|February 9, 2022
In an exclusive interview at RadioTVLink.com Ludmil Kushinov, CEO of X-Pert Multimedia Solutions, describes the company’s unique broadcast technology three-step approach.
Ludmil Kushinov: Thank you for this opportunity. I’ve been the CEO of X-Pert Multimedia Solutions since its establishment at the end of 2016. Before that, I was part of the Playbox Technology management team. To be honest, I have been in the technology sector since the beginning of my career, and I have been deeply involved in broadcast technology for more than 15 years.
Ludmil Kushinov: Transition to IP is not a new phenomenon in the broadcast sector but the Covid-19 situation has made the sector realize how important it is for their being. IP facilitates remote production and provides a more flexible working environment. But we should not underestimate SDI. SDI has done its part for the revolutionary transition from analog to digital video infrastructure and is still the common standard, used by the broadcast sector. There are TV channels that fully rely on SDI. SDI is still the best choice for organizations of certain sizes and budget levels. So many broadcasters are not prepared to switch from SDI to IP yet. I think that such an important transition should not be made at once, but little by little. And it’s better to start with a hybrid model. The hybrid IP/SDI infrastructure gives the opportunity to take all the benefits from both standards. By using such a hybrid infrastructure, you can integrate existing workflows and technologies with new devices and technologies as part of a managed transition. The gradual upgrade of the infrastructure is the way to avoid business and operational turmoil.
Ludmil Kushinov: Let me first explain that we are four co-founders of X-Pert Multimedia Solutions. We all came from the broadcast technology sector and we were all ex-colleagues when in 2016 we decided to establish the company. The establishment of the company was not an impulsive decision but something that we were talking about for some time. We found out that we had very much of what the broadcast software business and product development should look like and decided to implement our vision in practice. Later all these ideas became part of our business model and strategy. The big plus was that we all were very well acquainted with the whole product lifecycle process – from product development, through support and sales, and to after-sales. Five years later, we are proud to declare that we have products covering three steps of the broadcast process – broadcast delivery, process improvement, and redundancy. Our efforts are focused on these three steps and we are constantly adapting our products to the latest technology innovations and clients’ requirements. We are very flexible and our clients know that they can rely on unique approach and individual solution for each demand.
Our products already support AV1 and SRT and we are a proud member of the SRT Alliance. SRT stands for Secure Reliable Transport. It’s an open-source video transport protocol and technology stack that optimizes video streaming costs across public internet networks and ensures the best quality video delivery over the worst networks.
AV1, as you know, is a new video codec that we have adopted to be in step with the latest standards of video content producers for ensuring the best high-quality video with lower storage space.
Ludmil Kushinov: These nine products that you have mentioned are not the only ones we have. Besides them, we have several products targeting very specific clients’ needs, like X-Pert Backup Supervisor and X-Pert IP Switch.
But let me briefly explain more about the products. I will go again through our three steps approach. As I already mention the first step of our approach to our clients is broadcast delivery. Here come our flagship products – X-Pert Playout, X-Pert Ingest, and X-Pert Graphics and of course, our bundle X-Pert Channel-in-a-Box, which includes the above-mentioned products.
X-Pert Playout is a playout automation solution, suitable for broadcast organizations of any size. It is available in UHD/HD/SD, SDI, or IP and secures operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It supports SRT on both the encoding and decoding sides, it supports Intel QSV hardware accelerated MPEG2/H264/HEVC decoding and MPEG2/H264/HEVC encoding. Other key features to mention are SCTE35 triggers reading and generation over IP UDP transport stream, SCTE104 triggers reading and generation over SDI outputs (Decklink, AJA, Deltacast), MPEG DASH dynamic adaptive streaming over HTTP output, etc. Last, but not least music and movie channels can be 100% automated and work without any human interaction.
X-Pert Graphics is our on-air CG and graphics manager. It lets you create static, dynamic, or fully automated objects such as rolls, crawls, multi-layered simultaneous still pictures, analog and digital clocks, animated logos, etc., and save them in projects. Those could easily be used for direct broadcasting or as customized templates for future use. In case external data needs to be represented, all of those objects can be linked to external data sources such as RSS feeds, external data files, or GPI triggers.
X-Pert Ingest enables multiple channels of HD or SD content to be captured simultaneously from HD/SD SDI digital feeds, analog sources, and MPEG transport streams. Four video sources can be monitored or ingested on a single screen and controlled via a new streamlined user interface. Audio levels are represented as loudness or true peak displays and adjusted when required. X-Pert Ingest already supports SRT. Its newest features include: IP RTMP/HLS/RTSP/MPEG-2 DASH stream source, NVidia GPU hardware acceleration for H264/HEVC encoding content and IP feeds, and Intel CPU/GPU hardware acceleration for H264/HEVC encoding content.
Here I should mention also X-Pert List, which is included in X-Pert Playout and X-Pert Channel-in-a-Box for free but could be bought alone also. X-Pert List is an easy-to-use offline playlist editor, that helps you plan, create and schedule playlists for your automated broadcast playout system.
The second step of our product approach is process improvement. Here I would like to mention X-Pert Playout Control, X-Pert Content Replicator, X-Pert Compact MAM, and X-Pert Quality Check. These four products give additional value and functionalities to clients’ software infrastructure.
