the most flexibility, allowing them to deploy where they want, when they want. For those looking into purely on-prem solutions, this aspect of our cloudSwXtch and Tachyon LIVE solution could open new doors for high-quality, efficient broadcasting workflows.

Use Case: Central Media Conversion Hub Supported by Tachyon LIVE

Let’s dig a little deeper with an example of how swXtch.io and Cinnafilm work together to easily deliver content worldwide, even when different regions have their own broadcasting standards. Imagine a Central Media Conversion Hub powered by cloud-hosted Tachyon LIVE, serving as the go-to solution for converting media across the globe.

For instance, cameras in the U.K. capturing content at 1080p 50fps can send their video streams into this hub. Here, Tachyon LIVE, functioning as the heart of our Central Media Conversion Hub, steps in to convert these streams to 1080p 59.94 fps, or potentially other formats and video resolutions. This makes the content suitable for audiences in the U.S. and other countries, demonstrating the hub’s ability to handle diverse international standards seamlessly.

By using cloudSwXtch in conjunction with Tachyon LIVE, broadcasters can centralize their media conversion needs, ensuring high-quality and efficient processing for global distribution.

We are seeing a major shift from cloud infrastructure providers, as they quickly move to support new live and on-demand connections and workflows. – Lance Mauer, CEO and Founder, Cinnafilm.

The Tip of the Iceberg

“I think of swXtch.io as one of those rare emerging technology companies that is in the exact right place at the right time,” says Lance Mauer, CEO and founder of Cinnafilm. “We are seeing a major shift from cloud infrastructure providers, as they quickly move to support new live and on-demand connections and workflows. The true potential of cloud infrastructure for our space is expanding well beyond the classic archive and distribution models, moving toward exponentially evolution in the areas of high end compute, analysis, and transformation solutions for both file and IP video ‘in transit.’ Performing complex tasks like advanced image processing on live images as they are captured and ultimately distributed downstream will vastly improve efficiency, lowering the carbon footprint, and enabling customers incredible quality and experiential options on premium content for audiences globally - really this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Why This Matters for Broadcasters:

• Greater Agility: Combine Tachyon LIVE’s wealth of video transforms with cloudSwXtch’s network protocol conversions to ensure high-performance throughput.

• Enhanced Quality: Guarantee lower compressed videos even in the most challenging standards conversion scenarios.

• Cloud Flexibility: Embrace a multi-cloud mentality to media workflows with the assurance of broadcast-quality output.

• Cost Efficiency: Reduce the need for extensive on-premise infrastructure and complex workarounds by deploying cloudSwXtch with Tachyon LIVE on a single VM. No code changes required.

For broadcasters facing the challenge of meeting international standards without compromising on quality, swXtch.io and Cinnafilm offer a unique cloud-based broadcast production solution. To learn more about how can you tackle the challenges of delivering high-quality live content across diverse international standards, get in touch with our sales team. If you’re attending the National Association of Broadcasters Conference in Las Vegas this April, please find us to learn more about the latest advancements in broadcasting technology.

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