|What’s new in SnapStream 5.4|
Archive for the 'Support Corner' Category
|We are thrilled to announce the availability of SnapStream’s fifth generation TV search software for enterprise users! For the first time, eligible SnapStream users can upgrade their 4.x SnapStream appliances. Get the full lowdown here.
1. Build a SnapStream Cluster
+ Record and search more TV by adding SD/HD tuners
⇒ Learn more about expanding your SnapStream solution
2. Benefit from reliability improvements
+ Improved database backend: SQL Server Express instead of INI and XML files
3. Stronger foundation for the future
+ New web interface runs on Microsoft IIS Express and is simpler, more nimble, and more intuitive
⇒ Read the complete SnapStream 5.2 Release Notes
Am I eligible for this upgrade?
It depends on several factors:
Why should I upgrade?
Best reasons for you to upgrade now:
How do I upgrade?
If you’re running 4.x, the upgrade to 5.2 will be a hands-on process with our support team. After prep, the entire upgrade procedure can involve up to a day of downtime. Additional SnapStream equipment may be recommended or even required.
OK, I’m interested in upgrading!
Contact our support team to discuss your eligibility, benefits and upgrade strategy. SnapStream technical support representatives are available Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST by phone at 1-877-696-3674 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated 10/18/2011: added information on Drake’s HDMI to QAM / HD encoder products– the DSE24 and the HDE24.
Updated 7/26/2011: added information on Blonder Tongue’s latest HD encoder product, the HDE-2H-QAM
At the end of last year, I wrote a blog posting about how to create your own analog TV headend. Today, I’m going to talk about how to do accomplish the same thing, but with digital, high-definition television.
Standard-definition analog TV is fine for some media monitoring and TV recording scenarios. But in other scenarios you might want to record TV shows in the highest quality possible.
Or maybe you’re a non-profit that wants to showcase your media mentions on television at the highest possible quality to donors.
For scenarios such as these, you want to record television in high-definition and be able to search within those recordings in high-definition as well.
There are a couple of ways to make HD recordings and be able to search within them:
ATSC is the standard by which digital TV is transmitted over-the-air in the United States. It’s transmitted without encryption, so recording and searching TV broadcast over ATSC is pretty easy. Just get and install an antenna for your physical location and connect the output from that antenna to your SnapStream TV search appliance (note: it has to be one of our HD-capable appliances) and just use SnapStream as you would with any other TV source… we have full program guide data for ATSC signals in the United States and parts of Canada and using ATSC with SnapStream is really straightforward.
But what if you want to record something in high-definition that’s not available over the air? What if you want to record something like ESPN HD or CNN HD or MSNBC HD?
Well, then you’ll need to build your own QAM headend. What’s that? Read on…
Building your own unencrypted QAM headend
To make high-definition (HD) recordings of channels that aren’t available over-the-air (OTA), you’ll need to build your own unencrypted QAM head-end. Unencrypted QAM, like ATSC, is something that SnapStream’s HD TV search appliance can take as an input and record from.
Building your own unencrypted QAM head-end is pretty similar to building an analog TV headend. You follow the same basic steps:
1) get your TV sources
2) modulate each source to QAM
3) combine the modulated channels into one feed!
So for step 1, you’ll simply get your high-definition TV source from whatever provider you choose — this might be from a digital cable provider (like Comcast or Time Warner Cable) or from a satellite service (DirecTV or DISH). For each channel you want to modulate, you’ll need a single receiver (or set-top box). And each of these receivers need to be capable of high-definition TV. You should also choose a receiver that can output HDMI or component while also outputting analog composite or s-video. The analog composite or s-video is how, in most cases, you’ll be able to access the closed-captioning for searching with SnapStream.
Then for step 2 (modulating each source to QAM), we recommend using a simple one-box QAM modulation solution. There are three such solutions that we know of on the market today, and we’ve heard of a bunch more that are coming — there seems to be a rising demand for one-box QAM modulation solutions. More on this below.
Then in step 3, you would simply combine all of these signals together using a combiner, much as we described in our article on how to build an analog headend (link).
