Technological Online Portal radiotvlink.com has the honor to discuss several important issues with the CEO of X-Pert Multimedia Solutions, Ludmil Kushinov. This interview provides the Broadcast and Media Industry with useful insights not only about X-Pert’s portfolio of products, support and services, but also with useful ideas, technical solutions and proven practices.
Text: Andreas Tzanakos
Images: X-Pert Multimedia Solutions & Amy SA Digital Video Archive
Ludmil Kushinov’s know how, adeptness and philosophy make this discussion quite interesting for the CTOs, Technical Directors and the Management of all Television Stations and Media Companies.
radiotvlink.com: It is good to start our discussion with a short biography of yours, in order to let our readers, know who our interlocutor is.
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 Playbox Technology management team. To be honest, I have been in technology sector since the beginning of my career, and I have been deeply involved in broadcast technology for more than 15 years.
radiotvlink.com: Broadcast and Media landscape migrates in the IT and IP World. What are your thoughts about this? And what are your suggestions for an easy and painless transition? What are the best practices for taking advantage of the IT and IP Technology benefits with the minimum cost?
Ludmil Kushinov: Transition to IP is not a new phenomenon in the broadcast sector but Covid-19 situation has made the sector realize how important it is for their being. IP facilitates the remote production and provides 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 gradually upgrade of the infrastructure is the way to avoid business and operational turmoil.
"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."
radiotvlink.com: Why some broadcast technology professionals with 15+ years of experience decided to establish Χ-Pert? Although X-Pert Multimedia Solutions was established in 2016, right now has a wide portfolio of products. What is the philosophy behind the Brands’ products? What’s the focus of X-Pert’s R&D team concerning its solutions development? How X-Pert faces the ever changing landscape of the Industry (new formats, codecs and many more)? In your opinion, why a Broadcaster or a Media Company should invest in X-Pert’s solutions?
Ludmil Kushinov: Let me first explain that we are four co-founders of X-Pert Multimedia Solutions. We all came from 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 from some time. We found out that we had very of how the broadcast software business and products’ 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 adopting 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 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.
radiotvlink.com: On the user-friendly X-Pert’s website, in the products section, visitors can see 9 choices covering several needs of Broadcasters and Media Companies: X-Pert Playout, X-Pert Graphics, X-Pert Ingest, X-Pert Channel-in-a-Box, X-Pert List, X-Pert Playout Control, X-Pert Content Replicator, X-Pert Compact MAM & X-Pert Quality Check. Can you provide our readers with some useful details separately for each of them, in brief? What are their benefits?
Ludmil Kushinov: These nine products that you have mentioned, are not the only one 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. At last, but not least music and movie channels can be 100% automated and to 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, analogue 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 like RSS feeds, external data file or GPI triggers.
X-Pert Ingest enables multiple channels of HD or SD content to be captured simultaneously from HD/SD SDI digital feeds, analogue 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, that 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 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."
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 by 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 a network storage or storages, instead of to rely on a single local disk or array. It is a scalable solution for clients who operate many channels giving them 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 delivery and compatibility of clips is a weak point that can cause troubles. With X-Pert Quality Check all of these troubles can be avoided. Additionally, 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 build in Advanced Playout Option. For those, who are looking for cost effective redundance we provide M + N backup schema that allows to have many (M) master Advanced Playouts and one or two backups (N). All this happens totally smooth and without any interruption thanks to X-Pert Backup Supervisor plus X-Pert IP Switch in IP UDP workflows.
"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."
radiotvlink.com: And what about customized solutions according to the specific Broadcasters and Media Companies’ needs?
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.
radiotvlink.com: In the IT world the License Policy plays a key role for the customer. Others prefer perpetual license and some others Software as a Subscription. Please tell us about the License model choices X-Pert can provide.
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 the 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 subscription-based model will grow seriously in the future, so we definitely look more intensively in this direction.
radiotvlink.com: You mentioned a lot of useful things for X-Perts products. Will you be so kind to refer to the services of the Brand? What about Consultancy in order to help the customer take the final decision?
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, every project has its particularities and needs unique approach. So, before we offer something to our client, we analyse its existing operations and infrastructure and make an in-depth survey about the clients’ 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.
radiotvlink.com: And what kind of after sales services can X-Pert provide a Broadcaster or a Media Company directly or via its local dealer globally?
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 local language and can easily and quickly conduct onsite visits. That is why it is very important to have good partners in every country.
"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."
radiotvlink.com: What are the Brand’s customers says about its products and services? What is the feedback you are receiving? And how do you respond to their requests? Please mention some of X-Pert’s customers and its solutions they use.
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 installation here, in Greece as EpirusTV, TV100, Body in Balance, and even ERT 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.
radiotvlink.com: Please tell us about X-Pert’s position worldwide and its sales/support network? And what are your thoughts about the collaboration with AmyDV, the dealer for Hellas and Cyprus? 2022 is here and we want to know what the Brand’s prospects are for the Global Broadcast Industry and also for the Greek and Cyprus Market?
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 a 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 life-time support, combined with an experienced partner that can help the customer understand his needs and configure the total network including the storage and client systems makes 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 everytime. We have similar philosophy for offering honest professional total solutions making no discounts to quality and support.
"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."
radiotvlink.com: What else should the industry wait from X-Pert in the near future?
Ludmil Kushinov: We are focused now on improving our current products and adopting them to the latest technology innovations. Robust stability and performance are the key points we are working on. We have some new features and products planned, but I wouldn’t like to reveal any details yet.
radiotvlink.com: Please allow me to thank you for this meaningful discussion. We wish to you and X-Pert all the best for the New Year and for future.
Ludmil Kushinov: It was my pleasure to share my thoughts with you and your audience and to present our company. Let me wish you to stay healthy during these challenging times.
Info: X-Pert Multimedia Solutions & AmyDV *
* Dealer for Hellas & Cyprus