The object of the pilot operation is to enable users to purchase multimedia content via the web and to have that content downloaded by satellite.
The project concerns the development and operation of a platform which can deliver varied content to users in Europe and, eventually, to nearly all major cities around the world. Content providers will be able to broadcast material as and when needed and the cost of broadcasting will be reduced still further as the audience is widened to cover Europe and the rest of the world. The dramatic increase in potential audience size and the reduction in the cost of broadcasting mean that more businesses can now take advantage of this new technology to deliver their material.
The theme of the Pilot Operation is satellite-delivered content by subscription. The Pilot Operation covers the following areas:
- Generation of suitably edited, stored, and live content,
- Provision of subscription mechanisms and procedures for end-users,
- Uplinking of content using IP over DVB technology,
- End-user interaction via terrestrial modem to enable delivery via DVB-S satellite channel,
- End-user interaction via modem for subscription purposes,
- Market testing to determine what content has subscription value and what should be offered free to act as promotional material,
- Generation of procedures and protocols for subscription to live IP material,
- Market testing to assess the potential scope for 'narrow-casting' - specialist subscription services within Europe,
- Market testing to assess the subscription tariffs needed to sustain an on-going, self-supporting commercial operation.
The key issues addressed by SUNRISE are:
- testing the technology in a real environment,
- allowing users to experience the system and provide feedback,
- refining the business models with feedback from the project.
A new paradigm for news distribution is emerging. News reporters, sometimes freelance, make reports of topical events and sell their material to another company. This company then edits the material and packages it into a form suitable for broadcasting. The length of the package depends on content and varies from 1 to 15 minutes. Each package is accompanied by a thumb-nail or preview clip. The packages are fed into a database at the hub and are made available to subscribers. Subscribers can access the database via an interactive satellite network. They will log into the system using a terrestrial modem and download the thumb-nail clips using IP-over-DVB. They can then choose to download the main package knowing its price, duration and previewed content. The Pilot Operation will enable the network to evolve more rapidly than otherwise.
The digital era and the world-wide-web present new opportunities, both commercial and educational, for the distributed and marketing of classical music to the listener and viewer. The commercial potential stems from the possibility of recording new material and delivering it economically to its audience. There is a need for this because both record/CD companies and mainstream broadcasters do not promote classical music as they once did. Such music can be supplemented with discussions and classes, some of which could be interactive. The idea of classes leads to the educational potential of the digital era. Master classes can be transmitted to schools, music colleges and arts centres within Europe. These will be both educational and promotional. To what extent the recipients would pay for this material is an issue which the Pilot Operation can help answer. It recognises the role that satellites in providing wide area high bandwidth networks.
The customer sites will be equipped with PC based terminals, that will be used to request and receive content. Purchased content can also be played directly from these terminals. The client application, running on the terminal, will be browser based. Customers will be able to view low resolution versions of the news content free of charge, prior to making the decision to purchase the broadcast quality items, that will subsequently be downloaded in a high resolution format. Video information, at the hub, will be encoded into both MPEG-2 and low bit rate Real formats. The MPEG-2 version will be encrypted with a unique key prior to transmission. This key will be made available to the user via the e-commerce server at the hub. At a specific "feed time", the encrypted MPEG-2 files will be transmitted, along with the un-encrypted Real Video files, meta-data and scripts, to all the sites on the network. Once the files have been received, registered customer sites will be able to view the Real Video content directly from their local hard drive. Should the customer then wish to purchase the content in broadcast quality, a request will be made to the e-commerce server.
Diagram of the Pilot System Architecture
The Pilot Operation project has four phases:
- Phase I pilot definition phase
- Phase II pilot implementation phase
- Phase III pilot operation phase
- Phase IV review phase.
The project is currently in Phase 1.
The main part of the Sunrise project is now complete. The main benefits have been the experience gained by the consortium members in undertaking the series of live events undertaken by the LSO. As well as the many, sometimes prosaic, technical lessons learned, it has been particularly interesting to observe how musicians, initially unclear about the technology and its benefits, have become very enthusiastic about the new media. The venues for master classes and special events, which were relatively informal, have provided an alternative platform to the concert hall for musicians to demonstrate their musicianship and personalities. In this regard, streaming music content to specialist audiences over a wide geographic area has been a great success.
Sunrise is now continuing with a work package to encode the LSO's material in a variety of ways and to assess audience reactions. The methods envisaged are MPEG1, MPEG2 and MPEG4 at rates to be selected. The objective is to identify an encoding method and rate that satisfies the demands of the orchestral material without being too demanding on satellite resources.