Media Gateway: Live Media Transcoding and Distribution Made Easy

Jun 14, 2023
Media Gateway:  Live Media Transcoding and Distribution Made Easy

by Pavlin Rahnev, CEO, PlayBox Neo


Space efficiency, cost efficiency and staff efficiency are essential requirements for any business enterprise, not least in the electronic media industry. The Channel-in-a-Box concept which we have refined over nearly a quarter century gives television broadcasters the freedom to perform the entire station management process in a single server occupying just 1U of rack space and controllable from any securely connected desktop PC. Ingest, editing, finessing, graphics creation, scheduling, presentation and playout can be performed with any desired level of automation plus the ability to transmit live whenever required. System expansion is as easy as adding extra CIAB units or easier still via our Cloud2TV solution or a hybrid of server-based and service-based channel management.

One of the most recent additions to the PlayBox Neo media ecosystem, Media Gateway extends our long-established ethos of maximizing broadcast playout efficiency by allowing as much as possible of the channel management process to be handled within a unified and operator-friendly graphic interface. Based on the PlayBox Neo Suite platform, it is designed to maximize productivity by simplifying the daily tasks of content delivery and distribution.

Media Gateway performs the entire process of playout routing and decoding in software. This eliminates the capital cost, rack space, maintenance charges and power needed to operate hardware routers, codecs and related devices. It can be installed on-premises within a PlayBox Neo CIAB server or a network-attached server – or in the cloud.

Media Gateway workflow


Figure 1 shows the Media Gateway workflow. Uncompressed content, depicted in the top-level section of the diagram, can be sourced and output in SDI, NDI or as virtual streams. Media Gateway also has a screen input which allows video and audio content to be grabbed from a desktop and delivered as live feed. Selected feeds can be routed between any combination of data formats.

Media Gateway also allows content from compressed sources to be decoded into the uncompressed domain for applications such as post-production or forwarding. All uncompressed outputs and the encoder allow frame rate conversion, resolution upconversion, resolution downconversion and resolution cross conversion as well as aspect ratio conversion. Video can be delivered with an alpha channel where supported. Every input can be assigned to one or many outputs in the same domain. The IP decoder supports both multiple and single program transport streams.

Figure 1 - PlayBox Neo Media Gateway workflow
Figure 1 - PlayBox Neo Media Gateway workflow


Integral multiviewer

An integral browser-based multiviewer, shown in Figure 2, allows easy visual monitoring of the available sources and their selected destinations. The multiviewer displays video with audio bars for all inputs, including pre-configurable visual and audible alarms alerting operators to black frame, freeze frame and lost signal. Automatic changeover of the compressed transport stream can be activated based on missing signal or a feed which is under or over bitrate. Signal switching can also be performed automatically if black or freeze is detected on the decoded output.

Figure 2 - PlayBox Neo Media Gateway graphic user interface
Figure 2 - PlayBox Neo Media Gateway graphic user interface


Incoming uncompressed content can also, or alternatively, be routed to Media Gateway’s internal transport stream encoders for distribution in compressed data formats such as UDP, RTP, SRT and/or Zixi Push. The middle and lower sections of the workflow diagram show these tools.

Individual streams can be time-offset by up to several days via the TS Delay option, the maximum delay depending on the amount of attached storage. Integral software codecs allow signals to be converted between SDI, NDI, SRT, UDP and RTP. Video and audio content can be sourced directly from a desktop screen and delivered as live feeds. The channel capacity is limited only by the capabilities of your processing platform.

Automatic or manual switching of MPEG transport streams can be performed via switch groups including the ability to switch multiple streams at the same time. Every switch in an assigned group has multiple inputs and one output which can be sent to multiple streaming destinations. This allows switching of all main sources to backup sources or to an external feed, for example. Each switch group can have multiple switches.

SCTE-35 and SCTE-104 interstitial insertion cues are cross-converted and transmitted to the output. Closed captions are cross-converted between CEA608 and 708 and the frame-rate converted when required. Active format description data can be inserted into the baseband SDI video signal or compressed transport stream when required. Switching between uncompressed inputs or any uncompressed output is clean of any artifacts.

System expansion

Media Gateway, like all PlayBox Neo media products and services, is inherently expandable to any desired scale from single regional TV channels up to globally active multi-language networks. All inputs, outputs, encoders and decoders can be activated as and when required through license updates. Installer-friendly, operator-friendly, and budget-friendly, our solutions are designed to tick every box.