The one-box QAM modulation devices (ie what you need for step 2) that are a) shipping today, b) that we’ve tested in the lab here at SnapStream, are:
Blonder Tongue’s HDE-QAM: This is a pretty simple box that takes in HDMI, modulates its audio and video to unencrypted QAM, and outputs it via coax. The HDE-QAM also has an ethernet port for accessing it’s web-based settings page where you can configure the channel/sub-channel to which it modulates and the quality (bit-rate) at which the encoding happens. Images of the front and the back of the Blonder Tongue HDE-QAM:
The Blonder Tongue HDE-QAM appears to have been around the longest amount of time — we learned about it in March of 2009. The list price for the Blonder Tongue HDE-QAM is $10,000 (we expect this to come down). More information on the HDE-QAM can be found on Blonder Tongue’s website: HDE-QAM spec sheet (pdf), HDE-QAM presentation (pdf).
Adtec’s HDMI-2-QAM: The Adtec HDMI-2-QAM (product page) is less expensive than the Blonder Tongue AND has more features. Like the Blonder Tongue HDE-QAM, the Adtec takes in HDMI, but it can handle two channels in its 1U chassis. So it takes two HDMI inputs and modulates both of those to a single QAM channel, each on its own sub-channel. It also is supposed to have support for passing closed-captioning through (which the Blonder Tongue unit does not have support for), though at the time of writing this blog posting, this was still being worked on and should be fully enabled in a soon-to-be-released firmware update. One important note: the Adtec HDMI-2-QAM will not allow you to modulate a source HDMI signal that has HDCP copy protection enabled (the Blonder Tongue does).
Images of the front and back of the Adtec HDMI to QAM (click the front and back panel for larger images):
The Adtec HDMI-2-QAM first began shipping in November and it’s just now beginning to ramp up to production quantities. The list price on the Adtec HDMI-2-QAM is $7500, making it a price-attractive option at $3750 per channel. There’s more information on the Adtec HDMI-2-QAM product page.
Contemporary Research’s QMOD-HD: Finally, there’s the QMOD-HD from Contemporary Research (product page). Instead of HDMI (which both the Blonder Tongue and Adtec products use), the Contemporary Research QMOD-HD takes in video via a composite high-definition signal (Y-Pb-PR cables) and audio via an optical audio input or analog audio composite (left and right) inputs. And then it modulates that audio and video to QAM. One unit of the QMOD-HD handles a single channel. The advantage to using composite inputs is that the QMOD-HD doesn’t have to worry about handling HDCP encryption that might be present on the HDMI signal. The QMOD-HD does not have any support for passing closed-captioning data.
Here are images of the front and back of the Contemporary Research QMOD-HD:
This is the newest one-box QAM modulation solution that we’ve come across — it started shipping in quantity last week (Feb 2010). The list price for one unit of the CR QMOD-HD is $2450, making it the least expensive per channel of the three options we’ve listed here.
Drake’s HDE24+MEQ-1000 and Drake DSE24 products (new!): While we haven’t fully tested and reviewed them yet, we recently discovered Drake’s DSE24 and HDE24 products. Read preliminary information here. (Updated 7/26/2011)
Have any questions about building your own QAM headend for the purposes of recording and searching high-definition television? Drop us an e-mail at email@example.com.
SnapStream’s TV search products are used by organizations that strategically value TV. And, as it turns out, a lot of these customers see benefits from modulating their own in-house cable TV line-up. For most people, modulating their own in-house cable TV makes it easier to distribute television within their organizations. We have a lot of customers who already have their own cable head-ends but we also come across a lot of customers who ask us, “How do I build my own cable head-end?”
This article is for those customers.
Why build my own cable head-end?
First of all, why would you want to build a cable head-end? Why not just take the regular cable signal from your cable provider and distribute that over RF around your organization? Well, for a lot of people “regular” cable (ie what you get without any kind of a receiver or set-top box) doesn’t include channels that are important to them. Regular cable might not include certain sports packages – like NFL Sunday Ticket or NBA League Pass on DirecTV – or other channels.
For example, say CSPAN is important to you. Well, here in Houston, TX, our local cable provider (Comcast) has been moving channels from the “analog” spectrum into the digital only spectrum and CSPAN has been one of the channels that’s been moved. So the only way to get CPSAN in Houston on Comcast is using a digital cable box (or a DTA – digital to analog – box). And if you want to distribute that channel around to various TVs in your office without a digital cable box at every TV, then you look at building your own regular cable head-end!
Another reason why you might want to modulate your own cable line-up is you might want to include non-TV channels on your cable line-up. For example, maybe you have a few security cameras that you want to modulate to certain channels on your cable system.