X-Pert Playout Control is a very user-friendly solution for monitoring and control of single or multiple playout channels. It provides a web interface that allows operators to control their channels from any point of the globe, and not only. X-Pert Playout Control has a very flexible user interface that can divide users into different roles based on their daily actions – operators, uploaders, playlist schedulers, administrators, or just viewers.
X-Pert Content Replicator transfers automatedly content, ensuring a stable playout process. It is used by clients that decide to secure their content with network storage or storage, instead of relying on a single local disk or array. It is a scalable solution for clients who operate many channels giving them the opportunity to grow with lower investments for the upcoming channels especially when there are common video materials between channels like commercials.
X-Pert Compact MAM is a highly integrated SQL-based database for media and content management that classifies your content by using many indices, such as type, category, genres, keywords, credits, media, etc. When the content has its own metadata, our products can provide various features like graphic rules where this data can be extracted and directly put into tickers, rolls or crawls. In such cases, we deliver a fully automated Playout and channel branding.
X-Pert Quality Check provides control analysis and assessment of media quality. In modern days TV channels can receive content from many different sources like on-site reporters, content houses, external productions, etc. In such cases, the delivery and compatibility of clips is a weak point that can cause trouble. With X-Pert Quality Check all of these troubles can be avoided. Additionally, the loudness level can be measured so after that on the playout to have a smooth audio level of channel output.
And here we go to the third step of our approach – redundancy. Redundancy is the way to make your system more reliable. Here we provide X-Pert Backup Supervisor and X-Pert IP Switch.
For clients that operate many channels, we provide a lot of flexible features that ensure their on-air time during maintenance or hardware fault. For high-line channels, backup can be only in full mirror 1 by 1 as a built-in Advanced Playout Option. For those, who are looking for cost-effective redundancy we provide M + N backup schema that allows having many (M) master Advanced Playouts and one or two backups (N). All this happens totally smoothly and without any interruption thanks to X-Pert Backup Supervisor plus X-Pert IP Switch in IP UDP workflows.
Ludmil Kushinov: Almost every project needs additional development according to the requirements of the client, its workflow, devices, protocols used, etc. So, it’s not something new to make such additional developments. Recently we have made development to ensure specific ATEM switch support for a single TV channel in Poland. We have made serious developments in order to guarantee high-level redundancy in video streams and hardware for a project with our Italian partner MMBTV. There are many examples, that could be mentioned here.
Ludmil Kushinov: Our license policy provides two options – perpetual licence and subscription-based pricing.
The perpetual licence is the traditional permanent license model when you purchase the software and pay a yearly based Annual Software Maintenance and Technical Support fee, which gives you access to all updates and upgrades, real-time monitoring and support, etc.
Software as a subscription model allows users to pay for the period, they would like to use the software only. Here we provide two options – annual subscription and monthly subscription. For that period, the client will have access to the updated and upgraded versions of the software and to all support services, mentioned before.
I think that the demand for a subscription-based model will grow seriously in the future, so we definitely look more intensively in this direction.
Ludmil Kushinov: Our clients are very different – from small regional and church TV channels to big TV channels and media companies. As I already mentioned, every client, and every project has its particularities and needs a unique approach.
So, before we offer something to our client, we analyze its existing operations and infrastructure and make an in-depth survey about the client’s needs and expectations in order to help him receive the highest ROI. It’s very important to step in the shoes of the client in order to understand him.
Ludmil Kushinov: Our support services are something that we are very proud of. Our support team provides quick assistance to every specific issue through e-mail, chat, phone, Telegram, and onsite visits.
We also rely very much on our local dealers. They bring additional value to our products and services, as they are aware of the market specifics, of the client specifics, they can provide support in the local language, and can easily and quickly conduct onsite visits. That is why it is very important to have good partners in every country.
Ludmil Kushinov: Kushinov: Our clients say that our products are with the best price/quality ratio. They appreciate our individual approach to every customer, the flexibility and adaptivity of our products, and our quick support services.
Regarding the customers I would like to mention some of our most recent installations here, in Greece – EpirusTV, TV100, Body in Balance, and even ERT which is running 2 channels (for their WebTV). The total list is very long, some of them running for more than 15 years. We work here via our partner AmyDV, one of our best-performing partners.
Ludmil Kushinov: As I mentioned we rely very much on our local partners and we are constantly enlarging our dealer network. AmyDV is our partner for Greece and Cyprus. It is one of our most active and reliable partners and enjoys the trust of the customers.
In Greece and in Cyprus we see many opportunities as we have very reliable and feature-rich customizable solutions for broadcast delivery (X-Pert Playout, X-Pert Ingest, X-Pert Graphics), process improvement (X-Pert Playout Control, X-Pert Content Replicator, X-Pert Compact MAM, X-Pert Quality Check) and redundancy (X-Pert Backup Supervisor, X-Pert IP Switch). These solutions with lifetime support, combined with an experienced partner that can help the customer understand his needs and configure the whole network including the storage and client systems make our proposals necessary on every media enterprise shopping list.
AmyDV has been very helpful to us with the experience also from many other solutions surrounding the X-Pert proposals to make the total projects run smoothly on time and on budget every time. We have a similar philosophy for offering honest professional total solutions making no discounts on quality and support.