Founded in 2004 and headquartered in the UK, Playbox Technology is known for its classic playout, automation, graphics, ingest and quality control solutions. The company caters to the needs of traditional broadcasters, over-the-top service providers, governmental institutions, houses of worship and is rapidly expanding into the market of live sports.
Since 2015, the company’s technical team has relied on the Medialooks Video SDK as a quicker and smarter way to get their products to market.
The integration the SDK provides is relatively straightforward and allows us to get a product to market quickly. You're going to save at least one man-year’s worth of development work compared to doing all this stuff on your own.
Today, Playbox Technology is working on a new line of products – all powered by a Medialooks-powered engine, which is a key component of the company’s new distributed architecture and will become the basis of all future developments. We discussed this with Phillip Neighbour, the company’s COO.
Why are you working on a new engine?
Our original Delphi engine is 15 years old. It is now literally coming to end-of-life: the features that people are looking for are going to be more and more difficult to offer, especially feature sets for cloud-based applications – since they require a non-monolith distributed architecture.
We want some parts of the system deployed in the cloud – such as Azure or AWS, – some parts of the system deployed on people's laptops or servers. We want to be able to distribute systems around the world for redundancy purposes as well. And because people are now doing a lot of remote work and I don't think we will ever get back to being full-time in the office, you have to be able to do stuff wherever you are, pick up an ordinary laptop, and be able to get onto a system.
How much experience did your team have with the Video SDK?
The original development team has been working with the SDK for a number of years. The UK development team has had less than 24 months of experience, but they told me it was incredibly easy to integrate. They just provide the hooks, everything works, and occasionally they talk to you. And everything is resolved. And that's the type of support we want, which is literally saving time. I don't think I was really exaggerating when I said it's going to save over a man-year in development time.
What is the most appealing feature of the product?
It's difficult to say, there are several things. Number one, we don't have to go back to basics – because everything is there. So, that saves time, which saves money. Why re-develop stuff that actually works? So, if you're developing stuff from scratch, you know you have to go through a major bug fixing exercise, because – regardless of what software developers tell you – you always have to add another six months on top of a project. Then you have to resolve the bug fixes, and you have to get it tested to see if the customer finds bugs from the way that they use it.
The SDK, literally, is like a plug in module. And it works. I'm not gonna say it's 100% bug free – we haven't discovered any bugs yet – but I'm going to say it's virtually bug free. Our implementation may cause something to happen, which is because we might do something differently to what anybody else has done, but then your guys come back really quick with a resolution.
For instance, we wanted to go down the route of HTML5, and you already have that type of graphic overlays. That's a standard module, which is known to work. Similarly, we've suffered historically with closed captioning in different formats, and… there you go, you have all of that available. And, as times change and more formats or protocols become available… For example, the SRT module… if we did it ourselves, it would have taken a long time. With your SDK, it's plug and play, and it works. Our next phase is to use WebRTC, because it offers virtually real-time video for web-based interfaces.
How was the experience with our support team?
What I've been told by our senior guys is every time that they've spoken to Medialooks about an issue, they've been told how to work around that issue, or if there was a problem, it gets resolved quickly. The relationship is good, the speed of getting stuff done is good. When we come to you eventually, because we can't resolve it ourselves, you come up with a pretty quick fix.
How would you explain our product to a friend?
I would just tell them… it's a tool that enables you to get all the functionality that you require with relatively quick development time. It's almost plug and play. And nine times out of 10, it will do exactly what you want.
What are today’s biggest challenges in your industry?
One of the biggest challenges, excluding the advertising revenues slow down, which is the lifeblood of our customers, is to really find what technology will stay long term: who's going to adopt H.265 (while some customers are just moving to H.264 now), what is happening with 8K, will we really be doing everything from the cloud (which I think we will). What we found during this period for the last three or four years is that people are sweating their assets: keeping the products a lot longer than we'd all like them to do, pushing everything to the limit. Whereas historically they would keep their software platforms for two, maybe slightly longer than two years, I think, going forward, we’re looking at five to six years. And that's where, with the Medialooks platform, we can be future proof for our clients – so that Playbox is seen as a good return on investment.