Does SnapStream’s TV Search appliances support custom channel line-ups?
In a word, yes. Just give us the details and we’ll setup a custom channel line-up for your organization that exactly matches how you have things setup. So the program guide will work 100% in the SnapStream software.
How do I build my own cable head-end?
So how do you create your own cable head-end? It’s surprisingly easy. Here’s a high-level overview of what your system will look like:
click to enlarge image
1. Your TV source is usually going to be either satellite (here in the US that means DirecTV or Dish) or digital cable. Depending on how many channels you’re modulating (‘n’ in the above diagram), you’ll need a corresponding number of receivers or set-top boxes from your provider. And if you’re using a satellite service like DirecTV, you’ll need a multi-port switch to drive all of those set-top boxes off of one satellite dish. A multi-port switch is a sort of splitter for satellite service.
2. Each set-top box is set to a particular channel on that TV source. Then that set-top box connects to it’s corresponding modulator via RCA video and audio cables. Generally speaking, analog modulators come in two varieties:
- “Channelized” modulators – this kind of modulator is hard-wired to modulate the audio/video passed into them to a particular channel # (ie to a particular frequency of the RF spectrum). You can’t change the channel number that it outputs on-the-fly.
- “Agile” modulators – with an Agile modulator, you can configure, on the fly, what channel you want it to output on. This provides more flexibility with the channels you can output on, but with some sacrifice of quality. Agile modulators are also more expensive (roughly twice as expensive) than “Channelized” modulators.
The typical recommendation, as I’ve heard it, is that most of your modulators can be “channelized” and then maybe you add a few “agile” modulators in case you need to modulate to some random channels later down the line.
3. And then each of the modulators connects to the combiner via RF and the combiner mashes all the channels together into one RF signal. There are two types of combiners – ones with amplifiers built-in (“active combiners”) and ones without amplifiers (“passive combiners”). Depending on how you’re distributing RF (the next step), an “active” combiner might save you the need for a dedicated RF amplifier on the output of the combiner.
4. Last but not least, you need to distribute your new cable signal throughout your organization. Designing an RF distribution system is a separate topic unto itself (discussion of splitters and taps, signal loss of distance, etc.), but for simple configurations, you just need to amplify the signal at the exit to the combiner. How much you need to amplify it depends on how many ways you’re splitting it and how long the distances are in your RF network.
If you’re doing all of this so you can record TV and search over it with SnapStream, your SnapStream Server is 100% compatible with your new custom cable line-up. We have the ability to create custom line-ups so your program guide in SnapStream exactly matches how you have your channels configured.
You’ll need to contact a vendor or distributor of this equipment, but our quick calculations had the per channel cost of the modulators and combiners (EXCLUDING the cost of any multi-port switch, receivers, and RF distribution stuff), if you’re using “channelized” (ie “fixed”) modulators, come out to $150 / channel. And if you’re going with “agile” modulators, then the cost might go up to something like $250 / channel. Now this is just eyeball pricing.
That’s it… Thanks to my friends at Blonder Tongue for their help in putting this together. And if you’re reading this and want to be able to record LOTS of TV and then search inside those TV shows, let us know. That’s what our product, SnapStream, is all about!
Those VCRs collecting dust around your office are so 20th century — and we know you’ve been dying to upgrade. So we’ve created a cost-effective means for you to update your media-monitoring technology, and we’re offering you a chance to win an extra 12 months of free service to boot.
How? Just purchase a SnapStream Server through our new “Switch and Save” program, and we’ll automatically give you a year of maintenance for free (a $1,200 to $3,000 value). Then, once you’ve installed your new gear, send us a picture of how you and your staff have cleverly dismantled and responsibly disposed of your obsolete systems.* We’ll post the images of your handiwork alongside that of others on our Web site. Be as creative as you can, because we’ll bestow an additional year of free maintenance upon whoever sends us the best shot.
What’s more: Because the SnapStream Server can shorten the task of media monitoring to mere seconds, your organization will save additional time and money. Our digital technology lets you and your colleagues record thousands of hours of television to a centralized appliance, and then locate specific clips by topic, using closed captioning for search. You can copy any relevant video to your PC’s hard drive. It’s that quick and easy!
So, what are you waiting for? Click hereto get more information about “Switch and Save” and the SnapStream Server.
