Microsoft, GridIron Unveil Encoding Accelerator

GridIron Software and Microsoft will ship an encoding product designed to significantly speed digital video encoding by harnessing networked computing systems.

GridIron Software, a developer of grid computing products, and Microsoft soon will be shipping an encoding product designed to significantly speed digital video encoding by harnessing networked computing systems.

Unveiled at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas this week, the GridIron X-Factor for Windows Media Encoder divides up digital video encoding work so it can be processed by multiple computers rather than by one machine.

Although there are other encoding products on the market, the X-Factor is the first software program to handle this type of task by using grid computing, said Gord Watts, vice president of marketing at Ottawa, Ontario-based GridIron Software Inc. Many encoding products are hardware-based, he added.

By tapping into a grid computing architecture, X-Factor for Windows Media Encoder can reduce the time spent encoding high-resolution digital video. Currently, the standard encoding time is 20 minutes to encode one minute of video.

Because the X-Factor is still in development, GridIron cannot give a concrete encoding time difference, but Watts said the improvement is at least five times faster than available technology.

"Our goal, and we believe its possible, is to get encoding to real time, so one minute of video takes one minute to encode," he said.

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A unique feature of the X-Factor encoding product is that it can be used with existing computers that are already employed in a network, Watts said. It also can accommodate additions to the computing architecture, adapting to an increased number of computers. This could be important for X-Factors success in the market, since grid computing has not fully caught on with post-production companies just yet.

"Theyre coming around to grid computing, but they havent had enough applications to warrant it in the past," Watts said.

The X-Factor for Windows Media Encoder uses the same technology employed in a similar product, X-Factor for Adobe After Effects, which speeds preview processing and rendering in that application.

The demand for high-definition video is growing at a steady clip, Watts said, as high-definition televisions are brought into more homes and consumers clamor for sharp content to be viewed on them. Most of the video shot for broadcast is not in high-definition, leaving post-production editors to do digital video encoding, a time-intensive project if only one computer is used at a time.

"There is a hugely recognized demand to speed the process," Watts said. "Thats why we think the X-Factor can have a significant impact on the post-production market."

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