Ian Baker

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Live HD Video Broadcast

Kink.com is the world's largest fetish adult media company. I worked there as a Broadcast and Encoding Engineer from late 2006 through mid 2010.

One of my first tasks at Kink.com was to design and deploy a system for live streaming of paid HD content. I undertook this project in the awareness that, in early 2007, live HD on the Internet was still highly experimental. To my knowlege, we were the first company in any market to succeed in producing a successful scheduled, regular broadcast.

After experimenting with many permutations of hardware and software, our initial deployment settled on a group of Canon XL-H1 cameras, connected via my own custom HD-SDI/timecode/genlock cable snakes to a Panasonic AV-HS300 switcher (we received unit #47, one of the first deployed commercially in the USA). From there, signal was ingested using a Blackmagic Multibridge, into a Windows Media Encoder and a separate hard drive recorder. We encoded a multi-bitrate stream, which was distributed using a load-balanced Windows Media Server cluster.

We chose WMS at the time, as it was the only encoding platform with widely available player support that could be convinced to talk to HD capture hardware.

Audio ran over an entirely separate path: from ambient room mics, through a small mixer, to a DSP processor, and into the Multibridge. The DSP was present for compression and video sync, as in-camera HD-SDI encoding introduces 55-105ms of delay, depending on camera model. Camera audio wasn't available, as the XL-H1 doesn't encode audio on HD-SDI.

Timecode and genlock were maintained from a central source, distributed via wire to the individual cameras. All hardware was contained in a single wheeled flypack that could be moved easily between sets.

The whole system was interesting enough that it got us a bit of press:

Earlier this month, Kink.com began streaming live 1080i high-definition video--at a time when mainstream sites such as CNN.com offer jerky, blurry pre-edited clips at roughly one-tenth the resolution of high-def.

"I haven't actually seen live high-def streaming elsewhere," Acworth said.

-- "At Kink.com, A Live Tool Against Piracy", CNet News, March 30, 2007.

In addition to deploying the technology, I contributed significantly to the design and implementation of the production process for these shows -- everything from specifying the crew roles that would be necessary, to the configuration of the crew's communications system.

The Internet video industry moves very fast these days. Live HD is now an industry standard, and the system we made in 2007 would be positively decrepit. At Kink, it's evolved considerably. Now, the entire 250,000 square foot production facility is permanently wired with HD-SDI, all leading to an encoding farm pushing multiple streams 24/7, via 3rd-party CDN, directly to customers' flash players.

The current system is reliable, stable, and easy enough to use that any member of the production staff can broadcast a show live with zero planning. I was intimately involved with every incremental system update.