*Please recycle. Or ship the parts to us, and we’ll recycle them for you.
Join us on Thursday, November 19th for a one hour web seminar designed specifically for organizations interested in recording, searching, clipping, archiving and/or rebroadcasting high definition (HD) television.
Using QAM encoders the SnapStream HD Server is able to directly record your satellite provider (Direct TV, Dish) and/or cable provider’s (Time Warner, etc..) HD feed. And like with the SnapStream Server, you are able to record up to five HD channels simultaneously and then search within those recordings for mentions of interest. We’ve also created a SnapStream HD-SDI Playout Node that can be added to your setup to give you quick and easy importabilty of recordings and clips created on the SnapStream HD Server into your Avid or Apple’s Final Cut Pro editing work stations. The SnapStream HD Server was designed to save you time and effort every step of the way: recording, searching, clipping and editing.
During the web seminar, we’ll discuss how to:
- Record and search thousands of hours of HD TV
- Save time using our HD-SDI Play Out Node
- Distribute HD TV (live and recorded) using the existing office network
- Create unlimited HD clips from full recordings
- Engineer your ideal HD workflow
Learn more about the capabilities of our new SnapStream HD Server as well as the engineering details of designing an HD workflow in further details by signing up for our upcoming web seminar.
Web Seminar: Incorporating HD TV into the Work-flow
When: Thursday, November 19th, 2009; 2:30 – 3:30 PM (CST)
Hi there, Daniel Mee from SnapStream Enterprise Support here. I’m writing to tell you about an exciting change to our line of TV servers: a brand new hardware platform!
This is the chassis that’s been in use on our server since its introduction in 2007. While this hardware has done very well for us, we’re beginning to find that some of our clients are using their servers heavily enough to demand better power and thermal management, greater storage capacity, and easier access with less downtime for maintenance. So, we’re phasing out our existing chassis in favor of this new design.
Among the benefits of this new platform:
- Increased storage capacity
- Hot spare hard drives
- Better OS drive management
- Bigger, better power supplies
- Server-grade SAS storage backplane
- Better failure indicators
- Better airflow management and cooling
- Improved access to storage hardware
Increased storage capacity: Our servers will now start at 3TB of usable space, and we can offer up to 9TB on our 3-unit servers, while our 4-unit models will max out at 15TB. We hope to be able to offer 30TB or even more soon!
Hot spare hard drives: Our new drive cage has space for hot spares, which will make drive failures much less intrusive by providing automatic failover to the spare drive.
Better OS drive management: The system’s mirrored OS array will now be managed through the same controller as the storage array, allowing for faster performance, better management, and dramatically easier maintenance, as well as providing e-mail alerts for failed OS drives.
Bigger, better power supply: All SnapStream servers are equipped with dual hot-swap power supplies that are both redundant and load-balancing. A single power supply may fail without the system losing power- and a single unit may be replaced without shutting down the system. In addition, the redundant units are rated at 900W each, allowing them to operate at a much lower percentage of capacity, and providing safer operation even if one unit fails.
Server-grade SAS storage backplane: We’ve switched to SAS for the connection between the system’s RAID controller and its backplane. SAS provides better performance, as well as better reporting in the event of drive or port failure. Meanwhile, we’ve retained the use of SATA for the drives themselves, due to its higher storage density.
Better status indicators: Using SAS for the RAID hardware allows for better communication between the chassis and the RAID management software, including the ability to display drive status using LEDs on the front of the server. A flashing blue light means the drive is in use, while a flashing red light appears on a drive that needs to be replaced, and a slow-blinking red light indicates a hot spare.
Better airflow management and cooling: Improved cooling means better performance and stability in long-term high-load use cases.
Improved access to storage hardware: Replacing the RAID backplane now takes ten minutes instead of two hours.
Overall, it’s a physically stronger chassis that can provide the same storage in fewer rack units. And, the rackmount rail kit delivers its own significant improvements over the older model- easier installation, sturdier design and a better fit to the case.
We’re very excited to offer this new hardware on all new orders of the SnapStream TV Server, starting immediately. We hope that you’ll be as happy with it as we are.
SnapStream’s TV search feature is one of the most powerful features of our servers, because it allows you to find mentions of just about anything in your TV library instantaneously. But even some seasoned users of the SnapStream Server may not be aware of all of the options that are available for tweaking and refining searches. Did you know that there are commands that allow you to group search terms, filter your search by date, channel or program?
