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Comcast taps Elemental Tech for Xfinity transcoding

Mon, 07/25/2011 - 8:30am
Brian Santo

Comcast is feeding its Xfinity services using transcoding systems from Elemental Technologies working in conjunction with thePlatform's mpx video management system.

"Comcast is receiving well over 10,000 hours of video a month," said Elemental CEO Sam Blackman. "We're transcoding eighteen outputs from each file for them. It works out to more than 200,000 hours of output a month. And we can see getting to a million content hours a month soon."

The possible growth in total transcoded hours per month that the Elemental/thePlatform system can prepare for output is due in part to the expanding number of devices Comcast might be prepared to support.

At present, the resolution of video for Xfinity.com and the Xfinity app for iPads and other handhelds tops out at 720p. But other devices such as Roku set-tops and Boxee boxes can support full 1080p HD.

Elemental has pursued an uncommon approach to transcoding, bringing both CPUs and GPUs to bear on the process, all coordinated by software that Blackman said requires an extremely rare mix of skills to create. The result is a powerful transcoding platform that can do the work of many other commercial systems in one-fourth the space.

In general, software-based transcoding is typically less powerful, but can be updated and upgraded fairly easily. Hardware-based transcoding can be more powerful, but hardware will always be more difficult to upgrade.

With the amount of video hours Comcast is expecting Elemental to be able to handle growing to such extraordinary numbers, both are banking on taking advantage of the speed increases that come with successive generations of CPUs and GPUs. Comcast negotiated with Elemental for hardware upgrades, Blackman noted. 

It is difficult for any vendor, let alone a company as small as Elemental, to get the OK to publicize a contract with a big MSO. Asked about that, Blackman first noted that Elemental edged out a number of more well-known companies for Comcast's business. "They haven't delivered," he said. Comcast is apparently willing to go public because it wants to encourage more innovation.

"Comcast is leveraging innovative new technologies that provide cost-effective performance enhancements as we bring more viewing choices to our customers online and on mobile devices," said Charlie Herrin, senior vice president of product development and technology for Comcast Interactive Media. "Elemental has a highly reliable transcoding solution that, coupled with thePlatform's cloud-based video management, is helping us deliver compelling services to our subscribers."

As part of the deal with Comcast, Elemental Technologies joins thePlatform's partner program, and the two companies will jointly market each other's solutions to customers.

"Elemental is at the forefront of providing robust and cost-effective transcoding solutions," said Ian Blaine, CEO of thePlatform. "As online video libraries continue to expand, our customers need scalable means to ingest, transcode and distribute video. We look forward to working with Elemental to serve our mutual customers and addressing new market opportunities together."

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