A new version of MPlatform is now live and available for download.
Major improvements in this release:
1) New MRenderer architecture that improves stability and quality when playing out to devices, especially Blackmagic. Regardless of what is happening on the input, the renderer always receives a stable flow of frames. This has lead to an improvement in latency and the exclusion of situations where frame loss and audio issues happened on relatively normal (stable) streams. The new renderer is used by default, but can be disabled via the 'output.av_thread' property. More info: MRenderer props.
2) New Character Generator performance mode ('overlay.thread' property), that preps the overlay in a separate process. In this mode the time needed to overlay graphics on a frame is fixed and does not vary with the complexity of the stream or size of items. This mode is recommended for complex scenes. More info: CG props.
3) New MMixer modes ('master' and 'drop_frames' properties) ensure maximum possible quality for the master stream. Recommended if among the streams used there is clearly one main or master stream, the quality of which should never be affected by the resources needed to process other streams or features. More info: MMixer props.
Other notable changes:
Added Bypass Relays support for Blackmagic devices.
The latest release of MPlatform features a new technology - MComposer.
MComposer was created as a prototype at the very start of what is now MPlatform. We were so fond of the idea of fancy, GPU-accellerated graphics, that we had to show it to our customers.
But, having collected the feedback at NAB 2012, we decided that MPlatform was more important, and put off the development of the new video & graphics engine. It is only this summer, especially after my recent trip to India, that we collected enough requests to proceed with MComposer development.
This August, we are launching the first official release of MComposer, the brand new graphics engine and GPU-powered vision mixer.
What is MComposer
MComposer - bird view - delivers two things:
1) Smooth, crystal clear text and fancy broadcast quality graphics with all kinds of 3D animation effects and camera movements. In a way, this is a major upgrade to the currently available CG.
2) Fast, GPU-powered vision mixing with true 3D projection for video. This will also improve CPU-based chroma key performance in complex scenes as all the mixing will be handled by the GPU and the chroma keying code will have all of the CPU available.
The quality of the video above and smoothness of movement is greatly degrated due to the use of compression.
In addition to this:
MComposer doesn't make a difference between the objects that it works with. Videos, stills, tickers, scenes are all managed by the same set of parameters and, for example, a video can be part of a crawl.
Everything is managed & configured via a single, intuitively clear XML, while the main methods are identical to those of MMixer from MPlatform.
GPU is implemented via OpenGL, so you can use the latest-generation GPU chips from ATI, NVIDIA or Intel.
Areas of application
We think MComposer will find its customers on the following markets:
Channel graphics: news, sports, weather, elections, business, etc.
If there are other applications that we have not thought of - please let us know.
How is MComposer priced & structured
One of the most important comments that we have been hearing after the launch of MPlatform, is the simplicity of the product structure and price list. We wanted to introduce MComposer in a way that would keep this structure both simple yet flexible enough for the majority of our customers.
At first (http://blog.medialooks.com/archives/1410), we thought of including chroma keying into MComposer. But - as we gained more understanding of the product - we decided that it should be a separate add-on.
So, here are the main points that we have come to:
MComposer is an add-on to MPlatfrom, available - like all our products - in Single Developer and Team versions.
For chroma key features the Chroma Key Lib is required (regardless, wether or not an MComposer subscription is being purchased).
There will be no GPU-powered chroma keying for quite a while. We just don't think the improvement will be that big (compared to how we improved vision mixing). We do plan to start working on other updates for the Chroma Key Lib - mainly in the usability aspect of the product.
MComposer is available with the latest download of MPlatform. For prices, please reach out to our sales managers or simply tick the "I want the price list" option in the Download form. For more technical info please see MComposer documentation.
Current MPlatform release (22.214.171.124) is full of great features, but before we talk about them, here's some notable information.
MPlatform product structure & licensing terms
We are very well aware that confusing product structures are a pain for the customer. When working on the marketing side of MPlatform, our main goal was to make it easy to understand. It was especially important as we had to arrange migrations for dozens of users with licenses for at least 6 different packages.
Several decisions were made based on that:
1) We decided to include vision mixing into the main MPlatform package. This really simplified migrations for customers who had both playout automation and vision mixing products from the previous generation. For new customers it makes the purchase decision easier.
2) Time shifting has also been included into the default package. At first, we thought that it would make sense to have it available with the optional encoding package only, but we found out that for certain customers this could be a serious limitation as sometimes they want to use third-party encoding solutions.
3) The Single Application license has been removed: it doesn't exist any more inside the MPlatform ecosystem. It is either Single Developer or Team.
We are happy to have made these decisions: there's less ping-pong with the customer about what he needs and how it should be licensed. The sales process has become smoother.
Optional components (libs & plugins) and the IMPlugins interface
We had to change the names of our decoding and encoding FFmpeg-based packages. The initial name was very similar to MEncoder, a free command line tool that shares its code base with MPlayer. The new names for these packages are Decoder Lib and Encoder Lib. Sorry about the confusion.
The term lib may not perfectly reflect the deliverables inside these products, but it does the job. We decided to use it for all future add-ons that somehow expand or improve MPlatform or any part it. For example, the Closed Captions Lib is an optional component that adds support for EIA-608, CEA-708 CC playback and output via composite or SDI connection in NTSC. More features can be added to this lib upon request.
Another type of add-ons are plugins. Technically, even the CG feature (available as part of the default MPlatform package) is a plugin. The optional plugins are CG Flash and Chroma Key.
Plugins are different, because they make use of the IMPlugins interface, which can also be used by you to create your own plugins. This is especially good for custom audio/video effects and video analysis use cases: if you have a code that works with a raw stream the way you need, you won't find it difficult to wrap it up into a plugin for MPlatform.
A quick list of the most important features that have been made available since the last blog post:
Vision mixing (available since version 126.96.36.199) with support for transitions and a visual scene editor.
Encoder Lib (available since version 188.8.131.52), our FFmpeg-based encoding solution.