Let’s look at some examples of ways in which you might use our Advanced Search features.
A couple of things to note:
Search by Grouping
You’re probably familiar with the use of AND, OR and NOT to combine search terms. Did you know you can “group” search terms by using parentheses? For example, let’s say you work for a sports marketing firm and you want to find mentions of sports teams in Houston from sports other than the “big three-” baseball, basketball and football. You could use parentheses to exclude multiple terms at once: HOUSTON SPORTS NOT (ASTROS OR TEXANS OR ROCKETS)
This will return mentions of the words “Houston” and “sports” together while excluding any results that mention the Astros, Texans or Rockets.
Search by Category
Now let’s say you wanted to restrict that search to news broadcasts. You could do that using the category filter. This is available in a drop-down box in the web admin, or you can enter the term CATEGORY:NEWS in Enterprise TV Link’s search feature. So the full search string would look like this:HOUSTON SPORTS CATEGORY:NEWS NOT (ASTROS OR TEXANS OR ROCKETS)
Or you could use the Category Filter drop-down box in the web admin, as shown here:
Search by Channel
Maybe you’d like to see only mentions on ESPN. Use the CHANNEL command. You can enter the callsign or name of the station, or the number on which it appears in your lineup. HOUSTON SPORTS CHANNEL:ESPN NOT (ASTROS OR TEXANS OR ROCKETS)You can use the options NETWORK: and CALLSIGN: in a similar way.The Channel field in the web admin has the same function.
Search by Show Title
Maybe you work for a particular team and want to see if they’ve been on a specific program recently. You can use the TITLE command, which restricts a search to a particular program.HOUSTON ASTROS TITLE:SPORTSCENTER (If you enter a title that has two words or more, use quotation marks- “BASEBALL TONIGHT”)
Search by Date
Maybe you want just mentions from a specific date, or maybe just the last week. Or last month. Or last year. You can use the DATE syntax in Enterprise TV Link, or you can specify the date on a calendar in the web admin. The date filter gives you a couple of different ways to limit the date range of your search. You can use a specific date, in the M/D/YY format:HOUSTON ASTROS TITLE:SPORTSCENTER DATE:6/14/09 You can also use the Date Range option in the web admin to specify a single date or a range of dates.
Or you can use one of the date keywords, which are also available through Quickdates in the web admin. These are:TODAY, YESTERDAY, THISWEEK, LASTWEEK, THISMONTH, LASTMONTH, THISYEAR, LASTYEAR For example:HOUSTON ASTROS TITLE:SPORTSCENTER DATE:LASTMONTH
Say you’ve made some clips from this particular program, and you want to see all of those. You can specify that you’re searching for clips. HOUSTON TITLE:”BASEBALL TONIGHT” IS:CLIP You can also use this syntax with the minus sign ( – ) to exclude any clips you’ve made from the search. HOUSTON TITLE:”BASEBALL TONIGHT” -IS:CLIP The IS option works with the file types CLIP, ORIGINAL, and SHOWSQUEEZE. This is very useful if you find that your searches are cluttered with duplicate hits on existing clips or ShowSqueezed files. HOUSTON TITLE:”BASEBALL TONIGHT” -IS:CLIP -IS:SHOWSQUEEZE
There are check boxes for each media type in the web admin search menu.
Finally, there are some specialized search operators that can help you with very specific searches:A “wildcard” search allows you to find multiple words that start with the same series of letters. For example, searching for SPORTS TEXA*Will find mentions of “sports” along with a state, TEXAS, or someone from that state, a TEXAN- even the name of a tri-state region: TEXARKANA.
Note that you can’t use a wildcard as the first letter in a search term. For example, you couldn’t use a wildcard to search for the phrase “State of _,” because the string “STATE OF *” will return no results. “Fuzzy” search allows you to search for words that are similar, but not identical, to the search term. This is very useful when searching for words that are frequently misspelled in closed-captioning data, especially proper names. For example, HOUSTON ROCKETS MCGRADY~ Could be used to find mentions of Rockets basketball player Tracy McGrady, even if his last name is misspelled as MacGrady or Magrady. It also works backwards- searching for HOUSTON ROCKETS MACGRADY~ will return correctly spelled results.
Now, you will see only results in which the two search terms appear within 5 seconds of each other.
For further information on how to search and create clips watch the video below.