Cheetah Technologies has introduced a new cable network monitoring system that checks the visual quality of video, as well as the integrity of MPEG and IP streams.
Cheetah’s V-Factor Stream Probe Advanced (VF-SPa) includes what the company is calling Intelligent Decode, which measures for blockiness, blackout, frozen video and jerkiness that accurately match human observation as video leaves the headend.
Intelligent Decode allows operators to monitor 30 to 120 high-definition MPEG-2 video channels post-encoder (1RU or 2RU, depending on stream capacity) with results Cheetah says are objective and repeatable.
The system will look at the quality of the video coming in to the headend, to ensure that the source signal is good, and also at the quality of the video leaving the headend (or hub) to make sure what’s being sent out is good. What sets the system apart, Cheetah says, is the abilities associated with Intelligent Decode.
“Our system also looks at the video,” said Jeremy Bennington, vice president and general manager of Cheetah V-Factor. “We can say what the subscriber saw. That’s our differentiation.”
He added, “Intelligent Decode builds on more than 10 years of V-Factor technology and human vision research to enable the operator to see what the subscriber sees, and to proactively correct errors as quickly as possible.”
Cheetah got into the monitoring segment with the acquisition of Symmetricom’s video monitoring business  in February.
Bennington cited data compiled by Symmetricom that revealed that 43 percent of the video quality problems are in-home; in other words, they affect a single customer.
Twenty percent, however, are problems in the headend. These are the problems that not only could affect the most subscribers (every single viewer served by that headend), but they are also the problems that operators can most readily address by identifying and rectifying them, Bennington explained.
The V-Factor Source Monitor (VF-SM) analyzes multiple HD or SD video streams as they are received in a headend to benchmark and identify trends and poor-quality events before an operator packages the video for distribution. In addition to providing valuable objective monitoring data to complement existing validation relying on Golden Eyes, VF-SM ideally automates tasks, which previously relied solely on human observation – such as video equipment qualification or competitive analysis between existing video services.
V-Factor Stream Probe Advanced is used after the video has been encoded, transcoded, muxed and processed for network transmission. VF-SPa is critical to not only analyzing the IP and MPEG aspects of the video, but also ensuring that no visual impairments have been introduced by the operator while processing the video. V-Factor Stream Probe Standard (VF-SPs) offers a comprehensive analysis of IP, MPEG and MPEG video coding layer attributes to ensure any network transmission trends and events are reported. VF-SPs is typically deployed in the network and hub sites, and it can also be embedded in edge drives and set-top boxes.
Bennington said the company is preparing a product that will be able to evaluate video quality closer to the edge – all the way to the set-top box – for release sometime in July.