I’m showing you the back of Grass Valley’s MediaEdge HDMA-4100 set top box because it helps explain how this 4th-gen version of the product got so small and streamlined. While I’m normally a fan of packing in the I/O, in this case the right move was to reduce I/O. “The worlds gone to HDMI,” understates Rich Threadgill, Grass Valley’s Manager of Enterprise Distribution and Signage.
The new MediaEdge supports MPEG 4 H.264 and can ship with or without internal storage (starting end of July). At it happens, it also converges in a fortunate synergy with another product that was underway in a very different part of Grass Valley’s parent company Thomson. This convergence provides some powerful, cost effective HD over IP distribution options for stadiums and arenas, schools and new-build hotels. Here’s how Threadgill described what happened. Thomson was developing a 4RU HD receiver product for Direct TV–designed to support existing hotel infrastructures (which convert signal to QAM). So–a set top box wasn’t relevent–the Direct TV receiver would just meld into existing QAM infrastructures. However, with a little integration on the HDMA side (for example removing the conditional access), the Direct TV receiver instantly became relevent for IP infrastructures–such as those in stadiums, arenas, many schools and lots of new build. “This combination now allows us to bring HD driect TV satellite programming to an infinite number of settop boxs on the network,” Threadgill says.
Here’s the money reason that is important. Current Threadgill estimates that (ballpark) a channel of HD can be about $5000–since an encoder is normally required for each channel. But with the encoding happening centrally in the Direct TV receiver and distributing through the settop boxes, he says per channel cost is more like $1600–to distribute broadcast quality network content across your IP network.
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